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This unique full-length English biography of Varus reassesses how he has been held responsible for one of the most infamous and humiliating defeats in Roman history.
Publius Quinctilius Varus is famous as the incompetent commander duped into an ambush that wiped out three legions in one of the most humiliating defeats in Roman history. Yet this is the first full length biography of the man. Dr Joanne Ball revisits the ancient sources alongside the most recent archaeological evidence from the Teutoburg battlefield in Germany, where she has been personally involved in excavations. The result is a fresh, detailed new analysis of this significant battle and a reappraisal of the Roman commander.
Examination of his earlier career reveals that Varus, who had married into the Imperial family, was an experienced and competent, if harsh and ruthless, governor and general. He had served in Africa and put down rebellions in Syria and Judaea before being posted to Germany. Dr Ball sets his German command in the context of wider events, explaining the weakness of the Roman position there and the necessary reliance on auxiliary forces. Although Varus was clearly fooled by Arminius, the former Roman auxiliary who masterminded the Teutoburg battle in AD 9, she questions the extent of Varus' culpability and asks whether he was scapegoated by Roman historians to deflect blame away from the Emperor.