In three consective of campaigning from 12 BCE, the Roman general Drusus vanquished a series of Germanic tribes – the Bructeri, Cherusci then Chatti – reaching as far as the Elbe, before dying after a fall from his horse. A new German offensive under Tiberius, Augustus’s son, commenced in 4 CE; after initial successes, eight legions were diverted to the Balkans to quell a massive revolt. Publius Varus, a general with a reputation as a ruthless martinet was left, with three legions, to oversee the Rhine frontier. His trusted aide was Arminius, a Romanized Cherusci prince, who told him of an insurrection amongst the Marcomanni. Varus promptly set out with his army to deal with the rebels. The insurrection was a fiction; Arminius had in fact forged an alliance of the German tribes and was leading Varus into an ambush. In the Teutoburg Forest the trap was sprung; Varus and his legions were virtually wiped out.
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