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River Sabis, 57 BC (C&C Ancients)

Gaius Julius Caesar formed a political alliance with Gnaeus Pompey and Licinius Crassus that became known as the “First Triumvirate.” Caesar obtained the governorship of Gaul as a proconsul, and immediately set about expanding his province from the Mediterranean coast inland. In 58 BC, after many Belgic tribes had surrendered to Caesar, he marched north against the Nervii, the most powerful of these tribes. Joined by other lesser tribes, including the Atrebates and Viromandui, the Nervii horde massed on the north side of the river Sabis. Poor scouting by the Romans only detected some cavalry acting as a decoy, while the Nervii king Boduognatus concealed his main body in the woods, not far from their main camp. Only when the Romans had dispersed from their tactical formation and started to build their camp did the Belgic tribesmen charge from the woods. The surprise was complete. Caesar was caught off guard, but in true form, he set about immediately to rally his troops. The Romans quickly reformed—a testimony to his personal magnetism and to their training. This hurriedly assembled line held until the two legions that were marching with the baggage could come forward. These reinforcements, along with the famous Tenth Legion’s bold actions, and the vigor of his deputy Labienus, enabled the Romans to annihilate the Nervii army.

The Tenth legion, with some support, are the first to attack Nervii, in an attempt to breakthrough to the enemy's camp. The first clashes are violent and the Tenth is battered, but prevails. (Romans 1, Nervii 0)

The Tenth pushes on with fresh support and scatter the Nervii before them, again taking some losses. With the enemy camp in reach and most of the opposition scattered, the Romans begin to feel confident of victory. ( Romans 3, Nervii 0)

The Nervii counterattack with devasting results. The Tenth, in poor shape after several encounters, is annihilated and the nearby auxiliaries suffer the same fate. Though not without losses for the Nervii, this action results in an uncertain battle once again. (Romans 4, Nervii 4)

The Romans, undeterred, make another attack on the left, hoping to smash through the remaining Nervii and burn their camp. Labienus, who had led the Tenth on its ill-fated assault on the Nervii camp, now leads the second attack with the cavalry. In a disastrous turn of fate, the opening clash of Roman and Nervii cavalry results in his death and the advance stalls to a standstill, giving the Nervii a much needed reprieve. (Romans 4, Nervii 5)

The Nervii send some of their warriors in reinforcement and as before, their riposte is devastating. Little remains of the Roman left flank. (Romans 4, Nervii 7)

Julius Caesar moves up to the River Sabis to support the last attack of his left flank and the remaining troops do breakthrough and burn the Nervii camp, but are left in a precarious position. The Nervii easily dispatch the remaining Roman infantry on the left and isolate the cavalry that burned their camp, giving them a hard fought victory. (Romans 6, Nervii 8)


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