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Battle of Vosges (58 BC)

By Chris Jones

In 71 BC, King Ariovistus of the Sequani (Suebi) lead a large confederation of Germans including the Harudes, Marcomani, Triboci, Vangiones, Nemetes and Sedusii, as well as his own tribesmen across the Rhine, seizing land from the Gallic Aedui in the area of modern Alsace and receiving recognition as a "Friend of Rome" in 60 BC.

Julius Caesar was given command of Gaul in the proconsulship of 59 BC. Initially this was limited to Cisalpine Gaul in the north of Italy, which lay under Roman control but which he soon extended to the areas of Transalpine Gaul in modern France and Belgium which lay at the time outside Rome's control. One of Caesar's first campaigns was against the powerful tribes of the Helvetii on the borders of modern Switzerland. Caesar subdued but did not destroy these tribes in order to use them as a buffer against the encroachment of German tribes from across the Rhine. However, Caesar was aware that he would need to use Roman military force to stop the frequent large scale German migratory raids across the Rhine.

Prompted by requests for aid from the Aedui and seeing an opportunity to limit the growing influence of Ariovistus in Gaul, Caesar took the field. There followed a series of manoevers in which Caesar tried to bring Ariovistus to battle but the German refused repeatedly, claiming the augurs were not auspicious. In fact, Ariovistus was awaiting reinforcements from his Suebi, a fact known to Caesar. Finally, by advancing directly on his camp, Caesar forced Ariovistus to give battle.

Caesar led his forces forward in the standard three line formation. Seeing that the German left was the weaker part of their line he concentrated his forces there. The Germans attacked in several columns, moving so swiftly that there was not time for the Romans to hurl their pila and battle was joined with swords. A fierce struggle occurred in which the German left was broken after a stiff fight.

On the other flank, the Roman left nearly cracked under severe pressure until reenforced by Publius Crassus, the son of Marcus Crassus who later died in action against the Parthians at Carrhae. In command of the reserve cavalry, Crassus had the opportunity to move around the battlefield. Seeing the left wing in peril, Crassus led forward reserves from the third line, which first blunted and then broke the German attack.

Overwhelmed on both flanks, the Germanic tribemen then fled for the Rhine closely pursued by the Romans. Slaughter in the15 mile pursuit was heavy. Ariovistus was driven back over the Rhine, which he never crossed again. Caesar had for the moment secured his German border.

Simulating Vosges in DBA

Order of Battle

Marian Roman (#59) -- 8x Bd, 2x Ps, 2x Cv

Early German (#57) -- 1x Cv, 8x Wb, 3x Ps

Deployment and Terrain

Normal DBA.

Special Rules

The Germans can support their Cv unit with a Ps unit for a +1 in close combat. This simulates the 6,000 cavalry with 6,000 light troops specially selected to support them as described by Caesar.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.

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Last Update: July 5, 2000

My thanks to Chris Jones for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.