Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Arminius, Varus, and Today

I always love a good story about ancient Rome, and even more so if there's a lesson to be learned for today.  I've read about Arminius and Varus, but I'd never seen quite this interpretation of the story:
Whenever I hear someone tell me about how wonderful forced multiculturalism is I am reminded of the story of the Roman soldier Arminius.

Arminius was born in Germany around 18 BC and was the son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus. At the time it was common for the Romans to abscond with the children of the tribal leaders they met. The purpose being not only to exert control over the tribe but to eventually integrate them into Roman society itself.

It was thought that if the children were taken at a young age and given Roman education, culture, and military training that in time they would become Romans. Eventually, they would be given positions within Roman society in an attempt to bind the competing cultures and people together and to solidify the bonds required to grow the empire geographically and demographically.

But things didn’t always work out quite the way the Romans planned.
The story of Arminius is a prime example. To be brief, the son of the German chieftain was trained, cultured and raised to be a Roman officer. But he never forgot who and what he was.

A lifetime of ‘education’ and ‘integration’ failed to change who Arminius was at his core, a German, and in the end, it cost the Roman empire dearly.

In AD 9 Arminius, serving as an officer under Publius Quinctilius Varus, convinced the Roman general to march three legions of his men and their support through the Teutoburg forest to quell a supposed uprising deep within German territory.

But it was a trap laid by Arminius himself. His native people, along with five other Germanic tribes laid in wait for the legions in the heart of the forest. With his forces stretched out in a thin line for miles bordered by heavy woods on either side of the trail in some places and by marsh in others, Varus’ legions were easy pickings for the German warriors. In a series of attacks lasting approximately three days, the Germans destroyed all three legions, sending over twenty thousand Roman men to their death.

The Roman’s mistake, of course, was not in trusting Arminius, but in believing they could take the sons of their enemy and convert them into their friends and allies simply by immersing them in the Roman culture.

The decision by the Romans to try and integrate an outwardly hostile people into their own ranks was one of the first times in recorded history that we can clearly see what happens when empires become large, metropolitan and lacking in common sense. They lose sight of human nature and begin to believe they can transcend things such as petty tribal differences.

Apparently, no one thought to question the program or to consider possible problems that might arise as a result. Three Roman legions paid the price for that hubris. Today we pay our own.
There's much more at the link.

1 comment:

Anna A said...

Another interesting multi-cultural contrast book is "Between Love and Honor" by Alexandra Lapierre. This is Czarist Russia and what would be Chechyna. I highly recommend it.