Monday, June 29, 2009

Numidian Warriors

Numidia lay in northern Africa, in what is now Algeria. The latin name, "Numidia," means land of the nomads. As nomads, these people depended upon the horse for transportation. They were expert horsemen. The Numidian horsemen rode bareback, without a bridle. using their voice and a stick to guide ther mounts. A round shield, their stealth and agility were their only protection in battle. According to the representation in sculpture, Numidian warriors wore only a sleeveless tunic with a simple belt. Highly effective as light cavalry, the Numidian horsemen would dash up to an enemy, let lose light javelins, and then gallop away before they could be met with a counter attack. When on foot, the Numidians attacked with bows, slings or javelins. Impressed by their talent, the Carthaginians and later the Romans incorporated Numidians into their own armies.


First Punic War
Numidians fight alongside Carthage. 216 BC Present at battle of Cannae

Second Punic War
214BC The great Roman general, Scipio Africanus, convinces King Syphax king of the Masaesyles tribe to withdraws support from Carthage. Syphax recalls the Numidians, leaving the Carthaginians in Spain. The concerned Carthaginians encourage a rival Numidain, King Gaia of the Massyles tribe, to attack Syphax. 212BC Syphax rejoins Carthage. King Gaia's son, Masinissa, arrives in Spain with a contingent of Numidian horsemen. 206 BC The Romans form allegiance with Masinissa (then king). 202BC Masinissa provides Romans with Numidian 4,000 cavalry and 6,000 light infantry at decisive battle of Zama. Scipio's Carthaginian rival, Hannibal has 4,000 provided by Syphax.

Third Punic War
6,000 Numidians side with Carthage. Masinissa joins with Rome again.

BC 110-105 Jugurthine War
In contending for the Numidian throne, Jugurtha, allowed some Roman citizens to be killed (112BC). After much Roman inaction, the incident escalated to the point where the Senate was compelled to sent troops to confront Jugurtha. A line Roman commanders failed in subduing the Numidians. Some were bribed into inaction, others suffered mighty military defeat. In 109 one of the consuls, Q. Caecilus Metellus, was sent to deal with the situation. Gradual progress was made against the Numidians. In the hopes of a quicker resolution to the warone of Metellus' officers, Gaius Marius, was made consul and took command of the army (107BC). Progress against Jugurtha was again gradual. After constructing numerous forts and bringing in light cavalry to counter the Numidian horsemen the war was winding to a close. The conflict came to a quick end in 105 BC when Jugurtha was bertayed by his ally, King Bocchus of Mauretania. Bocchus handed Jugurtha to a general of Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Sulla then delivered the captive to Marius. The Numidian king was executed in Rome as part of Marius' triumph.

58 BC Caesar's invasion of Gaul
Caesar commanded Numidian archers, often fighting alongside men from Crete who were reputed to be the best archers in the world.

AD 17-24 Tacfarinas Revolt
Tacfarinas was a leader of a Berber tribe of the Musulamii nomads. They lived south of the then Roman Provinces of Numidia and Mauretania Caesariensis. Numidians joined in his revolt against Rome. As a former auxiliary in the Roman army, Tacfarinas was able to apply the Roman style of organized warfare to his people. This was useful in pitched battles with the Romans, but the rebels had more success with guerilla warfare. The Roman reaction was a build up fortresses, spreading forces across the province to better counter the rebels hit and run tactics. AD 24 Tacfarinas found his rebel fortress surrounded by Romans and their allied Mauretanians. He committed suicide, ending hostilities. (see Tacitus, Annals 2.52.1 - 3.74.1-4)

AD 101-105 Trajan's Dacian Wars
Numidian cavalry serve in the fight against the Dacians as depicted in Trajan's Column.

1. Armies of the Carthaginian Wars 265-146 BC, by Terence Wise
2. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, by Lawrence Keppie

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roman Invasion of Britain

Before Julius Caesar finally ended his brief occupation of southern Britain he made alliances with several of the Celtic tribes living there. One of the more powerful tribes, the Catuvellauni, was lead by the king Curnobelinus. Wishing to avoid interference from Rome, this king had kept the peace with the pro-Roman tribes. In 42AD, however, he died, leaving his 2 sons in control. Togodumnus and Caratacus proceeded to make war with the pro-Roman tribes. As a result, these tribes appealed to Rome for help. The newly proclaimed emperor, Claudius, decided this was an excellent chance to acquire new lands for the Empire and new prestige for himself.

Four legions took part in the initial invasion: Leg. II Augusta, Leg. XIIII Gemina, Leg. XX Valeria, and Leg. IX Hispana. It is possible that vexillatores (detachments) from other legions also joined. Including their auxiliary force, the Romans had some 40,000 troops gathered at the Gallic coastal town of Gesoticum. There was some delay caused most probably by the superstitious fears of the troops. When the army did cross the channel they found their landing zone (in modern-day Kent) totally undefended. It is thought that the Roman delay convinced the British that the invasion had been postponed until the next campaigning season. Or perhaps the demands of the harvest required their army to disperse. In any case, the Romans quickly took advantage of the situation, forming a beach head and pushing in to the interior. The British, avoided a pitched battle until the Roman force reached a river (most probably the Medway). At this point the British tribes set up camp opposite the Romans, secure in the knowledge that the Roman army would be unable to cross the river with much success. The Romans, however, found a ford some distance up the river and sent across Leg. II Augusta (probably commanded by the future emperor, Vespasian). While this legion was sneaking up on the British flank, a troop of Batavian auxiliary cavalry was sent as a diversion across the river in plain view of the British. This in itself surprised the Brits. The British chariot horse were unhitched, making them ideal targets for the advancing cavalry. Although they lost heir chariot arm, and Leg. II Augusta did catch them off guard, the British managed to hold their own until nightfall.

The next day Leg. XX Valeria commanded by C. Hosidius Geta crossed the river, followed by the remainder of the Roman forces. They succeeded in defeating the British forces, who fell back to the River Thames. It was normal Roman practice to follow up a defeat by sending their cavalry to slaughter the broken formations of fleeing enemy. At this point in time the land around the river was very marshy, making it very difficult for the cavalry to pursue. The overall, commander, Plautius was ordered to halt his advance in order to give the Emperor Claudius time to make an appearance and grab some glory. At his arrival, the Romans proceeded to lay siege to the Catuvellauni tribal capital of Camuldunon. Togodumnus, one of the two brother leading the tribe had been killed in the previous battle. Feeling ill-prepared, the remaining brother, Caratacus, decided to flee the Romans to Whales. It is believed that there really was not much British resistance after the fall of the capital. Claudius received the submission of eleven British kings and Vespasian and his legion were put in charge of the clean-up operations. By 84 AD, Rome had a firm grasp on the island, and would not let go until the 400's AD.

1. Warriors of Rome, by Michael Simkins
2. Eagles over Britannia, by Guy de la Bedoyere
3. AD 43: The Roman Invasion of Britain, by John Manley
4. The Roman Invasion of Britain, by Graham Webster

The Varian Disaster

In 9AD three entire legions were lost to a German ambush in the Teutoburg Forest. Roman Governor Quintilius Varus headed a force of around 14,000 Roman infantry, 800 or 900 cavalry and the about the same number of auxiliary contingents - about half of all the Roman forces guarding the Rhine border. Their defeat at the hands of the Cherusci chieftain, Arminius and his German warriors effectively ended any permanent Roman conquest of the lands east of the Rhine River. Thought to be cursed, the numbers XVII, XVIII, and XIX were never assigned to any subsequent legion.

The site of the horrendous battle is thought to be the area around Kalkriese, in modern-day Germany. However, this is a hotly debated assertion.

Visit the website for the Kalkriese site museum: Osnabrucker Land - Museum und Park Kalkriese

Ross Cowan’s Roman Legionary, 58 BC - AD 69, features many photos of Roman military objects found at the Kalkriese site.

See also: Schluter, W. 1999. “The Battle of the Teutoberg Forest” in J.D. Wilson and R.J.A. Wils (eds), 1999: Roman Germany: Studies in Cultural Interaction (Journal of Roman Archeology Supplementary Series no. 32) p.125-159.

(This is an academic publication, and may not be easily found outside the university library)

Cassius Dios’s History, Book 56:18-24

Scarcely had these decrees been passed, when terrible news that arrived from the province of Germany prevented them from holding the festival. I shall now relate the events which had taken place in Germany during this period. The Romans were holding portions of it ‹ not entire regions, but merely such districts as happened to have been subdued, so that no record has been made of the fact ‹ and soldiers of theirs were wintering there and cities were being founded. The barbarians were adapting themselves to Roman ways, were becoming accustomed to hold markets, and were meeting in peaceful assemblages. They had not, however, forgotten their ancestral habits, their native manners, their old life of independence, or the power derived from arms. Hence, so long as they were unlearning these customs gradually and by the way, as one may say, under careful watching, they were not disturbed by the change in their manner of life, and were becoming different without knowing it. But when Quintilius Varus became governor of the province of Germany, and in the discharge of his official duties was administering the affairs of these peoples also, he strove to change them more rapidly. Besides issuing orders to them as if they were actually slaves of the Romans, he exacted money as he would from subject nations. To this they were in no mood to submit, for the leaders longed for their former ascendancy and the masses preferred their accustomed condition to foreign domination. Now they did not openly revolt, since they saw that there were many Roman troops near the Rhine and many within their own borders; instead, they received Varus, pretending that they would do all he demanded of them, and thus they drew him far away from the Rhine into the land of the Cherusci, toward the Visurgis, and there by behaving in a most peaceful and friendly manner led him to believe that they would live submissively without the presence of soldiers.

Consequently he did not keep his legions together, as was proper in a hostile country, but distributed many of the soldiers to helpless communities, which asked for them for the alleged purpose of guarding various points, arresting robbers, or escorting provision trains. Among those deepest in the conspiracy and leaders of the plot and of the war were Armenius and Segimerus, who were his constant companions and often shared his mess. He accordingly became confident, and expecting no harm, not only refused to believe all those who suspected what was going on and advised him to be on his guard, but actually rebuked them for being needlessly excited and slandering his friends. Then there came an uprising, first on the part of those who lived at a distance from him, deliberately so arranged, in order that Varus should march against them and so be more easily overpowered while proceeding through what was supposed to be friendly country, instead of putting himself on his guard as he would do in case all became hostile to him at once. And so it came to pass. They escorted him as he set out, and then begged to be excused from further attendance, in order, as they claimed, to assemble their allied forces, after which they would quietly come to his aid. Then they took charge of their troops, which were already in waiting somewhere, and after the men in each community had put to death the detachments of soldiers for which they had previously asked, they came upon Varus in the midst of forests by this time almost impenetrable. And there, at the very moment of revealing themselves as enemies instead of subjects, they wrought great and dire havoc.

The mountains had an uneven surface broken by ravines, and the trees grew close together and very high. Hence the Romans, even before the enemy assailed them, were having a hard time of it felling trees, building roads, and bridging places that required it. They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in time of peace; moreover, not a few women and children and a large retinue of servants were following them ‹ one more reason for their advancing in scattered groups. Meanwhile a violent rain and wind came up that separated them still further, while the ground, that had become slippery around the roots and logs, made walking very treacherous for them, and the tops of the trees kept breaking off and falling down, causing much confusion. While the Romans were in such difficulties, the barbarians suddenly surrounded them on all sides at once, coming through the densest thickets, as they were acquainted with the paths. At first they hurled their volleys from a distance; then, as no one defended himself and many were wounded, they approached closer to them. For the Romans were not proceeding in any regular order, but were mixed in helter-skelter with the wagons and the unarmed, and so, being unable to form readily anywhere in a body, and being fewer at every point than their assailants, they suffered greatly and could offer no resistance at all.

Accordingly they encamped on the spot, after securing a suitable place, so far as that was possible on a wooded mountain; and afterwards they either burned or abandoned most of their wagons and everything else that was not absolutely necessary to them. The next day they advanced in a little better order, and even reached open country, though they did not get off without loss. Upon setting out from there they plunged into the woods again, where they defended themselves against their assailants, but suffered their heaviest losses while doing so. For since they had to form their lines in a narrow space, in order that the cavalry and infantry together might run down the enemy, they collided frequently with one another and with the trees. They were still advancing when the fourth day dawned, and again a heavy downpour and violent wind assailed them, preventing them from going forward and even from standing securely, and moreover depriving them of the use of their weapons. For they could not handle their bows or their javelins with any success, nor, for that matter, their shields, which were thoroughly soaked. Their opponents, on the other hand, being for the most part lightly equipped, and able to approach and retire freely, suffered less from the storm. Furthermore, the enemy’s forces had greatly increased, as many of those who had at first wavered joined them, largely in the hope of plunder, and thus they could more easily encircle and strike down the Romans, whose ranks were now thinned, many having perished in the earlier fighting. Varus, therefore, and all the more prominent officers, fearing that they should either be captured alive or be killed by their bitterest foes (for they had already been wounded), made bold to do a thing that was terrible yet unavoidable: they took their own lives.

When news of this had spread, none of the rest, even if he had any strength left, defended himself any longer. Some imitated their leader, and others, casting aside their arms, allowed anybody who pleased to slay them; for to flee was impossible, however much one might desire to do so. Every man, therefore, and every horse was cut down without fear of resistance, and the . . .

And the barbarians occupied all the strongholds save one, their delay at which prevented them from either crossing the Rhine or invading Gaul. Yet they found themselves unable to reduce this fort, because they did not understand the conduct of sieges, and because the Romans employed numerous archers, who repeatedly repulsed them and destroyed large numbers of them.

Later they learned that the Romans had posted a guard at the Rhine, and that Tiberius was approaching with an imposing army. Therefore most of the barbarians retired from the fort, and even the detachment still left there withdrew to a considerable distance, so as not to be injured by sudden sallies on the part of the garrison, and then kept watch of the roads, hoping to capture the garrison through the failure of their provisions. The Romans inside, so long as they had plenty of food, remained where they were, awaiting relief; but when no one came to their assistance and they were also hard pressed by hunger, they waited merely for a stormy night and then stole forth. Now the soldiers were but few, the unarmed many. They succeeded in getting past the foe’s first and second outposts, but when they reached the third, they were discovered, for the women and children, by reason of their fatigue and fear as well as on account of the darkness and cold, kept calling to the warriors to come back. And they would all have perished or been captured, had the barbarians not been occupied in seizing the plunder. This afforded an opportunity for the most hardy to get some distance away, and the trumpeters with them by sounding the signal for a double-quick march caused the enemy to think that they had been sent by Asprenas. Therefore the foe ceased his pursuit, and Asprenas, upon learning what was taking place, actually did render them assistance. Some of the prisoners were afterwards ransomed by their relatives and returned from captivity; for this was permitted on condition that the men ransomed should remain outside of Italy. This, however, occurred later.

Augustus, when he learned of the disaster to Varus, rent his garments, as some report, and mourned greatly, not only because of the soldiers who had been lost, but also because of his fear for the German and Gallic provinces, and particularly because he expected that the enemy would march against Italy and against Rome itself. For there were no citizens of military age left worth mentioning, and the allied forces that were of any value had suffered severely. Nevertheless, he made preparations as best he could in view of the circumstances; and when no men of military age showed a willingness to be enrolled, he made them draw lots, depriving of his property and disfranchising every fifth man of those still under thirty-five and every tenth man among those who had passed that age. Finally, as a great many paid no heed to him even then, he put some to death. He chose by lot as many as he could of those who had already completed their term of service and of the freedmen, and after enrolling them sent them in haste with Tiberius into the province of Germany. And as there were in Rome a large number of Gauls and Germans, some of them serving in the Praetorian guard and others sojourning there for various reasons, he feared they might begin a rebellion; hence he sent away such as were in his body-guard to certain islands and ordered those who were unarmed to leave the city.

This was the way he handled matters at that time; and none of the usual business was carried on nor were the festivals celebrated. Later, when he heard that some of the soldiers had been saved, that the Germanys were garrisoned, and that the enemy did not venture to come even to the Rhine, he ceased to be alarmed and paused to consider the matter. For a catastrophe so great and sudden as this, it seemed to him, could have been due to nothing else than the wrath of some divinity; moreover, by reason of the portents which occurred both before the defeat and afterwards, he was strongly inclined to suspect some superhuman agency. For the temple of Mars in the field of the same name was struck by lightning, and many locusts flew into the very city and were devoured by swallows; the peaks of the Alps seemed to collapse upon one another and to send up three columns of fire; the sky in many places seemed ablaze and numerous comets appeared at one and the same time; spears seemed to dart from the north and to fall in the direction of the Roman camps; bees formed their combs about the altars in the camps; a statue of Victory that was in the province of Germany and faced the enemy’s territory turned about to face Italy; and in one instance there was a futile battle and conflict of the soldiers over the eagles in the camps, the soldiers believing that the barbarians had fallen upon them.

For these reasons, then, and also because...

Tiberius did not see fit to cross the Rhine, but kept quiet, watching to see that the barbarians did not cross. And they, knowing him to be there, did not venture to cross in their turn.

Further reading:
Check out the special issue of Ancient Warfare magazine devoted to the Varian disaster.

Related Novel:
Centurion: A Novel of Ancient Rome, by Peter Mitsopoulos. I read this novel back in 2002. The story focuses on an atypically moral*, yet tough centurion amidst the events surrounding the Varian disaster. Due to the arrogance of an inept general, Varus, 3 entire roman legions, accompanying auxiliary forces and roman colonists were wiped out by german tribes in the Teutoburg forest in 9AD. The story has grand battles with, wild beasts, barbarians, as well as with corrupt romans. The author has defenitely done his research on the subject. He provides a good sense of the cosmopolitan nature of the Roman Empire. We meet italians, Greeks, Gauls, Germans, Egyptians, etc. He gives an accurate description of the weapons, equipment, politics, prevading beliefs, etc. common to the legions in the 1st century without being forced. These historical facts flow naturally in the course of his characters’ actions and conversation, so the story is as much educational as it is entertaining.

*An anachronism in this novel is the author’s projection of modern sensibilities into the minds of his characters. For instance, compassion would not be a typical attitude of ancient man!

Battle of Pharsalus

Pompey made is camp on Mt. Dogantzes about 3.5 miles from Caesar’s camp. Each day Pompey would line up his troops in front of his camp, tempting Caesar to attack on unfavorable ground. Caesar decided to shift his camp and always be on the march. This would make it easier for his men to gather provisions and it might draw Pompey into battle. When his troops were getting ready to break camp, Caesar noticed that Pompey’s men had come down the slope. Now that neither side had the favor of higher ground, Caesar ordered his men to line up for battle.

Pompey had decided to finally give battle, His plan was to use his superior cavalry to attack Caesars exposed flank (the opposite side of where the men carried their shield - the right flank) Pompey commanded around 40,000 infantry and more than 3,000 cavalry (some say as much as 7,000) and 2,000 auxiliary light infantry. On his right wing Pompey positioned Leg. I and Leg. III under the command of Labienus. These were the legions that the senate had ordered Caesar to give up before the Civil War began. The center was made up of Pompeys legions from Syria. The Cilician legion was on Pompey’s left wing with cohorts from Spain commanded by Afranius. The remainder of his cohorts were spread in along the middle of the line. All his cavalry, archers and slingers were on his left wing because the Enipeus River protected his right wing. Pompey left 7 cohorts to guard his camp.

Caesar commanded around 30,000 infantry, 1,000 Gallic and German cavalry, and 2,000 auxiliary infantry. He positioned Leg. X on the far right wing. Publius Sulla commanded this side. On the far left he put the IX combined with the VIII because they were both at half strength. Antonius (Mark Antony) was in command here. He had 80 cohorts formed up center of the line under command of Gnaeus Domitius. Seven cohorts were left to guard his camp. Caesar noticed the large build up of cavalry facing his right wing and guessed at their purpose. Afraid of being outflanked, he took 6 cohorts from the third line and placed them on the right to meet Pompey’s cavalry. As was custom, Caesar gave a pep-talk, and then signaled the battle with the trumpet.

The men of the Legion X were the first to charge. Pompey’s men did not move. He had instructed them to allow their enemy to waste energy running. Of course, Caesar’s experienced men realized this and stopped their charge about half way. They calmly marched forward and then renewed the charge. As this happened, Pompey’s cavalry surged forward and broke through Caesar’s cavalry. Pompey's men broke into smaller squadrons and were beginning to out flank Caesar’s lines. This was when the 6 cohorts were given the order to charge. None of Pompey’s cavalry withstood the attack. They did not just retreat, they bolted for the safety of the hills. Pompey's archers and slingers were left without protection and were wiped out. The 6 cohorts then continued their attack, sweeping in behind Pompey’s left flank and attacking the soldiers from behind. All the while Caesars battle hardened third line was standing still. Once Pompey was outflanked, the line charged in to replace the exhausted men already fighting. At this Pompey’s men fled to their camp. Caeser’s men continued fighting and began attacking the fortifications. Pompeys Thracians and other auxiliaries were the ones fighting back the hardest, whereas the men who had just fled ran further in to the hills, many dropping their weapons and standards. Caeser urged his men not to waste time looting, but had them instead build fortifications surrounding the hill. Pompey’s forces lost hope and surrendered.
About 15,000 of Pompey’s men had fallen. 24,000 had surrendered.

9 Legionary standards and 180 unit standards were captured. Lucius Domitius had fled into the hills, but he was tracked down and killed by Casers cavalry. Caser lost only about 1,200. Scipio escaped to make war in Spain. Labienus continued the fight in Africa. Though, they’re fight did not last long. Pompey had fled the battle and made his way to Egypt. However, King Ptolemy XII knew it was unwise to harbor such a fugitive. They had him killed and his head sent back to Caesar, upon receiving this horrible package, Caesar burst in to tears.

1. Civil Wars by Julius Caesar. translated by A. G. Peskett

Caesar's Civil War Timeline

56BC-April The tiumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus is renewed

55BC Second consulship of Pompey and Crassus

53BC Crassus is killed fighting the Parthians at Carrhae

52BC Pompey is consol alone

52-50BC Tensions rise between Pompey and Caesar

49BC-Jan. 10 or 11 Caesar crosses the Rubicon. Into the de-militarized zone of Rome

49BC-Jan. 17-18 Pompey and consuls leave Rome

49BC-Feb. 21 Corfinium falls to Caesar

49BC-Mar. 17-18 Pompey leaves Brundisium

49BC-Apr. 1-3 Caesar calls the senate in Rome

49BC-Aug. 2 Caesar defeats Afranius and Petreius near Ilerda and Varo-conquers Spain

49BC-Apr.-Oct. Caesar's forces begins siege of Massilia

49BC-Aug.-Sept? King Juba defeats Curio in Africa

49BC-Oct? Defeat of C. Antonius in Illyria

49BC-Dec Caesar is in Rome starting his first dictatorship

48BC Caesar made consul for second time along with P. Servilius

48BC-Jan. 4-5 Caesar crosses with some of his army to Illyria

48BC- Spring? Caelius Rufus and Milo rebel against Caesar in Italy

48BC- Jan-July Caesar defeated in campaign of Dyrrachium

48BC- Aug. 9 Caesar squashes Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus

48BC- Sept. 28 Pompey is killed in Egypt after fleeing from Pharsalus

48BC- Oct. 2 Caesar arrives in Alexandria, Egypt.

47BC Caesar made dictator again for 1 year

47BC- Mar. 27 Caesar defeats the rebelious forces of Ceopatra's brother.

47BC- Aug. Caesar defeats Pharnaces at Zela in Pontus

47BC- Dec. 25-9 Caesar crosses to what is now Tunisa in N. Africa

46BC Caesar made consul for the third time and dictator for another 10 years

46BC- Apr. 6 Caesar defeats Pompeians at Thaspus

46BC- Apr. 9 Marcus Cato Porcicus commits suicide at Utica

46BC- July. 25 Caesar returns to Rome

46BC- Sept. Caesar celebrates a quadruple triumph (Gaul, Egypt, Africa)

46BC- Nov. Caesar heads to Spain

45BC-July. 25 Caesar made consul (4th time) and dictator for life

45BC-Mar. 17 Pompey's sons are defeated at Munda

45BC-Oct. Caesar returns to Rome and celebrates Spanish triumph

44BC Caesar made consul for 5th time

44BC-Feb, 15 Antony attempts to crown Caesar at the Lupercalia

44BC-Mar. 15 Caesar is murdered

1. Civil Wars by Julius Caesar. translated by A. G. Peskett

Siege of Alesia

In 52BC nearly all of Gaul was in revolt. Vercingentorix, leader of the Arverni was made supreme commander of the Gallic forces. After attacking Caesar’s men on the march, Vercingentorix and about 80,000 Gauls retreated to the Mandubii town of Alesia. Caesar followed and lay siege to the town with roughly 50,000 men. Caesar's forces included Germanic cavalry. Caesar saw their mounts as inferior and gave them all Roman horses.
After the siege construction began the Gauls attacked with their cavalry. The Roman and German cavalry slaughtered their attackers and pushed them right up to Gallic defences of the town. Legions were placed in front of the camps to protect the siege construction. That night, Vercingentorix sent the cavalry fled the town to gather reinforcements from the whole of Gaul. The Romans continued their construction.

Caesar described the siege works in great detail. The innermost ditch was made 20ft. wide with vertical sides. 400 paces back from there two more ditches were made. Each were 15ft. across. Water was diverted from the river to fill the inner one. Behind the ditches the legions made a rampart 12ft. tall. On top of this they constructed a parapet and battlements. Large sharpened stick projected form the side, where the parapet and rampart met. Every 80ft. along the lines a tower was built.

Caesar’s men had to scavenge for supplies at a great distance from the siege. This enticed the Gauls to make frequent raids on the depleted Roman forces. To counter this the Romans gathered tree trunks and branches, sharpened the ends, and lodged them in 5ft. deep trenches. They made 5 rows of these. In addition to this pits were dug with a single sharpened stake projecting from the center. They were then carefully camouflaged with branches and leaves. These “lilies,” as the Romans affectionately, called them were laid out in a “quincunx” pattern. (resembling the five side of a die) Finally, logs were dragged up in front of these and were covered with iron hooks. This same procedure was repeated with a second line to defend against the Gallic relief force. The completed outer ring stretched for 14 miles around the town. Both the Gauls and the Romans had collected about 30 days worth of food.

About 240,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry gathered to come to Vercingentorix's aid. In command was Commius (of the Atrbatian tribe), Viridomorus and Eporedorix (Aeduans), and Vercassivellaunus (an Atrebatian and cousin of Vercingentorix) While this force was on it's way the Gauls inside Alesia were beginning to run low on food. To conserve the supplies Vercingentorix had the Mandubii townspeople leave. They pleaded with the Romans to be allowed out, but Caesar sent them back to put strain on the Gallic resources.

Commius and the others finally arrived and camped on a hill less than a mile form the Roman lines. The next day they filled the entire plain 3 miles across with cavalry, skirmishers and archers. The Gauls inside came out, began filling in the first Roman ditch, and prepared for the attack. Meanwhile, the Roman cavalry was lead out of their camps to meet the Gauls. The fighting began at mid-day and continued until sunset with n definite outcome. Then the Germans condensed their attack and routed the Gauls. Those inside Alesia saw all of this from their vantage point. They marched back in their gates.

The next day the relief force outside made ladders, whicker bundles (to fill in the ditches) and grappling hooks on poles to pull walls down. They yelled out to the Galus inside as the signal for a combined attack. They used slings, arrows and rocks to force the Romans away from their defenses. The Romans used slings and catapults to fend them off. Vercingentorix sounded the trumpets and marched out of Alesia. Mark Antony and Gaius Trebonius were the commanders at the point of the attack. They moved men in from the towers farther away to where fighting was heaviest. The Gauls did well at first, but as they reached the area of the pits they lost their momentum. Their were heavy casualties on both sides, but there was no breach of the walls. Fighting continued all night long. At dawn the Gauls retreated to their camp. The Gauls on the inside only accomplished to fill in the ditches. They also retreated.

On the third day the Gauls outside did more reconnaissance and chose the weakest point of the siege works to attack. At the northern part of the defences a large hill made it difficult to construct a good wall. The only fortification here was a Roman camp outside the ditches. Gaius Antistus, Reginus and Gaius Caninius Rebilus were at the camp commanding two legions. The hill here sloped down toward the Romans, leaving them at a slight disadvantage. The Gallic commander, Vercassivellaunus, took 60,000 men and marched off to this point. They left at first watch and arrived at about day-break. They concealed themselves on the opposite end of the hill and rested.

At noon the Gallic cavalry rushed in and began the attack. The Gallic infantry marched out to join them. At this same time Vercingentorix stormed out. The Romans were sandwiched in between to attacking forces. The pits were filled with dirt and the Gauls got close in testudo formation (the tortoise formation: they bunched together making walls and a roof with their large shields). The fighting was the most fierce at the northern camp. Caesar sent Labiens with 6 cohorts to help his men there. Brutus and then Legate Gaius Fabius were sent with more men. Caesar then had to come himself bringing 4 cohorts and some cavalry from the nearest fort. He sent more cavalry around the great hill to come behind the Gauls. From their higher ground, the Gauls saw him coming and fled. They were met by the charging cavalry. Sedulius, in command of the Lemovises, was killed and Vercassivellaunus was taken prisoner. 74 Roman standards were reclaimed. This was it for the Gauls. The forces inside abandoned hope and returned to the town. Around midnight the relief force fled, their rear-guard being harassed by Roman cavalry. The following day Vercingentorix and the ringleaders of the revolt surrendered.

1. The Gallic War by Julius Caesar. translated by H. J. Edwards

Battle of the Sambre

In 57 BC the Belgae people of Gaul were mobilizing against the Romans. The Sambre was the final battle of the campaign against them. I have chosen to depict it here because Caesar described the proceedings of battle in such high detail, thus making it easy to reenact it in an accurate way.

The Bellovaci, Suessiones, Nervii, Atrebates, Ambriani, Morini, Menapii, Caleti, Veliocasses, Viromandui, Aduatuci, Condrusi, Eburones, Caeroesi, and Paemani tribes had united to push out the Romans. They were lead by a man named Galba, king of the Suessiones. The Remi, a Belgic tribe sympathetic to Rome, warned Caesar of the impending rebellion. Caesar readied his troops and ordered the Aedui tribe to raid the Bellovaci territory.

The fighting began when the Belgae forces attacked the Remi town of Bibrax. To relieve the town, Caesar sent a force of Auxiliaries: Balearic slingers, and Numidian and Cretan archers. Upon their arrival, the Belgae broke the siege and marched toward Caesars main camp, stopping 2 miles away. There were a few cavalry skirmishes designed to test the Belgae. Caesar ordered his men to dig ditches 400 paces long to protect each flank. Outposts with artillery were built at the ends of these ditches. Two legions remained to guard the camp while the other six formed up for battle. There was a marsh in between the Belgae and the Romans. Neither side wanted to cross against this disadvantageous land. So, the Belgae decided that each tribe would return to protect their own territory individually. Their departure was very un-organized. The Romans killed many as the Belgae retreated.

Shortly after, the Romans laid siege to the Suessione town of Noviounum. They surrendered. Caesar then lead his men against the Bellovaci. They also surrendered. The Ambriani surrendered as well. So, the Belgic union disintegrated. However, the Nervii tribe was intent on continuing the fight. They were a very isolationist people, unwilling to ally with this foreign power of Rome. Lead by a man named Boduognatus, they were joined by the Atrebates, Viromandui. Aduatuci. Their forces had formed against the Romans opposite of the river Sambre. The Aduatrici were on their way to help them.

The river was about 3 feet deep. The land on the side of the Nervii was clear and open for about 200 paces, but it sloped up into a wooded area. The Roman side also had a hill which sloped evenly down to the river. Caesar learned where the Nervii were when he was about nine miles away. The Belgic forces were waiting in the woods as the Romans began to march in. Caesar had sent cavalry along with light infantry, archers and slingers across the river to engage the Belgic cavalry. The Belgic cavalry would flee into the woods, rush out to attack and return to the safety of the woods again. The Romans did not dare to pursue them into the closed quarters of the forest. When the Bervii forces saw the Roman baggage coming in they rushed out of the forest in full force. The Roman cavalry was scattered as the Nervii bolted across the river to meet the main force of Romans.

The Romans in camp were taken completely by surprise. Few had enough time to even put on their helmets or uncover their shields. The IX and X legions were on the Roman left flank. They met the Atrebates on higher ground and managed to push them back across the river. The legions crossed the river and defeated the enemy there. Legio XI and VIII fought the Viromandui in the center and also managed to force them back toward the river. Boduognatus lead his Nervii infantry (they had no cavalry) in a dense column squeezing through the Roman line into the camp. The Treveri cavalry arrived to help Caesar, but when they saw the camp over-run, they went home. The XIII and XIV legions were in the rear guarding the baggage train. When they learned of the fighting they rushed in to join the fighting. Titus Labienus was commanding the legions who had made it into the Belgic camp. He sent the X legion back across to help. This renewed the spirits of the Romans, who up till that time were fighting desperately. The Roman then cavalry rejoined the fight attempting to make up for their early defeat. The Belgae were wiped out. The Aduatuci arrived too late to help the Belgae, so they returned home.

1. The Gallic War by Julius Caesar. translated by H. J. Edwards

Gallic War Timeline

60BC Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus form first tiumvirate.

58BC Caesar obtains Cisalpine gaul and Illyricum as his province. Later Transalpine Gaul is added. He is set as proconsul for a period of 5 years.

March, 58BC The Helvettii, a Gallic tribe, decides to migrate south, joined by the Raurici, Tulingi, Latovici and the Boii. After pillaging lands of the Sequani and Aedui (tribes friendly to Rome) and attempting to enter Roman territory. Caesar begins his war.
Once the Helvettii were dealt with Caeser went on to defeat Ariovistus and his germans which had crossed into Gaul.

57BC Caesar camnpiagns agains the Belgae. Battle of the Sambre- after initial confusion, Caesar's legions go on to defeat the Belgic forces.

56BC Campains against the Venetti, a sea-faring tribe from the northwest.

55BC The German tribes, Usipetes and Tencteri, cross the Rhine and invade Gaul. The Romans beat them back, follow into Germania, lay aste to several towns annd return to Gaul.
Caeser crosses the Channel and invades southern Britainia with two legions, the X and VII. Having insuficiant amn-power, Caeser returns to Gaul.

54BC Caesar returns to Briatania a second time, this time with five legions. He gives up on the venture and returns to fight the rebellion of the Eburones lead by Ambiorix.

53BC Caesar crosses into Germany a second time. Continued fighting with the Eburones. Romans are victorious, but Ambiorix escapes. The Sugambri, a german tribe, invades the land of the Eburones, hoping to claim booty from the already defeated Gauls. When they encountered stiff resistance from the Romans they retreated across the Rhine.

52BC The Great Revolt- Vercingentorix, leader of the Arverni, takes control of the entire rebellion. After their success at Gergovia, they were penned in by the Romans at the town of Alesia. Despite having to fight the Gauls inside the town while being attacked from Gallic relief forces from behind, the Romans prevail through the use of an extensive wall and seige works.

51BC The Carnutes and Belovaci revolt. The Romans lay siege to and capture Uxellodunum. Back in Rome, tensions rise between Caesar and Pompey. The Senate requires Caeser to give up his two of his legions, the I and the XV (the XV was renamed as the III) These legions were supposed to be used for fighting the Parthians, however Pompey just kept them for the impending battle against Caesar.

1. The Gallic War by Julius Caesar. translated by H. J. Edwards

Battle of Carrhae

Hoping to outshine Julius Caesar and Pompey, Marcus Licinius Crassus used his wealth and Influnece to gain the proconulship of Syria In 53 BC. Here, he believed, he was in the position to win the greatest glory. The Roman Senate did not want a war with Parthia. Indeed, there was a neutrality treaty with the Parthians. But Crassus was intent on taking control of their empire. After defeating Spartacus' slave revolt, he had developed an over inflated idea of his own rather meager military abilities.

Crassus began with 7 legions, about 4,000 auxiliary light infantry. 1,000 crack Gaullic horsemen, 3,000 western Asian horsemen. 6,000 Armenian cavalry arrived with Artabazes, their king. Artabazes implored Crassus to take the army through his own country, which would provide them with ample provisions and suitable terrain as defense from Parthian cavalry. The priests in Crassus' troupe implored him not to go at all. However, Crassus, desiring a more direct route foolishly choose a path strait through Mesopotamia with Seleucia city and Ctesiphon as his objectives. At this, the Armenian and his cavalry returned home.

That spring Crassus took his army across the Euphrates River near the town of Zeugma during a heavy thunder storm. Scouts found none of the enemy, but noticed numerous horse tracks. He was then joined by 6,000 Nabataen Arab cavalry. Their chieftain, Ariamnes, was actually in the employ of the Parthians. Ariamnes lied, saying that Parthian forces were currently fleeing the area and the only resistance might come from an advance guard under the general, Surena. Crassus was convinced of the need for haste and decided to continue along the less secure desert route. In actuality the Parthian King, Orodes II (or Hyrodes), had split his army in two. The king lead a attack on Armenia as punishment for mobilizing with the Romans. Surena (one of the senior members of the 7 great clans of Parthia) was sent to attack the Romans. His army was comprised primarily from men from his own clan. The horse archers were from the Saka and Yue-Chi people. It is believed this force was only intended to delay the Romans as Orode finished his punitive attack and returned from Armenia.

Ariamnes lead the Romans away from the river. At first the march was pleasant and easy, but they soon were amidst the featureless desert. They continued through the treeless, waterless waste. At this point of low morale, they received messenger from Armenia informing them that it was impossible for Artabazes to send any help as he was too busy defending his own country. His advise was for Crassus to turn back and join forces in Armenia, or at least leave the desert for the defenses of more mountainous ground. Crassus, however, was only angered by this and swore to punish Artabazes for this. A staff officer, Cassius, and other officers suspected Ariamnes' treachery and began to argue with Crassus, but this only angered him more. The Arab stayed long enough to convince Crassus to quicken their pace. Then he and his cavalry left the Romans claiming they intended to find ways to disrupt the enemy.

As the Romans approached the town of Carrhae (modern-day Haran) their scouts raced back, saying that most of their fellows had been killed and the Parthians were at hand in full force and preparing to give battle. Astonished at this, Crassus scarcely knew what to do. His troops were in disarray as they had been marching at such a great speed. Cassius advised the panicked general to open up the ranks and form a line across the plain, placing the cavalry on each wing to prevent them from being surrounded. As this order was being carried out Crassus changed his mind and decided to form a giant hollow square with 12 cohorts on each side with cavalry and light infantry support. Cassius commanded one wing, Cassus' son, Publius another and Crassus himself went to the middle of the square. They marched forward and as they approached the Ballisur stream Crassus was advised to make camp, rest his men and wait till day to assess the strength of the enemy. He would have none of this, giving his troops only enough time to eat before charging them forward at the enemy. When they did see the Parthians they were not impressed. Surena had ordered his main force of heavy cavalry behind the front ranks and told them to hide their armor under coats and skins. When the Romans were about ready to engage the Parthians gave the signal for battle and the dreaded cataphracts uncovered their magnificent armor.

Surena's first plan was to break the Roman lines with his 1,000 cataphracts, but when he realized the depth of the Romans he called back the cavalry. At this the Roman light infantry rushed out only to be chased back by a hail of arrows. The Parthian horse archers began to surround the square, pouring a steady stream of arrows into the densely packed ranks. The arrows were of such strength that they could punch through armor and shields. The Romans waited for the arrow supply to run out. This hope was dashed when they saw Surena had brought a camel train carrying a great quantity of arrows.

Crassus saw that his rear was about to be attacked. He ordered his son, Publius to take 1,300 Gaulic horsemen, 500 archers and 8 cohorts to attack the Parthian archers. The Parthians galloped away with this Roman attack force in chase. Once Publius was far enough away from the main body of Romans, the horse archers wheeled about and were joined by a larger number of Parthians including the cataphracts.
Publius lead his Gauls on the cataphracts. Because their spears could not penetrate the cataphract armor, the frenzied Gauls grabbed on the enemy lances, pulled them to the ground, and also leaped underneath the Parthian horses to attack their exposed bellies. They even drove their own horses onto the lances. Most of the Gauls lost their mounts and were forced to retreat with Publius to a small hillock where they were surrounded. Publius ordered his armor-bearer to kill him. After the fighting the Parthians took Publius' head and 500 prisoners.

All the while Crassus was pleased that the attack on his rear had slackened. He order his men to form up in a conventional battle formation and relocated his army to sloping ground. He then got word of what was happening to his son's force. He sent no support, but began to advance. This was when the Parthians rode in with his son's head on a pike. The advance was stopped by the archers and cataphracts. Crassus had completely lost his senses by now. His lieutenant Octavius and Cassius took over and decided to retreat that night, leaving the wounded behind. When the cavalry heard this they left immediately, stopping at Carrahe long enough only to tell the men there that Crassus had fought a great battle. They then raced on to Zeugma. The Parthians watched the retreat and waited till daybreak to ride in and slaughter the Roman wounded. Plutarch wrote that no fewer than 4,000 died in this way. Some time later, A lieutenant, Varguntinus, and his 4 cohorts had strayed from the main body of Romans and were surrounded. All were killed with the exception of 20 men who were allowed to go for showing such courage in trying to fight past the Parthians.

Surena soon learned that Crassus and his men had reached the safety of the Carrhae town walls. The next day when the Parthians arrived there, Crassus again decided to retreat at night. Again, a spy lead the Romans through the worst possible route. They were trapped in marsh. Surena offered peace to the Romans if Crassus came to parlay. Tired and afraid, the legions demanded Crassus go, threatening his life if he did not. At the meeting there was a scuffle and Crassus was killed. Some of the Romans surrendered most were hunted down and killed. In the end 20,000 Romans died and 10,000 were taken prisoner and settled in the territory of Sagdia. The captured Legionary standard were held as prizes in the temples of Parthia.

1. Plutarch's Lives Volume 1 by Plutarch. Arthur Hugh Clough (Editor), John Dryden (Translator)
2. Rome's Enemies (3): Parthians and Sassanid Persians by Peter Wilcox

Spartacus Revolt

Spartacus was a murmillo. In the illustration above the murmillo (red scutum) faces off with a thraex (blue shield). Image courtesy of Johnny Shumate.

The follwoing text is quoted from Plutarch's Lives: Crassus.

The insurrection of the gladiators and the devastation of Italy, commonly called the war of Spartacus, began upon this occasion. One Lentulus Batiates trained up a great many gladiators in Capua, most of them Gauls and Thracians, who, not for any fault by them committed, but simply through the cruelty of their master, were kept in confinement for this object of fighting one with another. Two hundred of these formed a plan to escape, but being discovered, those of them who became aware of it in time to anticipate their master, being seventy-eight, got out of a cook's shop chopping-knives and spits, and made their way through the city, and lighting by the way on several wagons that were carrying gladiators' arms to another city, they seized upon them and armed themselves. And seizing upon a defensible place, they chose three captains, of whom Spartacus was chief, a Thracian of one of the nomad tribes, and a man not only of high spirit and valiant, but in understanding, also, and in gentleness superior to his condition, and more of a Grecian than the people of his country usually are. When he first came to be sold at Rome, they say a snake coiled itself upon his face as he lay asleep, and his wife, who at this latter time also accompanied him in his flight, his countrywoman, a kind of prophetess, and one of those possessed with the bacchanal frenzy, declared that it was a sign portending great and formidable power to him with no happy event.

First, then, routing those that came out of Capua against them, and thus procuring a quantity of proper soldiers' arms, they gladly threw away their own as barbarous and dishonourable. Afterwards Clodius, the praetor, took the command against them with a body of three thousand men from Rome, and besieged them within a mountain, accessible only by one narrow and difficult passage, which Clodius kept guarded, encompassed on all other sides with steep and slippery precipices. Upon the top, however, grew a great many wild vines, and cutting down as many of their boughs as they had need of, they twisted them into strong ladders long enough to reach from thence to the bottom, by which, without any danger, they got down all but one, who stayed there to throw them down their arms, and after this succeeded in saving himself. The Romans were ignorant of all this, and, therefore, coming upon them in the rear, they assaulted them unawares and took their camp. Several, also, of the shepherds and herdsmen that were there, stout and nimble fellows, revolted over to them, to some of whom they gave complete arms, and made use of others as scouts and light-armed soldiers. Publius Varinus, the praetor, was now sent against them, whose lieutenant, Furius, with two thousand men, they fought and routed. Then Cossinius was sent with considerable forces, to give his assistance and advice, and him Spartacus missed but very little of capturing in person, as he was bathing at Salinae; for he with great difficulty made his escape, while Spartacus possessed himself of his baggage, and following the chase with a great slaughter, stormed his camp and took it, where Cossinius himself was slain. After many successful skirmishes with the praetor himself, in one of which he took his lictors and his own horse, he began to be great and terrible; but wisely considering that he was not to expect to match the force of the empire, he marched his army towards the Alps, intending, when he had passed them, that every man should go to his own home, some to Thrace, some to Gaul. But they, grown confident in their numbers, and puffed up with their success, would give no obedience to him, but went about and ravaged Italy; so that now the senate was not only moved at the indignity and baseness, both of the enemy and of the insurrection, but, looking upon it as a matter of alarm and of dangerous consequence, sent out both the consuls to it, as to a great and difficult enterprise. The consul Gellius, falling suddenly upon a party of Germans, who through contempt, and confidence had straggled from Spartacus, cut them all to pieces. But when Lentulus with a large army besieged Spartacus, he sallied out upon him, and, joining battle, defeated his chief officers, and captured all his baggage. As he made toward the Alps, Cassius, who was praetor of that part of Gaul that lies about the Po, met him with ten thousand men, but being overcome in the battle, he had much ado to escape himself, with the loss of a great many of his men.

When the senate understood this, they were displeased at the consuls, and ordering them to meddle no further, they appointed Crassus general of the war, and a great many of the nobility went volunteers with him, partly out of friendship, and partly to get honour. He stayed himself on the borders of Picenum, expecting Spartacus would come that way, and sent his lieutenant, Mummius, with two legions, to wheel about and observe the enemy's motions, but upon no account to engage or skirmish. But he, upon the first opportunity, joined battle, and was routed, having a great many of his men slain, and a great many only saving their lives with the loss of their arms. Crassus rebuked Mummius severely, and arming the soldiers again, he made them find sureties for their arms, that they would part with them no more, and five hundred that were the beginners of the flight he divided into fifty tens, and one of each was to die by lot, thus reviving the ancient Roman punishment of decimation, where ignominy is added to the penalty of death, with a variety of appalling and terrible circumstances, presented before the eyes of the whole army, assembled as spectators. When he had thus reclaimed his men, he led them against the enemy; but Spartacus retreated through Lucania toward the sea, and in the straits meeting with some Cilician pirate ships, he had thoughts of attempting Sicily, where, by landing two thousand men, he hoped to new kindle the war of the slaves, which was but lately extinguished, and seemed to need but little fuel to set it burning again. But after the pirates had struck a bargain with him, and received his earnest they deceived him and sailed away. He thereupon retired again from the sea, and established his army in the peninsula of Rhegium; there Crassus came upon him, and considering the nature of the place, which of itself suggested the undertaking, he set to work to build a wall across the isthmus; thus keeping his soldiers at once from idleness and his foes from forage. This great and difficult work he perfected in a space of time short beyond all expectation, making a ditch from one sea to the other, over the neck of land, three hundred furlongs long, fifteen feet broad, and as much in depth, and above it built a wonderfully high and strong wall. All which Spartacus at first slighted and despised, but when provisions began to fail, and on his proposing to pass further, he found he was walled in, and no more was to be had in the peninsula, taking the opportunity of a snowy, stormy night, he filled up part of the ditch with earth and boughs of trees, and so passed the third part of his army over.

Crassus was afraid lest he should march directly to Rome, but was soon eased of that fear when he saw many of his men break out in a mutiny and quit him, and encamped by themselves upon the Lucanian lake. This lake they say changes at intervals of time, and is sometimes sweet, and sometimes so salt that it cannot be drunk. Crassus falling upon these beat them from the lake, but he could not pursue the slaughter, because of Spartacus suddenly coming up and checking the flight. Now he began to repent that he had previously written to the senate to call Lucullus out of Thrace, and Pompey out of Spain; so that he did all he could to finish the war before they came, knowing that the honour of the action would redound to him that came to his assistance. Resolving, therefore, first to set upon those that had mutinied and encamped apart, whom Caius Cannicius and Castus commanded, he sent six thousand men before to secure a little eminence, and to do it as privately as possible, which that they might do they covered their helmets, but being discovered by two women that were sacrificing for the enemy, they had been in great hazard, had not Crassus immediately appeared, and engaged in a battle which proved a most bloody one. Of twelve thousand three hundred whom he killed, two only were found wounded in their backs, the rest all having died standing in their ranks and fighting bravely. Spartacus, after this discomfiture, retired to the mountains of Petelia, but Quintius, one of Crassus's officers, and Scrofa, the quaestor, pursued and overtook him. But when Spartacus rallied and faced them, they were utterly routed and fled, and had much ado to carry off their quaestor, who was wounded. This success, however, ruined Spartacus, because it encouraged the slaves, who now disdained any longer to avoid fighting, or to obey their officers, but as they were upon the march, they came to them with their swords in their hands, and compelled them to lead them back again through Lucania, against the Romans, the very thing which Crassus was eager for. For news was already brought that Pompey was at hand; and people began to talk openly that the honour of this war was reserved to him, who would come and at once oblige the enemy to fight and put an end to the war. Crassus, therefore, eager to fight a decisive battle, encamped very near the enemy, and began to make lines of circumvallation; but the slaves made a sally and attacked the pioneers. As fresh supplies came in on either side, Spartacus, seeing there was no avoiding it, set all his army in array, and when his horse was brought him, he drew out his sword and killed him, saying, if he got the day he should have a great many better horses of the enemies', and if he lost it he should have no need of this. And so making directly towards Crassus himself, through the midst of arms and wounds, he missed him, but slew two centurions that fell upon him together. At last being deserted by those that were about him, he himself stood his ground, and, surrounded by the enemy, bravely defending himself, was cut in pieces. But though Crassus had good fortune, and not only did the part of a good general, but gallantly exposed his person, yet Pompey had much of the credit of the action. For he met with many of the fugitives, and slew them, and wrote to the senate that Crassus indeed had vanquished the slaves in a pitched battle, but that he had put an end to the war, Pompey was honoured with a magnificent triumph for his conquest over Sertorius and Spain, while Crassus could not himself so much as desire a triumph in its full form, and indeed it was thought to look but meanly in him to accept of the lesser honour, called the ovation, for a servile war, and perform a procession on foot. The difference between this and the other, and the origin of the name, are explained in the life of Marcellus.

1. Plutarch's Lives Volume 1 by Plutarch. Arthur Hugh Clough (Editor), John Dryden (Translator)

Parthian Wars Timeline

250BC The provinces of Parthia and Greco-Bactria split from the Seleucid Empire.

220BC The Parthians take over several eastern provines of the Seleucid Empire

209BC The King of Selucia, Antiochus III, defeats the Parthians and ends the Greco-Bactrian expansion.

190BC Romans defeat Antiochus III at Magnesia, Lydia

170-68BC Mithridates I leads the Parthians to conquer Elymais, Persia, Mewdia and Bactria

141BC The provinces of Parthia and Greco-Bactria rebel against the Seleucid Persian Empire.

141BC Parthians sieze control of Mesopotamia

135BC Parthina lose conrtol of eastern provinces of Iran due to raids of Iranian Saka nomads.

95BCParthians regain control of Iran and retain some of the nomads as subjects.

64BC Rome takes control of western Asian coast. This land grab was from Pontus in the North down to Egypt in the South. The kingdoms with in this area are made vasals. Those in close proximity are made client states.

53BC In a foolish bid for presitge, Marcus Licinius Crassus leads a Roman army to be almost totally destroyed by the Parthians at Carrhae.

20AD Augustus Caesar reclaims Armenia and Transcaucasia. The Parthinas return the Legionary standards lost at Carrhae

53AD Rome and Parthia enter into a 10 year war over control of Armenia.

63AD One legion from Spain and one from Dalmatia are restationed on the Parthian front

115AD Rome ivades Parthia

118-119AD Rome makes advances in Mesopotamia

226AD The Parthian crown is overthrown by the Sassanid Persians

1. Rome's Enemies (3): Parthians and Sassanid Persians by Peter Wilcox

Punic Wars Timeline

8th Century BC Carthage founded by Phoenician colonists

3rd Century The Carthaginian Empire streches across north Africa, the Belearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica, and most of Scicily.

264 A dispute erupts in the Sicilian city of Messana. Scicilians on one side call for the help of Carthage. The other side gains support of Rome. First Punic War begins

262 Rome gains control of most of Sicily after laying siege to Agrigentum

260 As the Romans were inexperienced at naval warfare, they were defeated in the Lipara Islands. At the Battle of Mylae the Romans gained a victory by outfitting their ships with hinged planks. This allowed them to make use of their excellent infanry in naval engagements.

256 Naval Battle of Cape Economus- Roman force lead by M.Atilius Regulus and L.Manlius defeat Carthaginians lead by Hamilcar Barca. Roman army invades Africa.

255 Battle of Tunes- Romans in Africa defeated.

254 Carthaginian Army returns to Sicily

251 Battle of Panormus- Roman victory

249 Battle of Drepanum- Carthaginian victory on land and sea.

247-242 Romans continue attacks on Sicily repulsed by Hamilcar.

242 Lilybaeum and Drepanum captured by the Romans

241 Battle of Aegates Islands- Carthaginian fleet defeated. The peace treaty forces Carthage to give up Sicily and to pay retribution money to Rome.

238 Carthage loses Sardinia to the Romans

220's Corsica is taken by the Romans

225-222 The Gauls, having invaded italy as allies of Carthage, are pushed out by the Romans.

219 Hannibal, Hamilcar's son, lays siege to the Spanish city of Saguntum. The city was a greek colony allied to Rome. This sparks the Second Punic War. Legions are sent to deal with Hannibal, but the Carthaginians escape.

218 Hannibal leads an army over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy. He brought 34 elephants with him, but only 7 survived the journey through the mountains.
November: Battle of Ticinus- Romans lead by consul Scipio defeated.
December: Battle of Trebia- Hannibal defeats Ti.Sempronius Longus and his Romans

217 April: Battle of Lake Trasimene- Carthaginians soundly beat the army of consul, C.Flaminius. Summer: Battle of Geronium- A draw

216 August: The Battle of Cannae- Although being vastly superoior in numbers, the Romans under C. Terentius Varro suffer a terrible defeat. Roman city of Capua defects.
Battle of Nola- Hannibal repulsed.

215 Second Battle of Nola. Hannibal is pushed back again.

215-205 Macedonia becomes allied with Carthage. First Macedonian War begins.

214 Third Battle of Nora results in a stalemate

213-211 M.Claudius Marcellus Roman legions lay siege to Syracuse and is victorious

212 Hannibal takes Tarentum, the largest port in Italy. Capua is put under siege by the Romans. At the battles of Capua and Herdonia the Paetorian amries are defeated.

211 Carthaginian forces defeat two roman armies, thus gaining control of all of Spain south of the Ebro. Hanibal marches on Rome without much sffect. In italy, Capua is retaken by the Romans

210 Battle of Herdonia- Hannibal destroys two Roman consular armies (roughly 3 legions each) At the Battle of Numistro the Romans are defeated again.

209 In Spain, Scipio Africanus captures new Carthage. Roman forces under M.Claudius Marcellus are defeated by Hannibal. Raerntum is retaken by Rome.

208 Hannibal's younger brother, Hasdrubal Barca is defeated by Scipio at the battle of Baecula.

207Hasdrubal Barca crosses the Alps into Italy. Hannibal marches north to meet him. Before they could join, Hasdrubal's army is stoppped at the Metaurus River and is defeated by the romans under M.Livius Salinator and C.Claudius Nero. Hasdrubal is killed and Hannibal flees south again.

206 Battle of Ilipa- Scipio Africanus defeats the Carthaginians commanded by Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisgo in Spain.

204 P.Cornelius Scipio Africanus lands troops in Africa.

203 Battle of the Great Palins- Two Carthaginian armies under Syphax (a Numidian) and Hasdrubal Gisgo are defeated. Hannibal manages to sneak his army out of Italy and arrives to the defend of Carthage.

202 Battle of Zama-After a failed elephant charge, Hannibal's army is completely defeated. Carthage surrenders. Rome requires the Carthaginians to give up Spain, the islands, North Africa, her navy, and her army.

149 Carthage had recovered economically from the penalties placed on her. Jealous of this, the Roman senate decided that Carthage had broken the reaty and the third Punic War was declared. A descendant of Scipio Africanus, Scipio Aemilianus blockades Carthage.

146 The walls of Carthage were breached and the starving defenders lead by M. or C. Vetilius were slaughtered. The city was burned to the ground and its civilians were sold into slavery.

1. Armies of the Carthaginian Wars 265-146 BC, by Terence Wise

Ancient Spanish

What is now modern day Spain was home to various warlike tribes. The Iberians are believed to be the original settlers. The Celts expanded into the northern areas, influencing the native peoples. The Lusitani lived in the hills of modern day Portugal. Roman possession of Spanish territory began with the Second Punic War, when Scipio Africanus conquered large parts of it from the Carthaginians. This land was formed into the province of Hispania Ulterior, “Further Spain,” in 197 BC (In 13 BC Augustus would divide Hispania Ulterior into the Provinces of Baetica and Lusitania). The Romans gradually enlarged their province as additional territory was conquered from neighboring Spanish tribes. The fight for this land was notoriously bloody, while the resources yielded by the land were relatively poor.

Scutari: These were the heavy infantry. The name comes from their use of the Celtic scutum. This was a long, flat, oval shield which provide protection to almost the entire body. This way was favored by the Celt-iberians, but it was not exclusive to them.

Caetrati: These were the infantry. The name comes from their use of the caetra. This was a 39-60cm diameter round buckler. It was carried with a long strap on the back when on the march. Both shields had a round metal boss on the front which protected the hand holding the shield and could be used offensively to punch the enemy. This was the favored way of the iberians, but again, the other Spanish tribes would fight this way too.

Two major types of spear were used. The first kind was made of a typical pole of wood with a metal tip. the second type was more unique to the spanish tribes. The soliferrum, as it was called by the Romans, was entirely made of iron with a barbed head. The great weight of the spear gave the warrior the ability to punch right through shield and armor.

The spanish were renown for their fine swords. Straight swords similar to those used by the Celts were used as well as a short sword. This short sword called gladius hispanicus by the romans was so impressive that the legions adopted it for their own use. The manufacture and use of the falcata was perfected in Spain. This sowrd had a distinctive curved blade for slashing and a hilt that curved over to protect the hand. Axes were not much favored.

Spain has long been renown for its horses. Their cavalry was as well respected as the Numidians. Cavalrymen generally carried the same equipment and weapons as the infantry.

The Balearic Islands off the coast of the spanish mainland had a great reputation for producing some of the finest slingers in teh known world. A sling was one of a child’s first toys. He practised throughout his life until he became an absolute espert marksman. Slingers ferom these islands were incorporated into armies throught ancient times. They fought with Macedonians, the Carthagenians, and the Romans. Each slinger carried 3 different slings of different lengths. the longer the sling, the greater the attack distance. They used lead or ceramic pellets for the short and medium distances. Rocks from the battle field were used for long distance. It is interesting to note that the unused slings were often tied on the slinger’s head to hold back his long hair. Hairnets were also popular.

Various types of armmor were used: Fabric, thick woven panels of grass, hardened leather, metal plate, scale and mail. The plates were sometimes decorated in relief with animal designs, grometric patterns or left plain. There is evidense to suggest that some wore corselets of mixed mail and scale. The scale covered the upper torso and the more flexible mail covered the lower. Metal grieves were also worn.

1. Wilcox, Peter. Rome's Enemies (4) : Spanish Armies 218-19 BC. Osprey Publishing, 1993.

Early German Warriors

2nd century BC - 2nd 1st cen. AD.

Early 1st century AD Batavian German warrior illustration courtesy of Johnny Shumate.

There were numerous germanic tribes that warred with each other just as frequently as they warred with Rome. They were unified by a common tongue and similar culture, but never formed a unified state. Unlike Gaul, the german lands were not wholly conquered by Rome. The first emperor, Augustus, had grand plans for an invasion of Germania. However, that dream died in in 9AD when Varus lost 3 full legions and supporting auxiliaries. For the rest of Roman history, the land east of Rhine and north of the Danube rivers remained primarily in barbarian hands. The legions would, of course, make retaliatory raids into the german territory, though it seems the Roman idea was to man only enough land on the far side of the Rivers to create a more defendable border. The kingdom of Dacia was indeed conquered and made a province at the beginning of the 2nd century. However, this land north of the Danube was controlled by a people of Celtic, Thracian, Scythian stock—considered to be separate people from the germans.

According to Tacitus, the strength of the German warband lay in its infantry. Each warrior carried several javelins. Cavalrymen were equipend similarly, with only a very few armored. The quickest men were formed into units of a regular size of 100 men. They occupied the front rank, following the cavaly.

Tacitus was not especially impressed by the quality of german cavalry, yet Julius Caesar employed them to great effect in his wars. Cavalry were not meant as shick troops to burst through enemy lines. Their main use was in hit and run tactics, attacking the enemy flank, routing fleeing enemy infantry, and protecting the german flank.

The german battle line was made up of a series of wedges. Each wedge was composed of family or kin groups. Women might be present at the rear to praise the men’s courage or condemn their cowardice. (Tacitus)

Generally speaking, german warriors were not as well equipped as the Gauls. Tacitus states that iron was short supply in the German lands. This is born out by archaeological evidence. Very few domestically produced. long swords are found to be dating from the 5th cen. BC onwards. Spear points measure from 12-26cm. The spear appears to have been the predominant weapon, along with short single-edge daggers. A longer single-edge blade, the sax became increasingly popular starting in the 2nd cen. BC. Throughout their times Germans made use of Gaulic or Roman arms imported by trade or as booty.(Wilcox)

Armor is nearly absent until the 2nd cen. AD when Roman-made equipment begins to imported on a larger scale.

There have been some finds of German shields. See my article on Celtic and German Shields. Their infantry made use of oval, rectangular, multi-sided body shields. Cavalrymen used smaller round or oval shields. Tacitus states that, "...the shields are marked out in very bright colours" Unfortunately, there is no direct evidence for the graphics that may have bee emblazoned on the face of these german shields. Some Roman coins depict german shield blazons. Yet, these designs are even less likely to be accurate depictions than those found on Roman sculpture.


The Batavians inhabited an island between the Meuse, Waal, and Rhine rivers in what is now the netherlands. Tacitus says they were the most brave of all the german tribes. They were once members of the Chatti tribe. Many Batavians joined the Roman army as auxiliaries in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD. (Wink) In 69 AD the Batavian auxiliary units and tribesmen revolted against Rome. Their leader was the Batavian, Julius Civilus. (Tacitus) This rebellion lead to the Roman practice of posting auxiliaries away from their homelands and prohibiting commanders from being of the same tribe.

In the forested lands southeast of the Ruhr River, and north of the Main River, lived the Chatti. Tacitus names it the, Hercynian Forest. They were a well organized and polically strong people able to wage prolonged wars.

It was Arminius and the Cherusci people that destroyed Varus three legion in the Teutoberg Forest. For battles with the Romans see: Tacitus, Annals 2.22, Suetonius, Lives of the Caesers, Caligula 1.4

1. Wilcox, Peter. Rome's Enemies 1, Germanics and Dacians,. Osprey Publishing, 1993.

2. Wink, Adrian. “Elite Tribal Infantry” from Ancient Warfare Magazine, Issue 1, Vol 1. June/July 2007.

3. Tacitus, The Histories.

4. Todd, Malcom. The Early Germans. Blackwell Publishing. 2004

Celtic and German Clothing

The above image is a reconstruction of the clothing found at Thorsburg.
© Johnny Shumate.

The clothing of the Iron Age British, Gauls, and Germans was quite similar in style. Evidence for what they wore comes from sculpture, archaeology and the writings of Greek and Roman authors. In order for organic material such as clothing to survive special anaerobic conditions must be met. Perhaps the most complete find is the material from Thorsberg in Schleswig-Holstein. A near complete ensemble was discovered in a peat bog in the 1860s. The clothing is considered to be German and from no later than the 3rd century AD. Ancient fashion changed very little over the centuries, so one may cautiously use this find to better understand the clothing of the Iron Age to early Roman period.

A. Long-Sleeve Tunic

The wool tunic found at Thorsberg was made from a single piece of cloth. It has a diamond twill weave. The tunic was 52-56 cm wide, 86-90 cm tall. The neck hole was 26 cm wide. Each sleeve was 58 cm long. It was laced together on the sides. the seem of the sleeves was on the back (Wild). It was dyed red with purple tablet-woven ornamental bands around the cuff (Sumner).

B. Trousers
The Thorsberg trousers were also wool, but undyed. It is a diamond twill. They were made with belt loops and built-in socks(Wild)—much like modern-day childrens’ pajamas! They were tailored to fit the body, which confirms Tacitus' assetion that the Germans wore tight pants. (Tacitus) So, their pants were form-fitting, but they could not have been too tight. They would need to have been loose enough to allow full movement on the battlefuield. Modern re-enactors have had trouble with tight trousers splitting a seam!

The Gauls are thought to have worn more loosely fitting straight-legged trousers. I am currently trying to find an archaeological basis for that.

The Dacians on Trajan’s Column are depicted wearing fitted trousers, but it appears that their pants were straight legged and tucked and bound at the ankle, rather than tailored to fit the form of the leg.

C. Cloak
The Thorsberg woolen cloak is 1.68m x 2.5m. It is a plain twill with a blue check pattern (Wild). John Peter Wild describes the cloak as having three shades of blue, but Graham Sumner reports it as having only two. In Germania Tacitus described the German cloak as being fastened with either a metal clasp or a simple stick or thorn.

D. Hooded Shoulder Cape
An example of Cletic/Germanic clothing not found at Thorsberg is the shoulder-cape. Much shorter than a cloak, this consisted of a hood with cloth extending down over the shoulders. The seem came right down the front center. Some may have been made of wool, the two archaeological examples are leather. A patch-work leather example was found at Krogens Molle Moss in Denmark. A cape made of a single piece of leather was found at Treveran (in modern France). A bronze figurine found at Trier and a sculpture from Neumagen depict this cape. (Wild)

Clothing was made of wool, leather (from cows or goats). The British exported wool in great quantity. Flax is known to have been grown in Iron Age Britain, so linen is another possibility (Martin). I presume the Gauls and Germans also grew flax, but I can not offer any books that discuss it. The fibers of the nettle could also be spun into thread. (Glenys)

Fabric Colors
Practically every color was available to the Iron Age fabric maker. The wool need not have been dyed to achieve a good range of colors. One might perceive of sheep as fluffy white balls of wool, or maybe the black sheep comes to mind. Yet, an ancient flock could have sheep of many diiferent colors. White, tan, brown, dark brown, light grey, dark grey, black. Iron Age cloth found at Hallstatt, Austria contained white and naturaly colored fibers. (Glenys)

Dyes were made from natural sources. Woad and madder are good examples of plants producing dyes—blue and orangish-red respectively. Natural dyes tend to be more muted than modern chemical dyes—especially when the fibres being dyed aren not bright white.

Diodorus Siculus states the Celts wore striking clothing, their tunics dyed and embroidered with many colors. He wrote that the Celtic cloaks were in a mixed close-set check pattern. The above mentioned fabric from Hallstatt had ’a rectangular pattern of bands of black or dark brown wool, which was reminiscent of a Scottish tartan.”(Glenys) Cassius Dio wrote of Boudica’s multicolored tunic.

1. Lloyd-Morgan, Glenys. “Appearance, Life and Leisure” in Green, Miranda J. The Celtic World. Routledge 1996.

2. Jones, Martin. The Environment of man: The Iron Age to the Anglo-Saxon period (BAR British series) 1981.

3. Sumner, Graham. Roman Military Clothing (2): AD 200-400 2003 Osprey Publishing, Ltd.

4. Wild, John P. “The Clothing of Britannia, Gallia belgica, and Germania inferior” in Aufstieg und Niedergang Welt II 12.3. New York 1985.

5. Tacitus. Germania 17.

For ancient german clothing see also: Rogers, Penelope W.The Roman Textile Industry and Its Influence: A Birthday Tribute to John Peter Wild Oxbow Books 2001. See a review here: Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Celtic Warriors

The above image is from a box of toy soldiers by Italeri.

Classical writers were fond of characterizing the Celts as un-civilized barbarians. The Greeks and Romans derided the Celts’ violent behavior, yet their own societies encouraged this warrior society. Slaves and mercenaries were in high demand in the Mediteranean. In response to such a market, the neighboring Celts placed emphasis on fighting abilitiy—to captures slaves for trade and to offer skilled fighters for hire. War was a large part of their society, but they were not simple brutes. yet They were also superb craftsmen, with a developed market economy. Although they shared a similar culture and language, the varied Celtic people never formed a single unified nation. Indeed, many historians now are reluctant to use the term “celt”, because it implies a false homogeny.

Romans were impressed by Celtic prowess in battle and were eager to employed them (especially the cavalry) in the Roman army. Roman territory had long been subject to raids by various Celtic tribes. The conquering and "Romanizing" of Gaul and Britain reduced the threat to Roman interests. However, raids from the remaining free Celtic lands and rebellions from within would continue.

The ancient Celts were fond of bright colors. Their trousers, capes and tunics were dyed with stripes, plaids and other patterns. Some of the more fanatical warriors were reported to have fought completey naked. See my article on Celtic Clothing.

The style of Celtic objects is catagorized by the La Tene dating system. (dates are approximations)
La Tène I: 450 - 250 BC
La Tène II: 250-120 BC
La Tène III: 120 -50 BC
La Tène IV (Britain only, after Gaul fell to Rome) 50 BC - 100 AD

Celtic Shields

Armor - The Celts were among the first people to develop chainmail. They may have invented it. This excellent body armor was typically reserved for the wealthy Celtic nobles, but it was not too uncommmon for the rank and file men to wear a bronze or ironhelmet. Based on the number of Iron Age helmets found on the continent vs. Britain, it would seem that helmets among the British were less common than with the Gauls.

Celtic warbands were composed of several general catagories of specialized warriors.
Command - carried large shield, heavily armored warlords. Battle commands were relayed by standard bearers and horn players.
Heavy Infantry - large shield, spearmen and swordsmen.
Light Infantry - small or no shield, slingers, archers, javelinmen
Cavalry - elite warriors, armed similarly to heavy infantry.
Chariots - uncommon on mainland Europe by 1st century BC, continued in Braitian.

The battle tactics of the Celtic tribes must have varied somewhat from region to region. Caesar's writings of his war with the Gauls indicate the celts could be quite capable of sophisticated miliatry tactics and formations. Captured celtic equipment sculpted on Roman monuments implies the celts fought in an organized fashion. For instance, the Arch of Orange depicts celtic trumpets, military standards and flags. These are all items used in conveying commands and maintaining organization on the battlefield. Ancient writers such as Polybius stated that the celts were unruly warriors, lacking planning or control. However, it seems this characterization was fabricated only to present the Romans as superior.

Celtic Helmets

Archaeologists have uncovered Celtic helmets throughout their territory. The highest concentration and numbers of finds have been in the lands of the Senones tribe. It is in this area of northern Italy that lie the Montefortino burial grounds.
The ancient writer, Tacitus, stated that the British Celts (and Germans) did not wear helmets. Indeed, very few Celtic helemts have been found in Britain (I am aware of only two - both now housed in the British Museum). So, it appears that helmets were common only among the Gauls, the upper class warriors in particular. These high-quality helmet designs were a great influence on Roman armorers. The types listed below are the most common kinds in use during the 1st century BC.

Montefortino Helmet Archaeologists named this type after a Celtic burial ground in northen Italy. The Montefortino helmet emerged sometime in the 5th century BC. Earlier examples tended to be made of bronze, while iron construction became popular in later years. The knob at the helmets peak could hold a variety of crests: figural metal pieces, feathers, horsehair plumes, etc. Although the helmets decorative accents changed, the basic form was in use among Celtic and Roman soldiers for the next 400 years!

Coolus Helmet This helmet is named after the French town where the first example was unearthed. Historians often refered to them as "jockey cap" helmets. They were developed in the 3rd century BC and continued in production unitl well after the Roman conquest of Gaul. Though less common than the Montefortino, the Coolus was simple and effective in design. Their basic form is related to the Montefortino helmet, lacking the top knob. Cheek guards could be added, especially if they were produced for Roman use.

See photo of the Roman interpretation of the Coolus helmet on the British Museum website.

Agen-Port Helmet The iron Agen and Port type helmets were very similar in form. The "Port" name refers to Port bei Nidau, Swirzerland (where an example was found. I'm not sure what "Agen" refers to! The shell of the helm was deep and full, rather like a bowler hat. It was circled by a brim which sometimes extended in the back to form a neckgaurd. Port helmets are distinguished from Agen types by features such as embossed eyebrow designs and a rim that was lower, closer to ear-level. The cheek pieces are of a different shape than the older Celtic helmet types. This was the inspiration for the Imperial Roman Gallic type helmets.

1. Greece and Rome at War, by Peter Connolly. A good many Celtic helmets are illustrated in this book.
2. Rome's Enemies (2): Gallic and British Celts, by Peter Wilcox.
3. Celtic Warrior: 300 BC-AD 100, by Stephen Allen.

See a detailed photo of the British Iron Age La Tène style horned helmet on the British Museum website.