Saturday, 7 August 2010

56BC Campaign in Aquitania

I need to explain in greater details what ancient armies I am doing.

Sotiates Tribe

The Sotiates were a fairly minor tribe whose territory was centred around Sos in the modern department of Lot-en-Garonne. They are known principally as the first tribe that Julius Publius Crassus, Caesar's lieutenant, encountered as he moved from the territory of the Nitiobriges and into Aquitaine. According to the records, the Sotiates put-up a spirited and determined defence, mostly using their cavalry and centred around their principal oppidium (Sos). Indeed, recent excavations have shown that it was once a Gallic stronghold. Crassus finally captured Sos and this allowed the defeat of Aquitaine. During Roman times (possibly due to their resistance) the star of the Sotiates was in the wane and by 300 CE they had been absorbed into the neighbouring Elusatae.

The defeat of the Sotiates (56 B.C.) was the first of two major battles in unknown locations in which Publius Crassus, the son of the Triumvir and one of Caesar's most able lieutenants, defeated the Aquitani tribes of south-west Gaul.

Caesar's invasion of Aquitania was one of his most blatantly aggressive moves. In the summer of 56 B.C. Caesar was campaigning against the maritime tribes of north-west Gaul, led by the Veneti, but the Aquitani had not taken part in that rebellion. Caesar would have been justified in watching the line of the Garonne, which marked the border of Aquitani territory, but instead he chose to send Publius Crassus, with twelve infantry cohorts and a large cavalry detachment, into Aquitania 'lest auxiliaries should be sent into Gaul by these states'.

Crassus was aware that he faced a difficult task, and so when he reached Aquitania, he summoned extra auxiliary troops and cavalry from the nearby Roman Province in southern Gaul. This reinforced army then advanced into the territory of the Sotiates tribe.

The Sotiates planned to draw Crassus into an ambush. Their infantry was placed in a position where they could attack the Romans as they passed through a valley, and their strong cavalry force was used to lure the Romans in.

Crassus fell into the trap. The Sotiates cavalry attacked the Roman column while it was on the march. The cavalry was duly defeated, and the Romans began a pursuit which brought them into the valley where the Sotiates infantry was waiting. As the Romans passed through the valley in some disorder, they were duly ambushed. At this point the Sotiates plan began to go wrong. Order was quickly restored in the Roman force, and after a long fight the Sotiates broke and fled, suffering heavy casualties in the process.

After this victory Crassus advanced deeper into Sotiates territory and began to besiege their principle towns. After a number of sorties failed to drive off the Roman siege forces, the Sotiates surrendered, freeing Crassus to move against the Vocates and Tarusates.

And this explains things in Caesar's own words and is a tranlsation taken from his Gallic War:

From Julius Caesar, “Gallic War”

Chapter 20

About the same time, P. Crassus, when he had arrived in Aquitania (which, as has been before said, both from its extent of territory and the great number of its people, is to be reckoned a third part of Gaul,) understanding that he was to wage war in these parts, where a few years before, L. Valerius Praeconinus, the lieutenant had been killed, and his army routed, and from which L. Manilius, the proconsul, had fled with the loss of his baggage, he perceived that no ordinary care must be used by him. Wherefore, having provided corn, procured auxiliaries and cavalry, [and] having summoned by name many valiant men from Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo, which are the states of the province of Gaul, that border on these regions [Aquitania], he led his army into the territories of the Sotiates. On his arrival being known, the Sotiates having brought together great forces and [much] cavalry, in which their strength principally lay, and assailing our army on the march, engaged first in a cavalry action, then when their cavalry was routed, and our men pursuing, they suddenly display their infantry forces, which they had placed in ambuscade in a valley. These attacked our men [while] disordered, and renewed the fight.

Chapter 21

The battle was long and vigorously contested, since the Sotiates, relying on their former victories, imagined that the safety of the whole of Aquitania rested on their valor; [and] our men, on the other hand, desired it might be seen what they could accomplish without their general and without the other legions, under a very young commander; at length the enemy, worn out with wounds, began to turn their backs, and a great number of them being slain, Crassus began to besiege the [principal] town of the Sotiates on his march. Upon their valiantly resisting, he raised vineae* and turrets. They at one time attempting a sally, at another forming mines, to our rampart and vineae (at which the Aquitani are eminently skilled, because in many places among them there are copper mines); when they perceived that nothing could be gained by these operations through the perseverance of our men, they send embassadors to Crassus, and entreat him to admit them to a surrender. Having obtained it, they, being ordered to deliver up their arms, comply.

Chapter 22

And while the attention of our men is engaged in that matter, in another part Adcantuannus, who held the chief command, with 600 devoted followers whom they call soldurii (the conditions of whose association are these, - that they enjoy all the conveniences of life with those to whose friendship they have devoted themselves: if any thing calamitous happen to them, either they endure the same destiny together with them, or commit suicide: nor hitherto, in the, memory of men, has there been found any one who, upon his being slain to whose friendship he had devoted himself, refused to die); Adcantuannus, [I say] endeavoring to make a sally with these, when our soldiers had rushed together to arms, upon a shout being raised at that part of the, fortification, and a fierce battle had been fought there, was driven back into the town, yet he obtained from Crassus [the indulgence] that he should enjoy the same terms of surrender [as the other inhabitants].

Chapter 23

Crassus, having received their arms and hostages, marched into the territories of the Vocates and the Tarusates. But then, the barbarians being alarmed, because they had heard that a town fortified by the nature of the place and by art, had been taken by us in a few days after our arrival there, began to send ambassadors into all quarters, to combine, to give hostages one to another, to raise troops. Ambassadors also are sent to those states of Hither Spain which are nearest to Aquitania, and auxiliaries and leaders are summoned from them; on whose arrival they proceed to carry on the war with great confidence, and with a great host of men. They who had been with Q. Sertorius the whole period [of his war in Spain] and were supposed to have very great skill in military matters, are chosen leaders. These, adopting the practice of the Roman people, begin to select [advantageous] places, to fortify their camp, to cut off our men from provisions, which, when Crassus observes, [and likewise] that his forces, on account of their small number could not safely be separated; that the enemy both made excursions and beset the passes, and [yet] left sufficient guard for their camp; that on that account, corn and provision could not very conveniently be brought up to him, and that the number of the enemy was daily increased, he thought that he ought not to delay in giving battle. This matter being brought to a council, when he discovered that all thought the same thing, he appointed the next day for the fight.

Chapter 24

Having drawn out all his forces at the break of day, and marshaled them in a double line, he posted the auxiliaries in the center, and waited to see what measures the enemy would take. They, although on account of their great number and their ancient renown in war, and the small number of our men, they supposed they might safely fight, nevertheless considered it safer to gain the victory without any wound, by besetting the passes [and] cutting off the provisions: and if the Romans, on account of the want of corn, should begin to retreat, they intended to attack them while encumbered in their march and depressed in spirit [as being assailed while] under baggage. This measure being approved of by the leaders and the forces of the Romans drawn out, the enemy [still] kept themselves in their camp. Crassus having remarked this circumstance, since the enemy, intimidated by their own delay, and by the reputation [i.e. for cowardice arising thence] had rendered our soldiers more eager for fighting, and the remarks of all were heard [declaring] that no longer ought delay to be made in going to the camp, after encouraging his men, he marches to the camp of the enemy, to the great gratification of his own troops.)

Chapter 25

There, while some were filling up the ditch, and others, by throwing a large number of darts, were driving the defenders from the rampart and fortifications, and the auxiliaries, on whom Crassus did not much rely in the battle, by supplying stones and weapons [to the soldiers], and by conveying turf to the mound, presented the appearance and character of men engaged in fighting; while also the enemy were fighting resolutely and boldly, and their weapons, discharged from their higher position, fell with great effect; the horse, having gone round the camp of the enemy, reported to Crassus that the camp was not fortified with equal care on the side of the Decuman gate, and had an easy approach.

Chapter 26

Crassus, having exhorted the commanders of the horse to animate their men by great rewards and promises, points out to them what he wished to have done. They, as they had been commanded, having brought out the four cohorts, which, as they had been left as a guard for the camp, were not fatigued by exertion, and having led them round by a some what longer way, lest they could be seen from the camp of the enemy, when the eyes and minds of all were intent upon the battle, quickly arrived at those fortifications which we have spoken of, and, having demolished these, stood in the camp of the enemy before they were seen by them, or it was known what was going on. And then, a shout being heard in that quarter, our men, their strength having been recruited, (which usually occurs on the hope of victory), began to fight more vigorously. The enemy surrounded on all sides, [and] all their affairs being despaired of, made great attempts to cast themselves down over the ramparts and to seek safety in flight. These the cavalry pursued over the very open plains, and after leaving scarcely a fourth part out of the number of 50,000, which it was certain had assembled out of Aquitania and from the Cantabri, returned late at night to the camp.

Chapter 27

Having heard of this battle, the greatest part of Aquitania surrendered itself to Crassus, and of its own accord sent hostages, in which number were the Tarbelli, the Bigerriones, the Preciani, the Vocasates, the Tarusates, the Elurates, the Garites, the Ausci, the Garumni, the Sibuzates, the Cocosates. A few [and those] most remote nations, relying on the time of the year, because winter was at hand, neglected to do this.

*Note regarding Vineae:
Movable shelters, open at both ends, pushed along on wheels, and made of stout wattling, covered with leather. As the name suggests, the earliest were probably constructed of interlaced vine stems. Under their protection battering-rams could be worked, mines commenced, and other siege operations conducted.

So I am preparing two armies, a Sotiates one that will double up for the Vocates and the Tarusates (although I may add a couple of veteran Celto-Iberian units to bolster this latter force), and a Roman Army under Crassus. I'm focusing on the latter, in painting terms, at the moment.

While it has been easy to be quite specific from the sources about much of the Roman army for the invasion, it has been largely guess-work for the Sotiates. I'm not sure if the mix of infantry to cavalry is quite right and I'd welcome comments from anyone with an opinion on this.

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