Barbarians (2020 TV series)

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Promotional release poster
Country of originGermany
Original languagesGerman
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes12
Running time41–51 minutes
Production company
Original release
ReleaseOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23) –

Barbarians (German: Barbaren) is a 2020 German historical war drama television series created by Andreas Heckmann, Arne Nolting, and Jan Martin Scharf. It stars Laurence Rupp, Jeanne Goursaud, and David Schütter. The series is a fictionalized account of events during the Roman Empire's occupation of Germania, and the subsequent rebellion of some Germanic tribes led by Arminius.[1][2] The series was renewed for season 2 on November 10, 2020.[3] It was released on Netflix on October 21, 2022.[4]


The story takes place during the Roman occupation of Germania Magna (an area between the Rhine river and the Elbe) in the latter part of 9 AD. The Romans had occupied the region for twenty years, and the Germanic tribes are oppressed by the empire's heavy taxes and demands for tribute. Attempts to form a unified Germanic resistance are hampered by petty in-fighting between the tribal chieftains, and the selfish aspirations of certain tribesmen desiring peace with Rome.

Arminius, an eques in the Roman Imperial army, is a member of the Germanic Cherusci tribe who was given away as a hostage to Rome when he was a child, along with his younger brother Flavus, by his father Segimer to ensure peace between his tribe and Rome. He returns to Germania to help Publius Quinctilius Varus (his foster father) maintain order in the region. Upon seeing the atrocities inflicted by Roman soldiers on his former people, he becomes the new chieftain of the Cherusci tribe, and ignites a rebellion by finally uniting the tribes with the help of Thusnelda (daughter of Segestes) and Folkwin Wolfspeer, his two best friends during childhood. These events eventually culminate on the date of September 11, 9 AD in a massive ambush of three Roman legions (some 15,000 men) at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, where the Germanic people emerge victorious. Faced with humiliating defeat and shocked by the treason of his adopted son, Varus commits suicide.


Laurence Rupp at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival
Jeanne Goursaud - Warner Brothers Studio on February 5, 2018 in Burbank, CA

Production and background[edit]

The shooting took place in Budapest from August 12 to November 30, 2019.[5] The series was produced by the German Gaumont GmbH, a subsidiary of the French Gaumont (producers Sabine de Mardt, Andreas Bareiss, and Ranier Marquass.)[6][7]

Christian Stassinger was in charge of the camera. Esther Walz was responsible for costume design, Thomas Stammer for the production design and Iris Baumuller for the casting.[5] The first four episodes were staged by Austrian director Barbara Eder [de], and the final two episodes directed by Irishman Steve St. Leger, who had also worked on Vikings.[8] During the production, the makers of the television series took advice from historians.[9]

At the start of the series, Netflix advertised in Bielefeld with the text Nobody conquers the Teutoburg Forest. This is an allusion to the chants by DSC Arminia Bielefeld. Arminus is the namesake of the football club.[9]


Thomas Grueter judged in the science portal Spektrum that the overall impression of the series remains ambivalent. "It vividly shows the two irreconcilable cultures. The Latin dialogues of the Romans are a highlight. Costumes, props and buildings were very well done, the equipment of the Roman legionaries corresponded to historical reality, and the Germanic longhouses looked amazingly authentic. Despite some weaknesses, the series is exciting and worth seeing if you don't make too many demands on the historical accuracy of the plot."[10]

For Forbes, film historian Sheena Scott rated Barbarians as "an excellent series that reveals a key historical event in Europe through a gripping tale of love, friendship, betrayal and revenge" and praised the "excellent production design, great performances, especially the main trio Jeanne Goursaud, David Schütter and Laurence Rupp, and the wonderful cinematography of the series."[11]

Journalist Andreas Fischer of the Weser-Kurier remarked that the "biggest dilemma was the supposed historicity of the series. In the cloak of a history lesson, this half-knowledge spreads, the historical background is reduced to a few key facts and only serves as a legitimization for the German variant of the mixture of love, violence and Norse mythology that has been in fashion since Game of Thrones and Vikings.[12]

The expectation that paid streaming services like Netflix have to stand out from the evening entertainment program is not fulfilled for the journalist Ambros Waibel from the newspaper Taz with Barbarians. The series remains, "apart from a bit of clean nudity here and a few dirty beheadings there, stuck in a Germany as a 'Terra X'-Rubbish and is therefore as superfluous as a Suebian knot." Waibel sees the entertainment aspect neglected and instead cites a "contemporary sword-and-sandal film" as a reference point in the genre of The Eagle.'[13]

Archaeologist Matthias Wemhoff in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticized the depiction of Germania, shown in the agriculture, as a "dark, impenetrable forest landscape" as well as a cliched impression of a "rough, linguistically completely ignorant" rural society, which reflects the "complex canon of behavior in a group that has been relatively firmly established over centuries" as not fair. Prehistorian Karl Banghard, also in the FAZ, opined that the series "had little to do with the everyday history of the 'turning point'"; specifically, he complained about the numerous historical inaccuracies, for example in relation to nutrition and clothing, but above all the distribution of roles between the "imperialist Romans against the indigenous Germans." The series tells "the story of the great ethnic resistance struggle" and "mindlessly rehashes the national historical narratives of the 19th Century."[14]

At the start of the series, journalist and archaeologist Sascha Priester illuminated the historical background of the Varus events. He called for a clear distinction between cinema "in the imagination", fiction and what can be really considered scientifically proven today. The general idea of the "Varus battle" – with ambushes, entrenchments or a contiguous battlefield – must be questioned again and again. Due to the constantly new archaeological findings from the Fund region of Kalkriese, a presumed scene of the events, this picture will be continuously changed, enriched and refined. On the occasion of the first season release, he exchanged views in the SWR2-Forum with Heidrun Derks, Reinhard Wolters and moderator Gregor Papschout. The group discussed the conflict within the protagonist Arminius and the confrontation between the tribes and the great power Rome, the genre of the weak versus the strong. The experts agreed that the series wants to entertain, but largely avoids the false historic pathos and the historical term 'Germanic peoples' is skillfully circumnavigated. For the scientific understanding of the term "barbarians", Sascha Priester noted the possible ambiguous understanding of the series title for some viewers, who think less archaeologically and historically, but above all judge and evaluate the character of the people playing: "Who are the barbarians of this series? Because the Romans, the supposed bearers of civilization, are very violent and barbaric."[15]

In the first four weeks of the release of the episodes, more than 37 million households watched the series.[16]


Series overview[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
16October 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
26October 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)[17]

Season 1 (2020)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
11"Wolf and Eagle"Barbara Eder [de]Jan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Cherusci tribal chief Segimer bristles at the increasing demands of new governor Varus. Secret lovers Thusnelda and Folkwin deal Rome a symbolic blow.
22"Vengeance"Barbara EderJan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
The theft of the standard provokes a crisis, reuniting Roman officer Arminius with his father Segimer, and childhood friends Folkwin and Thusnelda.
33"On the Edge"Barbara EderJan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Arminius commands troops ordered by Varus to hunt down and kill Folkwin, whose family and home village are put in danger for his act of defiance.
44"A New Reik"Barbara EderJan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Arminius embraces his new role with the Cherusci but his shift of allegiances runs deeper than Varus knows. Thusnelda and Folkwin rally a rival tribe.
55"Treason"Stephen St. LegerJan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Arminius and Thusnelda forge a political marriage and begin uniting the fractious Germanic tribes. Folkwin is believed dead but has actually been enslaved.
66"The Battle"Stephen St. LegerJan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting, Andreas HeckmannOctober 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
Arminius leads Varus and three Roman legions into the Teutoburg Forest, and into history. Thusnelda makes a bloody sacrifice to preserve the alliance.

Season 2 (2022)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [18]
71"New Legions"Stefan RuzowitzkyKatrin Milhahn, Antonia Rothe-LiermannOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
After the battle of Teutoburg, Arminius (Ari) suspects the Romans of rebuilding their forces and seeks help of Marbod, an eastern tribal chief for protect his people. Flavus, Arminius' brother, arrives in Germania to reclaim his honor as a Roman since he was disgraced by his brother’s betrayal of their adoptive father Valerius and the Romans. Back in the forest, in front of all the tribes, Ari declares that he should be king and that the tribes need to unite to defend their land from the Romans. Marbod stands next to Ari as if they were united, then asks why they are at war again when Ari had promised that the last battle would dispel the Romans. Marbod says that many have died and many more will die with more war, and he encourages the tribes to instead trade and prosper in partnership with the Romans. Afterwards, Ari confronts Mobrod in the woods about why he changed his tune in front of the tribes. Then, Ari’s brother Flavus, in his Roman regalia, comes out from behind a tree and confronts Ari. Flavus says that Ari ruined his life, and Ari and Flavus fight. As Ari is about to kill Flavus, Marbod knocks Ari out with a rock.
82"Captured"Stefan RuzowitzkyKatrin Milhahn, Antonia Rothe-LiermannOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
Ari is carried into the Roman camp as prisoner. Thusnelda enlists her former lover Folkwin and his wife to infiltrate the Roman camp to save Arminius. Marbod and Ari’s brother Flavus meet up and are revealed to be more than friends. The next morning, Flavus prepares to return to Rome and Marbod to return to Rome, but Thusnelda and crew succeed in breaking Ari out of the camp, and Ari brings his son Gaius with them against his will. Ari is chased by Roman soldiers into the forest and all are killed except one who is told to return to give Tiberius a message. Marbod meets with Tiberius in a bid to secure peace.
93"Fathers"Stefan RuzowitzkyJason GeorgeOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
After the prison break, Arminius takes his son Gaius back to the village. Thusnelda is upset with Ari for not having ever mentioned his Roman wife and son. At the Roman camp, Flavus ia arrested by Germanicus for supposedly being a traitor and his collusion in the escape, which Flavus denies since he was the once to bring Ari to the Romans. He is almost executed, but says that if he is killed, Marbod and his 70,000 men will join forces with Ari, so he is spared for the time being. In the forest, Ari tries to convince the tribal leaders to form an alliance against Marbod and the Romans. However, the tribes see Ari’s prior capture by the Romans as a sign from the gods that Ari’s path is not to be followed. Ari is frustrated and continues trying to convince his allies that Marbod the real traitor and that Marbod’s alliance with the Romans will ultimately mean destruction for all the tribes.
104"The Oath"Lennart RuffKseniya MelnikOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
Tiberius requires a test of loyalty to Marbod and send Flavus in the enemy camp to dispatched the message. The tribal chief gets drunk to make an attempt to fight and kill Arminius. Gaius freed Flavus that whack Marbod in the head with a piece of metal and flee. He arrives in the nearby Roman camp to tells Germanicus that he can lead him to the folkmoot and eliminate all the barbarian chiefs at once. Folkwin knows and to avoid Thumelicus renounce and sacrifice the firstborn to save Thusnelda at the folkmoot.
115"Doomed"Lennart RuffJason George, Kseniya MelnikOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
At the meeting Marbod was declared king but his wife was killed by the Romans and now demands justice. Thusnelda and Folkwin set out on a mission to convince the entire eastern army to join the Cherusci. On the long journey Thusnelda confirms that still loves Arminius. Gaius hiding in the woods and stumbles on the two to reveal an important discovery, many Roman troops on the ships sail from an helpless angle heading by Germanicus.
126"The Price"Stefan RuzowitzkyJason GeorgeOctober 21, 2022 (2022-10-21)
After the shocking revelation, the only possibility for the outnumbered Cherusci was to overwhelm the Roman camp before the other troops arrived. Segestes approaches Tiberius with a treacherous proposal. Flavus manages to free himself only to save Marbod and die in his arms. Arminius, Thusnelda and Folkwin prepared to the final battle and with Dido trying to kill Germanicus. Despite the victory, at the village Tiberius execute Thusnelda's parents in front of her and take her child. In the end both Thumelicus and Thusnelda are heading to Rome as captives.


  1. ^ "Stream It Or Skip It: 'Barbarians' on Netflix, a German Quasi-Historical Action-Drama Series in Which People Kill and Have Sex With Each Other". Decider. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Barbarians review – a binge-worthy historical drama". Ready Steady Cut. 23 October 2020. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  3. ^ "'Barbarians' Season 2: Renewed at Netflix, Release Date & What to Expect". What's on Netflix. 10 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Es ist wieder Zeit, das Gjallarhorn auszupacken:📯 Barbaren Staffel 2, ab 21. Oktober 📯". Twitter. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  5. ^ a b Barbaren by Crew United
  6. ^ "Netflix produziert fünf neue deutsche Original Serien". 25 October 2018.
  7. ^ Erwin Schotzger (23 September 2020). ""Barbaren": Deutsche Netflix-Serie macht auf "Vikings"".
  8. ^ "Barbaren: Kritik zum Start der deutschen Historienserie bei Netflix".
  9. ^ a b "Niemand erobert den Teutoburger Wald: Sechsteilige Serie über die Varus-Schlacht startet Freitag bei Netflix" (in German). 19 October 2020.
  10. ^ Thomas Grüter (17 October 2020). "Historiendrama »Barbaren«: Game of Tribes".
  11. ^ Sheena Scott (24 October 2020). "'Barbarians' On Netflix: A German Historical Series On Revenge And Betraya". Forbes.
  12. ^ "Auf sie mit Gebrüll: Netflix lässt die "Barbaren" los". 20 October 2020.
  13. ^ Waibel, Ambros (28 October 2020). "Germania Gaga".
  14. ^ Matthias Wemhoff und Karl Banghard (29 October 2020). "Eine bunte Varusschlachtplatte".
  15. ^ SWR2. "Die "Barbaren" auf Netflix - Was wissen wir über die Varus-Schlacht?" (in German). Archived from the original on 2 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Deutsche Serie "Barbaren" stellt Netflix-Rekord auf". (in German). 20 November 2020.
  17. ^ Robinson, Jacob (25 February 2022). "'Barbarians' Season 2: Netflix 2022 Release Date Confirmed & What to Expect". What's on Netflix.
  18. ^ "Shows A-Z – Barbarians on Netflix". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 21 October 2022.

External links[edit]