Early life and Service to Rome
Arminius was a son of the Cherusci Chief Segimer and along with his brother Flavus was sent as a child hostage to Rome. They were raised in the Roman manner, learned Latin and became Roman citizens. The two brothers were also made Equestrians by the Romans. Arminius served in the Roman Army as commander of a Germanic Auxiliary Cohort. He most likely served along the legions commanded by Tiberius suppressing the massive Pannonian and Illyrian revolts of AD 7 to AD 9. Probably in the year AD 8, he was assigned to Germania Magna. The governor of Germania Magna was Publius Quinctilius Varus. His job was to transform the region of Germania into a fully pledge Roman province. The campaigns of Tiberius in AD 4 and AD 5 had mostly pacified the Germanic tribes and Tiberius also used diplomacy to a great effect.
The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
The Romans, in the process of turning the region into a province, mistreated the native Germans. Arminius made a plan to make allies with fellow tribes and to lure the Romans into a place where he could ambush them. He told Varus of a revolt and suggested that they take a route not normally used by the Romans. In AD 9, Varus took three legions with him: the 17th, 18th, and 19th legions. Arminius rode away from the marching column supposedly to get reinforcements. Those reinforcements were actually Germanic warriors who wanted to destroy the Roman column. The weather was also bad for the marching Roman legions. Fallen branches, mud, puddles and overflowing creeks slowed down the column.
The Germans started ambushing the long Roman marching column with swords, javelins, and slingshots. They attacked the legions, pack animals and civilians accompanying the legions. The experienced Centurions tried to restore order and counter attack the ambushing Germanic Warriors but the terrain messed up Roman formations and the Legionaries were slow with their heavy armor. The Romans were able to entrench themselves for the night and Varus was aware of the betrayal of Arminius. He continued on instead of going back, abandoning most of the heavy and unneeded equipment. On the third day, they found suitable ground to make a camp. During the night, the barbarians stormed the camp and Varus fell on his sword as the barbarians were attacking the Roman line.
In the end, thousands of Roman legionaries were killed and some survivors managed to find their way back to safe Roman territory where the Romans learned of the situation. They were all shock and outraged at this. The Emperor Augustus abandoned Germania Magna to the Germans and the Roman border now became the Rhine River. Tiberius led some operations in Germania in AD 10 and AD 11. With Augustus's health declining and Tiberius being the chosen successor of him, he left Germanicus to defend the Rhine. Germanicus, Claudius's brother, campaigned against the Germans and won victories against Arminius.
Arminius only had one rival in Germania. Maroboduus, King of the Marcomanni. The two rivals assembled two armies to meet in battle. They both deployed and fought in Roman fashion. Maroboduus was defeated and he escaped to the safety of the Romans. His aspirations to become King of Germania was not accepted by many Germanic tribesmen. Arminius was killed after being betrayed by his own relatives.
In recent centuries Arminius was made a German national hero.
- Dyck, Ludwig Heinrich. “Arminius.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2016, www.ancient.eu/Arminius/.
- The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989