Battle of Sentinum
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|Battle of Sentinum|
|Part of the Third Samnite War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Publius Decius Mus†
Fabius Maximus Rullianus
|Casualties and losses|
|8,000 dead||25,000 dead,
The Battle of Sentinum (295 BC) was the decisive battle of the Third Samnite War, fought in 295 BC near Sentinum (now next to the town of Sassoferrato, Italy), in which the Romans were able to overcome a formidable coalition of Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians, and their Gallic allies. The result was a decisive victory for Rome, allowing it to unify Central Italy.
The Romans were commanded by consuls Publius Decius Mus and Fabius Maximus Rullianus, and amounted to about 40,000 men: 4 legions, a strong contingent of Roman cavalry, 1,000 elite cavalry men from Campania, 4 allied and Latin legions and a strong contingent of allied and Latin cavalry. Their opponents were Samnites and Gauls, since the Etruscans and the Umbrians had returned to their territories to defend them from another small Roman army.
Following their defeat at the battle of Tifernum, the Samnites realised that they could not defeat Rome alone and so persuaded the Etruscans, Senones Gauls and Umbrians to join a coalition to finally stop the growing Roman dominance over Italy. The Roman attempt to prevent the Samnites marching north to link up with the Gauls was defeated near Camerinium The combined army of 80,000 men far outnumbered the 40,000 men in the Roman one, commanded once again by the consuls Fabius Rullianus and Decius Mus and including an elite force of 1,000 Campanian cavalry. The Romans sent a small garrison to raid Etruria and Umbria: this had the desired effect of drawing these contingents away to protect their homeland. With the Samnite/Senones army now down to 50,000 troops the Romans offered battle.
The two armies arrived at the Plain of Sentinum but waited for two days to battle each other. Finally, unable to control the eagerness of their troops, the Romans attacked. Fabius faced the Samnites; Publius Decius was opposite the Gauls. The Roman line initially buckled under the Gauls' chariots. Mus charged into the Gauls anyway. Although he was slain, Mus' charge inspired his men and they restored the Roman line. Fabius routed the Samnites and then outflanked the Gauls to win the battle.
The battle opened with a ferocious attack by the Gauls on the Romans under Publius Decius Mus. Publius Decius Mus responded with a cavalry charge which, although initially effective, was defeated by the Gallic chariots. With his army collapsing it is said that, like his father at the Battle of Vesuvius, Mus rode into the Gallic horde and died committing the act of devotio. This was enough to rally his men, and with Rullianus having driven off the Samnites on his half of the battlefield, Rullianus was able to commit his Triarii, Campanian Knights and part of the III Legion, under the Tribune Lucius Cornelius Scipio, into the flank of the Gauls. This was too much for the Gauls and they joined the Samnites in headlong retreat. Only 12,000 Samnites and Gauls escaped the slaughter in which 8,000 Romans and 25,000 Gauls and Samnites were killed.
After a further series of defeats, the Samnites finally accepted Roman dominance in 290 BC. They would rise once more to join the campaigns of Pyrrhus on behalf of the Greeks of southern Italy, but with his defeat all the peoples of Italy were absorbed into the Roman commonwealth.
- Scullard, H.H. A History of the Roman World 753-146. p. 137.
- Outlines of Roman History
- "The Battle of Sentinum". The Story of Rome at The Baldwin Project.