295 before Christ – SENTINUM – The Battle of Nations

Historical re-enactment
Every year the last weekend of July in Sentinum, Sassoferrato (Marche, Italy)5

The battle of Sentinum was the decisive battle of the Third Samnite War, fought in 295 BC near Sentinum (next to the modern town of Sassoferrato, in the Marche region of Italy), in which the Romans were able to overcome a formidable coalition of SamnitesEtruscansUmbrians, and Senone Gauls. The Romans won a decisive victory which broke up this coalitions (the Etruscans, Umbrians and Senones pulled out of the war) and paved the way for their winning this war. The Romans were commanded by consuls Publius Decius Mus and Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus.0

The two armies arrived at the Plain of Sentinum but waited for two days to battle each other. Finally, unable to control the eagerness of their troops, the Romans attacked. The Gauls stood on the right wing and the Samnites on the left. Quintus Fabius stood on the right and Publius Decius on the left.

Quintus Fabius fought defensively to prolong the battle into a test of endurance and wait for the enemy to flag. Publius Decius fought more aggressively and ordered a cavalry attack, which drove back the Senone cavalry twice. The second time they reached the enemy infantry, but suffered a chariot attack and were scattered and overthrown. The line of Decius’ infantry was broken by the chariots and the Senone foot attacked. Publius Decius decided to devote himself. This term referred to a military commander offering prayers to the gods and launching himself into the enemy lines, effectively sacrificing himself, when his troops were in dire straits. His father had done the same at the Battle of Vesuvius (340 BC).

This act galvanised the Romans left which were also joined by two reserve contingents which Quintus Fabius had called in to help. On the right, Quintus Fabius told the cavalry to outflank the Samnite wing and attack it in the flank and ordered his infantry to push forward. He then called in the other reserves. The Samnites fled past the Senone line. The Senones formed a testudo (tortoise) formation – where the men aligned their shields in a compact formation covered with shields at the front and top. Quintus Fabius ordered 500 Campanian lancers to attack them at the rear. This was to be combined with push by the middle line of one of the legions and an attack by the cavalry. Meanwhile, Quintus Fabius took the Samnite camp by storm and cut off the Senones in the rear. The Senone Gauls were defeated. According to Livy the Romans lost 8,700 men and their enemy 20,000.

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