I remember reading Asterix comics when I was a kid, and being pretty uninterested.
I had to grow up, in all ways, to really appreciate the origins of Asterix, and the history that inspired the character. He was a little Gaulish warrior, running around Europe having adventures–that much I remember.
When I was reminded of Asterix today, I looked it up on Wikipedia and found this, which made me sit up:
If you know me at all, you know that pricked my attention big time.
Today is the 2,122nd anniversary of the Battle of Arausio, which took place in 105BC. If that declaration leaves you blinking, I don’t blame you.
The Battle of Arausio was one of a number of running battles between the Cimri and the Romans. The Cimri were a Germanic tribe that refused to bow down to Roman domination. Because the Roman Republic was still getting its act together, militarily speaking, and the military leaders didn’t cooperate and work together, the Romans got their asses kicked big time in this battle. It was a disaster by all measures. It’s been estimated that over 80,000 Roman soldiers were lost. The Roman army lost tons of equipment and supplies and the Romans lost control of northern Europe. The Republic was forced retreat to lick its wounds.
Biographers of the day, including Plutarch, have reported that the fields where the battle took place were so fertile afterwards, they grew enormous crops for years…because of all the human remains that were left upon them.
I mean…ugh! Although, it’s a measure of how devastating the battle really was for Rome.
Back in Rome itself, the people blamed their leaders for the failure, instead of looking squarely at the structure of the army that led to the confusion and loss…until they elected Gaius Marius as general of the army. Marius cleaned out the army and restructured it, after examining the losses at Arausio.
In other words, Marius learned by their mistakes. His improvements and his leadership as a general and statesman was a turning point for the Roman Republic.
On the other hand, the Cimri moved on to what they thought were bigger and better things, only to be wiped out by the Gauls (Asterix’s tribe) when they took on more than they could chew. No one talks about the Cimri these days, but everyone knows about ancient Rome.
Almost always, screwing up is a good thing…if you learn by it.