Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

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.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Peter Heather No other episodes
    Professor of Medieval History at King's College London
  • Ellen O'Gorman 5 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol
  • Matthew Nicholls 5 episodes
    Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John's College, Oxford

Reading list

  • The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions: Discovering the Varus Battlefield
    Tony Clunn (Savas Beatie, 2009) Google Books →
  • 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present
    P. K. Davies (Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • Roman History, Volume VII: Books 56-60
    Cassius Dio (trans. Earnest Cary) (Loeb Classical Library, 1985)
  • A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich
    Christopher Krebs (W. W. Norton & Co, 2011) Google Books →
  • Famous Battles and How They Shaped the Modern World: From Troy to Courtrai, 1200BC - 1302 AD
    A. Leoussi and B. Heuser (eds.) (Pen & Sword, 2018) Google Books →
  • The Roman Empire and its Neighbours
    Fergus Millar (ed.) (Bristol Classical Press, 1981) Google Books →
  • Landscape and Memory
    Simon Schama (Harper Perennial, 2004) Google Books →
  • The Twelve Caesars
    Suetonius (trans. Robert Graves) (Penguin, 2007) Google Books →
  • Annals
    Tacitus (trans. Cynthia Damon) (Penguin, 2012) Google Books →
  • Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic Study
    C. R. Whittaker (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Arminius the Liberator: Myth and Ideology
    Martin Winkler (Oxford University Press, 2015) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m000f69q

Episode page:

Auto-category: 937 (Ancient Rome)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 9 AD, Germanic tribes destroyed three Roman legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.