Reading Book Guide
The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions: Discovering the Varus Battlefield, by Tony Clunn
The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions is a masterful retelling of Clunn's search to discover the Varus battlefield. We hope these thought-provoking questions lead to some lively book discussions.
- Discuss if and how the Varus Battle changed the course of European and world history.
- What effect did the defeat of the three legions have on the Roman Empire, and Augustus' plans for the future; how much of a disaster was it?
- Discuss the purpose of the fictional story that the author has included, which runs throughout the book. Why do you think he incorporated it into his book describing the discovery of the battlefield?
- Do you think that by mixing fiction and fact, based on real historical archive material from historians of antiquity, (Casius Dio, Tacitus, Florus, and others), the author has made history and archaeology more interesting and appealing?
- Considering that Marcus Aius, the second-in-command of the Varus Army, is a fictional character created by the author, how do you think he fits in with the fictional and non-fictional parts of the book? (See author's note at the end of the book.)
- Discuss the confusion that has existed over the true site of the Varus Battlefield, and the conflicting arguments of where the battle took place. Teutoburger Wald means Teutoburger Wilderness or Forest. Teutoburger "Saltus" means the "Pass." i.e The Varus Battlefield is situated between the end of the northern range of hills and the Great Moor, at the narrowing of a very narrow pass at a place called Kalkriese. (And not at Detmold where Hermann's monument is situated.)
- Discuss the difference between the limited description of the battle written by Tacitus, and the very precise day by day account written by Cassius Dio.
- Discuss the number of "rubber stamps" that suggest that Kalkriese is the true site of the Varus Battle (or the last day of the whole engagement). i.e. The coins, dating, Varus coins, the authenticity of the bones and their forensic results, the burial pit (re. Tacitus), etc.
- Discuss Varus, his character, flaws in his powers of command, and reasons for the defeat.
- Discuss how the Roman Legionaries would have responded and reacted knowing that their commander (Varus) and many other senior officers had deserted them by committing suicide, either during or at a lull in the battle.
- Arminius defeated the Varus Legions in the forests and hills of the Teutoburger Wald (culminating in the pass at Kalkriese). This amounted to a tenth of the standing Roman Army in Europe. During the years that followed he fought many battles against a bigger army lead by Germanicus. He was never defeated, but neither did he actually defeat Germanicus. To all intents and purposes, he was effectively one of the greatest warrior chiefs and commanders of ages past, but outside of Germany, and in terms of world history, he is hardly recognized or known about. Why do you think that is?
- Germans are still sensitive about any celebrations of military success or battle victories, largely because of their history in the two World Wars, particularly the Second World War. This includes their reticence to erect new monuments. However, they have now decided that a battle fought 2,000 years ago in AD9 that Arminius (Hermann) won against the might of the Roman Army should be celebrated as the first recorded event in Germany's history. What would be a fitting way to commemorate what to some people was such a tragic loss of life?
- The author is currently writing a new book to encompass the complete life of Arminius, from his childhood to his death, including the Varus Battle and the German Wars against Germanicus that followed. Discuss whether you think the author's current manner of combining fact and fiction would still be the best and most interesting storyline format in his new book.