The general permitted the march to proceed without attacking them. We can easily understand why he did not allow himself to be led astray by the insulting inquiries of the enemy whether the Romans had no commissions for their wives at home; but the fact, that he did not take advantage of this audacious defiling of the hostile columns in front of the concentrated Roman troops for the purpose of attack, shows how little he trusted his unpractised soldiers.

Battle Of Aquae Sextiae

When the march was over, he broke up his encampment and followed in the steps of the enemy, preserving rigorous order and carefully entrenching himself night after night. The Teutones, who were striving to gain the coast road, marching down the banks of the Rhone reached the district of Aquae Sextiae, followed by the Romans. The light Ligurian troops of the Romans, as they were drawing water, here came into collision with the Celtic rear-guard, the Ambrones; the conflict soon became general; after a hot struggle the Romans conquered and pursued the retreating enemy up to their waggon-stronghold. This first successful collision elevated the spirits of the general as well as of the soldiers; on the third day after it Marius drew up his array for a decisive battle on the hill, the summit of which bore the Roman camp. The Teutones, long impatient to measure themselves against their antagonists, immediately rushed up the hill and began the conflict. It was severe and protracted: up to midday the Germans stood like walls; but the unwonted heat of the Provengal sun relaxed their energies, and a false alarm in their rear, where a band of Roman camp-boys ran forth from a wooded ambuscade with loud shouts, utterly decided the breaking up of the wavering ranks. The whole horde was scattered, and, as was to be expected in a foreign land, either put to death or taken prisoners. Among the captives was king Teutobod; among the killed a multitude of women, who, not unacquainted with the treatment which awaited them as slaves, had caused themselves to be slain in desperate resistance at their waggons, or had put themselves to death in captivity, after having vainly requested to be dedicated to the service of the gods and of the sacred virgins of Vesta (summer of 652).

Cimbrians In Italy

Thus Gaul was relieved from the Germans; and it was time, for their brothers-in-arms were already on the south side of the Alps. In alliance with the Helvetii, the Cimbri had without difficulty passed from the Seine to the upper valley of the Rhine, had crossed the chain of the Alps by the Brenner pass, and had descended thence through the valleys of the Eisach and Adige into the Italian plain. Here the consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was to guard the passes; but not fully acquainted with the country and afraid of having his flank turned, he had not ventured to advance into the Alps themselves, but had posted himself below Trent on the left bank of the Adige, and had secured in any event his retreat to the right bank by the construction of a bridge. When the Cimbri, however, pushed forward in dense masses from the mountains, a panic seized the Roman army, and legionaries and horsemen ran off, the latter straight for the capital, the former to the nearest height which seemed to afford security. With great difficulty Catulus brought at least the greater portion of his army by a stratagem back to the river and over the bridge, before the enemy, who commanded the upper course of the Adige and were already floating down trees and beams against the bridge, succeeded in destroying it and thereby cutting off the retreat of the army. But the general had to leave behind a legion on the other bank, and the cowardly tribune who led it was already disposed to capitulate, when the centurion Gnaeus Petreius of Atina, struck him down and cut his way through the midst of the enemy to the main army on the right bank of the Adige. Thus the army, and in some degree even the honour of their arms, was saved; but the consequences of the neglect to occupy the passes and of the too hasty retreat were yet very seriously felt Catulus was obliged to withdraw to the right bank of the Po and to leave the whole plain between the Po and the Alps in the power of the Cimbri, so that communication was maintained with Aquileia only by sea. This took place in the summer of 652, about the same time when the decisive battle between the Teutones and the Romans occurred at Aquae Sextiae. Had the Cimbri continued their attack without interruption, Rome might have been greatly embarrassed; but on this occasion also they remained faithful to their custom of resting in winter, and all the more, because the rich country, the unwonted quarters under the shelter of a roof, the warm baths, and the new and abundant supplies for eating and drinking invited them to make themselves comfortable for the moment. Thereby the Romans gained time to encounter them with united forces in Italy. It was no season to resume--as the democratic general would perhaps otherwise have done--the interrupted scheme of conquest in Gaul, such as Gaius Gracchus had probably projected. From the battle-field of Aix the victorious army was conducted to the Po; and after a brief stay in the capital, where Marius refused the triumph offered to him until he had utterly subdued the barbarians, he arrived in person at the united armies. In the spring of 653 they again crossed the Po, 50,000 strong, under the consul Marius and the proconsul Catulus, and marched against the Cimbri, who on their part seem to have marched up the river with a view to cross the mighty stream at its source.

Battle On The Raudine Plain

The two armies met below Vercellae not far from the confluence of the Sesia with the Po,(25) just at the spot where Hannibal had fought his first battle on Italian soil. The Cimbri desired battle, and according to their custom sent to the Romans to settle the time and place for it; Marius gratified them and named the next day--it was the 30th July 653--and the Raudine plain, a wide level space, which the superior Roman cavalry found advantageous for their movements. Here they fell upon the enemy expecting them and yet taken by surprise; for in the dense morning mist the Cimbrian cavalry found itself in hand-to-hand conflict with the stronger cavalry of the Romans before it anticipated attack, and was thereby thrown back upon the infantry which was just making its dispositions for battle. A complete victory was gained with slight loss, and the Cimbri were annihilated.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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