Is Netflix’s Barbarians based on a true story?

Everything you need to know about the facts behind Netflix's latest historical drama.

Netflix Original series Barbarians

Following the action-packed fourth season of The Last Kingdom earlier this year, Netflix are preparing to drop another historical drama that should prove fascinating to history buffs.

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Barbarian takes viewers all the way back to the year 9 AD, in the days leading up to the legendary Battle of Teutoburg Forest, which saw the united Germanic tribes clash against the invading Roman Empire.

Much like The Last Kingdom, Barbarians is partly based on real history and partly a work of fiction, but showrunners Jan Martin Scharf and Arne Nolting have aimed for a high level of authenticity in what we see on screen.

Two of the key characters were indeed real prominent figures at this time, those being the Cheruscan prince’s daughter Thusnelda and young Roman officer Arminius, played by Jeanne Goursaud and Laurence Rupp respectively.

The Cherusci was a Germanic tribe, one of about fifty groups existing at that time, most of whom were enemies seemingly incapable of uniting against their common foe: the Romans.

That is, until the intervention of Arminius, originally a son of the noblest house of tribe Cherusci, who was sent to Rome as a tribute in his younger years, where he was given an advanced military education.

In the years that followed, he became a trusted adviser to ruthless Roman general Varus, but secretly his allegiances stayed with the Germanic people.

He hatched a plan to unite their disparate tribes against the Romans for the first time, harnessing the outrage felt over the sadistic acts Varus had inflicted upon those he conquered, including crucifixion of rebels.

Arminius orchestrated an ambush, feeding Varus false reports about a local uprising and taking him through territory that was unfamiliar to his Roman soldiers.

He then slipped away to rally the Germanic tribes and led them in victorious attacks on the enemy garrisons, destroying three Roman legions and stopping the advance of the Roman Empire dead in its tracks.

This story is depicted in Netflix’s Barbarians, which explores the conflicted feelings that torture Arminius prior to his epic betrayal, as well as his leadership in the ensuing Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

Cheruscan noblewoman Thusnelda is also torn between worlds to some extent, as while she belongs to a Germanic tribe, her father is an ally of the Roman Empire – which paints a target on his back.

In real history, after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, Arminius kidnaps Thusnelda in what was likely to be an act of defiance against her father, ultimately marrying and having a child with her.

It is stated in historical document The Annals that Arminius truly loved her, although it is not clear whether these feelings of intense adoration were reciprocated.

Netflix’s Barbarians is likely to paint their relationship as a more romantic affair, perhaps even with a love triangle including “simple warrior” Folkwin, who is Thusnelda’s partner at the beginning of the series.

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Barbarians is available to stream on Netflix from Friday 23rd October. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best TV series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, visit our TV Guide, or find out about upcoming new TV shows 2020.