The Battle of Destiny
A spectacular documentary shows how the ““Germans”” beat Roman troops 2000 years ago. And the Varus battle altered the history of the world right up to the present day.
It seems like a routine matter for Varus, the Roman governor in Germany. In the vicinity of his encampment on the Weser, small-scale rebellions are being reported.. Before he leads his legions into their winter quarters at Xanten on the Rhein, he would like to make a small digression of 30 km to teach the rebellious “Germans” a lesson On a September morning in the year 9 A.D., he sets the huge throng of around 20,000 men on its way. It is to become a march into ruin.
Drawn into a “German” ambush, the Roman army suffered an annihilating defeat. Only a few survived the attack. How it came to this surprising outcome is described now by the lavish documentary ‘Struggle for “Germany” ’ (see broadcast details on the next page). On top of their guerilla tactics, the difficult terrain and terrible weather helped the “Germans” to victory over the more numerous and better-armed Romans. The role of the “German” Arminius, trained in Rome and one of Varus’s trusted circle, was decisive. He enticed the legions into the trap and then led the “Germans” to victory. A few experts view Arminius (Germanized : Hermann) as founding father and perceive the battle to signify the birth of Deutschland. Certainly the Germanic tribes involved were far from experiencing a united national sentiment. The author of the ZDF companion book ‘Struggle for Germany’ Peter Arens explains :’The battle only became part of a foundation myth several centuries later’.
The consequences of the battle were nevertheless far-reaching. The bloody defeat signaled the end of Roman expansion policy in Germany. In view of the unexpected defeat, the question is still being asked in the year 2000 : what would have happened if the “Germans” had lost against the ‘assumed to be invincible’ Romans? The question leads to an utterly incredible thesis : the history of Deutschland, of Europe, even the entire world would have been completely different. If the “Germans” had been romanized, the Roman Empire could have lasted for centuries longer, says Alexander Demandt, professor the Free University of Berlin for 30 years, in an interview with HöRZU. Demandt, the author of numerous books on late antiquity and one of the most-renowned historian of the ancient world, believes that Rome by integrating the “Germans” would have been able to ward off the large-scale emigrations which eventually caused Rome’s fall: possibly we would still be living in late antiquity..
Standstill during the Middle Ages
In any case, without the end of the Roman Empire the variety of peoples in Europe would be unthinkable. ‘The Roman Empire had an unbelievable power of integration’, explains Professor Demandt. ‘There were hardly any national uprisings’. And our culture would not have been the same either, if Rome had indeed conquered Germany as far as the Elbe. ‘If Arminius had lost, the German language would have perished’, the historian says. So: without Arminius’s victory no Goethe, no Schiller. Instead all Europe would speak Latin, adapted to the peculiarities of speech of each particular region. Therefore in a ‘what if’ scenario - our continent would now have developed considerably further technically. ‘If Roman civilization had continued, then humanism and renaissance would have been unnecessary. Several Roman achievements were lost during the Middle Ages and only re-discovered centuries later. As an example, the historian states the case of the Rhein bridges built by the Romans. According to Demandt : ‘In the Middle Ages there were no longer any permanent bridges between Basel and the North Sea, Ferrymen even sabotaged new construction. It was only with the coming of the railways that bridges were built again’.
WITHOUT ARMINIUS NO USA?
The battle in “Germany” also determined world policy. The era of world discovery in the 15th and 16th century would have been hardly thinkable without national feelings of competition.: nations like Spain, Portugal and England chased after trade routes and colonies across the entire globe. But: without the end of the Roman Empire these lands would not have come into being. And extravagant voyages of discovery are something that were not be expected of Rome. ‘The Rome of the imperial period showed signs of frugality and population decline’ explains Professor Demandt. ‘It would have had little impulse to discover America or even to populate it. I feel sure that if the Roman Empire had continued, America would still be populated by the Indians’.
And it was only a deviation of about 30 kilometers from the planned route that Varus made with his troops in the autumn of the year 9AD Perhaps not the longest digression in the history of the world – but with certainty the one with the most consequences. . :