The Battle of Arar, 58BC

BATTLE OF THE ARAR

BATTLE OF THE ARAR – GALLIC WAR

58BC

SUMMARY

The Battle of the Arar was more an ambush than an engagement, but is notable as the first combat of the Gallic wars. Responding to the requests of the Aeudui tribe for Roman assistance in stopping the Helvetii migration, Caesar met the Helvetii people in a surprise attack as they attempted to cross the Saone river.

BACKGROUND

The Helvetii were attempting to migrate to eastern Europe to begin a new empire. The Romans opposed this, as they felt the new empire would be a threat, and wanted the Helvetii to continue to function as a buffer state between northern Italy and the Gauls to the north.

LOCATION

Soane River, 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.

THE BATTLE

The Helvetii were divided into four groups called cantons, three of which had already crossed the river at the time of the Roman attack. According to Caesar’s own account, the Romans ‘cut to pieces a great part of them’, while the rest fled and hid themselves in the nearby woods.

After taking control of the eastern bank of the river, the Romans erected a bridge and crossed the Saone in a single day, continuing their pursuit of the Helvetii tribe.

RESULT

Decisive Roman Victory

CONSEQUENCE

The Helvetii tribe were severely weakened.

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