Battle of Telamon
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|Battle of Telamon|
|Part of Roman-Celtic Wars|
View of Talamone
|Commanders and leaders|
|G. Atilius Regulus †,
L. Aemilius Papus
|Casualties and losses|
|10,000 killed||40,000 killed,
The Battle of Telamon was fought between the Roman Republic and an alliance of Celtic tribes in 225 BC. The Romans, led by the consuls Gaius Atilius Regulus and Lucius Aemilius Papus, defeated the Celts, thus extending their influence over northern Italy.
Rome had been at peace with the tribes of Cisalpine Gaul (the Po valley in northern Italy) for many years. Indeed, when a force of transalpine Celts had crossed the Alps into Italy in 230 BC, it had been the Boii of Cisalpine Gaul who had repelled them. The Romans had sent an army but found it was not needed. However, when the Romans partitioned the formerly Celtic territory of Picenum in 234 BC, this created resentment among its neighbours, the Boii and Insubres.
In 225 BC, the Boii and Insubres paid large sums of money to the Gaesatae, mercenaries from transalpine Celtic territories led by Aneroëstes and Concolitanus, to fight with them against Rome. The Romans, alarmed by this Celtic mobilisation, made a treaty giving the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal the Fair unimpeded control of Hispania so they could concentrate on the threat closer to home.
The Romans called upon their allies in Italy to supply troops. The consul Lucius Aemilius Papus had four legions of Roman citizens, 22,000 men in total, plus 32,000 allied troops, which he stationed the majority of his forces at Ariminum. He placed 54,000 Sabines and Etruscans on the Etruscan border under the command of a praetor, and sent 40,000 Umbrians, Sarsinates, Veneti and Cenomani to attack the home territory of the Boii to distract them from the battle. The other consul, Gaius Atilius Regulus, had an army the same size as that of Papus, but was stationed in Sardinia at the time, and there was a reserve of 21,500 citizens and 32,000 allies in Rome itself, and two reserve legions in Sicily and Tarentum.
Celtic victory at Faesulae
The Celts overran Etruria and began to march to Rome. The Romans' troops stationed on the Etrurian border met them at Clusium, three days' march from Rome, where both sides made camp. That night the Celts, leaving their cavalry and their camp fires as a decoy, withdrew to the town of Faesulae (modern Fiesole) and built defensive obstacles. In the morning the cavalry followed in full view of the Romans, who, thinking the enemy were retreating, pursued them. The Celts, with the advantage of position, were victorious after a hard battle. Six thousand Romans died and the rest fell back to a defensible hill.
That night Papus arrived and made camp nearby. Aneroëstes persuaded the Celts to withdraw along the Etruscan coast with their booty, and renew the war later when unencumbered. Papus pursued and harassed their rear but did not risk a pitched battle. The other consul, Regulus, had crossed from Sardinia, landed at Pisa, and was marching towards Rome. His scouts met the Celts' advanced foragers head on near Telamon (modern Talamone), in an area called Campo Regio.
Regulus put his troops in fighting order and advanced, attempting to occupy a hill above the road by which the Celts must pass. The Celts, unaware of Regulus' arrival, assumed that Papus had sent some of his cavalry ahead, and sent some of their own cavalry and light infantry against them to contest the hill, but as soon as they knew what they were up against they deployed their infantry facing both front and rear. They placed the Gaesatae and Insubres at the rear against Papus, and the Boii and Taurisci at the front against Regulus, their wings protected by wagons and chariots. A small force guarded the booty on another hill nearby. The battle over the main hill was fierce, and despite Papus sending cavalry to assist, Regulus was killed and his head brought to the Celtic leaders. Eventually, however, the Roman cavalry secured possession of the hill.
The Romans advanced from both directions, throwing volleys of javelins, which devastated the vulnerable Gaesatae at the rear, who were fighting naked with small shields. Some rushed wildly at the enemy and were slaughtered. Others withdrew into the body of the army, their retreat causing disorder among their allies.
The Roman javelin-throwers withdrew into the ranks, and the infantry advanced in maniples. The Insubres, Boii and Taurisci held their ground tenaciously, but the Roman shields and thrusting short swords were more effective in close combat than the Celtic smaller shields and slashing long swords, and the Romans gained the upper hand. Finally, the Roman cavalry rode down the hill onto the Celts' flank. Their infantry was slaughtered and their cavalry put to flight.
Around 40,000 Celts were killed and 10,000, including Concolitanus, taken prisoner. Aneroëstes escaped with a small group of followers, who committed suicide with him. Papus conducted a punitive expedition against the Boii, and later used the spoils taken in his triumph. The battle was recorded by some historians to be the last use of the war chariot in continental Europe.
The battle appeared on an episode of the BBC 2003 game show Time Commanders, with the team of that week playing as the Celtic army. The battle is also featured as one of several historical scenarios in the video game Rome: Total War. Once again, the player takes command of the Celts.