Cambridge Ecce Romani Latin for the New Millennium Wheelock Disce Allen & Greenough None of the above

Cimbrian War

113-101 BCE

Roman Republic v. Germanic & Gallic Tribes
Gaius Marius, Quintus Lutatius Catulus, Quintus Servilius Caepio, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, et al v. Cimbri (Teutobodus), Teutones, Ambrones, and Tigurini

The Cimbri migrated from Jutland (modern Denmark) and gradually gathered allies, including the Teutones. In 113 BCE, they arrived on the Danube, near the home of the Roman-allied Taurisics. They called upon their Roman allies for help against these invaders. Gnaeus Papirius Carbo led the legions into Noricum. Though the Cimbri originally agreed to peace talks, when they realized that the Romans were lying in wait, they attacked. At the Battle of Noreia, they destroyed Carbo’s army, including Carbo. Instead of invading Italy, however, they moved into Gaul and defeated the Roman army in the province of Gallia Narbonensis.

In 105 BCE, the consul Gnaeus Mallius Maximus and proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio gathered a force of some 80,000 men. However, the two generals could not cooperate. Near the Rhone River, at what would be come the Battle of Arausio, Caepio attacked without the support of Maximus. Caepio was quickly defeated, and Maximus was soon left alone. Demoralized and with no support, Maximus too was quickly destroyed. Only a few hundred Romans and the generals survived, thus marking the worst defeat since the Battle of Cannae in the Second Punic War. Despite this great victory, the Cimbri proceeded to Hispania, and the Teutones remained in Gaul.

After this devastating defeat, the Romans were then motivated by fear to elect Gaius Marius as consul for a fifth time and to place him in charge of a new army to face this enemy from the north. His new army was made of able-bodied but landless men. While they were capable of fighting, they could not, as before, supply their own uniforms and arms. This new change in recruitment practices meant that these men had more loyalty to their generals, who supplied them with the spoils of war, rather than to the state. He improved and standardized training and equipment. He also made the cohort the main tactical unit of the army thus increasing the soldiers' speed.

With these changes in place, in 102 BCE, Marius moved first against Teutones. At the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, he lured the Teutones and the Ambrones into attacking him. The Teutones were ambushed from the rear and were massacred. While their king Teutobodus was captured and the Teutones were eliminated, the Cimbri remained a powerful threat to Rome.

In 101 BCE, the Cimbri returned to Gaul and crossed through the Alps and into Italy since Marius’ co-consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus had withdrawn into Italy. Yet, while the Cimbri were ravishing the countryside, Sulla arrived with reinforcements. At the Battle of Vercellae, the Cimbri were virtually annihilated, and their leaders were killed.

This war allowed for the continuing rise of Gaius Marius, who served his second, third, fourth, and fifth consulships during this time. His success in the war led to his sixth consulship. Moreover, this war marked the continuing tension between Marius and Sulla.


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