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Battles of ancient Rome

Ancient Rome, a highly expansionistic empire, was involved in many wars. Led by brilliant generals, highly trained and superbly equipped Roman forces could win against an enemy army twice as strong in numbers. There were, of course, some defeats, like the battles of Cannae or Teutoburg Forest.The Roman armies have already confirmed their imperial status at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, by massacring the Macedonian army at Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, in 197 BCE. Seven years later Roman legions defeated, at Magnesia in Asia Minor, armies of the Seleucid, considered the prime power of the Hellenic world. Thus the legions proved themselves the finest army in the region. The decline of legions’ power became apparent in the 3rd century of the Common Era. Eventually, the ‘Germanisation’ of the Roman army and consequential loss of fighting prowess resulted in the fall of both army and the Roman state.

Battle of Carrhae

(June 53 BCE)

Battle of Carrhae (53 BCE) was one of the greatest defeats suffered by Roman legions in their history. Crassus himself died on the battlefield.

Visualization of the battle at Carrhae

Battle of Ruspina and Thapsus

(46 BCE)

Battle of Ruspina and Thapsus (46 BCE) were the next stages of the civil war, having a key impact on the further history of the Roman Republic. The Battle of Ruspina almost did not end with Caesar's undoing, and the battle of Thapsus ultimately brought doom to many Pompeian officers and leaders (including Cato the Younger).

A print showing the battle of Thapsus

Battle of Adrianople

(9 August 378 CE)

Battle of Adrianople (378 CE) was the clash between the Visigothic leader Fritigern and the Eastern Roman emperor Valens, who died during the battle.

Bas-relief on the sarcophagus showing the clash between Romans and Goths.  Dated to the 3rd century CE

Battle of Alesia

(September 52 BCE)

Battle of Alesia (52 BCE) was further evidence that Julius Caesar was an outstanding commander. In Alesia, he had to face the simultaneous attacks of the besieged troops of Vercingetorix and the army of Gauls, coming to their rescue. The actions of the legions near Alesia constitute the largest siege operation in antiquity.

A scene from the series Rome when Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar

Battle of Pharsalus

(9 August 48 BCE)

Battle of Pharsalus (48 BCE) took place between Caesar and Pompey's army. The battle decided about Caesar's victory in the civil war.

Battle of Pharsalus

Battle of Philippi

(3 and 23 October 42 BCE)

Battle of Philippi were actually two clashes in 42 BCE in eastern Macedonia, won by the combined forces of Mark Antony and Gaius Octavian, against Cassius Longinus and Marcus Brutus. The battle ended the lives of Caesar's murderers and temporarily stabilized the situation in a country torn by civil war.

Forcing fortifications at battle of Philippi

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

(probably 9-11 September 9 CE)

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 CE) was a huge defeat of the Roman army in Germany. All three Roman legions and all other troops fell in the fight.

Otto Albert Koch, The Failure of Varus

Battle of Lake Trasimene

(21 June 217 BCE)

Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 BCE) was Hannibal's second victory over the Romans in the Second Punic War. The ambush led to the massive slaughter of the Romans. Apparently, a nearby stream supplying water to the lake, due to the mixing of a large amount of blood, was called Sanguineto, or "Blood River".


Battle of Panormus

(250 BCE)

Battle of Panormus (250 BCE) was a clash of Rome and Carthage in 250 BCE, during the First Punic War. The victory at Panormus was testimony to the perfect battle plan created by the Romans.

Denarius of Cecilius Metellus Caprarius. The reverse shows the triumph of  his ancestor Lucius Cecilius Metellus and the elephants captured at Panormus.

Battle of Sentinum

(295 BCE)

Battle of Sentinum (295 BCE) was the victory of the Romans over the Samnites. The battle was reportedly the largest battle fought on Italian soil since the founding of Rome. According to Livy' account, the legions' victory was decided by "devotio" - ritual sacrifice of the leader in exchange for the victory of the legions.

Samnite attack on Roman troops

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