Just as the title says, and in that order.
I used to live in a little town in Germany called Bad Lippspringe, affectionately shorted to ‘Bad Lip’ by the Brit community. Bad Lip was home to the Arminius Spring or Arminius Quelle, a water source said to have healing properties. I’m not so sure, I tried it once to discover nothing more than a metallic taste and a mild laxative effect.
Bad Lip was also home to the Arminius Park, a beautiful open space home to an ornate former hunting lodge, a castle ruin and a host of festivals across the year. Usually involving live music, food and all the beer you could drink. I liked those better than the aforementioned spring water, even if they did leave me in need of a little healing at times.
Just up the road from Bad Lip stands the Arminius monument. Set in the Teutoberger forest just south west of the pretty town of Detmold, the mammoth tribute to Arminius towers over the surrounding woodland. Known locally as the Hermannsdenkel, we called him Herman the German and enjoyed many walks around his monument. But didn’t over think what he represented.
So that’s the little revisit, to the place I lived in and loved. But who is Arminius-sometimes-called-Herman and why are you telling us this, I hear you ask? Well, when I lived in Germany passing the Arminius Spring almost every day, spending long days in the park that bore his name and wandering round his monument, I had no idea who Arminius was. If anything I assumed he was a local character from long ago, possibly a saint, definitely a warrior of some description, but of who knew which conflict. Arminius just did not capture my attention.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve left Germany, done a stint in Scotland and landed in Wiltshire. With the husband off army-ing I’m scrolling Netflix and come across Barbarians. Doesn’t really look like my thing but I give it a go, if nothing else watching it in the original language keeps the German ticking over.
Episode one has me hooked. By the end of episode two, I’m planning early nights so I can time travel back to 9 AD to hang out with Germanic tribes as they take on the might of the Roman army. Barbarians, it turns out, is the story of Arminius. Had I known back in the day that Arminius was actually a rather attractive, forward thinking soldier with an intriguing back story, I would have paid more attention. I missed a trick, living in the heart of the history but not getting the story. Unlike me. Maybe when things are different, a return visit is in order.
High born in the Cherusci tribe, Arminius was taken as a child by the Romans. Despite his tribal beginnings, he made a name for himself in the Roman military. As an adult, he found himself posted to modern day Germany to help the Roman army subdue the Germanic tribes. Without giving too much away, when Arminius finds his loyalty tested he chooses his own people. The show tagline is, ‘”History’s greatest empire, history’s greatest traitor, the untold story of the battle that changed the world.” It’s six episodes long and a really good watch.
It’s not all about Arminius though. Behind every good soldier stands a good woman. I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I? Just as my husband has me, Arminius had Thusnelda. A Cheruscan noble woman, Thusnelda could have taken a relatively easy path in life by marrying well and bearing children. But did she? Did she heck.
Thusnelda was my kind of woman. In just six episodes she has an affair with an unsuitable suitor, steals from the Romans, fights off the advances of a rival leader, unites the tribes against the Romans and marries Arminius. The marriage is supposed to be in name only, but she falls in love and ends up going into battle by his side. She is fierce, loyal and caring and brilliantly portrayed by actress Jeanne Goursaud. Also, check out the fur trimmed cape she wears to meet the Roman Varus. Divine.
Great viewing, history and drama, costumes to die for, set in Germany. What’s to rant about ? Let me tell you.
The show isn’t a documentary. Its fiction. But fact based, including the story of Thusnelda. Slight spoiler alert: who found the guts to challenge the Romans in the first place? Thusnelda. Who has the front to sneak into the Roman Camp and steal the Standard in a gesture of defiance? Who unites the tribal leaders when their faith in Arminius is flagging? Thusnelda. I could go on…she also slices her face open, risks death and the wrath of the God’s by pretending to be a seer and plunges into battle despite having been raised to be a wife and noblewoman.
And after all that who gets the great big monument, the park and the healing spring named after them? Arminius! Eye roll. Cue the women-under-represented-in-history rant. Not good enough. Should we be posted back to that part of Germany, I feel a campaign coming on. Thusnelda took her place in battle, give her a place in history.
More about the region of Germany where this series is set here. Its a brilliant and under rated German destination. Barbarians is brilliant, five stars from me. Give it a watch. If you do, let me know what you think in the comments.