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Battle of Sentinum
Sentinum
Campaign: Third Samnite War
Date: 295 BC
Place: Umbria, central Italy
Outcome: Roman victory
Combatants

Rome Roman Republic
*House of Decii

Burgundy Samnites
Gaul Gauls

Commanders

Publius Decius Mus the Younger
Fabius Maximus Rullianus

Gellius Egnatius

Strength

38,000 troops

60,000 troops

Casualties

8,500

25,000

The Battle of Sentinum was the decisive battle of the Third Samnite War, fought between the armies of the Roman Republic and the Samnites. The Romans won through renewed vigor following the courageous death of their consul Publius Decius Mus the Younger.

Background

In the Third Samnite War (298-290 BCE), Rome faced a dangerous alliance of Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls. The Romans mobilized two consular armies, led by consuls Publius Decius Mus and Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus. Each army consisted of two Roman legions and two legions from Rome's allies. This powerful force marched out to locate and destroy the Samnites and their allies. A diversionary attack against their homelands drew the Etruscan and Umbrian forces away, leaving the Samnites and Gauls to face up to the Romans at Sentinum (near present-day Sassoferrato). 

Battle

Decius's army took up position opposite the Gauls, while to his right Fabius's army prepared to fight the Samnites, under their leader, Egnatius. As usual, the consuls positioned the two Roman legions at the center of the line of each army, flanked on each side by the allied legions, with the cavalry at either end. When fighting began, the legions led by Fabius soon gained the upper hand over the Samnites. Decius and his army had a more difficult time, howecer, and were surprised by the Gauls, who sent war chariots careering into the Roman cavalry. Milling horses disrupted the legion's infantry formations, which began to crumble under the attack of sword-wielding Gallic warriors. At this desperate juncture, Decius rode out alone into the midst of the Gauls in a suicidal act of self-sacrifice. Emboldened by the courageous death of their consul, the legions fought with renewed vigor. By this time the Samnites were fleeing, their leader, Egnatius, and thousands of his people cut down by the pursuing Romans. The Gauls successfully disengaged, limiting their losses, but Rome had won another important victory.

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