Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Langobards and the Battle of the Teutoborg Forest - Part III

A new book, 'Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest' (Adrian Murdock; 2009), states in it's product description: "Over four days at the beginning of September AD 9, half of Rome's Western army was ambushed in a German forest and annihilated. Three legions, three cavalry units and six auxiliary regiments—some 25,000 men—were wiped out. It dealt a body blow to the empire's imperial pretensions and was Rome's greatest defeat. No other battle stopped the Roman empire dead in its tracks. From the moment of the Teutoburg Forest disaster, the Rhine, rather than the Elbe as the Romans had hoped, became the limit of the civilized world. Rome's expansion in northern Europe was checked and Rome anxiously patrolled the Rhineland borders, awaiting further uprisings from Germania. Although one of the most significant and dramatic battles in European history, this is also one that has been largely overlooked. Drawing on primary sources and a vast wealth of new archeological evidence, Adrian Murdoch brings to life the battle itself, the historical background, and the effects of the Roman defeat as well as exploring the personalities of those who took part."

I wanted to note here, a quote from the History Channel's computer graphic-animated documentary of the battle. One quote was as follows:

"The Romans feared the forest as a wild and uncivilized place. They believed that the great oak forest of the north marked the edge of the world. A hundred years later, in (regarding) the events that we're discussing, Tacitus, writing his 'Germania', talks about some mythical part human-part animal figures. So there are areas deep in the interior of Germany which are almost perceived as mythical to the Roman elite. For the German tribes, the forest trees often marked sacred places. The Christmas tree we bring into our home each year, is a reminder of those beliefs."

There is a lot to look at and dissect here. The heavy forests of the Rhineland were, in Roman times, almost perceived as what people thought of in more recent history as like the Congo Basin or the Amazon jungle. A wild, uncivilized, unpredictable, rugged, remote, and scary place. A place ripe with mythology. Germany was, in ancient times, how we might think of the landscape of say Washington or British Columbia.

Even though this quote was merely a quick sidetrack in the documentary, it was a glimpse into some important directions. When they mentioned the Christmas tree, they were talking about Wotanism. I was going to put "they were basically talking about Wotanism," but that wouldn't be accurate. It WAS entirely about Wotanism (called Odinism today). Although we grew up with the idea of it being a Christmas tradition, it predates Christianity by many thousands of years. When they said that it was "a reminder of those (Wotanist) beliefs," that's not necessarily true. We have forgotten this part of our history. When I say "we," I mean "the West," "Europeans," "Americans," etc. There are many examples of where Christianity co-opted pagan holidays and traditions with a new Christian one, rather than try to deconstruct it. To overlap it, or drown it out.

Needless to say, as part of the aftermath of this Roman-German war, Germany retained it's language and culture, while France, for example, adopted the Latin language and Roman customs. Had the Romans been successful, they would have fully intended to take over Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, etc. The monuments to this battle, in both Germany and Minnesota, are, ironically built upon what most would say are "Roman columns." I don't think that is quite as ironic as one might think. Those were actually "Etruscan columns" in origin.

One more quote from the documentary cryptically references Wotanism. Regarding the time just after the Teutoburg massacre: "Those taken prisoner were dragged to ponds deep in the forest, where their throats were cut, and their bodies thrown in the water as a sacrifce to the forest gods." "Forest gods?" Those were Wotanist gods.

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