Friday, January 02, 2009

September 11th, 2,000 years ago: "Quintilie Vare, legiones redde!"

Two-thousand-nine is the 2,000th anniversary of one of the most important battles in European history. September 11, A.D. 9 saw the conclusion the three-day Battle of the Teutoburg Forest between the Roman legions of Augustus Caesar under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus and the Germanic tribes under the leadership of the Roman-trained Arminius or Hermann the German. Caught over extended and, more importantly, over confident, Varus was ambushed in a heavily wooded area and cut down along with three legions and auxiliary troops, about 20,000 troops in all.

According to the Roman historian Suetonius in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Augustus was so traumatized by the defeat that until his death in A.D. 14 at the age of 77, he would often cry out Quintili Vare, legiones redde! ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!'). Moreover, to place an unmistakable exclamation point on the taboo associated with the shameful defeat, the three legionary numbers (XVII, XVIII and XIX) were never used again by the Romans for any of their armies, unlike other legions that were restructured — a case unique in Roman history.

The great loss caused Augustus to abandon his goal of establishing the Elbe River as the empire’s permanent frontier and withdrew to the Rhine River to mark the boundary between the Latin and German speaking worlds. Ever since, the French and Germans have been disputing Augustus’ settlement to the detriment of Europeans and the whole world for almost two millennia.

For the Romans, the Rhine border was defensible and held for 400 years until New Year’s Eve A.D. 406. On that momentous night, the Rhine froze over solid allowing a motley group of Vandals, Alans and Suebians to simply walk across at Mainz, initiation the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire in the West. Within three years, the Visigoths sack Rome itself accelerating a decline that ends in A.D. 476 with the cessation of the use of the title “Emperor of the Romans” in the West until the Frank Charlemagne revives the office in the year 800.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

white ppl are superior in what aspect sports? ha
To think that you are more superior than another living creature makes your intellect inferior.