Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Part of the Roman-Germanic wars
Date September, CE 9. Exact date unknowable.
Location Osnabrück County, Lower Saxony
Result Decisive Germanic victory
Roman Empire's strategic withdrawal from Magna Germania
Germanic tribes (Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri, Chauci and Sicambri). Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Arminius Publius Quinctilius Varus
10,000 - 12,000 3 Roman legions (XVII, XVIII, and XIX),
3 alae and
6 auxiliary cohorts,

20,000 - max. 36,000

Casualties and losses
500-600 dead
1500 wounded
20,000 dead

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in A.D. 9 when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by the war chief Hermann, whom the Romans called Arminius, ambushed and destroyed three Roman Legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus.

The battle began a seven-year war which established the Rhine River as the boundary of the Roman Empire for the next four hundred years, until the decline of the Roman influence in the West. The Roman Empire made no further concerted attempts to conquer Germania beyond the Rhine after the war was over.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Give Me Back My Legions![]

In AD 7 Publius Quinctilius Varus became Military Governor of Germany. One of the cases he investigated was a dispute between the Germans Arminius and Segestes. Varus ruled in Arminius' favor, deciding that he was a loyal Roman and was quite taken with his intelligence and comman sense. Varus began consulting with Arminius and in the summer of AD 8 had him join him in the Mindenum Legion camp.

However, Arminius was in fact plotting an uprising and Segestes' so called slanders were in fact true. In the fall of AD 8 Arminius suggested Varus' forces return to their winter camp via a more circuitous but dryer northern route through Arminius' homeland. Varus was tempted but declined as it was too late to change his plans.

Teutoburgo jpg-1-.jpg

In the fall of AD 9 however, Varus was willing to try this new route. Arminius was pleased and accompanied Varus and the Legions as they followed this new route. However, Arminius received word that his wife's pregnancy had complications and so sought leave to see her. Varus reluctantly granted him permission.

This allowed Arminius to rally the various Germanic tribes and to concentrate them in the Teutoburg Forest where the Romans would pass. He set his warriors to building a disguised turf rampart both as a fortification and to conceal his forces. When the Legions began marching past, he restrained his warriors until the vanguard had gone by. Then he ordered several cast of spears as the main body began to pass.

Thousands of spears flew, cutting down many Romans. At this location, the path had narrowed between the forest and a swamp preventing the Romans from deploying. The Germans then attacked with swords and thrusting spears cutting down individual fighters who could not form to support each other. The ranks broke, some trying to escape through the swamp others back the way they had come but were blocked by their own rear who were thrown into confusion. The Germans fell on them all and only a few survived resulting in one of the largest Roman defeats ever.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in After the Downfall[]

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest was one of the many historical precedents which Hasso Pemsel considered in his efforts to make sense of the conflict going on in the strange world where he found himself, and to decide on which side he should fight.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Atlantis[]

Colonel Balthasar Sinapis tried to keep Consul Jeremiah Stafford from recklessly pursuing revolting slaves during the Atlantean Servile Insurrection using the near disaster in Happy Valley as an example. Sinapis compared it to the massacre of three Roman Legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest by Arminius. Stafford recalled Emperor Augustus' cry of "Quinctilius Varus! Give me back my legions!" from his university days, and while "Consul Stafford! Give me back my soldiers!" didn't have the same ring, it did make him more cautious for a while.[1]

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Days of Infamy[]

After United States Navy pilot Jim Peterson survived the sinking of the USS Enterprise off the coast of Hawaii in December 1941, he remembered Augustus' cry to the late Varus after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and paraphrased it as "General Short, give me back my airplanes!"[2]

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Gunpowder Empire[]

In the home timeline, Varus managed to have three legions massacred while trying to put down the Germanic tribes' rebellion. In the alternate called Agrippan Rome, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a much better general and so was victorious and established Provincia Germania which would continue as a Roman province for two millennia and beyond.[3]

Literary Comment[]

The text does not make clear whether Agrippa won the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest or simply avoided the Germanic tribes' ambush in the first place. Based on the statement that Agrippa "knew his business," the latter seems more likely.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Worldwar[]

Monique Dutourd had her own ideas of what would have happened if the Romans had not been driven out of Germania. A Roman Empire that reached as far as the Elbe would have had a shield against eastern nomad invasions. Romanized Germans would have contributed to the Empire as Romanized Gauls did. The Goths and Vandals would not have sacked Rome, the Franks would never have transformed Gaul into France, and there would have been no Germany to invade France in 1870, 1914, and 1940. However, as she was lecturing in a German-controlled region, she kept the last part to herself.[4]

See also[]

The following battles in Harry Turtledove's fantasy writing appear to be based on the Teutoburg battle.


  1. Liberating Atlantis, pgs. 265-266, HC.
  2. Days of Infamy, pgs. 107. Paperback
  3. Gunpowder Empire, pg. 40.
  4. Second Contact, pgs. 71-72, pb.