Roman General Varus & 3 legions v The Germanic Hoard

Barbarians,  a German/Netflix Film about the massacre of three Roman legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX) and supporting auxiliary formations has been green-lighted for a second season. The series is highly recommended for your viewing pleasure. While dramatized for the silver screen, it follows history closely enough to be a genuinely historical film (ignore the female warriors, etc. – Hollywood). I was surprised that negro Romans or German barbarians were not inserted for the sake of wokeness, but the production held firm – well done. I have no objection to black actors at all, but I usually turn the show off if it’s a black Hamilton, Anne Boleyn, etc. It would be like me playing MLK in black face – unacceptable.

-moving on-

The arms and armor are very well done, the Romans speak Latin and the Germans speak (modern) German. English subtitles clarify things.

The stage is set – (copied directly from the Wikipedia article)

– Following the attacks of Drusus I in 11–9 BC, Arminius, along with his brother Flavus, were sent to Rome as tribute by their father, Segimerus the Conqueror, chieftain of the noblest house in the tribe of the Cherusci. Arminius spent his youth in Rome as a hostage, where he received a military education and was given the rank of Equestrian. So he was a field grade officer. He served as chief of Varus’ cavalry in his command. (more info on Roman cavalry here)

During Arminius’ absence, Segimerus was declared a coward by the other Germanic chieftains, because he had submitted to Roman rule, a crime punishable by death under Germanic law. Between 11 BC and 4 AD, hostility and suspicion among the allied Germanic peoples deepened. Trade and political accords between the warlords deteriorated.

Youtube tutorial on the historical event here.

The series takes you to the point where the barbarian forces under Arminius destroy the three Roman legions referenced above. The few Romans who were captured alive were sacrificed to Wotan (Odin), Tiwaz (Tyr), Donar (Thor), etc.

For sake of brevity and storytelling, the barbarian hoard defeated the legions in one day in the film. It actually took five.

Day 1: All three Roman legions were ambushed, took massive casualties, and failed to turn the tide. They retreated and built a fortified camp.

Day 2: The Romans broke camp, engaged the Germans with heavy losses and headed North for an open area where they tried to lure the Germans into a traditional set-piece battle favored by Rome.  Arminius understood this and the Germans refused battle on those terms. The Romans built a fortified camp.

Day 3: The Romans tried to head North (again) and were ambushed again. They did better this time but were forced to fall back and construct another fortified camp. By now the legions were near exhaustion.

Day 4:  Very heavy rain forced the Romans to stay in camp. Word of the victory spread and massive Germanic reinforcements arrived to take part in the slaughter and plunder the next day.

Day 5: The Romans again broke out, headed north, and were again ambushed. Varus again has half his men build a fortified camp while the other half fights Germans. The Germans are wise to this though (Varus trained Arminius, who in effect, has his game plan) and attack both groups of Romans. The Romans who are building the camp are forced to flee and then the Romans that were fighting were surrounded and killed.

The Romans, essentially articulated heavy infantry, always preferred to fight from prepared positions and they were traditionally almost unbeatable when they did. In this case, they initially made a series of unforgivable blunders based on hubris that led to the first ambush, that set all of this in motion. Watch the series, I think that you will enjoy it.

The second season should be interesting.

After winning at Teutoburger Forest, Arminius was right on the border of Roman territory There was nothing to stop him from crossing the Rhine into Roman Gaul, or to attack Italy itself through the Brenner Pass, which was known by Arminius at that time. He had been a distinguished Roman officer who rose in the ranks.

Augustus’ disquiet when he was told of the defeat wasn’t just a lost battle, it was the fact that for all he knew, Arminius was on the march. He wasn’t, and he couldn’t keep the coalition of tribes together after the victory, but the Romans didn’t know this. The Romans knew from past experience with Vercingetorix just how difficult it could be to beat “barbarian” tribes when they united—and Arminius had been trained by Rome and excelled as a pupil.

Within a few years, Augustus rebuilt the Roman frontier armies, and the legions even re-entered Germania under Germanicus and recaptured two of the legionary eagles. But Augustus had been so shaken by what happened that he decreed that Rome should never again attempt to expand beyond the natural borders of the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates. And the fact that he was Augustus—pater patriae—meant that his advice was not easily set aside. The fact that Trajan became ill and died campaigning beyond the Euphrates probably reiterated it.

27 COMMENTS

  1. And then there’s Marcus Linius Crassus, who took his legions to defeat and death in Persia.

    Just 44 years later. So Rome didn’t completely learn her lesson.

      • Ah, dammit, that stupid BCE and CE crap kills me every time.

        CE – Christ’s Era

        BCE – Before Christ’s Era.

        And I really need to re-read my missives after a bad day or week and when I’m tired.

          • I try and keep it simple. BC = Before Christ and AD = Anno Domini

            The move to remove Jesus Christ’s birth as the. marker use. Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE).

            As your conscience moves you.

  2. I have to ask – Hoard???
    Meanwhile – didn’t the German forest, with some help from the Landsknechte, eat a bunch of invaders from the east as well?

    • How better to describe the Germanic confederation? A confederation of tribal leaders, each with different interests united in their (a) hatred of Rome and (b) interest in plunder, to attack Varus’ legions. They came together as a loosely organized body under Arminius for a single campaign, fought as unarticulated infantry and were able to find victory (at some cost in terms of people killed), after which they broke up into their standard internecine conflicts. ->hoard.

      • I usually associate hoard with a collection of items that are kept hidden away, while I associate horde with a collection of unfriendly types intent on doing you harm.

  3. Another site said these actors roles, filled by Hollywood stupidity, makes as much sense as MLK being played by Peewee Herman.
    What an image…..

    • Considering Justine Trudeau’s proclivities for appearing in black face, Peewee Herman might be an improvement. At least he can ride a bicycle.

    • Frank, if you watched the series, how do you feel about it?

      Having written and sold two screenplays (some years ago), I must admit that when I watch any production, I consider storytelling, budget, and in this case, how close they came to the core historical event. I give them high marks. There were things that they didn’t include that they could have in the battle, but when you are doing a film/series, it’s very difficult to do that. There was the female lead/warrior and that didn’t happen, but a sop to the writers and producers for developing conflict through a love interest.

      There are a lot of bitter keyboard commandos on the Internet. Maybe sometimes I’m one of them. Best to evaluate the film and story for yourself.

      • WWW – Brandon is a horrible embarrassment to the US. That Canada was able to find a politician just as contemptible is a hard slap in the face to North America as a whole.

        • With a federal election looming in Australia, we appear to be in the “Hold my beer!” stage given the current opposition leader.

      • Stopped watching TV in the mid 80’s, and gave up on movies not too long after that.
        Wasn’t interested in sending my money to people who treat me like an enemy.

    • But, but, but I’ve been waiting for Peter Dinklage to truly bring MLK to the big screen. Especially delivering the, “I have a dream…” speech while peeking around the podium. Brings tears to the eyes, it does.

  4. Your post reminded me of the Gladiator opening scene…”At my signal, unleash Hell.”

    Now, if that could be done to DC to clean house America could get back to some semblance of the right track.

    Enjoyed the history lesson over coffee in front of the woodstove on a crisp Sunday morning.

  5. Always learn, or in some cases relearn, from this site. Thanks, now to hit the history books to get it in my head again since there are valuable take-aways from this.

  6. Empires must expand or die.
    There is a limit, however, to the territory they may successfully assimilate.
    Manpower, command and control, interior supply and lines of communication are some of the limiting factors.
    In addition, the new territory may prove indigestible due to racial and cultural incompatibility.

    There are always barbarians at the gate…

  7. It says something that we talk of this man using his Roman name, Arminius, rather than a good Germanic name. Despite their many accomplishments and indisputable influence on the world to this very day, I never took a shine to the Romans for some reason. So I’m probably biased, but good on the Germans. I haven’t watched the program, but I’m impressed to hear that the Germans weren’t led and taught everything they knew by some wise Muslim North African, never mind that this was centuries before Mohammed, PBUH. (PS: did you know that Beethoven was Black?)

    YouTube has a series of videos by a person calling himself Asha Logos. The one on the ancient Germanic peoples, which discusses Arminius, is called “Our Subverted History, Part 4 – The Germanic Peoples: A Root and its Branches” and this video had some interesting comments, one of which is below. This is a VERY telling remark about modern Germany identity.

    I grew up at the teutoburg forest where the battle took place. For some reason we never heard about it in school. History class was French revolution and then 1914 to 1945. We also learned nothing about what came after WW2. Nothing about the GDR and the misery socialism caused.

    Makes a person wonder just who is in charge of German school curricula. Anyway, I don’t know if Asha Logos’ stuff is entirely factually accurate, but that is not the point. His purpose is to undo, or at least counter, the prevailing narrative of “whites bad, Western civilization bad”. This narrative was overwhelmingly created by, well, you know who. The evil is that a substantial percentage of persons of European descent (good whites, baizuo, also known as useful idiots) have come to not only believe, but to champion this narrative.

    Seeing as the narrative-creators have their camel noses in pretty much all the entertainment tents, I’m expecting the next season to go woke, but we shall see.

    • Sun Tzu was also black. Little known fact.

      Arminius’ place in history was all the more remarkable because he was raised as Roman aristocracy IMHO. In that, he was not unique, but what he did with it certainly was.

      • The key takeaway from this, for me, is that while some Romans may have considered him “our fellow Roman,” Arminius never forgot who his people truly were and ultimately did everything in his power for his actual folk. Or volk. While in this case I say “Good job, Arminius!” I also note that there are persons with great (though not always visible or obvious) power who play “our fellow Americans” only when convenient for them.

        It is true about Sun Tzu. He famously said, “Look like you a pussy when you gots da pimp han’. En whin you ain’ got nuttin, den you gots ta ack like you gots da pimp han’.” Racists mistranslated this to sound more inscrutable/Asian, producing the misleading: “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

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