This is one of the most famous clashes of the Ancient world. The Romans faced Germanic opponents for most of their existence, from the hordes defeated by Marius in the late Republic to the invaders who helped destroy the Western Empire during the 5th century AD. The one major Roman attempt to expand their empire east of the Rhine came at the start of the 1st century AD, and their peak the Romans occupied most of the area between the Rhine and the Elbe. This all changed in 9 AD when a German army led by Arminius wiped out three legions in an ambush at saltus Teutoburgiensis. Although the Romans continued to campaign in Germany, and won a number of victories over Arminius, this German victory ensured that the border would be on the Rhine instead of the Elbe.
Despite the title this book thus focuses on a much shorter period - no more than a decade. This allows Powell to provide a great deal of specific information on the Legions of this early Imperial period and their German opponents and then cover the three selected battles in some detail.
The main thing to emerge from this book is that the famous Legions weren't always terribly effective against the Germans. They were wiped out in the first battle, and played a minor part in the second. Only at the Angrivarian Wall did they come into their own, and even then they needed artillery support. Both the terrain and the German style of fighting acted against the Legions.
This is an interesting look at some of the early Roman Empire's most hard-fought battles, in a war that ended as a major Roman defeat. Here we get some idea of how the Germans were able to stop the German Legions, and make it clear to the Emperors that it simply wasn't worth attempting to push east across the Rhine.
The Opposing Sides
Teutoburg Pass Summer AD 9
Idistaviso Summer AD 16
The Angrivarian Wall Summer AD 16
Author: Lindsay Powell