In 105 B.C.E., the Romans felt the backlash of the Germans at the great battle of Arausio, which is now known as Orange, France. As the Roman Republic began expanding its territory, they had to deal with “unrest and hostility” all across their lands, and as such, became involved in a number of conflicts (Cornell and Matthews, 1982, p. 60). In the various wars being fought at the time, “[t]he Romans incurred…some heavy defeats, notably at Arausio” (Crawford, 1969, p. 80). Arausio was part of an “unprecedented series of military reverses,” as the Roman army clearly had the better equipment and discipline (Cornell and Matthews, 1982, p. 60). Their forces were spread far too thin, and with a large army marching through their territory, it seems they should have tried to avoid engaging the enemy at all costs.
The image above shows the victories (green swords) and defeats (red swords) of the massive Cimbri and Teuton force that swept through Europe and Roman territory (Pethrus (Wikipedia), 2010). This Germanic army, estimated at around 300,000 men, was marching from the north, crushing all opposition, and while they did suffer some losses, as the map shows, these were only minor setbacks to their cause (Matyszak, 2003, p. 152). Unfortunately for the Romans, the battle at Arausio was no different.
The Roman army of around 80,000 men came out to meet them, being led by the consul Mallius Maximus and proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio (Matyszak, 2003, p. 152; Hornblower, et al, p. 1354). Arausio turned out to be more of a massacre that “left Italy at the mercy of the Germans” (Cornell and Matthews, 1982, p. 60). “According to Valerius Antias, 80,000 soldiers and 40,000 servants and camp followers of the Romans were slain at Arausio” (Lendering: Livy, Book 67). “Caepio, who had caused the defeat by his rashness, was convicted” (Lendering: Livy, Book 67). Apparently, Caepio had disregarded the authority of Mallius Maximus, “[refusing] to co-operate” with him, which “led to the disaster at Arausio” (Hornblower, et al, p. 1354). As part of his punishment for attacking the Germanic army rather than trying to negotiate, as Mallius intended, Caepio’s wealth was seized, he lost all his power in the senate, and he was forced into exile.
The humiliating defeat at Arausio was an early example of unrest among the Germanic tribes, even before the empire had begun. It was a clear sign that peace times in the empire would be few and far between, and that the oppressed peoples under Roman rule would be anything but submissive. Luckily for the Romans, though, the barbarian hordes’ conquest took them west to Spain instead of east into Italy, where no Roman army would have been available to hold them back (Pethrus (Wikipedia), 2010). This gave the new Roman consul Gaius Marius the chance to make reforms to the military, as he is well-known for (Matyszak, 2003, p. 152). He altered the training, such as by having the soldiers practice fighting gladiator style, and adjusted “the Roman battle array to resist the barbarian assault” (Matyszak, 2003, p. 152). While these military revamp measures benefited the Roman army for years to come, the horrible defeat at Arausio couldn’t have been forgotten, because “at that moment Rome was faced with complete extinction” (Cornell and Matthews, 1982, p. 60).
Cornell, T., & Matthews, J. (1982). Atlas of the Roman World. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc.
Crawford, M. (1969). Coin Hoards and the Pattern of Violence in the Late Republic. Papers of the British School at Rome, 37, 76-81. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40310672
Hornblower, S., Spawforth, A., & Eidinow, E. (Eds.) (2012). Caepio, Quintus Servilius. In The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Fourth Edition) (p. 1354). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Lendering, J. (March 23, 2014). Livy: Periochae 66-70. Livius.org. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.livius.org/li-ln/livy/periochae/periochae066.html#66
Matyszak, P. (2003). Chronicle of the Roman Republic: The Rulers of Ancient Rome from Romulus to Augustus. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson.
Pethrus. (Designer). (2010). Cimbrians and Teutons invasions [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cimbrians_and_Teutons_invasions.svg