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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 27: The Battle of Sentinum[295 BC]
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After crossing the Apennines, the consuls descended into the district of Sentinum and fixed their camp about four miles distance from the enemy. The four nations consulted together as to their plan of action (1), and it was decided that they should not all be mixed up in one camp nor go into battle at the some time. The Gauls were linked Samnites, the Umbrians with the Etrurians. They fixed upon the day of battle, the brunt of the fighting was to be reserved for the Gauls and Samnites, in the midst of the struggle the Etruscans and Umbrians were to attack the Roman camp. These arrangements were upset by three deserters, who came in the secrecy of night to Fabius and disclosed the enemy's plans. They were rewarded for their information and dismissed with instructions to find out and report whatever fresh decision was arrived at. The consuls sent written instructions to Fulvica and Postumius to bring their armies up to Clusium and ravage the enemy's country on their march as far as they possibly could. The news of these ravages brought the Etruscans away from Sentinum to protect their own territory. Now that they had got them out of the way, the consuls tried hard to bring on an engagement. For two days they sought to provoke the enemy to fight, but during those two days nothing took place worth mentioning; a few fell on both sides and enough exasperation was produced to make them desire a regular battle without, however, wishing to hazard everything on a decisive conflict. |
On the third day the whole force on both sides marched down into the plain. Whilst the two armies were standing ready to engage, a hind driven by a wolf from the mountains ran down into the open space between the two lines with the wolf in pursuit. Here they each took a different direction, the hind ran to the Gauls, the wolf to the Romans. Way was made for the wolf between the ranks; the Gauls speared the hind. On this a soldier in the front rank exclaimed: "In that place where you see the creature sacred to Diana lying dead, flight and carnage will begin; here the wolf, whole and unhurt, a creature sacred to Mars, reminds us of our Founder and that we too are of the race of Mars."
The Gauls were stationed on the right, the Samnites on the left (2), Quintus Fabius posted the first and third legions on the right wing, facing the Samnites; to oppose the Gauls, Decius had the fifth and sixth legions, who formed the Roman left. The second and fourth legions were engaged in Samnium with Lucius Volumnius the proconsul.
When the armies first met they were so evenly matched that had the Etruscans and Umbrians been present, whether taking part in the battle or attacking the camp, the Romans must have been defeated.
(1): This was a commanding position to take up, as Sentinum lay in Umbrian territory but close to the frontiers of the Gauls and Etruscans, and would therefore enable the consul to strike, if opportunity offered, at any of the three.
(2): Where the Umbrians were and why they did not take part in this battle are questions to which our extant authorities vouchsafe no reply.