Students of the warfare of the ancient world will find much to engage them in this book which contains descriptions and assessments of the careers of six of the most notable military men who fought in the wars for the expansion of the ancient Republic of Rome. Within its pages are the battles and campaigns of Publius Cornelius Scipio, Africanus, Titus Quincticus Flamininus, Lucius Æmilius Paullus, Caius Marius of Arpinum, Lucius Cornelius Sylla, Felix and of course Caius Julius Caesar. These ‘captains of the Roman Republic’ fought their wars across the known world of their times, from the burning sands of the east, through northern Africa, into the mountains and dark forests of the wild north and through western Europe and across the sea into the British Isles. This is a thorough study of six military lives with detailed information about the armies they commanded and about the enemies of Rome, in all their exotic variety, against whom they struggled. ‘Rome’s Great Soldiers’ will provide essential insights for every student of the period. Previously published as, ‘The Captains of the Roman Republic’.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The cavalry of the Cimbri, fifteen thousand strong, was not the least formidable portion of their army. They were splendidly equipped, and made a glorious show, with helmets fashioned to imitate the heads of terrible wild beasts with jaws open, as if to devour, and wide-expanded wings above all for crests, with glittering corselets of steel, and resplendent white bucklers. Their javelins were doubly-pointed, having a head at either extremity, and when they came to close quarters they used great, heavy, cutting broad-swords.
These terrible troopers were the first to commence the attack, not by a direct charge to the front, but by a wide sweep to the sword hand, with the intention to turn the Roman left, and fall on their unguarded flank. And the Roman generals perceived and understood the feint, but were unable to restrain their men, one of whom crying out, that the enemy were flying, the whole body rushed forward in pursuit. At the same time, the infantry of the barbarians came on, surging and tossing like a huge entering sea, and Marius washing his hands and vowing a whole hecatomb to the gods if they might conquer, and Catulus likewise beseeching them to sanctify to him the fortunes of that day, the soothsayers pronounced the omens favourable, and the conqueror of the Teutons, shouting aloud that the victory was to him, led his men to the charge.
Thereupon a strange thing fell out; for the dust hung suspended in such dense volumes over the whole plain, that the motions of both armies were totally obscured, (Plutarch), and that Marius, with his entire division, passed without the enemy’s lines, encountering no one, and, marching forward into the plain, missed them completely, and wandered about in the darkness, utterly at fault and ignorant what to do; so that the main brunt and surge of the barbarians broke down upon Catulus, to whose division Sylla was annexed, with his cavalry, and that the victory and the glory were to them. Of the manoeuvres or accidents of the day, nothing is known but that the conflict was long and bloodily contested, hand to hand.
The heat and the sunshine fought for the Romans, and the Cimbri, used to cold regions, and the almost Arctic cold of their vast and gloomy forests, were utterly unable to endure the sultriness of an Italian summer; for the conflict occurred on the third day previous to the calends of August, that is to say, according to the Roman mode of reckoning, on the thirtieth of July, or the very hottest and most intolerable portion of the year. Smothered with whirlwinds of dust, driven directly into their eyes and nostrils, and blinded by the glare of the sun, when it blazed out in occasional glimpses, redoubled by the repercussion of its beams from the brazen armour, the savages fell on with little vigour, out of breath, reeking with perspiration, and instead of covering their bodies from the enemy’s blows with their bucklers, sheltering their faces with them from the unendurable fierceness of the morning and noonday light.
The darkness also befriended the Italians, for while it prevented them from seeing to their dismay the innumerable ranks of the Cimbri, it likewise hindered those from availing themselves of their numbers; while their want of discipline and the immobility of their huge unwieldly masses, embarrassed, moreover, by the very means which they had adopted to ensure their steadiness, rendered them singularly liable to the disconnected and desultory charges of an active, flexible, and easily handled enemy, such as the legions, who eventually pierced the hordes at all points, and slaughtered them ruthlessly, giving no quarter to men, who chained together by ranks, when once disordered, could neither wheel nor fight to advantage, much less fly.
When at last the Cimbri were driven back to their wagons and fortifications, the women standing on the defences, in black robes, with dishevelled hair, cut down the fugitives with axe and claymore, slaying their brothers, husbands and fathers, as mercilessly as the Roman enemy. Then having vainly offered to the consuls to surrender, on condition that their honour should be spared, and that they should be allowed to devote themselves to perpetual chastity as servants of the Vestal virgins, they took the last and sternest resolution. Slaughtering their children, dashing their brains out against the naves of the wheels, or casting them to be trampled to death under the hoofs of the beasts of burthen, not one of them survived the destruction of their horde, which was to them their home, their country, and their all, on this side of eternity.
One of them was found suspended from the top tilt of her wagon, with her twin children hanging from her ankles; others, for want of trees, hung themselves by halters to the horns and legs of their oxen, and then goaded them to their speed, and were trampled under their impetuous hoofs. All perished, nor was one reserved to be dragged at the chariot wheels of the cruel conqueror, or to minister to the brutal pleasures of the savage soldiery. Of the men, from one hundred to one hundred and forty thousand fell on the field or were slaughtered in the pursuit; sixty thousand, less happy, were taken prisoners, sold as slaves to the cruellest and basest servitude, or kept for the bloody sport of the gladiatorial arena.
Even after the conclusion of this awful catastrophe, when the Romans attempted to penetrate into this scene of carnage and horror, they were yet assailed by a fresh enemy, the fierce and faithful dogs of the horde, which defended the encampment and the dead bodies of their masters, with such desperate fidelity, that no entrance could be had until they were exterminated by flights of arrows, the men not choosing to encounter their fangs at close quarters.
The rear guard of the Tigurini, who had been posted on the height of the Alps, hearing of the general ruin, fell back into Noricum, which they wasted far and wide, and thence retreated into Switzerland, where they remained tranquil until a fresh frenzy for emigration drove them again, a half century later, into Gaul, where they perished, with most of their nation, by the sword of Julius Caesar.