Publius Quinctilius Varus (46 BC – September, AD 9) was a Roman politician and general under Emperor Augustus, mainly remembered for having lost three Roman legions and his own life when attacked by Cherusci chieftain Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
Publius Quinctilius Varus in Give Me Back My Legions!
In AD 7, Publius Quinctilius Varus was recalled to Rome from Syria by Emperor Augustus. Augustus informed him that he was pleased with how he had governed Syria and had a new assignment for him: Military Governor of Germany. Varus expressed gratitude but asked whether a military man might not be a better choice. Augustus agreed but explained that the only General he trusted with the assignment was Tiberius and he was busy putting down an uprising in Pannonia.
Varus travelled to his new assignment first by ship to the Gaulish port of Massilia. From there, he traveled north by land to Vetera, the headquarters of the three Germanic Legions XVII, XVIII, and XIX and established himself for the winter. In the spring, he intended to cross the Rhine with the Legions and set up a headquarters in Mindenum.
Shortly after arriving, Varus ordered a meeting of the senior officers of the three legions. He confirmed that Augustus wanted Germany brought into the Empire fully and that he intended to do so as quickly as possible. Vala Numonius, the newly appointed commander of cavalry, agreed indicating that he understood that many Germans were adopting Roman ways and that a show of force would make them roll over and show their bellies like whipped dogs.
Varus approved and asked, as a matter of form, whether anyone disagreed. To his surprise, Lucius Eggius spoke up and indicated that while Romans owned the land where they marched and camped, the barbarians owned the rest. Numonius disagreed and then a prefect named Ceionius spoke up in support indicating the Germans were learning Latin and the use of coins to buy Roman goods and their own rather than barter. Eggius was not satisfied and expressed his belief that the Latin was to make better spies. Also, the Germans were rough customers, that while Romans won some fights, they won others. He also stated that if a show of force would do the trick, then they would have made proper provincials twenty years ago.
Several other officers drew away from him as though he had the plague. Varus was tempted to dismiss him from the council but held back because he recalled that Augustus had some of the same worries. Instead, he appealed to their pride, indicating that anyone could do an easy job but it required uncommon men to do the harder one and that Augustus had decided they were such men. He again asked if anyone disagreed and was met with silence. He then added that since Augustus wanted it, they would find a way to do it and ended the meeting.
As advised by Arminius, whom Varus trusted, the latter led the three legions through the Teutoburg Forest. What the governor did not know was that Arminius was organizing a major uprising against the Romans and was setting an ambush in the Forest in the time Varus had given him to "to go to his wife in her pregnancy".
Arminius made his warriors build breast works in the Forest, partly to conceal his troops. When the last of the Roman vanguard had passed, the Germans loosed a barrage of spears, killing 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. In fact, Varus himself died in the battle.
After learning of the defeat and destruction of his three legions, Augustus screamed, "Publius Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!".
Maroboduus, the Marcomanni leader, received the preserved head of Varus as an attempt by the Cherusci to persuade him to join in the uprising. Instead, the Maroboduus sent the head to Augustus, who confirmed the head was of Varus.
Publius Quinctilius Varus in Gunpowder Empire
In the alternate of Agrippan Rome, Varus had not been put in command of the Roman Legions of Germania, due to Agrippa's being still alive in AD 9. A much better general than Varus, Agrippa defeated and killed the German chieftain and brought Germania into the Empire. Amanda Solters reflected on the contrast between these two timelines in preparation for a Crosstime Traffic mission.
- Gunpowder Empire, p. 40.
Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus
|Consul of the Roman Empire
Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus Appianus and Quirinius
Gaius Sentius Saturninus
|Roman Governor of Syria
10 BC-6 BC
Unknown (4-1 BC);
Gaius Julius Caesar Vipsanianus
|Roman Governor of Germania Inferior
Aulus Caecina Severus (14-16)