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Patrick Waterson wrote on the SOA Forum:

Following up Richard's Battle Pack and Duncan's article on Telamon in Slingshot 322, one important OB question for the Romans is just how many of the praetor's army were with Aemilius when he fought the Gauls.

The praetor's army originally consisted of 50,000 infantry (Sabines and Etruscans) and 4,000 cavalry. 6,000 of these became casualties at the hands (or swords) of the Gauls. In theory, that leaves 48,000 still on their feet, potentially a significant accession to the strength of the southern Roman army.

Then there is the question of how the Italian allies were divided. I think Duncan is right about the four legions and 30,000 allies being the sum totals for both Roman armies, with each consul having two legions and various allied troops.

I would suggest that the allies may not have been evenly divided; an allocation of 15,000 allies makes for poor symmetry, and I suspect that one army had 10,000 allies (the normal complement) and the other 20,000. This would make a nice symmetrical lineup for each army, the question now being which army had the extra allies.

Given that Atilius' army went to Sardinia, I would suggest this is likely to have been the smaller army, having to be moved by sea. Conversely, Atilius had no qualms about placing himself in the way of the 70,000-strong Gallic army, which might indicate he was the one with the 20,000 allies. (Or, it might just indicate that, like his First Punic War namesake, he was overconfident.)

Provisionally, I would suggest the following:

Atilius has two legions and 10,000 allies with slightly over 1,000 cavalry, a standard consular army.

Aemilius has two legions, 20,000 allies and 1,000+ cavalry plus 4,000 cavalry and up to 40,000 infantry from the praetor's army (depending upon how many ran away and did not come back). This would have given him an army that the Gauls would not have wished to engage unless they could catch it at a disadvantage, and would do much to explain why they declined combat when they had the chance. It also transforms the cavalry fight, as a total of 6,000 Roman and Italian cavalry have a much better chance than 2,000.

The Gallic loss of the cavalry fight is still somewhat puzzling from the standpoint of numbers alone. If the Gauls had assigned some of their cavalry as a guard for their baggage, it would have lowered the numbers the Romans actually had to fight. This could allow a reasonable chance of replicating the historical result without having to 'dumb down' the Gallic cavalry.

March 5, 2019 at 4:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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