Sword and sandal

Here is another archeological investigation. This time we are in Germany, year 9, and the romans have marched over the Rhine to kick the asses of the german tribes. Three entire legions, and then some troups, under the leadership of Publius Quinctilius Varus, walk straight into a trap set by german warlord Arminius (or Hermann, according to some later german national historians) and this roman war machine consisting of 18.000 men is smashed to pieces in just an hour. It´s called the battle of the Teutoburg Forrest, but it was more of a massacre, according to the archeologists, who found the actual site quite recently.

Peter S Wells, in his book "The battle that stopped Rome", tells the story of Rome, the emperor Augustus (Octavianus) and his adversary Arminius. He devotes a whole chapter to the everyday life of the romans soldiers, and that was perhaps the most interesting read. I never would have guessed, for example, that the expected life spann of a roman soldier extended that of a normal roman citizen, because the army doctors made sure that the food was nutritious, the water was clean, and everyone had to keep a high standard of hygien. I remember reading elsewhere that they knew very well how to disinfect wounds using alcohol. And we think modern science discovered everything...

The tale of the battle itself is chilling. In the first hour, 5.000 soldiers were killed, Varus and his officers committed suicide by throwing themselves at their swords, 10.000 soldiers were mortally wounded and the rest were captured. 500 or so of the captives were sacrificed to the german deities during the following days. A "lucky" few survived to become slaves. In comparison, only 500 of the approximately 18.000 german warriors were slain. So much blood soaked the ground that it fertilized it and changed the flora in this area!

It is also interesting to see how well prepared the germans were. They had dug ramparts along the road and a side road had been completely dug off and conceled by a "fake" lake, to make sure the romans would have nowhere to go.

It is mind-blowing and a read just as exciting as any novel I can think of. Highly recommended!

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