Aix-En-Provence, France (102 BC)
The Battle of Aquae Sextiae was the last major engagement of the Cimbrian War, a conflict caused by the migration of several Germanic tribes from Central Europe into Roman territory. This campaign (of sorts) was essentially more of an aggressive relocation of the Teutons and Cimbri tribes through the Alps, but was viewed as a major military threat by the Roman Republic. The clash at Aquae Sextiae was a decisive victory for the Romans, and represented the last major attempt at German encroachment into Roman territory until the 4th century.
During the 2nd century BC, Germanic tribes began arriving in large numbers on the frontiers of the Roman Empire. These nomadic warriors, coming from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, posed one of the greatest threats to the early Roman Republic and foreshadowed the much larger Germanic invasions that took place in the later years of the empire. The conflict, known as the Cimbrian War, was named for the Cimbri tribe who, along with their allies the Teutons and others, were the primary antagonists of the Romans.
The Germanic invasions were probably little more than an aggressive migration at the outset as the Cimbri and Teutons sought more temperate homes in the lands of the south and west. Concerned that this posed a threat to the republic, the Romans sent a force north to intercept the Cimbri. Interestingly, the initial meeting was peaceful, with the numerically superior Germans agreeing to go elsewhere. However, a Roman plot to ambush the unsuspecting Cimbri was discovered, and the Roman army was massacred in 109 BC. What followed was seven years of chaos as the Germans horde proceeded to ravage Western Europe.
In 102 BC, the Romans marched a newly organized, trained and equipped army northwards consisting of perhaps as many as a hundred thousand men, the largest force yet fielded by Rome. They established a fortified camp on a hilltop at Aquae Sextiae, where they awaited a horde of Teutons and Ambrones who had been raiding throughout Gaul.
Although they outnumbered the Romans, the Germans were completely unprepared for the new Roman training and tactics. The Romans drew the enemy in to attacking their positions frontally, then ambushed them from behind with a second force. What resulted was a complete massacre of the Germans, who lost about ninety thousand men to about a thousand Romans. This was the beginning of the end of the Cimbri migrations, which were completely finished off a year later at the Battle of Vercellae. As a famous footnote to the battle, many of the women who accompanied the Germans committed suicide rather than be taken as war prizes by the Romans.
The field where the Battle of Aquae Sextiae was fought is still extent in the foothills of south-central France. The site is dominated by Mount Sainte Victoire, where the Romans made their fortified camp, and where artifacts of the battle are still being discovered to the present day. Also of interest is the Arc de Triomphe de Marius, a Roman monument erected in memory of the victory. The monument is now destroyed, but the base can still be seen.
The Battlefield of Aquae Sextiae is located in the large open area at the base of Mount Sainte Victoire just south of the village of Vauvanargues approximately seven miles east of Aix-En-Provence and 24 miles northeast of Marseilles. It is an open site. There is no cost of admission. Web: http://en.aixenprovencetourism.com (official tourism website of Aix-En-Provence).