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Battle of Arausio Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Arausio summary

The Battle of Arausio took place on October 6, 105 BC, at a site between the town of Arausio (modern day Orange, Vaucluse) and the Rhône River. Ranged against the migratory tribes of the Cimbri under Boiorix and the Teutoni were two Roman armies, commanded by the proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio and consul Gnaeus Mallius Maximus. However, bitter differences between the commanders prevented the Roman armies from cooperating, with devastating results. The terrible defeat gave Gaius Marius the opportunity to come to the fore and radically reform the organization and recruitment of Roman legions. Roman losses are described as being up to 80,000 troops, as well as another 40,000 auxiliary troops (allies) and servants and camp followers — virtually all of their participants in the battle.

  1. As the consul of the year, Maximus out-ranked Caepio and therefore should by law have been the senior commander of the combined armies. However, because Maximus was a novus homo and therefore lacked the noble background of the Roman aristocracy Caepio refused to serve under him and made camp on the opposite side of the river.
  2. The initial contact between the two forces occurred when a detached picketing group under the legate Marcus Aurelius Scaurus met an advance party of the Cimbri
  3. The Roman force was completely overwhelmed and the legate was captured and brought before Boiorix
  4. Maximus managed to convince Caepio to move his force to the same side of the river, but Caepio still insisted on a different camp, and actually pitched his closer to the enemy
  5. The sight of two Roman armies gave Boiorix pause for thought, and he entertained negotiations with Maximus. Caepio was presumably motivated into action by the thought that Maximus might be successful in negotiations and claim all the credit for a successful outcome
  6. Caepio's force was annihilated because of the hasty nature of the assault and the tenacity of Cimbri defence
  7. The Cimbri were able to ransack Caepio's own camp, which had been left practically undefended
  8. With a great boost in confidence from an easy victory, the Cimbri then proceeded to destroy the force commanded by Maximus
  9. Already at a low ebb due to the infighting of the commanders, this Roman force had also witnessed the complete destruction of their colleagues. In other circumstances the army might have fled, but the poor positioning of the camp left them with their backs to the river
  10. Many tried to escape in that direction, but legionaries of the time were not known for their prowess at swimming, and certainly not when encumbered with armor. Τhe number of Romans who managed to escape were very few