Dying Gaul. Note the torquatus around his neck and the horn on the floor. The noise these horns made frightened the Romans
Musei Capitolini Rome

Naked warriors
On many occasions I find the Gauls were fighting naked. Mostly this can be understood as "with a naked torso without armor". But here Polybius explicitly tells us they took off their pants, to avoid getting stuck in the brem bushes. Next he writes they died because a lack of protection against the Roman javelins.

War in Gallia Cisalpina

Date: Sommer 225 bc
Consul: L. Aemilius Papus
C. Atilius Regulus
unnamed praetor
Inf.: 3 consular armies
Cav.: 3x 300
Casualties: 6000
Remarks: Battle in 2 episodes
Enemy: Gauls
Leader: Aneroestos
Inf.: 50,000
Cav.: 20,000
Casualties: 40,000† 10,000 prisoner

Battle of Telamon

The Gauls prepare for war
In the years be for 225 bc the Gauls observed the Roman progress and concluded, that now the rest of Italy and Sicily were under Roman control, they would be next. They gathered a large army and in stead of waiting for an attack the grabbed the initiative and started marching towards Rome.

Ancient texts


Not unnoticed
Aneroetos moved his army (red in the picture) while plundering and looting to the south. Of course this was noticed and a Roman army under command of an unnamed praetor started to follow him.

Battle of Telamon initial positions of the armies

The terrain
For a good understanding of the following events it's necessary to have an idea of how the the terrain looked like. It will channel your moves but will offer save havens on the hilltops.

Hills in middle Italy

There must have been an excellent communication between the leaders of the Roman armies. The speed L. Aemilius showed, proves his must have been aware of the Gallic moves at the very beginning. He also knew his colleague G. Atilius was moving south along the west coast. Impressive in a time there were no cellphones!

Prepare for battle
As soon as Aneroestor became aware he was being followed by a Roman army, he stopped and turned his army to do battle with the Romans. But when the Romans were near enough it was already late and both commanders decided to build a camp and to postpone the battle for the next day.

Battle of Telamon  Anerostor moved his infantry a couple of kms while he left his cavalry

Another trap to run into
That night Aneroestor secretly moved his infantry a couple of kilometers away from the camp and left his horse in the camp. Polybius tells us he moved towards Faesulae, but that way was blocked by the Romans north of him. That means Polybius is mistaken or there was another town with that name. Aneroestos may have been aware of the nearing army of L. Aemilius. This blocked his way around the lake of Trasimeno. So he must have decided to go west; towards Telamon on the west coast. The fact he preferred laying a trap over a formal battle indicates he was in a hurry.

The Romans will take the bait
The next morning Aneroestos horse started to follow the army as if they were covering the retreat. In fact they were showing the Romans where to go and the Romans followed obedient. Some kilometers furtheron the Gauls were laying in an ambush and as soon as the Romans had entered the trap. The Gauls slaughtered some 6000 Romans. The survivors could flee to a good defendable hill. It was already getting late and Aneroestos decided to leave them there and rest his men first.

Battle of Telamon situation after the ambush

Arrival of Aemilius
Warned by messengers from the hilltop Aemilius understood there was no time to be wasted and decided to attack at once. Aneroestos aware of this, decided not to do battle but first to bring home the rich booty, that was hindering his movements. He left the Romans on the hill and started to move to the coast, probably because the terrain there is more even, so he could move faster.

Battle of Telamon end game
Starting positions of the armies. It is unknown where exactly the Gauls and the following army started, but their march ended near Clusium.

Consul C. Atilius who had returned from Sardinia, landed ne Pisae and now was on his way to Rome. Though there was contact (on horseback) between the two consuls, his intelligence would always be a couple of days old. So both the consuls had no info about the exact whereabouts of the other. But when Atilius became aware of the nearing Gauls he prepared his army and ordered the in battle line (as far as the terrain would permit) and had his cavalry occupy a hilltop.

Dying Gaul- Musei capitolini Rome

Now Polybius needs a lots of words to convey the chances of both sides, But the Gauls were in between two fresh armies and stood in fact no chance at all. Polybius reports 40,000 killed en 10,000 prisoners. As usual a little exaggerated probably.

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