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The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest Hardcover – 4 Nov 2003

2.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (4 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393020282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393020281
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 13.9 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Wells does an excellent job of weaving the few written accounts, recent archaeological evidence, and his own interpretation into a compelling story that is fluently written and well organized."

Gives the story in clear and engrossing detail.

Peter Wells conducts us to a hitherto mysterious and myth-enshrouded place....A journey well worth taking. --Robert Cowley, editor of What If?"

Gives the story in clear and engrossing detail. "

Always literate and learned....Wells is able not only to reconstruct a credible analysis of the German strategy, but also to explore the thoughts and fears of the combatants on both sides as the massacre commenced. "

Wells does an excellent job of weaving the few written accounts, recent archaeological evidence, and his own interpretation into a compelling story that is fluently written and well organized. " --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Peter S. Wells is professor of archaeology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Battle That Stopped Rome and The Barbarians Speak. He lives in St. Paul. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
From time to time a book come along that reinterprets an element of history and offers a new slant on an old argument. This book does not fall into this category and falls flat at the very first hurdle. Dr Wells borrows heavily from recent works on the Teutoburg battle (and often fails to fully acknowledge his sources). He has decided that contrary to the accepted view that the battle took place over three days, it was all over within one. This would be fine if he at least offered the alternative view and did not disregard a significant chunk of the historical sources in order to bolster his own interpretation.
He also has an awful habit of repeating himself and you will get a terrible sense of déjà vu as you read the same paragraph you know you read a few chapters earlier. For a book on the Teutoburg battle there is woefully little space given over to the event. Wells wastes far too many pages on an amateurish attempt to explain the socio-economic situation in the Roman Empire at the time of the battle. Upon reading these chapters you get the impression Wells has lifted from primary sources without really understanding what he is reading.
At one point he writes a particularly graphic description of the battlefield post-conflict. Sadly his inability read up on the local flora and fauna leads to a rather ridiculous description of local animals, including vultures feasting on the fallen.
If written by a student on Roman history, his text would be worthy of a reasonable grade as it at least shows some evidence that the author has examined the primary sources, but when you take into account the author is supposedly an expert on Roman archaeology and is a professor of Anthropology this book can only be described as an expensive doorstop.
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Format: Paperback
I bought and read this book in early 2004, at a time when I didn't write reviews. I read it, I found it wanting and was deeply annoyed at the time that such a book could even be portrayed as a piece of history for a "general" reader. I have only picked it up recently and gone through it again in an attempt to explain, through a review, why this book should be avoided by anyone wanting to learn more about what happened in the Teutoburg Forest, why it happened, and what were the consequences.

In a nuttshell, and regardless of whether the reader is someone with just a passing interest in this topic or a history buff (or even a historian or an archeologist), this book does not provide a satisfactory answer to any of these three questions. Besides, there are quit a few other books which are better in dealing with what happened or even strictly with the archeological evidence, as other reviewers have mentioned.

Rather than being about substance and analysis, this book is about hype, form, visual and sensational effects (preferably gory!), with the author giving a free rein to his vivid imagination. As another review (Stuart) mentioned, at times, when reading the last section (the account of the battle itself), I felt I was reading the script for a Gladiator-style movie rather than an account of a historical event. Note that I loved Gladiator. It's one of my favorite films. It's great fun and I've seen it at least half a dozen times. However, it's NOT history and it's own author had never intended it to be. Rather, it was a bit of a "pastiche" and a modernized summary of the peplums that Hollywood used to come up with in the 1960s. This book has the same feeling but it is rather disingeneously portrayed as a piece of history and archeology.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Battle That Stopped Rome" is a very interesting book about the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest, which may have been one of the most important engagements in European history. I had not read a great deal about the battle before picking up Wells' book, but I gather that the author is offering a revisionist history based on his interpretation of the archaeology at the battle site, which was finally located in 1987 at Kalkriese in northern Germany.
The broad outlines of the battle are reasonably well understood. Arminius, a member of the Cherusci tribe who had served in the Roman army and had become a Roman citizen, led three legions under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus into a trap east of the Rhine. While the legions were on the march in a column that may have been over two miles long, they were ambushed by Germanic warriors. The terrain and the extended column prevented the Roman units from forming up properly, with the horrific result that 20,000 or so men (and possibly a large group of camp followers) were killed on the spot, ritually sacrificed or sold into slavery. The catastrophe cost the Roman army almost ten percent of its effective strength, revived Roman fears of an invasion by northern barbarians, and may have induced the Romans to halt the expansion of their empire at the Rhine River rather than pressing on to the Elbe.
Wells tends to dismiss ancient descriptions of the battle, arguing that classical historians suffered from the fact that they were not present at the battle, were often writing long after the fact, and were burdened by stereotyped and inaccurate notions of how the Germanic tribes fought.
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