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Tactics Against the Gauls

The Romans are thought to have shown uncommon
Battle with the Insubres.
skill in this battle; the Tribunes instructing the troops how they were to conduct themselves both collectively and individually. They had learned from former engagements that Gallic tribes were always most formidable at the first onslaught, before their courage was at all damped by a check; and that the swords with which they were furnished, as I have mentioned before, could only give one downward cut with any effect, but that after this the edges got so turned and the blade so bent, that unless they had time to straighten them with their foot against the ground, they could not deliver a second blow. The Tribunes accordingly gave out the spears of the Triarii, who are the last of the three ranks, to the first ranks, or Hastati: and ordering the men to use their swords only, after their spears were done with, they charged the Celts full in front. When the Celts had rendered their swords useless by the first blows delivered on the spears, the Romans close with them, and rendered them quite helpless, by preventing them from raising their hands to strike with their swords, which is their peculiar and only stroke, because their blade has no point. The Romans, on the contrary, having excellent points to their swords, used them not to cut but to thrust: and by thus repeatedly hitting the breasts and faces of the enemy, they eventually killed the greater number of them. And this was due to the foresight of the Tribunes: for the Consul Flaminius is thought to have made a strategic mistake in his arrangements for this battle. By drawing up his men along the very brink of the river, he rendered impossible a manœuvre characteristic of Roman tactics, because he left the lines no room for their deliberate retrograde movements; for if, in the course of the battle, the men had been forced ever so little from their ground, they would have been obliged by this blunder of their leader to throw themselves into the river. However, the valour of the soldiers secured them a brilliant victory, as I have said, and they returned to Rome with abundance of booty of every kind, and of trophies stripped from the enemy.

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