9 September – On this day
One of the most significant losses Rome ever suffered occurred in the Teutoburg forest during the reign of Rome’s first emperor Augustus. The Roman forces led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, the governor of Germania, were led into an ambush and slaughtered losing the three legions assigned to the fledgling province.
Varus had fallen into the trap of believing the German leadership were pro-Roman and friendly. Arminius, the leader of a conglomeration of German forces, used Varus’ trust to his advantage leading him into an area in the forest that the Germans had prepared and knew would advantage their forces against the Roman legionaries.
Famously the loss so upset the emperor that Suetonius tells us that Augustus beat his head against the wall screaming “Varus give me back my legions”. This loss led to significant fear in the Capital that the Germans might invade Rome itself.
After the Varian disaster Rome abandoned attempts to provincialise the Germans even though several campaigns across the Rhine were conducted to ensure that the Germans understood Roman power. Augustus on his death bed apparently advised Tiberius, his successor, that Rome had reached its territorial limits.