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Second Illyrian war

War in Gallia Cisalpina

225-222 bc

Gauls in Cisalpina prepare for war with Rome

The Gauls who had seen how Rome had subdued the other peoples in Italy, now gathered a large army. Not only they wanted to defend themselves against Rome, no they wanted to take Rome as they had done before. Interesting here is though Polybius reports the Gauls had in that occasion had left the city voluntary and with all their booty, where Livius(5.48-49) reports a different story. Since Polybius seems even more biased in favour of the Roman patricians than Livius, I tend to believe his version. I think Livius' version came from his unbelief, the Gauls would have left without being forced. We'll see more of Livius the unbeliever in the future.
All together the Gauls gathered 50,000 foot and 20,000 horse and chariots. There were mercenary Gaesatians from across the Alps and so on. The Venetians and Gonomatitians preferred a treaty with Rome.

Rome's fear
The people of Rome knew of course the stories about their encounters with the Gauls. In many of those encounters they had lost the battle, once even their city. Fearing the worst they prepared for the worst. They ascertained themselves of the loyalty of the the other cities in Italy. Polybius mentions the following forces:

  • Active
    • 4 Roman legions each: 5200ft and 300horse + aux 30,000ft and 2000horse
    • Sabine and Etruscans : 50,000 foot and 4000 horse
    • Umbrians and Sasinatians: 20.000 foot
    • Venetians and Gonmatians: 20.000 foot
  • Reserve or to be levied when necessary
    • Near Rome: 20,000 ft. and 1500 horse + aux: 30,000ft 200 horse
    • On Sicily: 2 legions each 4200ft 400 horse
    • Listed in Latium: 80,000ft and 20,000 horse
    • Listed in Samnium: 70,000ft 7000 horse
    • Listed by Messapians and Iapygians: 50,000ft 16,000 horse
    • Listed by Lucanians: 30,000ft 3000 horse
    • Listed by Marsians,Marrucians,Fraentanians: 30,000ft 3000 horse
    • Listed by Vestinians: 20,000 ft. 4000 horse

Compare this to Hannibal's 20,000 men, with whom he would enter Italy
This list shows clearly the fear the Romans had besides their fears taken the appropriate me sur es. Note the troops that start with Listed were not in arms yet. Polybius looks ahead a little by comparing this force against the 20.000 foot (and a lot of horses that would make the difference). The active troops were moved to the order with the Gauls.

Before planning a war with Carthago
The Roman senate certainly kept an fearing eye on the growth of the Carthaginian forces, but considered the Gallic threat more urgent and was now prepared to deal with it.
The Celts (Gauls) started to pour plundering into Etruria and were promptly followed by a Roman army. The Romans caught up with them in the neighborhood of Clusium, just 3 days away from Rome according to Polybius. The actual distance is 170 km (100 ml) even in force marches it would take at least 6 days, but the Gauls were plundering, what will have slowed them down considerably.

Battle of Telamon
What now followed is often described as 2 separate battles. Because is was in fact one sequence of events and the place of the first battle (Faesulae) cannot be correct, I'll treat this as one single battle:Battle of Telamon, that in the end was won by de Romans.

Romans moved into Gallia Cisalpina
The next year (223) the consuls P. Furius Filus and G. Flaminius moved their armies into Gallia Cisalpina. Here they battled with the Gauls and won a decisive victory. Polybius tells us a story about the poor quality of the gallic swords. That their swords would bend after every blow isn't really trustworthy. But probably the Romans had already adopted the gladius: a short sword excellent for stabbing a close by enemy, who then has no room for swinging his sword, no matter the quality.

Gaius Flaminius
Polybius takes his chance to depict G. Flaminius as a bad and incompetent character. He will do this at any opportunity he gets. Gaius had been a peoples tribune in 232 and supported the cry for land reforms , especially when new land was conquered. He proposed a new law to ascertain that. That made him very popular with the plebs. When the Gauls invaded the Roman territory the augurs blamed him for that, with all kind of bad omens.

Last resistance
When peace was not granted by the Romans, the Kelts mount a last attempt. They acquire new troops from the Geasatians, who lived near the Rône on the other side of the Alps. The consul M. Claudius Marcellus and Cn. Cornelius Scipio Calvus chased the Gauls all the way to Mediolanum, where they would defeat them. Now Rome was ready for Hannibal, they thought.

    Passo della Futa Toscany    

Landscape where the battles were fought
Passo della Futa Toscany


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