Text #9486"Battle of Aquae Sextiae", in .
The Battle of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence) took place in 102 BC. After a string of Roman defeats (see Battle of Arausio), the Romans under Gaius Marius finally defeated the Teutones and Ambrones. The Teutones and the Ambrones were virtually wiped out, with the Romans claiming to have killed 90,000 and captured 20,000, including large numbers of women and children. Some of the surviving captives are reported to have been among the rebelling Gladiators in the Third Servile War.
Marius took up a strong position on a carefully selected hill and enticed the Teutones to attack him there using his cavalry and light infantry skirmishers (most of whom were allied Ligurians). The leading elements, the Ambrones, took the bait and attacked. They were soon followed by the rest of the Teutones’ force. Meanwhile, Marius had hidden a small Roman force of 4,000 nearby. This force was commanded by Marius’s second-in-command, Claudius Marcelus. At the battle’s height this force launched an ambush, attacking the Teutones from behind, and throwing them into confusion and rout. The Roman accounts claim that in the ensuing massacre 90,000 Teutones were slain and 20,000 including their King Teutobod, were captured. The only surviving reports are Roman.
Plutarch mentions (Marius 10, 5-6) that during the battle, the Ambrones began to shout “Ambrones!” as their battle-cry; the Ligurian troops fighting for the Romans, on hearing this cry, found that it was identical to an ancient name in their country which the Ligurians often used when speaking of their descent (“οὕτως κατὰ ὀνομάζουσι Λίγυες”), so they returned the shout, “Ambrones!”. Roman historians recorded that 300 of the captured women committed mass suicide, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism (cf Jerome, letter cxxiii.8, 409 AD):
By the conditions of the surrender three hundred of their married women were to be handed over to the Romans. When the Teuton matrons heard of this stipulation they first begged the consul that they might be set apart to minister in the temples of Ceres and Venus; and then when they failed to obtain their request and were removed by the lictors, they slew their little children and next morning were all found dead in each other’s arms having strangled themselves in the night.