The best novels about the Roman Empire’s defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9CE

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer, classical historian, and journalist. While there is no shortage of Roman historians in Britain and the US, I have long felt that English-speaking historians have had a blind spot as far as Roman Germany goes. Fascinated by the Battle of Teutoburg Forest for many years, while there were numerous accounts in German, it frustrated me that there was no general account of what happened in English. So I wrote it! I was clearly not alone in my interest in Roman Germany and have presented a number of documentaries on the battle on the History Channel and National Geographic since. 


I wrote...

Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest

By Adrian Murdoch,

Book cover of Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest

What is my book about?

In September 9CE, half of Rome's Western army was ambushed in a German forest. Three legions were wiped out by an army of Germanic tribes under the leadership of Arminius. The defeat dealt a severe blow to the Empire's imperial pretensions; no other battle had stopped the Roman Empire in its tracks. Although the battle was avenged, further Roman efforts to conquer Germany met with limited success. For the Germans, on the other hand, their victory became a symbol of nationalism. This is the first book to give a full account of this hugely significant battle, bringing to life the battle itself, the historical background, the personalities involved, and the implications of defeat.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Eagles at War

Adrian Murdoch Why did I love this book?

So closely does he follow what is known about the battle and its aftermath that Ben Kane’s trilogy about the Battle of Teutoburg Forest – Eagles of War, Hunting the Eagles, and Eagles in the Storm – blurs the line between fiction and historical fact and makes the reader feel that they are there.

He has a sympathetic hero in the centurion Lucius Tullus and he brings many of the historical characters to life. Aside from the vivid writing, what particularly stands out are the nods towards the archaeology of the battle and Roman Germany. 

By Ben Kane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Eagles at War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BASED ON REAL HISTORICAL EVENTS

A TIME FOR VENGEANCE
AD 9, German frontier: Close to the Rhine, a Roman centurion, Lucius Tullus, prepares to take his soldiers on patrol. On the opposite side of the river, German tribes are resentful of the harsh taxes about to be imposed upon them. Suspicious that there might be unrest, Tullus knows that his men's survival will be determined not just by their training and discipline, but by his leadership.

A TIME FOR WAR
What neither Tullus nor his commander, Governor Varus, realise is that ranged against them is the charismatic chieftain and trusted…


Book cover of The Iron Hand of Mars

Adrian Murdoch Why did I love this book?

The fourth book in Lindsay Davis’ magnificent series of detective novels featuring Marcus Didius Falco, The Iron Hand of Mars is set in 71CE, several years after the events of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

Although much of the action takes place in the aftermath of the Batavian Revolt in 69–70CE, Davis both captures daily life in the Roman cities in Germany, but also how the events of 9CE continued to haunt Roman Germany – the Roman empire – even a generation later. 

By Lindsey Davis, Jane Meara (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Iron Hand of Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the great characterisation, fast-paced plotting and wry humour that we've come to expect from multi-million copy bestselling author Lindsey Davis, this is an addictive mystery that will transport you back to Britain at the time of the Roman invasion. Readers of S. J. Parris, Donna Leon, Steven Saylor and C. J. Sansom will be hooked from page one...

'Her most ambitious to date... Davis has found a winning formula.' -- Daily Telegraph
'Lindsey Davis doesn't merely make history come alive - she turns it into spanking entertainment, and wraps it around an intriguing mystery. She is incapable of writing…


Book cover of Ovid

Adrian Murdoch Why did I love this book?

For those who like their conspiracy theories, it is hard not to be seduced by Ovid and David Wishart’s hard-boiled detective Marcus Corvinus.

Commissioned to bring back Ovid’s ashes, the author links the exile of the poet Ovid by the Emperor Augustus to the loss of the three legions under Varus. The book is notable both for the real sense that it gives how the defeat became one to be avoided in the polite society in Rome, but also for its generally sympathetic portrait of the Roman governor. Varus is corrupted and betrayed by Arminius, but he is not wholly incompetent. 

By David Wishart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ovid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In AD8, Augustus banished the poet Ovid to Tomi, on the Black Sea. In spite of repeated appeals by his friends in Rome for the sentence to be revoked, he died in exile ten years later.

No one knows why Ovid was banished.

The most convincing explanation is that Ovid was involved somehow with the emperor's granddaughter Julia, who was exiled the same year for immorality. However, Julia's sexual partner was sentenced to nothing worse than social ostracism. Her husband, on the other hand, was executed shortly afterwards for treason ...

Why should the witness to a crime be punished…


Book cover of Arminius: The Limits of Empire

Adrian Murdoch Why did I love this book?

Most novels that discuss the period take the perspective of the Romans. Fabbri’s Arminius is different in that he gets under the skin of Arminius and examines how and why he turned against Rome in a story told via his son.

This is a bold approach as the idea of Arminius as narrator/hero had become tainted after he became harnessed to German nationalism from the mid-19th century onwards. Fabbri’s approach is masterful. 

By Robert Fabbri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arminius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One man's greatest victory.
Rome's greatest defeat.

A.D. 9: In the depths of the Teutoburg Wald, in a landscape riven by ravines, darkened by ancient oak and bisected by fast-flowing streams, Arminius of the Cherusci led a confederation of six Germanic tribes in the annihilation of three Roman legions. Deep in the forest almost twenty thousand men were massacred without mercy; fewer than two hundred of them ever made it back across the Rhine. To Rome's shame, three sacred Eagles were lost that day.

But Arminius wasn't brought up in Germania Magna - he had been raised as a Roman.…


Book cover of The Three Legions

Adrian Murdoch Why did I love this book?

Published in the 1950s, at first glance The Three Legions looks like unashamed pulp, but it certainly deserves to be remembered.

The story itself follows what was known of the battle at the time via the tribune Claudius Cinna – a thinly disguised Lucius Eggius. While the archaeology can feel dated, the writing rises above pulp. Solon himself was a tail gunner in the US airforce in World War II and both the depictions of army life as well as the descriptions of battle are particularly vivid. 

By Gregory Solon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Three Legions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vintage paperback


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Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

Book cover of Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

Patrick G. Cox Author Of Ned Farrier Master Mariner: Call of the Cape

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

Captain Heron finds himself embroiled in a conflict that threatens to bring down the world order he is sworn to defend when a secretive Consortium seeks to undermine the World Treaty Organisation and the democracies it represents as he oversees the building and commissioning of a new starship.

When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

Captain James Heron First Into the Fray: Prequel to Harry Heron Into the Unknown of the Harry Heron Series

By Patrick G. Cox, Janet Angelo (editor),

What is this book about?

The year is 2202, and the recently widowed Captain James Heron is appointed to stand by his next command, the starship NECS Vanguard, while she is being built. He and his team soon discover that they are battling the Consortium, a shadowy corporate group that seeks to steal the specs for the ship’s new super weapon. The Consortium hires the Pantheon, a mysterious espionage agency, to do their dirty work as they lay plans to take down the Fleet and gain supreme power on an intergalactic scale. When Pantheon Agent Bast and her team kidnap Felicity Rowanberg, a Fleet agent…


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