capitoline wolf
 Valid HTML 4.0! Powered By ...?
Masters of Rome
from Marius to Caesar
About the site

Cimbric Wars

This conflict was the result of the migration of a large federation of Germanic and Gallic tribes, led by the Cimbri and Teutones. Early contacts with these Germans were inconclusive. Despite defeating the Romans under Carbo at Noreia, the Germans had withdrawn from Roman territory.

109 BC

The Cimbri suddenly reappear in Gaul in 109 BC. Silanus, consul left behind in Rome is appointed general of a hastily assembled army and marches off to defend against the Cimbri. However, he is heavily defeated, losing over thirty thousand men. Yet again the Germans do not take advantage of their victory and move North through Gaul.

107 BC

By early 107 BC the Cimbri have reached Tolosa in SW Gaul. Longinus took the experienced army of Metellus from Africa and marched to Tolosa, where he defeated the Germans and their local allies, the Volcae Tectosages.

The Romans pursued for several days towards the coast, but without taking any precautions. Longinus fell into an ambush near Burdigala and died, together with almost his entire army. Laenas surrenders the Roman camp and flees to Rome with fewer than 4,000 survivors.

106 BC

Quintus Servilius Caepio marches to Tolosa with hastily raised army. Germans have left and remaining Gauls surrender to Caepio. Caepio discovers the Gold of Tolosa. Most of it goes missing on its way to the coast.

105 BC

The new consul Mallius Maximus raises six more legions (from the proletarii) and marches to join Caepio in Gaul. Caepio refuses to submit to Mallius's authority and marches his army up the west bank of the Rhodanus. The Germans move South along the east side of the Rhodanus.

After he arrives at the river, Mallius puts his army into camp on the right bank some miles south of Caepio's army on the west bank. A delegation arrives from Rome, and Caepio moves his army across to the east bank, but still puts them into camp miles to the north of Mallius. The senatorial delegation opens negotiations with the Germans but no compromise can be reached - the Germans want to move South into Gaul or Spain but the Romans refuse to let them.

Battle of Arausio

At the beginning of October the Germans finally attack and roll over the cavalry advanced guard north of the main camps. They surround Caepio's camp and continue southwards. Mallius marches out to meet them in open battle.

On the 6th of October the Germans simultaneously attack Mallius and Caepio's camp. Caepio's camp is rapidly overrun and he personally flees by boat to the far bank of the Rhodanus. The rest of his army perishes in the camp. Mallius's army cannot cope with the sheer size of the German army and they are overwhelmed. Most of the army die where they stand; some escape across the river.

The disaster has resulted from senatorial pride and incompetence, and has cost the lives of many thousands of Italian allies as well as Romans.

After their victory the Germans do not take advantage of the situation but split into three parts, under Boiorix, Teutobod and Getorix respectively. The first of these decides to march to Spain via a route north of Roman Gaul. Teutobod marches on Spain via a more southerly route and the last part stays where it is with the tribes in Central Gaul.

104 BC

Marius returns to Italy with his army from Africa. No news is received of any German advances. Early in the year Marius starts his army marching to Gaul, along the coast through Liguria. Marius has chosen this route in order to investigate the state of the roads and terrain, but also in case the Germans march south to the Mediterranean and follow the coast.

By June the army is assembled in Gaul, near Aquae Sextiae. Marius sets the army to building a fortress near the Druentia River. Since there is still no sign of a German army on the move, Marius decides to use the army on repairing roads and other civil engineering works. During this period of inactivity Sulla and Quintus Sertorius go to spy on the Germans.

103 BC

The inactivity continues; the army builds a canal and a causeway. Eventually Sulla and Sertorius return with news. They have been living as warriors with the Germans and Gauls and have taken wives. Boiorix had established total control over the Cimbri. The Spanish tribes opposed their crossing of the Pyrenees and so Boiorix is leading them back north through Gaul to the land of the Belgae. There the Cimbri meet up with the other German leaders and agree a grand plan for the following year.

The Teutones are to invade Italy from the West, the Cimbri through the Brennus pass and the other tribes under Getorix further east again.

102 BC

Catulus Caesar raises an army to defend Italian Gaul, but can only manage six understrength legions. Marius is worried that he is not up to the job and sends Sulla to be Catulus's senior legate. Catulus Casear marches his army up the Athesis to meet the Cimbri. Sulla realizes that this will lead to disaster and instigates a mutiny at Tridentum when the Germans are one day away. The following day the Roman army retreats.

Most of the army retreat safely across the river. The last, Samnite legion to cross has to fight its way through the Cimbric cavalry. The bridge is then destroyed, giving the army time to retreat ahead of the Cimbri.

Battle of Aquae Sextiae

In Transalpine Gaul, the Teutones reach Marius's camp. There is no hope of capturing it, so they bypass the camp and head for Massilia. Marius marches his army by an alternative route and takes up position on a hill behind a river near Aquae Sextiae.

The first Germans to attack do so unsupported and are heavily defeated by Marius's army. The rest of the German army reaches Marius's position but does not attack. The following day Marius provokes the Germans into attacking. The Romans win a complete victory, annihilating the Cimbri. A detachment under Manius Aquillius completes the victory by catching the Germans in the rear.

In Italian Gaul the Cimbri spend the winter north of the Padus. Marius transfers his army to join with that of Catulus Caesar.

101 BC

The third part of the German attack on Italy fails to appear after Getorix decides not to invade from the Danube.

Battle of Vercellae

By summer the Cimbri have decided to move on and assemble their horde near the town of Vercellae. Here they are brought to battle by Marius, Sulla and Catulus Caesar. The Romans win a decisive victory and the few Cimbri that survive flee over the Alps.

This second victory brings the Cimbric Wars effectively to an end and raise Marius to the status of a hero in Rome.

Printable version ©Mark Emerson 2001. Acknowledgements to Steven H. Gibbs, Randy Winch and Tim Doyle. Back to top of page ^