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Battle of Magetobriga
Date63 BC
LocationGaul (France)
Result Suebi, Sequani and Arverni victory
Belligerents
Aedui Suebi
Sequani
Arverni
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Ariovistus
Strength
15,000


The Battle of Magetobriga (Amagetobria, Magetobria, Mageto'Bria, Admageto'Bria) was fought in 63 BC between rival tribes in Gaul. The Aedui tribe was defeated and massacred by the combined forces of the Sequani and Arverni tribes, who had enlisted the aid of the German Suebi tribe under the Germanic king Ariovistus. Following their defeat, the Aedui sent envoys to the Roman Senate, their traditional ally, for aid. The Roman general Julius Caesar would subsequently use their request for aid as a basis for entering central Gaul from his province in southern or Mediterranean Gaul.

Background[edit | edit source]

According to Strabo, the cause of the conflict was commercial.[1] The Arar (Saône) River formed part of the border between the Haedui and their hereditary rivals, the Sequani.[2] Each tribe claimed the Arar and the tolls on trade along it. The Sequani controlled access to the Rhine River and had built an oppidum (a fortified town) at Vesontio to protect their interests.

The Battle[edit | edit source]

In 63 BC the Sequani and Arverni secured the aid of Ariovistus, a king of the Germanic Suebi tribe, to settle the hereditary dispute. Ariovistus crossed the Rhine with a confederation of Germanic tribes.[3]

The Battle of Magetobriga, the final battle between the Aedui and their enemies, took place close to the Sequani town of Magetobria (or Amagetobria) (now known as Amage[citation needed] 10 km from Luxeuil). Ariovistus' 15,000 Germanic tribesmen turned the tide, and the Aedui became tributary to the Sequani.[3] In return, Ariovistus was promised land grants in Gaul, although exactly where is not certain.[4][5][6]

In 63 BC, following the Aedui's defeat at Magetobriga, the Aedui druid Diviciacus travelled to Rome and spoke before the Roman senate to ask for military aid. While in Rome, Diviciacus was a guest of Cicero, who spoke of his knowledge of divination, astronomy and natural philosophy, and names him as a druid.[7] Cicero writes in 60 BC of a defeat sustained by the Haedui, perhaps in reference to Magetobriga.[8]

[I]n public affairs for the moment the chief subject of interest is the disturbance in Gaul. For the Haedui—"our brethren"—have recently fought a losing battle, and the Helvetii are undoubtedly in arms and making raids upon our province. The senate has decreed that the two Consuls should draw lots for the Gauls, that a levy should be held, all exemptions from service be suspended, and legates with full powers be sent to visit the states in Gaul, and see that they do not join the Helvetii.

Subsequent events[edit | edit source]

Ariovistus Stays in Gaul[edit | edit source]

In the wake of victory, and to the dismay of his 'allies', Ariovistus stayed in Gaul. According to Caesar, he seized a third of the Aeduan territory and proceeded to settle 120,000 Germani there as the nucleus of a new Germanic kingdom.[3][9] Caesar writes:

"But a worse thing had befallen the victorious Sequani than the vanquished Aedui, for Ariovistus, a king of the Germani, had settled in their territories, and had seized upon a third of their land, which was the best in the whole of Gaul, and was now ordering them to depart from another third part, because a few months previously 24,000 men of the Harudes had come to him, for whom room and settlements must be provided." (Commentaries on the Gallic War, I.31)

To avoid infringing on his allies, at least for the moment, Ariovistus must have passed over the low divide between the Rhine and the Doubs in the vicinity of Belfort and than have approached the Aedui along the Ognon river valley[citation needed]. That move left the Sequani between him and the Jura mountains, not a tolerable situation for either if they were not going to be allies.[citation needed]

Ariovistus made the decision[citation needed] to clear out the Sequani from the strategic Doubs valley and re-populate it with Germanic settlers. He demanded a further third of Celtic land for his allies the Harudes. Caesar makes it clear that Germanic tribes were actually in the land of the Sequani and were terrorizing them. They are said to control all the oppida, but this statement is not entirely true,[citation needed] as Vesontio was not under Germanic control. Presumably,[citation needed] the country to the north of there was under Germanic control.

Caesar's Intervention[edit | edit source]

Following Caesar’s victory over the Helvetii, the majority of the Gallic tribes congratulated Caesar and sought to meet with him in a general assembly.[10] Diviciacus, a head of the Aeduan government and spokesmen for the Gallic delegation, expressed concern over Ariovistus’ conquests and the hostages he had taken.[11][12] Ariovistus' demand that the Sequani give him more land to accommodate the Harudes people,[13][14] 'concerned' Rome because, if the Sequani conceded, Ariovistus would be in a position to take all of the Sequani land and attack the rest of Gaul.[13] The Gallic request afforded Caesar the perfect pretext to expand his intervention as "the savior and not the conqueror of Gaul,[15]". Caesar would defeat Ariovistus at the Battle of Vosges. In the following battle against Caesar near Vesontio (Besançon), the Harudes formed one of the seven tribal divisions of Ariovistus' host. After suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of the Romans, the Germani fled back over the Rhine.[16] Caesar would eventually subjugate the whole of Gaul.

See also[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Strabo, Geography 4.3.2
  2. Caesar BG, Book I, Section 12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Caesar BG, Book I, Section 31.
  4. Grant, Julius Caesar, 87
  5. Gérard Walter, Caesar: A Biography, trans. Emma Craufurd( New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), 159
  6. Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar (London, England: Orion Books Ltd, 2007), 246
  7. Cicero, De Divinatione I xli.
  8. Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.19
  9. Decline of the Roman Empire - Vol. 3, Page 477.[Who?]
  10. Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 158
  11. Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 158 and 161
  12. Goldsworthy, Caesar, 271
  13. 13.0 13.1 Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 159
  14. J. F. C Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant (London, England: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1965), 106
  15. Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant, 106
  16. Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War, I.51ff.


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