His soldiers, accordingly, though reluctant, obeyed; but the throng of camp-servants, who had no water either for themselves or their beasts, went down in a body to the river, some taking hatchets, some axes, and some also swords and lances along with their water-jars, determined to get water even if they had to fight for it. With these only a few of the enemy at first engaged, since the main body were taking their meal after bathing, and some were still bathing.
For streams of warm water burst from the ground in this place, and at these the Romans surprised a number of the Barbarians, who were enjoying themselves and making merry in this wonderfully pleasant place. Their cries brought more of the Barbarians to the spot, and Marius had difficulty in longer restraining his soldiers, since they had fears now for their servants. Besides, the most warlike division of the enemy, by whom at an earlier time the Romans under Manlius and Caepio had been defeated 1
(they were called Ambrones and of themselves numbered more than thirty thousand), had sprung up from their meal and were running to get their arms.
However, though their bodies were surfeited and weighed down with food and their spirits excited and disordered with strong wine, they did not rush on in a disorderly or frantic course, nor raise an inarticulate battle-cry, but rhythmically clashing their arms and leaping to the sound they would frequently shout out all together their tribal name Ambrones, either to encourage one another, or to terrify their enemies in advance by the declaration.
The first of the Italians to go down against them were the Ligurians, and when they heard and understood what the Barbarians were shouting, they themselves shouted back the word, claiming it as their own ancestral appellation; for the Ligurians call themselves Ambrones by descent. Often, then, did the shout echo and reecho from either side before they came to close quarters; and since the hosts back of each party took up the cry by turns and strove each to outdo the other first in the magnitude of their shout, their cries roused and fired the spirit of the combatants.
Well, then, the Ambrones became separated by the stream; for they did not all succeed in getting across and forming an array, but upon the foremost of them the Ligurians at once fell with a rush, and the fighting was hand-to-hand. Then the Romans came to the aid of the Ligurians, and charging down from the heights upon the Barbarians overwhelmed and turned them back.
Most of the Ambrones were cut down there in the stream where they were all crowded together, and the river was filled with their blood and their dead bodies; the rest, after the Romans had crossed, did not dare to face about, and the Romans kept slaying them until they came in their flight to their camp and waggons.
Here the women met them, swords and axes in their hands, and with hideous shrieks of rage tried to drive back fugitives and pursuers alike, the fugitives as traitors, and the pursuers as foes; they mixed themselves up with the combatants, with bare hands tore away the shields of the Romans or grasped their swords, and endured wounds and mutilations, their fierce spirits unvanquished to the end. So, then, as we are told, the battle at the river was brought on by accident rather than by the intention of the commander.