The Battle of Bibracte, 59BC

The Battle of Bibracte

THE BATTLE OF BIBRACTE – GALLIC WARS

58BC

SUMMARY

While pursuing the fleeing Helvetii after the Battle of the Arar, Roman supplies began to run low. They were forced to turn back from their pursuit of the Helvetii people. The Helvetii took this as an opportunity to follow and harass the Roman legions. Seeing the Helvetii planned to pursue him, Caesar halted his forces on a hilltop and fortified its positions. The ensuing clash was the Battle of Bibracte.

BACKGROUND

Having already ambushed the Helvetii (Gauls) as they attempted to cross the Soane river while migrating to eastern Europe, the Romans were in pursuit.

LOCATION

Saône-et-Loire, France

THE ROMANS

Six Roman Legions (50,000 men) led by Julius Caesar, who had not yet established his reputation as a military leader.

THE GAULS

Around 90,000 Helvetii fighting men.

15,000 from the Boii and Tulingi tribes.

THE BATTLE

Though the Helvetii were expecting significant reinforcements of around 15,000 men from Gallic Boii and Tulingi tribes, the Romans were at an advantage. Caesar arranged his forces to be defending higher ground with their supplies and baggage safe atop the hill. The initial Helvetii assault was broken by Roman javelins, after which the Romans charged and forced the Gauls to retreat.

As Romans pursued the fleeing Helvetii, the Boii and Tulingi arrived. With reinforcements arriving, the Helvetii turned to fight. Caesar ordered the third line of his forces to meet the Boii and Tulingi, while the first two lines confronted the main Gaul force.

A long battle ensued, continuing late into the night. The Romans eventually forced the Gauls to retreat, and pursued them to their baggage trains. The remaining 130,000 Gauls (by Caesar’s count) then escaped into the night.

After three days’ rest, the Romans continued to pursue the Helvetii, who surrendered several days later. The surviving Helvetii were then assisted by the Romans to return to their pre-migration home.

RESULT

Decisive Roman Victory

CONSEQUENCE

The Helvetii were forced to return home.

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