13. Arminius’ Great Deception
In 9 AD Arminius (circa 18 BC – 19 AD), a German leader of the Cherusci tribe who served in the Roman military, pulled off one of history’s greatest deceptions and most momentous betrayals. It transformed him into a Roman villain, and a German national hero. Arminius’ gigantic statue and memorial, the Hermannsdenkmal, stands today near Detmold in Westphalia, close to the site of that deception.
A Romanized German who rose to command an auxiliary cohort, Arminius won the admiration and confidence of the Romans. They granted him citizenship and high social status, enrolling him in the equestrian, or knightly, class. He was posted to the Rhine, where he served under Publius Quinctilius Varus, a Roman general related by marriage to Emperor Augustus, who tasked Varus with completing the conquest of Germania up to the Elbe River. Varus was heavy handed, however, and heavily tasked the German tribes. So they rebelled. That was when Arminius decided he was more loyal to his fellow Germans than to his Roman employers.