The wall, besides providing a place to hide, gave them a chance to throw their spears from behind its protection, and would have kept them away from the famous Roman short swords that the Legions used with devastating effect in close combat. In his book , " The Battle That Stopped Rome", Peter S. Wells speculates that as many as 25, 000 spears could have been thrown in as little as 20 seconds. To me this seems high, but even if the Germanic warriors only threw 10,000 spears in 30 seconds, that amount of spears hurling into the confused Roman lines would have had devastating consequences for the great Roman Legions.
The first effect would have been utter confusion and possibly even panic as the Roman soldiers saw their brothers in arms falling all along their lines. Adding to the hysteria would have been the screams of the speared soldiers that would have drowned out orders that may have brought back some semblance of order to the chaos. As the wounded and dead lie along the narrow path there came a shrill yell from out of the dark forest. Arminius had let loose the full fury of his entire army. The Germanic warriors, weapons drawn, now fell upon the disorganized, and confused Roman soldiers. However, by not being able to march in battle formation, because of the limited space, the Roman Army would have found it almost impossible to form up in full battle lines. They were also hindered by the mud that lined their path, the dead beneath their feet, and the great distance the narrow path had made of the troop formations. What all this meant for the great Roman legions was that they had no chance to mount a formidible defense against the Germanic warriors.
As thousands died panic set in, and Varus finally understood the urgency of the situation. He also must have known at this point that the man that he most trusted, Arminius, had betrayed him. Varus tried his best, we must assume, to form up his troops and fight the battle as best he could. After a time he must have known that all was lost and according to ancient historians he committed suicide by falling on his sword, on the battlefield. He was later beheaded by the Germanic warriors.
The historian, Velleius Paterculus writes of the battle : " An army unexcelled in bravery, the first of Roman Armies in discipline , in energy, and in experience on the field, through the negligence of its commander, the perfidy of the enemy, hemmed in by the forests and ambuscades, it was almost exterminated to a man, by the very enemy whom it had always slaughtered like cattle."
After the battle was over the Germanic tribesmen ritually killed the remaining soldiers offeing them up to their war Gods, and even took some of the heads of some of the more prominent soldiers and nailed them to trees. The entire Teutoberg Forest where the battle had taken place became, for generations, a sacred and holy area to the local peoples. The three legion staffs were kept as war prizes to commemorate the battle and honor the Germanic warriors who died .
This great victory by the Germanic tribesmen over the prestigious Roman Legions gave Arminius a very high standing, not only in his own Cherusci tribe, but also in many of the neighboring tribes as well. It also brought in new tribes who joined the Germanic coalition. This prestige, and the fact that Arminius wanted to proclaim himself king, fueled a growing rivalry between Arminius and Maroboduus, who was the leader of the Germanic tribes to the east and southeast. Shockingly in 15 C. E. Segestes, Arminius' father - in - law, was so angry at Arminius for besieging him that when Germanicus drove off Arminius' troops he gave Thusnelda, Arminius' wife, his daughter, to Germanicus as a war prize. Thusnelda was pregnant at the time. On May 26, 17 C.E. she was displayed as a trophy during Germanicus' parade in Rome. She and her now two year old son Thumelicus had to endure this humiliation before thousands of Roman citizens. Also in 17 C. E. Arminius and Maroboduus met on the field of battle in an indecisive engagement. Arminius however, came out of the battle with even more power than before. As his power grew he began to have more and more rivals within his own Cherusci tribe. Even his own uncle, Inguiomerus, became alienated and deserted him and went over to Maroboduus. In or around 19 C. E. the great Germanic warrior Arminius was killed by members of his own tribe.
His death is best described by Tacitus :
"Arminius began to aim at a kingship, and found himself in conflict with the independent temper of his countrymen. He was attacked by arms, and while defending himself with chequered results, fell by the treachery of his relatives".
Arminius found out just before the Battle of the Weser River, from his brother Flavus, who was still fighting for the Romans, that both his wife and child were being well treated. It is believed that the boy Thumelicus was trained as a gladiator and was killed in the arena at a very young age. Some speculate as young as 15 or 16. Tacitus promises us in his "Annals" that he will tell of the fate of Thusnelda and Thumelicus, but their are gaps in this written history which probably contained that information that has been lost forever.
In life Arminius was a revered leader by his own people, and a feared enemy by his foes. Augustus was said to have mourned for months about his lost legions, and his heirs tried, but failed, to make the Germanic peoples pay for it. In death Arminius became a legend, easily on the same level as Beowulf, Sigurd, Hrolf Kraki, and even King Arthur, in my opinion. The one major difference is that we know for absolutely sure that Arminius existed and was a real person, and that his deeds were real, and far reaching. Never again would the great Roman Empire make any major attempts to subdue the Germanic peoples. The Rhine River becoming the furthest boundary of the Roman Empire's expansion. All of those of Germanic descent owe this great warrior a debt of gratitude for his daring ambush, and annihilation of 3 Roman legions, in the Teutoberg Forest on that fateful day in September of 9 C. E. If not this article might be written in Latin !
Germania - Tacitus
The Annals - Tacitus
The Roman Empire and its Germanic Peoples - Wolfram
The Battle That Stopped Rome - Peter S. Wells
The Roman History : From Romulus and the Foundation to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius - Velleius Paterculus ( Ed. by Yardley and Barrett )
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !