Review of the historical series Barbarians

Pros: Fairly accurate adherence to available historical information about those events; good selection of costumes and scenery; shows the gradual transformation of Arminius from a Roman citizen and horseman into a German leader, and Thusnelda from a simple girl into his faithful assistant; fortunately, there is no mysticism in the series. Cons: Only part of the final episode of the season is devoted to the battle itself; The first few episodes feel unnecessarily drawn out. Barbarians

Genre historical drama
Creators Andreas Heckmann, Arne Nolting, Jan Martin Scharf
Starring Laurence Rupp (Arminius), Gaetano Aronica (Publius Quintilius Varus), Jean Goursaud (Tusnelda), David Schutter (Falquin Wolfspear), Jeremy Milliker (Ansgar), Bernard Schultz (Segestes), etc.
Netflix channel
Year of release 2020
Series 6
Site IMDb

Quintili Vare, return the legions!
Octavianus Augustus

According to the most plausible version, the Cherusci leader Arminius, who united several Germanic tribes that attacked the legions marching through the Teutoburg Forest, was himself educated in Rome. He was probably one of the hostages whom the leaders of the tribes paying tribute to the empire sent to the capital. Arminius proved himself well in the service of Rome, studied military affairs, spoke Latin, received the rank of equestrian and commanded an auxiliary detachment of Roman troops recruited from the Germans. Arminius had a good relationship with Quintilius Varus, they communicated and spent time together at feasts. Why did a man who had achieved everything in Rome decide to betray what prompted him to switch sides, lure his former colleagues into a trap and brutally deal with them?

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

The series Barbarians is dedicated to finding out the reasons for the betrayal of Arminius and his rise among the Germans, and not the battle itself in the Teutoburg Forest. Moreover, in the first episode there is not even Arminius himself, but it tells about the relationship between the Romans and the Germans, which ultimately led to the uprising. The authors of the series tried to reconstruct the events and show how Arminius turned from a loyal soldier into one of the most dangerous enemies of the empire, because after the defeat in Germany, Rome was really afraid that Arminius would move on to the already Romanized Gaul. Over the course of four episodes, Arminius realizes step by step that he was just a pawn in the game of Rome, that he was used, and all this training, rewards and privileges were needed for only one thing – to pacify the Germans with his hands.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

Overall, the version shown in Barbarians seems very plausible. The Germans were really unhappy with the huge exactions and conscription into the Roman army, and Quintilius Varus became famous for his cruelty during the Jewish revolt of 4 BC, when, having taken Jerusalem, he ordered the crucification of about 2000 Jews. It is obvious that his methods in conquered Germany were not distinguished by delicacy.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

Actually, it comes to the battle itself only in the second half of the last, sixth episode of Barbarians. The creators did not have enough resources for all three legions; on the other hand, the battle in the forest is somehow broken down into a series of local skirmishes. It’s just a shame that the battle, which actually lasted three days, during which the Germans exhausted the Romans with constant attacks, and the rain deprived them of maneuverability, was compressed in the series to literally just a few hours. Plus, the move with fire is somewhat out of line with the real reconstruction of that battle, because its site was discovered in 1987 and carefully examined during large-scale excavations. By the way, the mask that Arminius wears in the series is very similar to the real mask of a Roman horseman found at the battle site.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest occupies an important place in German history, not of the first millennium, but much closer to modern times, the period of German unification in the mid-19th century. It was then that Arminius, renamed Hermann by patriotic scholars, became an important figure calling for the revival of the national idea and the creation of a unified German state. It is not surprising that already in 1875, just four years after the unification, a huge 53-meter monument to Arminius was erected in the Teutoburg Forest, southwest of Detmold, on the top of a 386-meter hill. The two thousandth anniversary of the battle was celebrated quite pompously in the newly united Germany in 2009.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

You understand that the Germans simply could not make a series about such an important figure for their own history carelessly. They carefully approached historical facts (although the role of Thusnelda in organizing the uprising seems a little exaggerated for the sake of modern realities), selected good actors for the main roles, built good scenery, in particular, a Roman military camp and a Cheruscan village, did a good job on costumes and makeup, especially among the Germans. For greater authenticity, we recommend watching the film in German with subtitles, especially since the Romans in the series speak Latin, and the Germans speaking English look a little strange in this case.

Thank God, Barbarians avoided mysticism and magic, which, in my opinion, simply killed the Britannia series. There are priests themselves in the series, but, fortunately, no intervention of the gods or inexplicable events occurs.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

In general, Barbarians can even be compared to the TV series Vikings from the History Channel. It’s a little poorer, simpler, but considering that Barbarians takes place 850 years earlier, that’s forgivable. Judging by the end of the first season, the creators plan to tell the story of Arminius and the ancient Germans further. However, if you were a little interested in the topic, then you know that there will be no happy ending here. On the other hand, Netflix, in their typical manner, has not yet confirmed the renewal of the show for a second season.

Review of the historical series Barbarians / “Barbarians”

PS They say that several months after the defeat in Germany, the already middle-aged Emperor Octavian Augustus sadly walked around the palace, from time to time banging his head against the wall and saying: “Quintili Vare, legiones redde!” (“Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!”).


It looks like Netflix has gotten its own Vikings with Barbarians.

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