A Roman treasure discovered in the hearth of Germany

Silver deniers of the 1st century AD discovered on the site of the Battle of Teutoburg, Germany. 
CREDITS: VARUSSCHLACHT GGMBH MUSEUM UND PARK KALKRIESE
Silver deniers of the 1st century AD discovered on the site of the Battle of Teutoburg, Germany. CREDITS: VARUSSCHLACHT GGMBH MUSEUM UND PARK KALKRIESE

A monetary treasure of more than a hundred pieces has just been discovered on the site of the most severe defeat of Rome, in Germany. A catastrophe which stopped the policy of imperial expansion beyond the Rhine.

It is the theater of one of the greatest Roman military disasters. There, in the hills of present-day Kalkriese in Westphalia (Germany), three Roman legions and their auxiliary troops (25,000 men) were totally massacred by Germanic tribes in the year 9 AD. In this soil of Teutoburg, which still contains many vestiges, that German archaeologists of the Louis-Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) have just recovered a spectacular monetary treasure.

End of March 2017, one of the Roman coins exhumed in the forest of Teutoburg. © Varusschlacht gGmbh Museum and Park Kalkriese
End of March 2017, one of the Roman coins exhumed in the forest of Teutoburg. © Varusschlacht gGmbh Museum and Park Kalkriese

„This are 102 denieres of silver from the reign of the emperor Augustus, not counting the gold aurei exhumed last year,“ says Marc Rappe, Archaeologist of the Kalkriese Museum responsible for excavations.

How did this treasure become buried in the ground? „A Roman legionary caught in the trap will doubtless have wanted to quickly conceal his fortune with the hope of finding it at the end of the battle …“, he imagines.

This battle saw the legions of Publius Quinctilius Varus clash with the men of a powerful coalition of Germanic tribes (Cherusques, Bructères ..) led by Arminius. Its location has long been discussed. Discussions finally closed in Germany since the late 1980s with the final location of the site in Kalkriese north of Osnabrück. More than 5,500 remains of Roman objects and military equipment have already been collected: swords, daggers, javelin spikes, arrows, Fragments of armor, helmets, including an extraordinary bronze facial mask that can be seen in the city’s museum . Without forgetting all that could carry an army in the field: pots, axes, nails, hammers, amphoras, etc.

The soldiers of Rome found themselves cornered in a thick forest. Scouting, Arminius actually joined the Germans who then decided to go on the attack. When the first rumors of battle reach the ears of the Roman chief, Varus drags his army into the heart of the forest to rescue the vanguard … The trap closes: divided into cohorts accustomed to fight in formation, the legions can not to deploy themselves. In the midst of the trees, cuirasses and shields hinder the legionaries. Moreover, impossible to maneuver the war machines! On their side, the Germans, of whom Arminius took the lead, led ambushes. Taken between swamps and hills from which the German fighters descend in continuous waves, the Roman soldiers are torn to pieces.

Later, The descriptions of the Roman historian Dion Cassius (155-235) relate that those who were in the rear, ignoring the massacres at the front, continued to throw themselves into the mouth of the wolf. The disaster is such that Varus prefers to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of his enemies. And his name will forever be associated with the Clade Variana , the „Varus Disaster“.

Experienced as a trauma, the disaster of Teutoburg puts a stop to the policy of Roman imperial expansion. Legend has it that the Emperor Augustus awoke at night, shouting: “  Varus, give me back my legions! „.