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Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Germanic tribes' destruction of three legions of the Roman general Varus in 9 AD, so limiting the expansion of the Roman Empire across the Rhine

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. According to Suetonius, emperor Augustus hit his head against the wall when he heard the news, calling on Varus to give him back his legions. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism.


Peter Heather
Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London

Ellen O'Gorman
Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol


Matthew Nicholls
Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

51 minutes

Last on

Thu 13 Feb 2020 21:30


Peter Heather at King’s College, London

Matthew Nicholls at St John’s College, Oxford

Ellen O’Gorman at the University of Bristol

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – Wikipedia


Tony Clunn, The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions: Discovering the Varus Battlefield (Savas Beatie, 2009)

P. K. Davies, 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Cassius Dio (trans. Earnest Cary), Roman History, Volume VII: Books 56-60 (Loeb Classical Library, 1985), especially book 56.18-24.

Christopher Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich (W. W. Norton & Co, 2011)

A. Leoussi and B. Heuser (eds.), Famous Battles and How They Shaped the Modern World: From Troy to Courtrai, 1200BC – 1302 AD (Pen & Sword, 2018), especially chapter 6 ‘The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest Commemorated: from the Arch of Germanicus to the Arminius Monument’ by M. Nicholls

Fergus Millar (ed.), The Roman Empire and its Neighbours (Bristol Classical Press, 1981), especially chapter 17 ‘The Germans’ by G. Kossack

Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (Harper Perennial, 2004)

Suetonius (trans. Robert Graves), The Twelve Caesars (Penguin, 2007)

Tacitus (trans. Cynthia Damon), Annals (Penguin, 2012), especially book 1.55-71

C. R. Whittaker, Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic Study (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)

Martin Winkler, Arminius the Liberator: Myth and Ideology (Oxford University Press, 2015)


  • Thu 13 Feb 2020 09:00
  • Thu 13 Feb 2020 21:30

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