Monday, March 27, 2006

Germanicus strikes back

It is not very wise to upset Rome! In 14AD, Germanicus with a huge Roman army crossed the Rhine and set about putting the German peoples to the sword. In the first year he just made base camps on the other side of the mighty river. The year after though, he launched a full invasion. Rome wanted justice and justice Roman style was not a pleasant sight. He found the dreaded battle sight and set about burying the remains of the fallen which the Germans had left in the open. He is said to have wept at the battle site....he would not stop until all those involved had paid the Roman price. Justice to Arminius did not come through Roman hands though, for the Germans, in fear of what the Romans would do to them, killed Arminius themselves in order to stay the advancing armies. It would take until the first world war before the German peoples honured Arminius and made him a national hero...a defender of Germany against a foreign invader.

1 comment:

Scutatus said...

The Romans may have got their revenge - or at least did enough to "claim" revenge in their home propoganda - but they never again returned to the Elbe.

Germanicus managed a tactical victory and recovered the lost standards, but in the greater scheme of things it was the Germans who won.

The Roman army had reached the limit of it's capability and the disaster at the Teutoburger Forest had shown just how over extended and vulnerable the Empire's resources had become. Immediately after the massacare, had they wanted to, the Germans could have marched all the way to Rome completely upopposed, for there was no legion in their path to stop them! Indeed once news of the debacle was known, Augustus and the Roman citizens woke every morning fully expecting to see the German hordes at their gates. They never forgot the terror of that moment, nor how close they had come to being overwhelmed by one throw of the dice.

And so the Romans never again crossed the Rhine in campaigns of conquest. After Germanicus's campaign of "revenge" the Romans retreated back behind the Rhine and stayed there, fearing the Germans and intimidated by them as they never had been before, even with the Celts.

During the subsequent centuries many campaigns and minor actions were to be fought against the German peoples on the Rhine front, but they would always be strategically defensive operations. Always, the intention was the same: suppressing neighbouring tribes who were becoming too dangerous or active, or repelling German forces that had "dared" to raise arms against the Empire. Never again did Rome try to conquer the German tribes.

Arminius destroyed Rome's belief in their "manifest destiny" - that of ruling the world, ending their perpetual expanist policy and forcing them to adopt a more practical, defensive stance. By doing so he ensured German independance and the survival of the Germans as seperate independant peoples.

Ulitmately, in the pinnacle of irony, it was the Roman Empire that would evolve into seperate German states, taken over from within by supposedly inferior Germanic Federates; a distinct reverse to the Roman dream. This probably could never have occured but for Teutoburger Forest and so, in a dark tangled forest, the massacre of three legions changed the course of history.

Arminius truly deserves his famous place in the annuls of time, more so, it could be argued, than the likes of Boudicca do.

Once again, a wonderful illustration Simon. The poor Legionaries look none too keen to be waist deep in murky water, again venturing deep into German forests, all too aware of what happened the last time! :)