The Emperor Augustus looked at the severed head of Publius Quinctilius Varus and cried
“Give me back my legions!”
Varus was long past answering, but for centuries people have pondered the question of just how did he go about losing three legions of professional soldiers to what is essentially a tribal militia. This book describes the latest chapter in the The Quest for the Lost Legions.
The Quest for the Lost Legions, Discovering the Varus Battlefield
Author: Major Tony Clunn
UK Publisher: Spellmount Limited, Staplehurst, Kent, 2005
US Publisher: Savas Beatie, New York, New York, 2005
Tony Clunn’s webpage
Imperium Konflikt Mythos
Official 2000th Anniversary site.
The Battle of the Teutoburger Wald in the fall of 9 AD, though always listed as one of the most important battles in world history, was an event of some mystery since the location of the battle was somewhere in German Forests and the historical sources are summaries written by later authors. It was known that Varus lost three legions and auxiliaries to a coalition of German tribes lead by Arminius an auxiliary officer in Roman service, the political shock to Rome was tremendous, and precipitated a change of frontier policy by Rome. In 1989 the author Tony Clunn, a British Army officer stationed in Germany, and an amateur archeologist, discovered some Roman coins in the vicinity of Kalkriese in Northern Germany. Additional discoveries proved his theory that this was the location of the Teutoburger Wald battle. This is one of the most significant archeological discoveries in recent times.
The book has two story lines, the discovery of the battle site and Clunn’s other explorations in northern Germany interweaved with a fictional reconstruction of the Battle
Clunn tells the story of his discovery, armed with an avocation for Roman history a metal detector and some military common sense, discovers the long lost battlefield. He rather downplays that he had already done the available archive research on the subject, talked with the last person who had found a Roman coin at the site. Using this information and a soldier’s eye for looking at the ground; his selection was an informed estimate rather than a lucky guess.
He provides a good example of how an amateur should work with professional archeologists. First he got required permissions to conduct a survey and then kept the professionals informed. When enough evidence came to light to make this an official project he kept in the background, maintaining an interest and helping but never working at cross-purposes. A major dig is expensive, where as Clunn could just get the permissions and search on his free time. One of his biggest achievements was to do the preliminary searches on his own and find the discoveries that could justify a major project. He also tells of his subsequent efforts to find related sites which will take further searching to confirm his theories.
Clunn’s telling makes the story of the archaeological discovery an adventure.
Reconstructing the Battle.
The principle Roman character is Marcus Aius the Tribune second in command of the Army. (Cloak clasps belong to a Marcus Aius were found in Kalkriese though real Marcus was of a much lower rank.) A professional solider to Varus’s politician he tries to convince Varus to maintain a more combat ready posture and he also suspects that something is wrong and that Arminious is behind it but he does not have the hard evidence that will convince Varus. After Varus and many of his top commanders committed suicide he leads the legions in a last desperate attempt to escape and unknowingly leads them into the ambush at Kalkriese.
The principle German character is Arminius who has been working for a least a year to destroy the Varsus's Army, building alliances with the tribes, giving advice to Varus that leaves the Romans exposed, training his forces and preparing the battle site. He knows the tribes cannot stand in open formation against a Roman legion so he plans to draw them into a route where the Romans can be ground down in many small attacks and ambushes culminating in a major trap at Kalkriese where it will be destroyed. All the while pretending to be loyal officer in Roman Army.
This is a possible reconstruction that explains how one goes abut losing three legions. It does a good job of integrating the historical sources and the archeological discoveries. The route he picks seems to be very long but not impossible. The best features of this account are seeing the ground and situation with a soldier’s eye, and giving the feel of a professional army to the Roman command.
The book tells both stories with a clarity that can engage the general reader but still be informative to readers with more background. The photographs add to the story. The maps are adequate. Recommended.
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