Battle of the Weser River

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Battle of the Weser River
Part of the Germanic Wars
The field of Idistavisus, c. 1895
Date 16 AD
Location On the Weser River
Result Roman victory
Roman Empire Germanic tribes
Commanders and leaders

4 legions and 5,000 Batavian allies: a total of 35,000 1,000 praetorians 24,000 infantry (vexillationes), 4,800 alae

5,000 allies [1]
over 50,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
Minimal Heavy

The Battle of the Weser River, sometimes known as a first Battle of Minden, or more usually the Battle of Idistavisus, was fought in 16 AD between Roman legions commanded by Emperor Tiberius' heir and adopted son Germanicus, and an alliance of Germanic tribes commanded by Arminius. The battle marked the end of a three-year series of campaigns by Germanicus in Germania.


The Germanic chief, Arminius, had been instrumental in the organising of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in which three Roman legions, moving west[2] to winter quarters,[3] were ambushed and annihilated by allied Germanic forces in the deep forests of western Germania. This loss loomed large in the Roman psyche and revenge for this defeat, as well as the neutralization of the threat of Arminius, were the impetus for Germanicus' campaign. In the year before the battle, 15 AD, Germanicus had marched against the Chatti and then against the Cherusci under Arminius. During that campaign, the Romans advanced along the region of the Teutoburg Forest where the legions had been massacred and buried the bones of the Roman soldiers that still lay there.[4] A Legionary standard from the battle was also recovered.[5] Skirmishes with the Germani were constant but the Romans could not draw them into open battle.


Ancient sources identify the location as Idistavisus,[1] but the precise location is unknown, save that it was on the right side of the Weser River,[6] somewhere between the cities of Minden and Hamelin of present-day Germany.

The battle[edit]

The Germanic tribes generally avoided open large-scale combat but by repeated Roman incursions deep into Germanic territory, Germanicus was able to force Arminius, at the head of a large but fractious coalition, into response. The Romans, along with the Chauci who fought on the Roman side as auxiliaries, defeated the allied Germanic forces decisively, inflicting heavy losses on them.[7] Arminius and his uncle Inviomerus evaded capture and fled with the remnants of their army into the forests.

It is unknown how many Germanics and Romans were killed in the battle. According to Tacitus, the number of Germanic casualties were between 10,000- 20,000 dead or wounded, while Romans were far fewer.


Germanicus then withdrew behind the Rhine for the winter.[8] With Roman honour avenged, Tiberius called an end to the costly military campaigns in northern Germania and ordered Germanicus to return to Rome,[8] where he was granted a Triumph by Tiberius on May 26, AD 17. Arminius would be later assassinated on the orders of rival Germanic chiefs.


In Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, states that he had fought in this battle.[9]

Coordinates: 53°32′8″N 8°33′56″E / 53.53556°N 8.56556°E / 53.53556; 8.56556

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Tacitus, The Annals 2.16
  2. ^ Stephen Dando-Collins, Legions of Rome. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010), 238.
  3. ^ Ibid, 237.
  4. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 1.62
  5. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 1.60
  6. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 2.12
  7. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 2.17
  8. ^ a b Tacitus, The Annals 2.26
  9. ^ Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master And Margarita. Lulu Press, 2006, p. 20.