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Battles of ancient Rome

Romans in battle with the Dacians
Romans in battle with Dacians. | Author: Radu Oltean

Ancient Rome, a highly expansionistic empire, was involved in many wars. Led by brilliant generals, highly trained and superbly equipped Roman forces could win against an enemy army twice as strong in numbers. There were, of course, some defeats, like the battles of Cannae or Teutoburg Forest.

The Roman armies have already confirmed their imperial status at the beginning of 2nd century BCE, by massacring the Macedonian army at Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, in 197 BCE Seven years later Roman legions defeated, at Magnesia in Asia Minor, armies of the Seleucid, considered the prime power of the Hellenic world. Thus the legions proved themselves the finest army in the region The decline of legions’ power became apparent in the 3rd century of the Common Era. Eventually, the ‘Germanisation’ of the Roman army and consequential loss of fighting prowess resulted in the fall of both army and the Roman state.

The battles have been arranged in chronological order. HINT: If you are looking for a particular battle, please press CTRL + F to access your browser’s Find functionality.

Battle of the Allia and sack of Rome by the Gauls

Battle of the Allia and sack of Rome by the Gauls (390 BCE)

Battle of the Allia, fought in 390 BCE (according to the Roman calendar) or 387/6 BCE (according to the Greek calendar), between the Romans and Senones, which resulted in the humiliating defeat of Romans. Consequently, a few days after the battle, the Gauls occupied Rome, which plundered completely. (more)

Battle of the Caudine Forks

Battle of the Caudine Forks (321 BCE)

Roman defeat that took place in 321 BCE during the Second Samnite War (327-304 BCE). Romans, trapped by the enemies in the narrow mountain pass called Caudine Forks, had to surrender or perish by sword of thirst. (more)

Battle of Sentinum

Battle of Sentinum (295 BCE)

The battle of Sentinum (295 BCE) was the victory of the Romans over the Samnites. The battle was reportedly the largest battle fought on Italian soil since the founding of Rome. According to Livy’ account, the legions’ victory was decided by “devotio” – ritual sacrifice of the leader in exchange for the victory of the legions. (more)

Battle of Agrigentum

Battle of Agrigentum (261 BCE)

Battle of Agrigentum (261 BCE) was the victorious clash of Roman army over Carthage in the First Punic War. Basing on Polibius, the victory prompted a Republic from the Tiber River to completely remove the enemy from Sicily. (more)

Sea battle at Mylae

Sea battle at Mylae (260 BCE)

A sea battle fought in 260 BCE, during the First Punic War, by the Roman fleet commanded by Gaius Duilius against Carthaginian fleet of Hannibal Gisco. podczas I wojny punickiej. This was the first naval victory of the Rome and first reported use of the ‘corvi’. (more)

Sea battle of Ecnomos Cape

Sea battle of Ecnomos Cape (256 BCE)

A naval battle, fought during the First Punic War between a Roman fleet led by consuls Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Vulson, and a Carthaginian fleet commanded by Hamilcar and Hannon. (more)

Battle of Aspis

Battle of Aspis (255 BCE)

The battle was a victory of Carthaginian land forces over the Romans during First Punic War. The success sustained the hope of eventually winning the war against Rome. (more)

Battle of Panormus

Battle of Panormus (250 BCE)

Battle of Panormus was a clash of Rome and Carthage in 250 BCE, during the First Punic War. The victory at Panormus was a result of the perfect battle plan created by the Romans. (more)

Battle of Drepanum

Battle of Drepanum (249 BCE)

The battle of Drepanum took place between Carthaginian and Roman navies druring First Punic War in 249 BCE It was the sole instance of utter defeat of Roman navy during the Punic Wars. (more)

Battle of the Aegates

Battle of the Aegates (241 BCE)

The battle was a final defeat of Carthaginian navy. It is considered to have sealed the fate of Carthage’s armies on Sicily and its final defeat in First Punic War. (more)

Battle of Telamon

Battle of Telamon (225 BCE)

The battle of Telamon took place in Etruria. The battle was a victory of Roman army led by two consuls over Celtic tribes. (more)

Battle of the Trebia

Battle of the Trebia (218 BCE)

Battle of the Trebia (218 BCE) was the first great clash between Carthage and Rome in the Second Punic War. Republic troops were completely defeated by Hannibal’s army. (more)

Battle of Lake Trasimene

Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 BCE)

One of the major battles of the Second Punic War was fought on 21st of June 217 BCE between the Carthaginian army of Hannibal and the Romans. It was the third decisive victory of Hannibal’s army in the war. (more)

Battle of Cannae

Battle of Cannae (216 BCE)

The greatest victory of Carthaginian army won by Hannibal during the Second Punic War. The armies clashed on the 2nd of August 216 BCE near the village of Cannae in Apulia. By means of novel tactics, Hannibal’s outnumbered forces won a crushing victory against Roman army led by Lucius Aemillius Paulus and Terentius Varro. (more)

Battle of New Carthage

Battle of New Carthage (209 BCE)

Battle of New Carthage (209 BCE) was a great success of the Roman army under the command of Scipio Africanus during the Second Punic War. Rome after a series of failures regained his faith in his own strength and proved determination. (more)

Battle of Baecula

Battle of Baecula (208 BCE)

Battle of Baecula was another victory of Scipio Africanus over the Carthaginian armies in Spain. The battle was important for the further development of Roman war art. Scipio copied Hannibal’s tactics, placing stronger troops on the wings, leaving the center to the light infantry. (more)

Battle of the Metaurus

Battle of the Metaurus (207 BCE)

Battle on the river Metaurus in 207 BCE was a turning point in the Second Punic War fought in Italy. Following the vanquishing of Hazdrubal’s army, Hannibal had to discontinue fighting on Apennine Peninsula. (more)

Battle of Zama

Battle of Zama (202 BCE)

The final clash between Rome and Carthage took place on 19th of October, 202 B.C.E, ending the Second Punic War. The battle sealed Carthage’s defeat.. In the summer of 202 BCE Hannibal was defeated in Africa by the forces of Scipio the Elder, known after this and his previous campaigns in the Second Punic War as “the African” (Scipio Africanus). (more)

Battle of the Aoi Stena

Battle of the Aoi Stena (198 BCE)

Battle of the Aoi Stena (198 BCE) is the next battle characteristic of wars in the Hellenistic East. Roman troops drove the Macedonian troops out of the ravine and forced them to retreat. (more)

Battle of Cynoscephalae

Battle of Cynoscephalae (197 BCE)

Battle of Cynoscephalae (197 BCE) was the decisive battle between Rome and Macedonia in the second Macedonian war. (more)

Battle of Thermopylae

Battle of Thermopylae (191 BCE)

Battle of Thermopylae was won in 191 BCE by the Romans against the army Seleucid king Antiochus III. The clash took place in the fabled Thermopylae pass, where the Spartans held their line three centuries earlier. (more)

Battle of Magnesia

Battle of Magnesia (190 BCE)

The battle of Magnesia was fought by Romans during the war against the Seleucid king Antiochus III The Great. The victory of Rome concluded the conflict with the Seleucid Empire. Peace treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.E). marked the growth or Roman (although for the moment based on client states) hegemony in Eastern Mediterranean. (more)

Battle of Pydna

Battle of Pydna (168 BCE)

An armed clash of Roman army of Aemilius Paulus against the Macedon. The battle, as well as the entire Third Macedonian War was won by Rome, causing the subjugation of Macedon. (more)

Battle of Aquae Sextiae

Battle of Aquae Sextiae (102 BCE)

Battle of Aquae Sextiae saw the victory of Roman legions of Gaius Marius over the Germanic Teuton army. (more)

Battle of Vercellae

Battle of Vercellae (101 BCE)

The battle of Vercellae was fought on 30th of July, 101 BCE between the Roman legions of Gaius Marius and the Germanic tribe of the Cimbri. (more)

Battle of Chaeronea and Orchomenus

Battle of Chaeronea and Orchomenus (86 BCE)

The consecutive battles of Chaeronea and Orchomenus were further clashes in Greek lands of Asia Minor that saw Roman victory over the armies of Pontus. The conquest put a stop to increasingly expansionist ambitions of Mithridates IV. (more)

Battle of Tigranocerta

Battle of Tigranocerta (69 BCE)

Battle of Tigranocerta was fought by Roman army of Lucullus and Armenian army of Tigranes II during the third war waged by Rome against Pontic king Mithritades IV Eupator. (more)

Battle of Carrhae

Battle of Carrhae (53 BCE)


A battle between Roman Legions and Parthians. Roman army, comprised mostly of infantry, could not withstand the attacks of mobile and elusive enemy units. This battle is counted among the worst defeats in the history of the Roman Empire. (more)

Battle of Gergovia

Battle of Gergovia (52 BCE)

Roman army commanded by proconsul Gaius Julius Caesar besieged the chief Gallic fortified settlement, Gergovia. Gallic insurgents were led by Vercingetorix. (more)

Battle of Alesia

Battle of Alesia (52 BCE)

A battle between Roman forces besieging the settlement of Alesia and defending Gallic insurgents. The battle was fought in 52 BCE during Gaius Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. The Roman assault of Alesia is considered the finest and largest siege operation of antiquity. (more)

Siege of Brundisium

Siege of Brundisium (49 BCE)

In 49 BCE Julius Caesar besieged the army of Pompey and himself in Brundisium, in the south of Italy. Gnaeus Pompey needed ships to be evacuated to the Balkan Peninsula. (more)

Battle of Pharsalus

Battle of Pharsalus (48 BCE)

Decisive clash of Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great in their fight for dominance over Rome. It was the defining moment of the civil war. All Roman provinces and client states have now sworn their allegiance to the winner. All Pompey could now count on was the support of troops in Africa that were still faithful to him. (more)

Battle of Zela

Battle of Zela (47 BCE)

A battle fought by Romans during tthe campaign against the Pontic king Pharnaces II. Caesar won at Zela, and the entire campaign took only 5 days – it was this war that Caesar described in his letter to the Senate using the memorable words veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”). After his defeat Pharnaces fled to Crimea, and later that year died there fighting the local usurper. (more)

Battle of Ruspina

Battle of Ruspina and Thapsus (46 BCE)

Battle of Ruspina and Thapsus in 46 BCE were the next stages in the civil war, having a key impact on the further history of the Roman Empire. The battle of Thapsus meant the loss of many senior Pompeian officers and leaders. (more)

Battle of Philippi

Battle of Philippi (42 BCE)

A massive battle between the two factions vying for power after the death of Caesar Mark Anthon and Octavian were considered victorious as the forces of Cassius and Brutus suffered higher casualties. (ead more)

Battle of Actium

Battle of Actium (31 BCE)

A naval battle fought on the 2nd of September 31 BCE It was a final battle of the civil war consuming the Roman Empire, fought by Octavian August against Mark Anthony and his ally Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Octavian won a full victory which allowed him to seize full power in the Empire. (more)

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (9 CE)

A battle fought in the autumn of 9 C.E by three Roman legions (XVII, XVIII, XIX) led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, ambushed by Germanic tribes under the command of Cherusci chieftain Arminius. The clash marked the beginning of a seven-year war that caused the boundary of the Roman Empire to be set on river Rhine. This remained unchanged for four centuries, until the fall of the Empire. (more)

Battle of Watling Street

Battle of Watling Street (61 CE)

The Battle of Watling Street in 61 CE was a final stand of Boudicca uprising. An outnumbered Roman army defeated an overwhelming British force. (more)

Siege of Jerusalem

Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE)

Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE) was a key victory of the Romans during the Jewish uprising. De facto it ended the war in Judea. (more)

Siege of Masada

Siege of Masada (72/73 CE)

The fortress of Masada, besieged by Romans in 73 CE, was the last stronghold of Zealots during the Jewish War. After taking the walls the Romans found all the inhabitants of the fortress dead. (more)

Battle of Immae

Battle of Immae (272 CE)

A battle fought by Roman army against queen Zenobia, who sought the independence of Palmyra. This victory handed to Aurelian the city of Antioch, which was left undefended during the night by Palmyrene troops. The defeated queen retreated to Emessa with the survivors of the onslaught. (more)

Battle of Argentoratum

Battle of Argentoratum (357 CE)

A great victory of emperor Julian the Apostate against the Alamanni, won in spite of their triple numerical advantage. On the day following the battle, the victorious emperor had the Alamanni emissaries released and ordered preparations to cross Rhine, thus facilitating the cease fire between Empire and the Alamanni. (more)

Occupation of Anata

Occupation of Anata (363 CE)

In 363 CE the army of emperor Julian I captured Anata. Anata’s occupation was the first armed clash during the Persian campaign of the great Julian. (more)

Battle of Adrianople

Battle of Adrianople (378 CE)

The battle of Adrianople was the greatest defeat of Rome since the battle of Cannae, and the last battle where the classic Roman tactics of legion combat was applied. The crushing defeat claimed the life of emperor Valens himself. (more)

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (451 CE)

A military clash between Roman Empire and the Huns on the 20th of June 451 CE The battle was won by Rome and is considered to be the last significant victory of the Empire and its allies. (more)

Battle of Ad Decimum

Battle of Ad Decimum (533 CE)

The battle of Ad Decimum was the first battle of the Roman campaign in Africa waged between 533 and 534 CE The victory had significant influence for regaining of the African provinces. The Vandal army was considerably weakened while own losses were minor. (more)

Battle of Tricamerum

Battle of Tricamerum (533 CE)

The battle at Tricamerum (533 C.E) was another victory of the Byzantine general Belisarius against the Vandals. Byzantine army losses were only about 50 men while more than 800 enemies perished. Additionally, the Byzantines took considerable plunder and many captives, effectively ensuring success of the campaign. (more)

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