Sassoferrato - Marche Region - Italy
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Battle of the Nations

Sassoferrato, a timeless journey in history

Polish your swords, prepare your shields, the historical re-enactment of the Battle of the Nations is coming.

The ancient Sentinum rises from its ashes every last weekend of July, becoming once again the scene of the sanguinary Battle, where in 295 BC the Romans fought against the alliance between Gauls, Samnium, Etruscan and Umbrian peoples.

Over 200 reenactors, 2 historic camps, a Roman one, a Gaul-Samnite one, and food stands focused of local products.

The re-enactment takes place near the Archaeological park of Sentinum  that, for this special event, turns into a huge village where the visitors can experience the daily life of the ancient populations, with areas dedicated to the forge, the kitchen, the coinage , the weaving and in the “Castrum Romanum” the military life not only just the one of the legionnaire.

A unique experience, exciting both for children and adults.

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HISTORYOF THE BATTLE OF THE NATIONS 295 BC

5- Towards the “Battle of Sentino”

In 295BC a memorable battle was fought in the agrum Sentinas (sentinate territory) . During that times Rome was fighting  the third Samnite war- This war is considered very important  as the first Italic war because it wasn’t fought just against the Samnites but it involved also the central-southern Italy populations, that for the first time were lined up either with the Romans or against them.

The Samnites were fighting against the Romans in the Lucania area since 302 BC, while the Umbri had already experienced the founding of a roman colony in 299 BC: the latin colony of Narnia (Narni). . Etruscan cities, on the other hand,were threatened for their commercial interests.

The Umbrian and Etruscan had good reasons to fear losing their independence, while the Galli Senoni considered even their life at risk.

One of the strategists of the anti-romans allience was the Samnite leader Gellio Egnazio. Instead the Picenes , who inhabited the center-southern part of the current Marche region, in 299 BC decided to fight with the Romans, perhaps because of their hate againts the Gaul.

The Senate gave the control of four regions to Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Publius Decius Mus to face the enemies’ troops and oblige them to fight. After a battle near Chiusi , the armed forces moved to the eastern side of the Apennines. Fabius was able to crush the compactness of the opponents, forcing the Etruscan and Umbrian to come back to Chiusi and inland areas, that were attacked by the Romans. So, on a hot summer day, there were two sides fighting against each other:on one side the Romans and their allies (Latin, Campani and some sabellian tribes) and on the other side the Samnite and Galli Senoni.

6 - Troops in the field

The roman legion was formed this time by a phalanx of about 3000 hoplites in addition to the cavalry and the light infantry. Chances are that for the battle of Sentino the line-up was arranged with a manipular form, composed by  small and agile units that were laid down as a checkboard.

The first line consisted often hastati maniples, each one with hundred twenty foot soldiers divided in two centuries ranks. The second line was the principes one: it had the same amount of foot soldiers as the first line but they were arranged in lines that were more open.

The last line was formed by triarii, the veterans, divided in ten maniples of sixty foot soldiers each.

Each maniple was preceded by a variable numbers of velites  , lightly armed foot soldiers that interfered with the enemies by throwing lances and rocket acorns.

Besides the legion there were ten furmae of knights. Next to the roman people, on the outer wings of the formation there stood the allies.

Each consul was in charge of two legions. In this battle it was probable that the Romans lined up four legions of 4.200 foot soldiers and 300 knights each, plus a number of allied foot soldiers that was much bigger, together with 1000 soldiers on a horse from Campania region, for a total amount 40.000 men.

On the other side, there was a higher number of Samnite and Galli Senoni. The Samnite used a manipular strategy similar to the roman one and lined up also the legio linteata , an elite that wore white linen tunics and silver shields. The Gaul arranged themselves in a fixed formation and along with an avant-garde armament they could use cavalry and war wagons where they could move around the battlefield.

7- The battle

The legend has it that before the battle, a doe chased by a wolf appeared in front of the troops :  the doe moved towards the Gaul that stabbed it, while the wolf run towards the roman lines where it was greeted as messenger of the gods.

On the left of the formation, Decius found himself facing the Gaul, while Fabius faced the Samnite. Fabius’s strategy barged the enemy’s front, while Decius impetuosity caused difficulties for the legions, that were saved by the help of a colleague and by a famous gesture: Decius Mus, with and old ritual, the devotio, voted himself to the underworld praying to bring the enemies with him.

So unarmed, he joined the fray and got himself killed. The Romans clearly won, killing 25.000 enemies and making 8.000 men prisoners.

Decius remained in the memory of the Romans for his ultimate self-sacrifice and the Battle of Sentino changed Italy’s destiny, leading the way for Rome to conquer north central Italy.

The battle probably took place on a half-flat area near the river Sentino, from whose name the roman city was named after.

According to Paolo Sommella, the roman camp wasin Stavellina’s area, while the opponent’s ones were between Monterosso and Civitalba and the valley in the middle, crossed by the river Sanguerone, would see the development of the battle.

Other hypothesis were made to identify the site; recently Giulio Firpo, twisting the traditional thesis, suggested the ‘plan of Sentino’ in the municipality of Rapolano, in Tuscany, in the heart of Etruria.