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study of Ammianus, has shown that the actual numbers of the
Franks, Alamanni, etc., who wrought such devastation in Gaul in
the fourth century, were astonishingly small. 30

H. Delbriick was the first to use severely critical methods
for the calculation of the population of Germany. 31 On the basis
of Beloch's calculations for Gaul he estimated an average
density of population of 4-5 per square kilometer, which makes
for the region between the Rhine, Elbe, and the Main-Saale line,
with which alone he is concerned, a population of roughly
515,000 to 645,000, or as he prefers to count it at 250 per (Ger-
man) square mile, about 575,000 (calculating the area of this
district at ca. 2300 (German) square miles). For the whole
region between the Rhine and the Elbe he estimates not more
than about 1,000,000 inhabitants. That makes for all Germany
about 2,000,000, taking the first group of tribes as constituting
not quite one third of the whole nation. 32 This calculation he
supports on the basis of a totally different one, which is derived
from the number of warriors who could take part in an assembly
and be addressed by a single speaker. Setting this at a maximum
of six to eight thousand, and taking the average as five thousand,

- 9 Histoire des Institutions politiques de I'ancienne France, I (1875),
"L'Invasion Germanique," p. 310 ff. For Delbruck's results see the
chapter entitled "Zahlen," Gesch. d. Kriegskunst, II, 2nd ed. (1909), p.
294 ff. On the actual number of the Vandals and their allies, a cardinal
point in the discussion, compare H. Delbriick, Preuss. Jahrb., 81 (1895),
475 f. O. Seeck (Jahrb. fur Nationalokonomie u. Statistik, III, 13 (1897),
p. 173 ff.) argued unsuccessfully for the older view, but Delbriick (Gesch.
d. Kriegskunst, II, 2nd ed. (1909), p. 308 f.) has completely settled this
specific question.

30 "Observatioris sur 1' etat et le nombre des populations germaniques
dans la seconde moitie du IVe siecle, d'apres Ammien Marcellin,"
Melanges Cagnat, Paris, 1912, pp. 247-267.

31 "Der urgermanische Gau und Staat," Preussische Jahrbucher, 81,
(1895), p. 471 ff. The main arguments here presented (except the
detailed criticism and comparison of a number of ancient estimates, p.
474 ff.) are repeated with some slight modifications in his Gesch. d.
Kriegskunst, II, 2nd ed. (1909), p. 12 ff. L. Schmidt, Gesch. der deut-
schen St'dmme, I (1904), p. 48, accepts Delbruck's calculations indeed,
though with some reserve; p. 46 f. he criticizes effectively the absurd
exaggerations with which the pages of many ancient authors abound.

S2 Preuss. Jahrb., p. 482.



46 THE DEFEAT OP VARUS [212

at the ratio of 5 to 1 he gets 25,000 as the size of the average
German tribe, and as there were about twenty-three of these
between the Rhine, Elbe, and Main-Saale line, he reaches exactly
the same figure of 575,000 for the population of this district.

A different line of attack was pursued by G. Schmoller
shortly after Delbriick's critique. 33 Taking the results of exten-
sive studies in the population of nations at. different stages of
economic development, he estimates the average density of pop-
ulation per square kilometer for ' ' the north Indogermanic farm-
ing and cattle-raising communities about the beginning of the
Christian era" to have varied between the limits 5 and 12, set-
ting that of Germany as 5 to 6. This would give for the area
between the Rhine, Elbe, and Main-Saale line a population of
roughly about 640,000 to 770,000, or for the whole of Germany,
taking this portion as not quite one-third, a total population
only slightly in excess of two millions. The substantial agree-
ment in the results reached by these three different methods
employed independently, the historical-statistical, the institu-
tional, and the economic, makes an exceedingly strong case. It
can be further strengthened, perhaps, by one or two other con-
siderations which have as yet not been employed. They are
the following.

Maroboduus at the head of the Marcomannic confederation,
which included a large number of tribes (even the distant Sem-
nones and the Longobardi) seems, at the height of his power,
to have commanded a total force of 74,000 men. 34 This number,
as Ludwig Schmidt has pointed out 35 , bears every evidence of
being reliable, because of the immense force, twelve legions,
one hundred thousand men at the lowest estimate, which
Tiberius felt he must employ in order to crush him. 36 Now
this is probably the total number of males who in the last extrem-
ity might bear arms, i. e., following the customary Roman calcu-
lations 37 , one-fourth of the whole population. The Marcomannic

* 3 Grundriss der allgemeinen Volkswirtschaftslehre, I, Leipzig, 1901,
p. 158 ff., especially 159 f. and 183.

34 Velleius, II, 109.

35 O/>. cit., I, p. 48; II, p. 209.

36 See Gardthausen, Augustus, I. p. 1169 on this campaign.

37 This is the calculation Caesar uses for the Helvetians (Bell. Gall.,
I, 29), and Velleius (II, 116) for the Pannonian rebels. Cf. Beloch,
Rh. Mus., LIV (1899), p. 431, I. L. Schmidt uses the ratio of one to
five. It seems more reasonable, however, to use the Roman system of



213] CRITICISM OP ACCEPTED VIEW 47

confederation at its greatest development would have had, there-
fore, a population of 296,000, or let us say, in round numbers,
300,000. Now some years later the Cheruscan confederacy
under Arminius waged war with Maroboduus on fairly even
terms ; hence it is not unreasonable to suppose that the strength
of the two confederations was about equal. 38 Of course a large
number of the tribes which lay even between the Rhine and the
Elbe must have held aloof from the struggle, certainly those
along the sea coast like the Cannanefates, the Frisii and the like,
who were under Roman control, but doubtless many others also
in the remoter parts of the district concerned. The neutrals
may very well have been as numerous as either confederacy,
but hardly more numerous than both combined, for the struggle
is represented as a great national movement. In one case we
would get a total population of 900,000, in the other 1,200,000,
figures which agree very closely with those already reached
by Delbriick and Schmoller.

Again Posidonius in his description of Gaul (in Diod., V,
25) has calculated that the smaller tribes of Gaul counted
50,000 members, the largest a scant 200,000. The average would
be 125,000, but, as E. Levasseur, who has used this datum for
his calculations of the population of Gaul, observes 39 , the num-

reckoning. Delbriick, Preuss. Jahrb., 81, p. 480, uses the one to five ratio
for the proportion of warriors who might be expected to attend the war
council, but that is a slightly different thing from the utmost that a
tribe could do in a desperate situation.

38 That the Cheruscan confederacy was originally not more powerful
than the Marcomannic seems clear from the fact that, even after the
defection of the Semnones, Longobardi and certain Suebian tribes
(Tacitus, Ann., II, 45) Arminius and Maroboduus fought a drawn battle.
Tacitus' statement that the counter defection of Inguiomerus was a com-
plete offset is most improbable; see L. Schmidt, op. cit., II, 2, 181.

39 La population frangaise. Histoire de la population avant 1789, I,
Paris, 1889, p. 99 ff. Otto Hirschfeld (Sitsungsber. d. Berl. Akad., 1897,
p. noi) also uses this bit of evidence as a basis for calculations. Beloch,
however, (Rh. Mus., LIV (1899), p. 414 f.) utterly rejects it, because he
insists on taking the word avd/j<? here as equivalent to fighting men.
That is doubtless correct, but as it makes arrant nonsense of the calcula-
tion, it should not be ascribed to so well-informed a scientist as Posi-
donius, but only to the stupid Diodorus, who has thus changed what
must have been an estimate only of the total population, into one of
the number capable of bearing arms. Beloch's remark that the ancient
Gauls had no idea of the total population, but only of the fighting men,



48 THE DEFEAT OF VARUS [214

her of large tribes was probably very small, so that a lower
average (he accepts 100,000) must be taken. On what seems to
be a fair assumption, therefore, i. e., that the 60 tribes of Gaul
which were represented on the great altar at Lyons 40 , existed
in Posidonius' day, one would get a total population of about
6,000,000, which is astonishingly close to Beloch's own revised
calculations, who concedes the possibility of 6,750,000, but pre-
fers 5,700,000. 41 Now the Germans being without cities, devel-
oped agriculture or elaborate commerce, must have had a very
much scantier population, certainly not more than an average
of 50,000 per tribe, and probably much less. Hence taking
50,000 as a maximum figure, we should get for the whole of Ger-
many with about 60 tribes 42 , a maximum of 3,000,000, and for
the Ehine, Elbe, Main-Saale district with 20 to 23 tribes 43 , a
maximum of 1,000,000 to 1,150,000, and a probable size of about
three quarters of a million or even less. These numbers, while
somewhat larger than those already reached by other methods,
are yet reasonably close to them to serve as a sort of confirma-
tion, and in any event come very far below the figures custom-
arily given for the population of Germany.

Finally, one might note Lamprecht's ingenious estimate
of the population in a district of the Moselle country by a com-
parison of the relative number of place names recorded for dif-
ferent epochs. 44 He finds that a district which in 1800 A. D.

seems to go too far. If one number be known it is an easy matter
to calculate the other. Certainly Posidonius was capable of multiplying
any figures the Gauls may have given him for their fighting men by
4 or 5, in order to secure an estimate of the whole population. Besides,
the Gauls must have had a certain accepted proportion between the total
population of a district and the number of fighting men it could produce.
They had a great many more occasions to make use of such calculations
than any one in modern times would ever have; for questions of life
and death depended only too frequently on just such estimates.

40 Strabo, IV, 3, 2.

4l Rh. Mus., L1V (1899), pp. 438, 443.

42 Delbriick, Preuss. Jahrb., p. 47 f. Any exact calculation of the
total number of tribes in Germany is impossible because our knowledge
of the different tribal names comes from diverse periods, and the des-
ignations of clans and confederacies varied greatly from time to time.

48 Delbriick, Preuss. Jahrb., p. 428, note, and Geschichte der Kriegs-
kunst, I, 2nd ed. (1909), p. 14.

**Deutsches Wirtschaftsleben im Mittelalter, Leipzig, 1886, I, p. 148 ff.,
esp. 161 ff.



215] CRITICISM OF ACCEPTED VIEW 49

had a population of about 450,000, had in 800 A. D. only about
20,000. This would give the German settlements of the year
800 A. D. as a whole, about 4.5% of the population one thousand
years later. As the population of Germany in 1800 was about
23,000,000 (Levasseur), that of a correspondingly large area
would have been slightly in excess of one million. In attempting
to apply this result to conditions in Germany at the beginning
of our era 45 , we must bear in mind that the method employed
is one which is likely to secure minimal figures, and that in the
Moselle land we do not have the ancient seat of the Germanic
tribes, but only a colonised territory, which for some accident or
other may not have been as thickly settled as other localities.
On the other hand, we must note that the land in question had
been German probably for four centuries, and the conditions
were favorable to its bearing as heavy a population as that of
any interior district of Germany in the first century of our
era. While, therefore, we should regard this estimate as being
certainly too low, yet it supports in a way the calculations of
Delbriick and Schmoller, and is utterly inconsistent with figures
like twelve or fifteen millions.

We shall regard then the population of Germany between
the Rhine, Elbe, and Danube, as about 1,000,000, or taking the
Main-Saale line instead of the Danube, for all the campaign-
ing was done in the region northwest of these two streams, the
population could not have been in excess of three quarters of a
million. Taking Caesar's calculation of one man for every
twelve inhabitants as the largest army which a semibarbarous
people could collect from a considerable extent of territory 46 ,
we should get something over 60,000 men as the maximum force
which the Germans could put into the field for a single stroke.
Without any adequate organization, transport, or central
authority, this number could not be fed and maintained any
length of time, and it is extremely doubtful whether Arminius
ever had a force as large as this. Besides, a number of the tribes
along the coast as far as the Weser, and along the lower Rhine,

"Assuming that the region occupied by the Germans in the time
of Augustus was approximately as large as the modern German empire.
Agrippa's imperfect calculation, even including Raetia and Noricum, was
to be sure much smaller, i. e., 686 x 248 m. ; Pliny, Nat. Hist., IV, 98.

40 See Beloch, Rh. Mus., LIV (1899), pp. 418, 423, 428. In his
Bcvolkerung, p. 457, he had estimated one in ten, which was too large
a fraction.



50 THE DEFEAT OF VARUS [216

remained friendly and loyal, so that their contingents would
have to be subtracted from the total. That something less than
60,000, say roughly 50,000, is approximately correct may be
inferred from the size of the armies which campaigned in Ger-
many. We have already seen that when Tiberius set out to
crush Maroboduus with his 74,000 men, he assembled twelve
legions, a force of 100,000 to 120,000 legionaries and auxUia.
Yet Germanicus invaded Germany in 14 A. D. with only four
legions 47 , and fought the campaigns of the next two years with
no more than eight 48 , and that too when he had reason to expect
that practically all of the tribes of northwestern Germany would
be united against him. We cannot imagine that the extremely
cautious Tiberius would have entrusted his nephew, his legions,
and his own imperial position to eight legions alone, if he had
had reason to think that the enemy exceeded 50,000 in number,
when he had ventured against Maroboduus only with a numeri-
cal superiority of 50%. In other words the same proportional
strength used against Maroboduus, 12 legions against 74,000
men, would allow us to infer that Tiberius expected to find no
more than 50,000 capable of meeting his eight legions. 49

We have already referred to the hopeless inferiority of the
Germans in tactics, strategy, and equipment, and their inability
to cope with the great resources of the empire, if systematically
employed in steady and long drawn out operations. The only
branch of service in which the Germans were on an equality
with the Romans, if not actually surpassing them, was the
cavalry, but that was of comparatively little consequence, partly
because the Romans used the Batavians for cavalry service, and
they were easily the equals of the Germans, while the nature
of the country, consisting largely of swamps and forests, made
cavalry an unimportant arm of the service. Indeed the cavalry
played no very important role in the. great battles, and in the

* 7 Tac., Ann., I, 56.

48 Tac., Ann., II, 16. This was the force later kept at the Rhine.
Tacitus, Ann., IV, 5; Josephus, II, 16, 4.

49 Delbruck, Preuss. Jahrb., p. 481 f., has well refuted the Roman
claims of great numerical superiority on the part of the Germans, and
concludes that the forces on both sides were about equal. Judging from
the campaign against Maroboduus, which it may be noted, is the only
one in which we have apparently reliable information regarding the
strength of both sides, one might safely infer that, at least under Tiberius,
the Romans enjoyed actual numerical superiority.



217] CRITICISM OP ACCEPTED VIEW 51

one serious defeat of the Romans, that of Varus, they are not
so much as mentioned. 50 Two other advantages the Germans
had on their side, one a difficult terrain, the other inadequate
supplies for a large force of invaders. The first was a real dif-
ficulty, but nothing insuperable ; indeed it may -be questioned
whether the terrain of Germany was much more difficult than
that of Gaul in Caesar's time, and certainly not nearly so diffi-
cult as that of the Alps and of Illyricum, the inhabitants of
which were subdued with no especial difficulty. As for provi-
sions, it was a simple thing for the Romans to collect immense
stores along the frontier and to deposit them at various stations
inland as the armies advanced; besides, the numerous navigable
rivers would enable them to bring supplies in any desired
quantity far into the interior, and it is well known how often
the fleet was used in the campaigns, on one occasion actually
sailing far up the Elbe to meet Tiberius and the land army. 51

This suggests the final point of advantage which the Romans
had, that of the superior military position. Germany could be
attacked from three sides, the Rhine, the Danube, and the
Ocean. The Romans could select their own time and place of
attack, and support a forward thrust in any direction by a pow-
erful flank movement. Any position the Germans took up might
have been turned by forces coming from one side or the other,
or, if they held their ground, they would be in imminent danger
of being caught and crushed between two armies. The rivers
of Germany are numerous, and most of them, three at least in
the west, navigable for Roman fleets, which could not merely
move considerable armies at slight risk far inland, but also fur-
nish inexhaustible supplies. That the Romans know how to use
this superior strategical position is clear from the plan of cam-
paign against Maroboduus, and the numerous occasions when
the fleet cooperated with the Rhine armies.

To sum up, the Romans had such overwhelming superior-
ity 52 in total population, size of army, general resources, equip-

50 Delbriick, Preuss. Jahrb., p. 481, exaggerates somewhat the advantage
in cavalry which the Germans enjoyed.

51 Velleius, II, 106.

52 The overwhelmingly superior force of Rome is specifically admitted
by some historians, but hardly seems as yet to be generally accepted.
See especially Fustel de Coulanges, Histoire des institutions politiques de
I'ancienne France, vol. II, 2nd ed. (by C. Jullian), Paris, 1891, p. 328;
Ed. Meyer, Kl. Schr., p. 486; von Domaszewski, Gcschichtc der



52 THE DEFEAT OP VARUS [218

ment, tactics, strategy and military location, that any serious
and persistent effort at conquest could not conceivably have
failed. If the Romans, therefore, did not complete a conquest
it was unquestionably because they did not desire to do so, not
because they could not. As we shall see later on, the course
of their operations nowhere shows a consistent effort at sub-
jugation; the reason they did not incorporate Germany into
the empire is simply that they were engaged in doing something
quite different. We must not forget that what the Middle
Ages could not bring about in the Alps, or the Turks in the
Balkans, i. e., the utter pacification of these districts, the
Romans accomplished with ease and celerity, while Charle-
magne, with forces and opportunities incomparably inferior to
those of Rome, achieved the most thorough subjugation of the
Germanic tribes. To deny that Rome could have done the same
is an utterly untenable position.

It is clear from the preceding discussion, and of the utmost
significance for our question, that this battle was not a fair test
of the comparative strength, actual or potential, of the Roman
and Germanic forces. Not less noteworthy is a consideration of
the incidents following the defeat. One would have expected
that the events succeeding such a momentous engagement would
have been equally as important as the battle itself, if not more
so. Such, however, is not the case, and this fact is recognized
by Mommsen in the words quoted above, ' ' without further direct
military consequences." If there was an advantage on either
side it was with the Romans 1 " 4 , for immediately the army was

romischen Kaiser, Leipzig, 1909, p. 245. The same thing is meant also
by J. Beloch where he observes that the Romans recognized "dass die
Eroberung grossere Anstrengungen kosten wurde als das Objekt wert
war" (Gricchischc Gcschichte, 2nd ed., vol. I, I (1912), p. 14).

53 See p. 37-

54 Cf. Koepp, Die Romer in Deutschland, p. 35 : "Kurz, als Tiberius
am Rhein erschien, waren die Befiirchtungen der ersten Aufregung
schon zerstreut, die Folgen des Ungliicksfalls eingedammt. Rasch war
das Heer erganzt, ja vermehrt"; Hiibner. of. cit., p. in: "Nach des
Varus Niederlage musste zeitweilig das rechtsrheinische Gebiet verlassen
werden ; Tiberius und Germanicus gewannen es wieder" ; Mommsen,
Hist, of Rome, V. 53: "The defeat was soon compensated, in so far as
the Rhine army was immediately not simply made up to its strength,
but considerably reinforced"; Gardthousen, I, p. 1223: "damals

wurde die Rheinarmee auf acht Legionen verstarkt." So

Niese, Rom. Gesch., p. 298.



219] CRITICISM OP ACCEPTED VIEW 53

increased to eight legions, and Tiberius, an experienced general,
was placed at its head. 55 It is to be noted too that not another
victory was gained by the Germans, while the Romans under
Tiberius (who had no opportunity for victories), and particu-
larly under Germanicus, marched and countermarched over
practically all of Germany (certainly over the territory of the
tribes who had taken part in this war), with little or no opposi-
tion. Tiberius' activity following the overthrow of Varus is
told by Velleius (II, 120), and making due allowance for the
latter 's partiality and proneness to exaggeration, we cannot dis-
regard entirely his general statements, since he was an eye wit-
ness (II, 104). There is no doubt that Tiberius proceeded
cautiously 56 in the years 10 and 11, but in the latter year he
crossed the Rhine and starting from Vetera marched up the
Lippe river, utterly devastating the territory of the Bructeri 57 ,
resentment for which doubtless caused a member of this tribe to
attempt Tiberius' assassination. 58 Later on (16 A. D.) German-
icus, just before his recall, was so successful against the Ger-
mans that he requested only one more year for the completion
of his work. 59 This means that Germany at this time was as
near to being a province as in any of the preceding years, but
no nearer, since the land had never been reduced to tranquillity.
And with respect to possession, the Romans were in control of

55 Vell., II, 120: "mittitur [Tiberius] ad Germaniam .... ultro
Rhenum cum exercitu transgreditur."

56 Suet., Tib., 18 and 19; Gardthausen, I, p. 1224.

"Gardthausen, I, p. 1225.

68 Suet, Tib., 19.

59 Cf. Tac., Ann., II, 26, 4: "Precante Germanico annum efficiendis
coeptis." This is the basis of Mommsen's statement (Hist, of Rome, V,
p. 59) : [Germanicus] "reported to Rome that in the next campaign
he should have the subjugation of Germany complete." And just preced-
ing this the same author says : "The second tropaeum of Germanicus
[in the Teutoburg forest] spoke of the overthrow of all the Germanic
tribes between the Rhine and the Elbe." See also p. 54 f. for further
discussion of the campaigns of Tiberius and Germanicus. Mommsen
speaks of the campaigns of the summers 12, 13, and 14 as years of
inaction, a mere continuance of the war, of which nothing at all is
reported. This gap in the record Riese explains, Forschungen, etc., p. 13
by the meagerness of our sources (Velleius, Suetonius, and Dio) cover-
ing the last years of Augustus, as compared with the fuller account in
Tacitus of the early years of the regency of Tiberius. So Koepp, op. cit. f
P- 34-



54 THE DEFEAT OF VARUS [220

as much territory as they formerly held, and had the advantage
of having an army larger than it had ever been before. More-
over, while it doubtless was more difficult to raise troops at this
time than in the days of Julius Caesar, the presence in Ger-
many of this larger armed force shows beyond doubt that
Rome's resources were as yet by no means exhausted. As
already noted above, excellent authorities admit that had Rome
made any whole-hearted attempt she could have conquered Ger-
many just as she had other countries. Likewise Mommsen, after
observing that it was no easy task for Rome to overthrow the
Germanic patriot-party, as well as the Suebian king in Bohemia,
says 60 : "Nevertheless they had already once stood on the verge


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