With the exception of the Cenomani, who acted with the Veneti and declared for the Romans, all the Italian Celts concurred in the war, and they were joined by the Celts of the upper valley of the Rhone, or rather by a number of adventurers belonging to them, under the leaders Concolitanus and Aneroestus.(15) With 50,000 warriors on foot, and 20,000 on horseback or in chariots, the leaders of the Celts advanced to the Apennines (529). The Romans had not anticipated an attack on this side, and had not expected that the Celts, disregarding the Roman fortresses on the east coast and the protection of their own kinsmen, would venture to advance directly against the capital. Not very long before a similar Celtic swarm had in an exactly similar way overrun Greece. The danger was serious, and appeared still more serious than it really was. The belief that Rome's destruction was this time inevitable, and that the Roman soil was fated to become the property of the Gauls, was so generally diffused among the multitude in Rome itself that the government reckoned it not beneath its dignity to allay the absurd superstitious belief of the mob by an act still more absurd, and to bury alive a Gaulish man and a Gaulish woman in the Roman Forum with a view to fulfil the oracle of destiny. At the same time they made more serious preparations. Of the two consular armies, each of which numbered about 25,000 infantry and 1100 cavalry, one was stationed in Sardinia under Gaius Atilius Regulus, the other at Ariminum under Lucius Aemilius Papus. Both received orders to repair as speedily as possible to Etruria, which was most immediately threatened. The Celts had already been under the necessity of leaving a garrison at home to face the Cenomani and Veneti, who were allied with Rome; now the levy of the Umbrians was directed to advance from their native mountains down into the plain of the Boii, and to inflict all the injury which they could think of on the enemy upon his own soil. The militia of the Etruscans and Sabines was to occupy the Apennines and if possible to obstruct the passage, till the regular troops could arrive. A reserve was formed in Rome of 50,000 men. Throughout all Italy, which on this occasion recognized its true champion in Rome, the men capable of service were enrolled, and stores and materials of war were collected.

Battle Of Telamon

All this, however, required time. For once the Romans had allowed themselves to be surprised, and it was too late at least to save Etruria. The Celts found the Apennines hardly defended, and plundered unopposed the rich plains of the Tuscan territory, which for long had seen no enemy. They were already at Clusium, three days' march from Rome, when the army of Ariminum, under the consul Papus, appeared on their flank, while the Etruscan militia, which after crossing the Apennines had assembled in rear of the Gauls, followed the line of the enemy's march. Suddenly one evening, after the two armies had already encamped and the bivouac fires were kindled, the Celtic infantry again broke up and retreated on the road towards Faesulae (Fiesole): the cavalry occupied the advanced posts during the night, and followed the main force next morning. When the Tuscan militia, who had pitched their camp close upon the enemy, became aware of his departure, they imagined that the host had begun to disperse, and marched hastily in pursuit. The Gauls had reckoned on this very result: their infantry, which had rested and was drawn up in order, awaited on a well-chosen battlefield the Roman militia, which came up from its forced march fatigued and disordered. Six thousand men fell after a furious combat, and the rest of the militia, which had been compelled to seek refuge on a hill, would have perished, had not the consular army appeared just in time. This induced the Gauls to return homeward. Their dexterously-contrived plan for preventing the union of the two Roman armies and annihilating the weaker in detail, had only been partially successful; now it seemed to them advisable first of all to place in security their considerable booty. For the sake of an easier line of march they proceeded from the district of Chiusi, where they were, to the level coast, and were marching along the shore, when they found an unexpected obstacle in the way. It was the Sardinian legions, which had landed at Pisae; and, when they arrived too late to obstruct the passage of the Apennines, had immediately put themselves in motion and were advancing along the coast in a direction opposite to the march of the Gauls. Near Telamon (at the mouth of the Ombrone) they met with the enemy. While the Roman infantry advanced with close front along the great road, the cavalry, led by the consul Gaius Atilius Regulus in person, made a side movement so as to take the Gauls in flank, and to acquaint the other Roman army under Papus as soon as possible with their arrival. A hot cavalry engagement took place, in which along with many brave Romans Regulus fell; but he had not sacrificed his life in vain: his object was gained. Papus became aware of the conflict, and guessed how matters stood; he hastily arrayed his legions, and on both sides the Celtic host was now pressed by Roman legions. Courageously it made its dispositions for the double conflict, the Transalpine Gauls and Insubres against the troops of Papus, the Alpine Taurisci and the Boii against the Sardinian infantry; the cavalry combat pursued its course apart on the flank. The forces were in numbers not unequally matched, and the desperate position of the Gauls impelled them to the most obstinate resistance. But the Transalpine Gauls, accustomed only to close fighting, gave way before the missiles of the Roman skirmishers; in the hand-to-hand combat the better temper of the Roman weapons placed the Gauls at a disadvantage; and at last an attack in flank by the victorious Roman cavalry decided the day. The Celtic horsemen made their escape; the infantry, wedged in between the sea and the three Roman armies, had no means of flight.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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