Defeat of Comius, late 51 B.C.

The defeat of Comius the Atrebatian, late in 51 B.C., was a minor cavalry skirmish noteworthy only for being the last recorded battle of Caesar's Gallic War. Towards the end of 51 B.C. Caesar ordered Marcus Antonius (more familiar at Mark Anthony) to go into winter quarters in the lands of the Atrebates. The Atrebates had submitted to Caesar earlier in the year, after they had been involved in the defeat of the Bellovaci, and they remained quiet throughout the winter.

One exception to this was Comius the Atrebatian. He had remained under arms after his people had submitted, and at the start of the winter he and his mere were almost living as a bandit, surviving on food captured from the Romans by his cavalry. Comius had good reasons not to trust the Romans – earlier in the war he had nearly been captured through trickery. After that he took a vow never to come into the presence of Roman.  

Antonius sent his own cavalry, under the command of Caius Volusenus Quadratus, to chase down Comius's band. A series of minor clashes followed, before eventually the two cavalry leaders came face to face. Volusenus had a personal grudge against Comius, and this nearly led to his death. As Comius retreated after a clash between the two forces, Volusenus led a small force of his cavalry in pursuit. Once Volusenus had been drawn away from his main force the Gauls turned back and attacked him. Some of the Roman cavalry turned and fled, and Volusenus was badly wounded in the thigh (according to the continuation of Caesar's commentary on the Gallic War Comius himself inflicted the wound). The danger to their commander forced the Roman cavalry to return to the fight, and the Gauls suffered heavy casualties.

Comius escaped from the disaster, but soon afterwards he sent messengers to Antonius offering to submit to the Romans. Comius agreed to go wherever Antonius ordered him to, and offered hostages to guarantee his future good behaviour, as long as he didn't have to meet any Romans. By this stage Caesar was determined to make sure that no trouble broke out in Gaul. Antonius, who would have known of this policy, accepted Comius's terms. In the following year Commius fled to Britain, establishing a kingdom south of the Thames.

The Gallic War , Julius Caesar. One of the great works of western civilisation. Caesar was an almost unique example of a great general who was also a great writer. The Gallic War is a first hand account of Caesar's conquest of Gaul, written at the time to explain and justify his actions.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 March 2009), Defeat of Comius, late 51 B.C. , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/defeat_comius.html

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