Why war? Rome had suffered the greatest defeat in its long history and, as a consequence of that defeat, withdrew to beyond the Rhine. From the point of view of the Germanic tribes a vast success and good prospects now of a peaceful future. But history turned out differently. Conflict between the Romans and the Germanic tribes continued and shaped the events of the following centuries to a considerable degree.
After the Romans had withdrawn to defend their borders, it was the Germanic tribes who attacked the Romans and involved them in long-lasting conflict. Why? What motivated Germanic groupings to launch attacks again and again on the Roman Empire and to seek conflict with an obviously superior enemy?
The subject of CONFLICT leads us to the site of the Varus Battle and far beyond it. It opens perspectives as far as the 5th century, to a time when the first Germanic kingdoms were coming into being on Roman territory. In the end the Germanic tribes were successful in their struggle against Rome and inherited their onetime world empire.
How could that happen, if “the barbarians from the North” were inferior to the Romans in every respect? The cliché ideas of the wild and unruly Germanic tribes which we have nowadays, just as the Romans did, are misleading; if they had simply been “barbarians”, they would certainly not have had a chance against the Romans in the long run.
With a large number of outstanding exhibits, the exhibition will trace the path of the Germanic tribes to the summit of power in ancient Europe and present the reasons for their success. Why warfare was their recipe for success can be grasped only when one understands essential features of Germanic society. The many impressive finds assembled for this exhibition will answer the central question: Why war?