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Apotheosis or deification of Roman emperor Claudius. 	Source:	I, Sailko/CC BY-SA 3.0

Retrieving Rome's Last Teutoburg Eagle: Claudius' Quest (Video)

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In 9 AD, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest marked one of Rome's most devastating military defeats, resulting in the loss of three legions and their revered eagle standards. The capture of these standards by Germanic tribes was both a strategic disaster and a profound humiliation for Rome. The loss of the eagles symbolized a significant blow to Roman prestige and was a source of immense embarrassment. The retrieval of lost standards, therefore, held immense symbolic importance and was a highly honorable achievement for any Roman general.

Claudius, an unlikely and initially disregarded candidate for the emperorship due to his physical ailments and social awkwardness, saw the opportunity to solidify his rule through military success. Born into the powerful Claudian family with close ties to the Julio-Claudians, Claudius was sidelined for most of his early life. Despite his scholarly pursuits and evident intelligence, he was excluded from public life under Augustus and Tiberius. His unexpected rise to power occurred following the assassination of his nephew, Emperor Caligula, when the Praetorian Guard proclaimed him emperor, seeing him as a safe and legitimate choice.

Early in his reign, Claudius sought to strengthen his grip on power by commissioning a military campaign in Germania, targeting the tribes responsible for the previous incursions. Generals Servius Sulpicius Galba and Aulus Gabinius Secundus were appointed to lead these efforts. Their mission was to recover the last of the three eagles lost at Teutoburg, an achievement that had eluded previous emperors. In 41 AD, the campaign was launched, marking a significant moment in Claudius' rule. The successful retrieval of the eagle not only restored a measure of Roman pride but also cemented Claudius' legitimacy as emperor, demonstrating his capability to protect and lead the empire.

Top image: Apotheosis or deification of Roman emperor Claudius.             Source:  I, Sailko/CC BY-SA 3.0

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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