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The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest

The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest - Peter S. Wells I luurve me some Roman history, but oddly, one of my favorite Roman history books is this one, in which three entire Roman legions (i.e. about 20,000 men) get their asses handed to them by Germanic guerilla forces. For all their chest-puffed-out militaristic grandstanding, Rome's finest warriors were about as formidable as a collection of delicate porcelain figurines in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest (9 A.D.). History buffs can still visit the site of the fighting, where artifacts from the conflict continue to be discovered. The battle this story would make a fucking fantastic movie, if done properly (i.e. no marquis-name Hollywood prettyboys prancing around in pristine shining armor, and no 300-esque experiments with surreal CGI comic bookery; just legions and legions of lowtech badass soldiers fighting each other to the death in a hand-to-hand pugilistic bloodfest). Guerilla warriors, under the leadership of Armin (whom the Romans called Arminius), fought with valor to prevent their people from falling slave to the Roman juggernaut. The Latins, arrogant from past success, traveled through the forest loudly and slowly- intentionally inviting attack from the primitive Huns. Roman generals, thinking more of their political careers than sound military strategy, were looking for a few minor battles to provide them with prioners of war they could parade down the Appian Way, to garner votes and appointments to high office.Their guides, captured Germans who were felt to be loyal to Rome, had other ideas. The Romans were led into a mountain valley which narrows to a stricture so tight it would stretch the legions out to practically single-file formation. This was a doubly vulnerable position, because it not only increased each soldier's exposure, but it prevented reinforcements or supplies from reaching areas under attack. Meanwhile, a German coalition army lay in wait in the dense overgrowth of the steep hills on either side of the pass. When the Romans were exactly midway through, a signal was sounded, and the ambush began, which included repeated volleys of flaming arrows, giant boulders rolling down the hills, charges with giant spears, and wave after wave of armed infantry in overwhelming numbers. The Romans never stood a chance.Even as routs go, the result was an astounding success: Roman casualties upwards of 90%, while German losses were negligible. As one might imagine, the horror of it all grew with each retelling by Roman survivors- giving the Germans a massive long-term psychological victory, in addition to their impressive material gains. Even generations later, assignment to Germany was regarded by Roman soldiers in a similar manner as assignment to the Russian front was seen by Nazi soldiers in World War II: a likely death sentence. Roman morale in the Teutonic theatre never really recovered from the blow. Imagine how different European history might have been if the Romans succeeded in conquering Germany and presumably then sweeping up into Russia and Scandinavia. It's too complex for me to guess at, but I think (speculative history and fantasy author) [a:Harry Turtledove might come up with something interesting (Romans fighting Vikings? the Vinland Sagas recast with Roman Centurions?) The historical implications are huge, but another reason to read this book is that it is a heartening David-and-Goliath story of small indigenous peoples standing up and defending themselves against the great Empire of their day. It kind of reminds me of another Hollywood film.