The news of this battle spread every where, and produced the strongest sensation. Hannibal sent dispatches to Carthage announcing what he considered his final victory over the great foe, and the news was received with the greatest rejoicings. At Rome, on the other hand, the news produced a dreadful shock of disappointment and terror. It seemed as if the last hope of resisting the progress of their terrible enemy was gone, and that they had nothing now to do but to sink down in despair, and await the hour when his columns should come pouring in through the gates of the city.
The people of Rome were, in fact, prepared for a panic, for their fears had been increasing and gathering strength for some time. They were very superstitious in those ancient days in respect to signs and omens. A thousand trifling occurrences, which would, at the present day, be considered of no consequence whatever, were then considered bad signs, auguring terrible calamities; and, on occasions like these, when calamities seemed to be impending, every thing was noticed, and circumstances which would not have been regarded at all at ordinary times, were reported from one to another, the stories being exaggerated as they spread, until the imaginations of the people were filled with mysterious but invincible fears. So universal was the belief in these prodigies and omens, that they were sometimes formally reported to the senate, committees were appointed to inquire into them, and solemn sacrifices were offered to "expiate them," as it was termed, that is, to avert the displeasure of the gods, which the omens were supposed to foreshadow and portend.
A very curious list of these omens was reported to the senate during the winter and spring in which Hannibal was advancing toward Rome. An ox from the cattle-market had got into a house, and, losing his way, had climbed up into the third story, and, being frightened by the noise and uproar of those who followed him, ran out of a window and fell down to the ground. A light appeared in the sky in the form of ships. A temple was struck with lightning. A spear in the hand of a statue of Juno, a celebrated goddess, shook, one day, of itself. Apparitions of men in white garments were seen in a certain place. A wolf came into a camp, and snatched the sword of a soldier on guard out of his hands, and ran away with it. The sun one day looked smaller than usual. Two moons were seen together in the sky. This was in the daytime, and one of the moons was doubtless a halo or a white cloud. Stones fell out of the sky at a place called Picenum. This was one of the most dreadful of all the omens, though it is now known to be a common occurrence.
These omens were all, doubtless, real occurrences, more or less remarkable, it is true, but, of course, entirely unmeaning in respect to their being indications of impending calamities. There were other things reported to the senate which must have originated almost wholly in the imaginations and fears of the observers. Two shields, it was said, in a certain camp, sweated blood. Some people were reaping, and bloody ears of grain fell into the basket. This, of course, must have been wholly imaginary, unless, indeed, one of the reapers had cut his fingers with the sickle. Some streams and fountains became bloody; and, finally, in one place in the country, some goats turned into sheep. A hen, also, became a cock, and a cock changed to a hen.
Such ridiculous stories would not be worthy of a moment's attention now, were it not for the degree of importance attached to them then. They were formally reported to the Roman senate, the witnesses who asserted that they had seen them were called in and examined, and a solemn debate was held on the question what should be done to avert the supernatural influences of evil which the omens expressed. The senate decided to have three days of expiation and sacrifice, during which the whole people of Rome devoted themselves to the religious observances which they thought calculated to appease the wrath of Heaven. They made various offerings and gifts to the different gods, among which one was a golden thunderbolt of fifty pounds' weight, manufactured for Jupiter, whom they considered the thunderer.
All these things took place before the battle at Lake Thrasymene, so that the whole community were in a very feverish state of excitement and anxiety before the news from Flaminius arrived. When these tidings at last came, they threw the whole city into utter consternation. Of course, the messenger went directly to the senate-house to report to the government, but the story that such news had arrived soon spread about the city, and the whole population crowded into the streets and public squares, all eagerly asking for the tidings. An enormous throng assembled before the senate-house calling for information. A public officer appeared at last, and said to them in a loud voice, "We have been defeated in a great battle." He would say no more. Still rumors spread from one to another, until it was generally known throughout the city that Hannibal had conquered the Roman army again in a great battle, that great numbers of the soldiers had fallen or been taken prisoners, and that the consul himself was slain.
The night was passed in great anxiety and terror, and the next day, and for several of the succeeding days, the people gathered in great numbers around the gates, inquiring eagerly for news of every one that came in from the country. Pretty soon scattered soldiers and small bodies of troops began to arrive, bringing with them information of the battle, each one having a different tale to tell, according to his own individual experience in the scene. Whenever these men arrived, the people of the city, and especially the women who had husbands or sons in the army, crowded around them, overwhelming them with questions, and making them tell their tale again and again, as if the intolerable suspense and anxiety of the hearers could not be satisfied. The intelligence was such as in general to confirm and increase the fears of those who listened to it; but sometimes, when it made known the safety of a husband or a son, it produced as much relief and rejoicing as it did in other cases terror and despair. That maternal love was as strong an impulse in those rough days as it is in the more refined and cultivated periods of the present age, is evinced by the fact that two of these Roman mothers, on seeing their sons coming suddenly into their presence, alive and well, when they had heard that they had fallen in battle, were killed at once by the shock of surprise and joy, as if by a blow.
In seasons of great and imminent danger to the commonwealth, it was the custom of the Romans to appoint what they called a dictator, that is, a supreme executive, who was clothed with absolute and unlimited powers; and it devolved on him to save the state from the threatened ruin by the most prompt and energetic action. This case was obviously one of the emergencies requiring such a measure. There was no time for deliberations and debates; for deliberations and debates, in periods of such excitement and danger, become disputes, and end in tumult and uproar. Hannibal was at the head of a victorious army, ravaging the country which he had already conquered, and with no obstacle between him and the city itself. It was an emergency calling for the appointment of a dictator. The people made choice of a man of great reputation for experience and wisdom, named Fabius, and placed the whole power of the state in his hands. All other authority was suspended, and every thing was subjected to his sway. The whole city, with the life and property of every inhabitant, was placed at his disposal; the army and the fleets were also under his command, even the consuls being subject to his orders.
Fabius accepted the vast responsibility which his election imposed upon him, and immediately began to take the necessary measures. He first made arrangements for performing solemn religious ceremonies, to expiate the omens and propitiate the gods. He brought out all the people in great convocations, and made them take vows, in the most formal and imposing manner, promising offerings and celebrations in honor of the various gods, at some future time, in case these divinities would avert the threatening danger. It is doubtful, however, whether Fabius, in doing these things, really believed that they had any actual efficiency, or whether he resorted to them as a means of calming and quieting the minds of the people, and producing that composure and confidence which always results from a hope of the favor of Heaven. If this last was his object, his conduct was eminently wise.
Fabius, also, immediately ordered a large levy of troops to be made. His second in command, called his master of horse, was directed to make this levy, and to assemble the troops at a place called Tibur, a few miles east of the city. There was always a master of horse appointed to attend upon and second a dictator. The name of this officer in the case of Fabius was Minucius. Minucius was as ardent, prompt, and impetuous, as Fabius was cool, prudent, and calculating. He levied the troops and brought them to their place of rendezvous. Fabius went out to take the command of them. One of the consuls was coming to join him, with a body of troops which he had under his command. Fabius sent word to him that he must come without any of the insignia of his authority, as all his authority, semi-regal as it was in ordinary times, was superseded and overruled in the presence of a dictator. A consul was accustomed to move in great state on all occasions. He was preceded by twelve men, bearing badges and insignia, to impress the army and the people with a sense of the greatness of his dignity. To see, therefore, a consul divested of all these marks of his power, and coming into the dictator's presence as any other officer would come before an acknowledged superior, made the army of Fabius feel a very strong sense of the greatness of their new commander's dignity and power.
Fabius then issued a proclamation, which he sent by proper messengers into all the region of country around Rome, especially to that part toward the territory which was in possession of Hannibal. In this proclamation he ordered all the people to abandon the country and the towns which were not strongly fortified, and to seek shelter in the castles, and forts, and fortified cities. They were commanded, also, to lay waste the country which they should leave, and destroy all the property, and especially all the provisions, which they could not take to their places of refuge. This being done, Fabius placed himself at the head of the forces which he had got together, and moved on, cautiously and with great circumspection, in search of his enemy.
In the mean time, Hannibal had crossed over to the eastern side of Italy, and had passed down, conquering and ravaging the country as he went, until he got considerably south of Rome. He seems to have thought it not quite prudent to advance to the actual attack of the city, after the battle of Lake Thrasymene; for the vast population of Rome was sufficient, if rendered desperate by his actually threatening the capture and pillage of the city, to overwhelm his army entirely. So he moved to the eastward, and advanced on that side until he had passed the city, and thus it happened that Fabius had to march to the southward and eastward in order to meet him. The two armies came in sight of each other quite on the eastern side of Italy, very near the shores of the Adriatic Sea.
The policy which Fabius resolved to adopt was, not to give Hannibal battle, but to watch him, and wear his army out by fatigue and delays. He kept, therefore, near him, but always posted his army on advantageous ground, which all the defiance and provocations of Hannibal could not induce him to leave. When Hannibal moved, which he was soon compelled to do to procure provisions, Fabius would move too, but only to post and intrench himself in some place of security as before. Hannibal did every thing in his power to bring Fabius to battle, but all his efforts were unavailing.
In fact, he himself was at one time in imminent danger. He had got drawn, by Fabius's good management, into a place where he was surrounded by mountains, upon which Fabius had posted his troops, and there was only one defile which offered any egress, and this, too, Fabius had strongly guarded. Hannibal resorted to his usual resource, cunning and stratagem, for means of escape. He collected a herd of oxen. He tied fagots across their horns, filling the fagots with pitch, so as to make them highly combustible. In the night on which he was going to attempt to pass the defile, he ordered his army to be ready to march through, and then had the oxen driven up the hills around on the further side of the Roman detachment which was guarding the pass. The fagots were then lighted on the horns of the oxen. They ran about, frightened and infuriated by the fire, which burned their horns to the quick, and blinded them with the sparks which fell from it. The leaves and branches of the forests were set on fire. A great commotion was thus made, and the guards, seeing the moving lights and hearing the tumult, supposed that the Carthaginian army were upon the heights, and were coming down to attack them. They turned out in great hurry and confusion to meet the imaginary foe, leaving the pass unguarded, and, while they were pursuing the bonfires on the oxens' heads into all sorts of dangerous and impracticable places, Hannibal quietly marched his army through the defile and reached a place of safety.
Although Fabius kept Hannibal employed and prevented his approaching the city, still there soon began to be felt a considerable degree of dissatisfaction that he did not act more decidedly. Minucius was continually urging him to give Hannibal battle, and, not being able to induce him to do so, he was continually expressing his discontent and displeasure. The army sympathized with Minucius. He wrote home to Rome too, complaining bitterly of the dictator's inefficiency. Hannibal learned all this by means of his spies, and other sources of information, which so good a contriver as he has always at command. Hannibal was, of course, very much pleased to hear of these dissensions, and of the unpopularity of Fabius. He considered such an enemy as he—so prudent, cautious, and watchful—as a far more dangerous foe than such bold and impetuous commanders as Flaminius and Minucius, whom he could always entice into difficulty, and then easily conquer.
Hannibal thought he would render Minucius a little help in making Fabius unpopular. He found out from some Roman deserters that the dictator possessed a valuable farm in the country, and he sent a detachment of his troops there, with orders to plunder and destroy the property all around it, but to leave the farm of Fabius untouched and in safety. The object was to give to the enemies of Fabius at Rome occasion to say that there was secretly a good understanding between him and Hannibal, and that he was kept back from acting boldly in defense of his country by some corrupt bargain which he had traitorously made with the enemy.
These plans succeeded. Discontent and dissatisfaction spread rapidly, both in the camp and in the city. At Rome they made an urgent demand upon Fabius to return, ostensibly because they wished him to take part in some great religious ceremonies, but really to remove him from the camp, and give Minucius an opportunity to attack Hannibal. They also wished to devise some method, if possible, of depriving him of his power. He had been appointed for six months, and the time had not yet nearly expired: but they wished to shorten, or, if they could not shorten, to limit and diminish his power.
Fabius went to Rome, leaving the army under the orders of Minucius, but commanding him positively not to give Hannibal battle, nor expose his troops to any danger, but to pursue steadily the same policy which he himself had followed. He had, however, been in Rome only a short time before tidings came that Minucius had fought a battle and gained a victory. There were boastful and ostentatious letters from Minucius to the Roman senate, lauding the exploit which he had performed.
Fabius examined carefully the accounts. He compared one thing with another, and satisfied himself of what afterward proved to be the truth, that Minucius had gained no victory at all. He had lost five or six thousand men, and Hannibal had lost no more, and Fabius showed that no advantage had been gained. He urged upon the senate the importance of adhering to the line of policy he had pursued, and the danger of risking every thing, as Minucius had done, on the fortunes of a single battle. Besides, he said, Minucius had disobeyed his orders, which were distinct and positive, and he deserved to be recalled.
In saying these things Fabius irritated and exasperated his enemies more than ever. "Here is a man," said they, "who will not only not fight the enemies whom he is sent against himself, but he will not allow any body else to fight them. Even at this distance, when his second in command has obtained a victory, he will not admit it, and endeavors to curtail the advantages of it. He wishes to protract the war, that he may the longer continue to enjoy the supreme and unlimited authority with which we have intrusted him."
The hostility to Fabius at last reached such a pitch, that it was proposed in an assembly of the people to make Minucius his equal in command. Fabius, having finished the business which called him to Rome, did not wait to attend to the discussion of this question, but left the city, and was proceeding on his way to join the army again, when he was overtaken with a messenger bearing a letter informing him that the decree had passed, and that he must thenceforth consider Minucius as his colleague and equal. Minucius was, of course, extremely elated at this result. "Now," said he, "we will see if something can not be done."
The first question was, however, to decide on what principle and in what way they should share their power. "We can not both command at once," said Minucius. "Let us exercise the power in alternation, each one being in authority for a day, or a week, or a month, or any other period that you prefer."
"No," replied Fabius, "we will not divide the time, we will divide the men. There are four legions. You shall take two of them, and the other two shall be mine. I can thus, perhaps, save half the army from the dangers in which I fear your impetuosity will plunge all whom you have under your command."
This plan was adopted. The army was divided, and each portion went, under its own leader, to its separate encampment. The result was one of the most curious and extraordinary occurrences that is recorded in the history of nations. Hannibal, who was well informed of all these transactions, immediately felt that Minucius was in his power. He knew that he was so eager for battle that it would be easy to entice him into it, under almost any circumstances that he himself might choose to arrange. Accordingly, he watched his opportunity when there was a good place for an ambuscade near Minucius's camp, and lodged five thousand men in it in such a manner that they were concealed by rocks and other obstructions to the view. There was a hill between this ground and the camp of Minucius. When the ambuscade was ready, Hannibal sent up a small force to take possession of the top of the hill, anticipating that Minucius would at once send up a stronger force to drive them away. He did so. Hannibal then sent up more as a re-enforcement. Minucius, whose spirit and pride were now aroused, sent up more still, and thus, by degrees, Hannibal drew out his enemy's whole force, and then, ordering his own troops to retreat before them, the Romans were drawn on, down the hill, till they were surrounded by the ambuscade. These hidden troops then came pouring out upon them, and in a short time the Romans were thrown into utter confusion, flying in all directions before their enemies, and entirely at their mercy.
All would have been irretrievably lost had it not been for the interposition of Fabius. He received intelligence of the danger at his own camp, and marched out at once with all his force, and arrived upon the ground so opportunely, and acted so efficiently, that he at once completely changed the fortune of the day. He saved Minucius and his half of the army from utter destruction. The Carthaginians retreated in their turn, Hannibal being entirely overwhelmed with disappointment and vexation at being thus deprived of his prey. History relates that Minucius had the candor and good sense, after this, to acknowledge his error, and yield to the guidance and direction of Fabius. He called his part of the army together when they reached their camp, and addressed them thus: "Fellow-soldiers, I have often heard it said that the wisest men are those who possess wisdom and sagacity themselves, and, next to them, those who know how to perceive and are willing to be guided by the wisdom and sagacity of others; while they are fools who do not know how to conduct themselves, and will not be guided by those who do. We will not belong to this last class; and since it is proved that we are not entitled to rank with the first, let us join the second. We will march to the camp of Fabius, and join our camp with his, as before. We owe to him, and also to all his portion of the army, our eternal gratitude for the nobleness of spirit which he manifested in coming to our deliverance, when he might so justly have left us to ourselves."
The two legions repaired, accordingly, to the camp of Fabius, and a complete and permanent reconciliation took place between the two divisions of the army. Fabius rose very high in the general esteem by this transaction. The term of his dictatorship, however, expired soon after this, and as the danger from Hannibal was now less imminent, the office was not renewed, but consuls were chosen as before.
The character of Fabius has been regarded with the highest admiration by all mankind. He evinced a very noble spirit in all that he did. One of his last acts was a very striking proof of this. He had bargained with Hannibal to pay a certain sum of money as ransom for a number of prisoners which had fallen into his hands, and whom Hannibal, on the faith of that promise, had released. Fabius believed that the Romans would readily ratify the treaty and pay the amount; but they demurred, being displeased, or pretending to be displeased, because Fabius had not consulted them before making the arrangement. Fabius, in order to preserve his own and his country's faith unsullied, sold his farm to raise the money. He did thus most certainly protect and vindicate his own honor, but he can hardly be said to have saved that of the people of Rome.
THE BATTLE OF CANNAE.
Interest excited by the battle of Cannae.—Various military operations.—State of the public mind at Rome.—The plebeians and patricians.—The consuls AEmilius and Varro.—A new army raised.—Self-confidence of Varro.—Caution of AEmilius.—Views of AEmilius.—Counsel of Fabius.—Conversation between Fabius and AEmilius.—Resolution of AEmilius.—The consuls join the army.—Situation of Hannibal.—Scarcity of food.—Sufferings of Hannibal's troops.—Defeat of a foraging party.—Hannibal's pretended abandonment of his camp.—Mission of Statilius.—The stratagem discovered.—Chagrin of Hannibal and the Romans.—Apulia.—Hannibal marches into Apulia.—The Romans follow him.—The new encampments.—Dissensions between the consuls.—Flight of the inhabitants.—Maneuvers.—The battle of Cannae.—Another stratagem.—Defeat of the Romans.—AEmilius wounded.—Death of AEmilius.—Escape of Varro.—Condition of the battle-field.—The wounded and dying.—The Roman and Carthaginian soldier.—Immense plunder.
The battle of Cannae was the last great battle fought by Hannibal in Italy. This conflict has been greatly celebrated in history, not only for its magnitude, and the terrible desperation with which it was fought, but also on account of the strong dramatic interest which the circumstances attending it are fitted to excite. This interest is perhaps, however, quite as much due to the peculiar skill of the ancient historian who narrates the story, as to the events themselves which he records.
It was about a year after the close of the dictatorship of Fabius that this battle was fought. That interval had been spent by the Roman consuls who were in office during that time in various military operations, which did not, however, lead to any decisive results. In the mean time, there were great uneasiness, discontent, and dissatisfaction at Rome. To have such a dangerous and terrible foe, at the head of forty thousand men, infesting the vicinage of their city, ravaging the territories of their friends and allies, and threatening continually to attack the city itself, was a continual source of anxiety and vexation. It mortified the Roman pride, too, to find that the greatest armies they could raise, and the ablest generals they could choose and commission, proved wholly unable to cope with the foe. The most sagacious of them, in fact, had felt it necessary to decline the contest with him altogether.
This state of things produced a great deal of ill humor in the city. Party spirit ran very high; tumultuous assemblies were held; disputes and contentions prevailed, and mutual criminations and recriminations without end. There were two great parties formed: that of the middling classes on one side, and the aristocracy on the other. The former were called the Plebeians, the latter the Patricians. The division between these two classes was very great and very strongly marked. There was, in consequence of it, infinite difficulty in the election of consuls. At last the consuls were chosen, one from each party. The name of the patrician was Paulus AEmilius. The name of the plebeian was Varro. They were inducted into office, and were thus put jointly into possession of a vast power, to wield which with any efficiency and success would seem to require union and harmony in those who held it, and yet AEmilius and Varro were inveterate and implacable political foes. It was often so in the Roman government. The consulship was a double-headed monster, which spent half its strength in bitter contests waged between its members.
The Romans determined now to make an effectual effort to rid themselves of their foe. They raised an enormous army. It consisted of eight legions. The Roman legion was an army of itself. It contained ordinarily four thousand foot soldiers, and a troop of three hundred horsemen. It was very unusual to have more than two or three legions in the field at a time. The Romans, however, on this occasion, increased the number of the legions, and also augmented their size, so that they contained, each, five thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry. They were determined to make a great and last effort to defend their city, and save the commonwealth from ruin. AEmilius and Varro prepared to take command of this great force, with very strong determinations to make it the means of Hannibal's destruction.
The characters of the two commanders, however, as well as their political connections, were very dissimilar, and they soon began to manifest a very different spirit, and to assume a very different air and bearing, each from the other. AEmilius was a friend of Fabius, and approved of his policy. Varro was for greater promptness and decision. He made great promises, and spoke with the utmost confidence of being able to annihilate Hannibal at a blow. He condemned the policy of Fabius in attempting to wear out the enemy by delays. He said it was a plan of the aristocratic party to protract the war, in order to put themselves in high offices, and perpetuate their importance and influence. The war might have been ended long ago, he said; and he would promise the people that he would now end it, without fail, the very day that he came in sight of Hannibal.
As for AEmilius, he assumed a very different tone. He was surprised, he said, that any man could pretend to decide before he had even left the city, and while he was, of course, entirely ignorant, both of the condition of their own army, and of the position, and designs, and strength of the enemy, how soon and under what circumstances it would be wise to give him battle. Plans must be formed in adaptation to circumstances, as circumstances can not be made to alter to suit plans. He believed that they should succeed in the encounter with Hannibal, but he thought that their only hope of success must be based on the exercise of prudence, caution, and sagacity; he was sure that rashness and folly could only lead in future, as they had always done in the past, to discomfiture and ruin.
It is said that Fabius, the former dictator, conversed with AEmilius before his departure for the army, and gave him such counsel as his age and experience, and his knowledge of the character and operations of Hannibal, suggested to his mind. "If you had a colleague like yourself," said he, "I would not offer you any advice; you would not need it. Or, if you were yourself like your colleague, vain, self-conceited, and presumptuous, then I would be silent; counsel would be thrown away upon you. But as it is, while you have great judgment and sagacity to guide you, you are to be placed in a situation of extreme difficulty and peril. If I am not mistaken, the greatest difficulty you will have to encounter will not be the open enemy you are going to meet upon the field. You will find, I think, that Varro will give you quite as much trouble as Hannibal. He will be presumptuous, reckless, and headstrong. He will inspire all the rash and ardent young men in the army with his own enthusiastic folly, and we shall be very fortunate if we do not yet see the terrible and bloody scenes of Lake Thrasymene acted again. I am sure that the true policy for us to adopt is the one which I marked out. That is always the proper course for the invaded to pursue with invaders, where there is the least doubt of the success of a battle. We grow strong while Hannibal grows continually weaker by delay. He can only prosper so long as he can fight battles and perform brilliant exploits. If we deprive him of this power, his strength will be continually wasting away, and the spirit and courage of his men waning. He has now scarce a third part of the army which he had when he crossed the Iberus, and nothing can save this remnant from destruction if we are wise."
AEmilius said, in reply to this, that he went into the contest with very little of encouragement or hope. If Fabius had found it so difficult to withstand the turbulent influences of his master of horse, who was his subordinate officer, and, as such, under his command, how could he expect to restrain his colleague, who was entitled, by his office, to full equality with him. But, notwithstanding the difficulties which he foresaw, he was going to do his duty, and abide by the result; and if the result should be unfavorable, he should seek for death in the conflict, for death by Carthaginian spears was a far lighter evil, in his view, than the displeasure and censures of his countrymen.
The consuls departed from Rome to join the army, AEmilius attended by a moderate number of men of rank and station, and Varro by a much larger train, though it was formed of people of the lower classes of society. The army was organized, and the arrangements of the encampments perfected. One ceremony was that of administering an oath to the soldiers, as was usual in the Roman armies at the commencement of a campaign. They were made to swear that they would not desert the army, that they would never abandon the post at which they were stationed in fear or in flight, nor leave the ranks except for the purpose of taking up or recovering a weapon, striking an enemy, or protecting a friend. These and other arrangements being completed, the army was ready for the field. The consuls made a different arrangement in respect to the division of their power from that adopted by Fabius and Minucius. It was agreed between them that they would exercise their common authority alternately, each for a day.
In the mean time, Hannibal began to find himself reduced to great difficulty in obtaining provisions for his men. The policy of Fabius had been so far successful as to place him in a very embarrassing situation, and one growing more and more embarrassing every day. He could obtain no food except what he got by plunder, and there was now very little opportunity for that, as the inhabitants of the country had carried off all the grain and deposited it in strongly-fortified towns; and though Hannibal had great confidence in his power to cope with the Roman army in a regular battle on an open field, he had not strength sufficient to reduce citadels or attack fortified camps. His stock of provisions had become, therefore, more and more nearly exhausted, until now he had a supply for only ten days, and he saw no possible mode of increasing it.
His great object was, therefore, to bring on a battle. Varro was ready and willing to give him battle, but AEmilius, or, to call him by his name in full, Paulus AEmilius, which is the appellation by which he is more frequently known, was very desirous to persevere in the Fabian policy till the ten days had expired, after which he knew that Hannibal must be reduced to extreme distress, and might have to surrender at once to save his army from actual famine. In fact, it was said that the troops were on such short allowance as to produce great discontent, and that a large body of Spaniards were preparing to desert and go over together to the Roman camp.
Things were in this state, when, one day, Hannibal sent out a party from his camp to procure food, and AEmilius, who happened to hold the command that day, sent out a strong force to intercept them. He was successful. The Carthaginian detachment was routed. Nearly two thousand men were killed, and the rest fled, by any roads they could find, back to Hannibal's camp. Varro was very eager to follow them there, but AEmilius ordered his men to halt. He was afraid of some trick or treachery on the part of Hannibal, and was disposed to be satisfied with the victory he had already won.
This little success, however, only inflamed Varro's ardor for a battle, and produced a general enthusiasm in the Roman army; and, a day or two afterward, a circumstance occurred which raised this excitement to the highest pitch. Some reconnoiterers, who had been stationed within sight of Hannibal's camp to watch the motions and indications there, sent in word to the consuls that the Carthaginian guards around their encampment had all suddenly disappeared, and that a very extraordinary and unusual silence reigned within. Parties of the Roman soldiers went up gradually and cautiously to the Carthaginian lines, and soon found that the camp was deserted, though the fires were still burning and the tents remained. This intelligence, of course, put the whole Roman army into a fever of excitement and agitation. They crowded around the consuls' pavilions, and clamorously insisted on being led on to take possession of the camp, and to pursue the enemy. "He has fled," they said, "and with such precipitation that he has left the tents standing and his fires still burning. Lead us on in pursuit of him."
Varro was as much excited as the rest. He was eager for action. AEmilius hesitated. He made particular inquiries. He said they ought to proceed with caution. Finally, he called up a certain prudent and sagacious officer, named Statilius, and ordered him to take a small body of horsemen, ride over to the Carthaginian camp, ascertain the facts exactly, and report the result. Statilius did so. When he reached the lines he ordered his troops to halt, and took with him two horsemen on whose courage and strength he could rely, and rode in. The three horsemen rode around the camp and examined every thing with a view of ascertaining whether Hannibal had really abandoned his position and fled, or whether some stratagem was intended.
When he came back he reported to the army that, in his opinion, the desertion of the camp was not real, but a trick to draw the Romans into some difficulty. The fires were the largest on the side toward the Romans, which indicated that they were built to deceive. He saw money, too, and other valuables strewed about upon the ground, which appeared to him much more like a bait set in a trap, than like property abandoned by fugitives as incumbrances to flight. Varro was not convinced; and the army, hearing of the money, were excited to a greater eagerness for plunder. They could hardly be restrained. Just then, however, two slaves that had been taken prisoners by the Carthaginians some time before, came into the Roman camp. They told the consuls that the whole Carthaginian force was hid in ambush very near, waiting for the Romans to enter their encampment, when they were going to surround them and cut them to pieces. In the bustle and movement attendant on this plan, the slaves had escaped. Of course, the Roman army were now satisfied. They returned, chagrined and disappointed, to their own quarters, and Hannibal, still more chagrined and disappointed, returned to his.
He soon found, however, that he could not remain any longer where he was. His provisions were exhausted, and he could obtain no more. The Romans would not come out of their encampment to give him battle on equal terms, and they were too strongly intrenched to be attacked where they were. He determined, therefore, to evacuate that part of the country, and move, by a sudden march, into Apulia.
Apulia was on the eastern side of Italy. The River Aufidus runs through it, having a town named Cannae near its mouth. The region of the Aufidus was a warm and sunny valley, which was now waving with ripening grain. Being further south than the place where he had been, and more exposed to the influence of the sun, Hannibal thought that the crops would be sooner ripe, and that, at least, he should have a new field to plunder.
He accordingly decided now to leave his camp in earnest, and move into Apulia. He made the same arrangements as before, when his departure was a mere pretense. He left tents pitched and fires burning, but marched his army off the ground by night and secretly, so that the Romans did not perceive his departure; and the next day, when they saw the appearances of silence and solitude about the camp, they suspected another deception, and made no move themselves. At length, however, intelligence came that the long columns of Hannibal's army had been seen already far to the eastward, and moving on as fast as possible, with all their baggage. The Romans, after much debate and uncertainty, resolved to follow. The eagles of the Apennines looked down upon the two great moving masses, creeping slowly along through the forests and valleys, like swarms of insects, one following the other, led on by a strange but strong attraction, drawing them toward each other when at a distance but kept asunder by a still stronger repulsion when near.
The Roman army came up with that of Hannibal on the River Aufidus, near Cannae, and the two vast encampments were formed with all the noise and excitement attendant on the movements of two great armies posting themselves on the eve of a battle, in the neighborhood of each other. In the Roman camp, the confusion was greatly aggravated by the angry disputes which immediately arose between the consuls and their respective adherents as to the course to be pursued. Varro insisted on giving the Carthaginians immediate battle. AEmilius refused. Varro said that he must protest against continuing any longer these inexcusable delays, and insist on a battle. He could not consent to be responsible any further for allowing Italy to lie at the mercy of such a scourge. AEmilius replied, that if Varro did precipitate a battle, he himself protested against his rashness, and could not be, in any degree, responsible for the result. The various officers took sides, some with one consul and some with the other, but most with Varro. The dissension filled the camp with excitement, agitation, and ill will.
In the mean time, the inhabitants of the country into which these two vast hordes of ferocious, though restrained and organized combatants, had made such a sudden irruption, were flying as fast as they could from the awful scene which they expected was to ensue. They carried from their villages and cabins what little property could be saved, and took the women and children away to retreats and fastnesses, wherever they imagined they could find temporary concealment or protection. The news of the movement of the two armies spread throughout the country, carried by hundreds of refugees and messengers, and all Italy, looking on with suspense and anxiety, awaited the result.
The armies maneuvered for a day or two, Varro, during his term of command, making arrangements to promote and favor an action, and AEmilius, on the following day, doing every thing in his power to prevent it. In the end, Varro succeeded. The lines were formed and the battle must be begun. AEmilius gave up the contest now, and while he protested earnestly against the course which Varro pursued, he prepared to do all in his power to prevent a defeat, since there was no longer a possibility of avoiding a collision.
The battle began, and the reader must imagine the scene, since no pen can describe it. Fifty thousand men on one side and eighty thousand on the other, at work hard and steadily, for six hours, killing each other by every possible means of destruction—stabs, blows, struggles, outcries, shouts of anger and defiance, and screams of terror and agony, all mingled together, in one general din, which covered the whole country for an extent of many miles, all together constituted a scene of horror of which none but those who have witnessed great battles can form any adequate idea.
It seems as if Hannibal could do nothing without stratagem. In the early part of this conflict he sent a large body of his troops over to the Romans as deserters. They threw down their spears and bucklers, as they reached the Roman lines, in token of surrender. The Romans received them, opened a passage for them through into the rear, and ordered them to remain there. As they were apparently unarmed, they left only a very small guard to keep them in custody. The men had, however, daggers concealed about their dress, and, watching a favorable moment, in the midst of the battle, they sprang to their feet, drew out their weapons, broke away from their guard, and attacked the Romans in the rear at a moment when they were so pressed by the enemy in front that they could scarcely maintain their ground.
It was evident before many hours that the Roman forces were every where yielding. From slowly and reluctantly yielding they soon began to fly. In the flight, the weak and the wounded were trampled under foot by the throng who were pressing on behind them, or were dispatched by wanton blows from enemies as they passed in pursuit of those who were still able to fly. In the midst of this scene, a Roman officer named Lentulus, as he was riding away, saw before him at the road-side another officer wounded, sitting upon a stone, faint and bleeding. He stopped when he reached him, and found that it was the consul AEmilius. He had been wounded in the head with a sling, and his strength was almost gone. Lentulus offered him his horse, and urged him to take it and fly. AEmilius declined the offer. He said it was too late for his life to be saved, and that, besides, he had no wish to save it. "Go on, therefore, yourself," said he, "as fast as you can. Make the best of your way to Rome. Tell the authorities there, from me, that all is lost, and they must do whatever they can themselves for the defense of the city. Make all the speed you can, or Hannibal will be at the gates before you."
AEmilius sent also a message to Fabius, declaring to him that it was not his fault that a battle had been risked with Hannibal. He had done all in his power, he said, to prevent it, and had adhered to the policy which Fabius had recommended to the last. Lentulus having received these messages, and perceiving that the Carthaginians were close upon him in pursuit, rode away, leaving the consul to his fate. The Carthaginians came on, and, on seeing the wounded man, they thrust their spears into his body, one after another, as they passed, until his limbs ceased to quiver. As for the other consul, Varro, he escaped with his life. Attended by about seventy horsemen, he made his way to a fortified town not very remote from the battle-field, where he halted with his horsemen, and determined that he would attempt to rally there the remains of the army.
The Carthaginians, when they found the victory complete, abandoned the pursuit of the enemy, returned to their camp, spent some hours in feasting and rejoicing, and then laid down to sleep. They were, of course, well exhausted by the intense exertions of the day. On the field where the battle had been fought, the wounded lay all night mingled with the dead, filling the air with cries and groans, and writhing in their agony.
Early the next morning the Carthaginians came back to the field to plunder the dead bodies of the Romans. The whole field presented a most shocking spectacle to the view. The bodies of horses and men lay mingled in dreadful confusion, as they had fallen, some dead, others still alive, the men moaning, crying for water, and feebly struggling from time to time to disentangle themselves from the heaps of carcasses under which they were buried. The deadly and inextinguishable hate which the Carthaginians felt for their foes not having been appeased by the slaughter of forty thousand of them, they beat down and stabbed these wretched lingerers wherever they found them, as a sort of morning pastime after the severer labors of the preceding day. This slaughter, however, could hardly be considered a cruelty to the wretched victims of it, for many of them bared their breasts to their assailants, and begged for the blow which was to put an end to their pain. In exploring the field, one Carthaginian soldier was found still alive, but imprisoned by the dead body of his Roman enemy lying upon him. The Carthaginian's face and ears were shockingly mangled. The Roman, having fallen upon him when both were mortally wounded, had continued the combat with his teeth when he could no longer use his weapon, and had died at last, binding down his exhausted enemy with his own dead body.
The Carthaginians secured a vast amount of plunder. The Roman army was full of officers and soldiers from the aristocratic ranks of society, and their arms and their dress were very valuable. The Carthaginians obtained some bushels of gold rings from their fingers, which Hannibal sent to Carthage as a trophy of his victory.
Reason of Hannibal's success.—The Scipios.—Fragments of the Roman army.—Scipio elected commander.—Scipio's energy.—Case of Metellus.—Metellus yields.—Consternation at Rome.—The senate adjourns.—Hannibal refuses to march to Rome.—Hannibal makes his head-quarters at Capua.—Hannibal sends Mago to Carthage.—Mago's speech.—The bag of rings.—Debate in the Carthaginian senate.—The speech of Hanno in the Carthaginian senate.—Progress of the war.—Enervation of Hannibal's army.—Decline of the Carthaginian power.—Marcellus.—Success of the Romans.—Siege of Capua.—Hannibal's attack on the Roman camp.—He marches to Rome.—Preparations for a battle.—Prevented by storms.—Sales at auction.—Hasdrubal crosses the Alps.—Livius and Nero.—Division of the provinces.—The intercepted letters.—Nero's perplexity.—Laws of military discipline.—Their strictness and severity.—Danger of violating discipline.—An illustration.—Plan of Nero.—A night march.—Livius and Nero attack Hasdrubal.—Hasdrubal orders a retreat.—Butchery of Hasdrubal's army.—Hasdrubal's death.—Progress of the Roman arms.—Successes of Scipio.—Scipio in Africa.—Carthage threatened.—A truce.—Hannibal recalled.—Hannibal raises a new army.—The Romans capture his spies.—Negotiations.—Interview between Hannibal and Scipio.—The last battle.—Defeat of the Carthaginians.
The true reason why Hannibal could not be arrested in his triumphant career seems not to have been because the Romans did not pursue the right kind of policy toward him, but because, thus far, they had no general who was his equal. Whoever was sent against him soon proved to be his inferior. Hannibal could out-maneuver them all in stratagem, and could conquer them on the field. There was, however, now destined to appear a man capable of coping with Hannibal. It was young Scipio, the one who saved the life of his father at the battle of Ticinus. This Scipio, though the son of Hannibal's first great antagonist of that name, is commonly called, in history, the elder Scipio; for there was another of his name after him, who was greatly celebrated for his wars against the Carthaginians in Africa. These last two received from the Roman people the surname of Africanus, in honor of their African victories, and the one who now comes upon the stage was called Scipio Africanus the elder, or sometimes simply the elder Scipio. The deeds of the Scipio who attempted to stop Hannibal at the Rhone and upon the Po were so wholly eclipsed by his son, and by the other Scipio who followed him, that the former is left out of view and forgotten in designating and distinguishing the others.
Our present Scipio first appears upon the stage, in the exercise of military command, after the battle of Cannae. He was a subordinate officer and on the day following the battle he found himself at a place called Canusium, which was at a short distance from Cannae, on the way toward Rome, with a number of other officers of his own rank, and with broken masses and detachments of the army coming in from time to time, faint, exhausted, and in despair. The rumor was that both consuls were killed. These fragments of the army had, therefore, no one to command them. The officers met together, and unanimously agreed to make Scipio their commander in the emergency, until some superior officer should arrive, or they should get orders from Rome.
An incident here occurred which showed, in a striking point of view, the boldness and energy of the young Scipio's character. At the very meeting in which he was placed in command, and when they were overwhelmed with perplexity and care, an officer came in, and reported that in another part of the camp there was an assembly of officers and young men of rank, headed by a certain Metellus, who had decided to give up the cause of their country in despair, and that they were making arrangements to proceed immediately to the sea-coast, obtain ships, and sail away to seek a new home in some foreign lands, considering their cause in Italy as utterly lost and ruined. The officer proposed that they should call a council and deliberate what was best to do.
"Deliberate!" said Scipio; "this is not a case for deliberation, but for action. Draw your swords and follow me." So saying, he pressed forward at the head of the party to the quarters of Metellus. They marched boldly into the apartment where he and his friends were in consultation. Scipio held up his sword, and in a very solemn manner pronounced an oath, binding himself not to abandon his country in this the hour of her distress, nor to allow any other Roman citizen to abandon her. If he should be guilty of such treason, he called upon Jupiter, by the most dreadful imprecations, to destroy him utterly, house, family, fortune, soul, and body.
"And now, Metellus, I call upon you," said he, "and all who are with you, to take the same oath. You must do it, otherwise you have got to defend yourselves against these swords of ours, as well as those of the Carthaginians." Metellus and his party yielded. Nor was it wholly to fear that they yielded. It was to the influence of hope quite as much as to that of fear. The courage, the energy, and the martial ardor which Scipio's conduct evinced awakened a similar spirit in them, and made them hope again that possibly their country might yet be saved.
The news of the awful defeat and destruction of the Roman army flew swiftly to Rome, and produced universal consternation. The whole city was in an uproar. There were soldiers in the army from almost every family, so that every woman and child throughout the city was distracted by the double agitation of inconsolable grief at the death of their husband or their father, slain in the battle, and of terrible fear that Hannibal and his raging followers were about to burst in through the gates of the city to murder them. The streets of the city, and especially the Forum, were thronged with vast crowds of men, women, and children, who filled the air with loud lamentations, and with cries of terror and despair.
The magistrates were not able to restore order. The senate actually adjourned, that the members of it might go about the city, and use their influence and their power to produce silence at least, if they could not restore composure. The streets were finally cleared. The women and children were ordered to remain at home. Armed patrols were put on guard to prevent tumultuous assemblies forming. Men were sent off on horseback on the road to Canusium and Cannae, to get more accurate intelligence, and then the senate assembled again, and began to consider, with as much of calmness as they could command, what was to be done.
The panic at Rome was, however, in some measure, a false alarm, for Hannibal, contrary to the expectation of all Italy, did not go to Rome. His generals urged him very strongly to do so. Nothing could prevent, they said, his gaining immediate possession of the city. But Hannibal refused to do this. Rome was strongly fortified, and had an immense population. His army, too, was much weakened by the battle of Cannae, and he seems to have thought it most prudent not to attempt the reduction of Rome until he should have received re-enforcements from home. It was now so late in the season that he could not expect such re-enforcements immediately, and he accordingly determined to select some place more accessible than Rome and make it his head-quarters for the winter. He decided in favor of Capua, which was a large and powerful city one or two hundred miles southeast of Rome.
Hannibal, in fact, conceived the design of retaining possession of Italy and of making Capua the capital of the country, leaving Rome to itself, to decline, as under such circumstances it inevitably must, to the rank of a second city. Perhaps he was tired of the fatigues and hazards of war, and having narrowly escaped ruin before the battle of Cannae, he now resolved that he would not rashly incur any new dangers. It was a great question with him whether he should go forward to Rome, or attempt to build up a new capital of his own at Capua. The question which of these two he ought to have done was a matter of great debate then, and it has been discussed a great deal by military men in every age since his day. Right or wrong, Hannibal decided to establish his own capital at Capua, and to leave Rome, for the present, undisturbed.
He, however, sent immediately to Carthage for re-enforcements. The messenger whom he sent was one of his generals named Mago. Mago made the best of his way to Carthage with his tidings of victory and his bushel of rings, collected, as has been already said, from the field of Cannae. The city of Carthage was greatly excited by the news which he brought. The friends and patrons of Hannibal were elated with enthusiasm and pride, and they taunted and reproached his enemies with the opposition to him they had manifested when he was originally appointed to the command of the army of Spain.
Mago met the Carthaginian senate, and in a very spirited and eloquent speech he told them how many glorious battles Hannibal had fought, and how many victories he had won. He had contended with the greatest generals that the Romans could bring against him, and had conquered them all. He had slain, he said, in all, over two hundred thousand men. All Italy was now subject to his power; Capua was his capital, and Rome had fallen. He concluded by saying that Hannibal was in need of considerable additional supplies of men, and money, and provisions, which he did not doubt the Carthaginians would send without any unnecessary delay. He then produced before the senate the great bag of rings which he had brought, and poured them upon the pavement of the senate-house as a trophy of the victories which he had been announcing.
This would, perhaps, have all been very well for Hannibal if his friends had been contented to have left the case where Mago left it; but some of them could not resist the temptation of taunting his enemies, and especially Hanno, who, as will be recollected, originally opposed his being sent to Spain. They turned to him, and asked him triumphantly what he thought now of his factious opposition to so brave a warrior. Hanno rose. The senate looked toward him and were profoundly silent, wondering what he would have to reply. Hanno, with an air of perfect ease and composure, spoke somewhat as follows:
"I should have said nothing, but should have allowed the senate to take what action they pleased on Mago's proposition if I had not been particularly addressed. As it is, I will say that I think now just as I always have thought. We are plunged into a most costly and most useless war, and are, as I conceive, no nearer the end of it now than ever, notwithstanding all these boasted successes. The emptiness of them is clearly shown by the inconsistency of Hannibal's pretensions as to what he has done, with the demands that he makes in respect to what he wishes us to do. He says he has conquered all his enemies, and yet he wants us to send him more soldiers. He has reduced all Italy—the most fertile country in the world—to subjection, and reigns over it at Capua, and yet he calls upon us for corn. And then, to crown all, he sends us bushels of gold rings as a specimen of the riches he has obtained by plunder, and accompanies the offering with a demand for new supplies of money. In my opinion, his success is all illusive and hollow. There seems to be nothing substantial in his situation except his necessities, and the heavy burdens upon the state which these necessities impose."
Notwithstanding Hanno's sarcasms, the Carthaginians resolved to sustain Hannibal, and to send him the supplies that he needed. They were, however, long in reaching him. Various difficulties and delays occurred. The Romans, though they could not dispossess Hannibal from his position in Italy, raised armies in different countries, and waged extended wars with the Carthaginians and their allies, in various parts of the world, both by sea and land.
The result was, that Hannibal remained fifteen or sixteen years in Italy, engaged, during all this time, in a lingering struggle with the Roman power, without ever being able to accomplish any decisive measures. During this period he was sometimes successful and victorious, and sometimes he was very hard pressed by his enemies. It is said that his army was very much enervated and enfeebled by the comforts and luxuries they enjoyed at Capua. Capua was a very rich and beautiful city, and the inhabitants of it had opened their gates to Hannibal of their own accord, preferring, as they said, his alliance to that of the Romans. The officers—as the officers of an army almost always do, when they find themselves established in a rich and powerful city, after the fatigues of a long and honorable campaign—gave themselves up to festivities and rejoicing, to games, shows, and entertainments of every kind, which they soon learned infinitely to prefer to the toil and danger of marches and battles.
Whatever may have been the cause, there is no question about the fact that, from the time Hannibal and his army got possession of their comfortable quarters in Capua, the Carthaginian power began gradually to decline. As Hannibal determined to make that city the Italian capital instead of Rome, he, of course, when established there, felt in some degree settled and at home, and was less interested than he had been in plans for attacking the ancient capital. Still, the war went on; many battles were fought, many cities were besieged, the Roman power gaining ground all the time, though not, however, by any very decisive victories.
In these contests there appeared, at length, a new Roman general named Marcellus, and, either on account of his possessing a bolder and more active temperament, or else in consequence of the change in the relative strength of the two contending powers, he pursued a more aggressive policy than Fabius had thought it prudent to attempt. Marcellus was, however, cautious and wary in his enterprises, and he laid his plans with so much sagacity and skill that he was almost always successful. The Romans applauded very highly his activity and ardor, without, however, forgetting their obligations to Fabius for his caution and defensive reserve. They said that Marcellus was the sword of their commonwealth, as Fabius had been its shield.
The Romans continued to prosecute this sort of warfare, being more and more successful the longer they continued it, until, at last, they advanced to the very walls of Capua, and threatened it with a siege. Hannibal's intrenchments and fortifications were too strong for them to attempt to carry the city by a sudden assault, nor were the Romans even powerful enough to invest the place entirely, so as completely to shut their enemies in. They, however, encamped with a large army in the neighborhood, and assumed so threatening an attitude as to keep Hannibal's forces within in a state of continual alarm. And, besides the alarm, it was very humiliating and mortifying to Carthaginian pride to find the very seat of their power, as it were, shut up and overawed by an enemy over whom they had been triumphing themselves so short a time before, by a continued series of victories.
Hannibal was not himself in Capua at the time that the Romans came to attack it. He marched, however, immediately to its relief, and attacking the Romans in his turn, endeavored to compel them to raise the siege, as it is technically termed, and retire. They had, however, so intrenched themselves in the positions that they had taken, and the assaults with which he encountered them had lost so much of their former force, that he could accomplish nothing decisive. He then left the ground with his army, and marched himself toward Rome. He encamped in the vicinity of the city, and threatened to attack it; but the walls, and castles, and towers with which Rome, as well as Capua, was defended, were too formidable, and the preparations for defense too complete, to make it prudent for him really to assail the city. His object was to alarm the Romans, and compel them to withdraw their forces from his capital that they might defend their own.
There was, in fact, some degree of alarm awakened, and in the discussions which took place among the Roman authorities, the withdrawal of their troops from Capua was proposed; but this proposal was overruled; even Fabius was against it. Hannibal was no longer to be feared. They ordered back a small detachment from Capua, and added to it such forces as they could raise within the city, and then advanced to give Hannibal battle. The preparations were all made, it is said, for an engagement, but a violent storm came on, so violent as to drive the combatants back to their respective camps. This happened, the great Roman historian gravely says, two or three times in succession; the weather immediately becoming serene again, each time, as soon as the respective generals had withdrawn their troops from the intended fight. Something like this may perhaps have occurred, though the fact doubtless was that both parties were afraid, each of the other, and were disposed to avail themselves of any excuse to postpone a decisive conflict. There was a time when Hannibal had not been deterred from attacking the Romans even by the most tempestuous storms.
Thus, though Hannibal did, in fact, in the end, get to the walls of Rome, he did nothing but threaten when he was there, and his encampment near the city can only be considered as a bravado. His presence seems to have excited very little apprehension within the city. The Romans had, in fact, before this time, lost their terror of the Carthaginian arms. To show their contempt of Hannibal, they sold, at public auction the land on which he was encamped, while he was upon it besieging the city, and it brought the usual price. The bidders were, perhaps, influenced somewhat by a patriotic spirit, and by a desire to taunt Hannibal with an expression of their opinion that his occupation of the land would be a very temporary encumbrance. Hannibal, to revenge himself for this taunt, put up for sale at auction, in his own camp, the shops of one of the principal streets of Rome, and they were bought by his officers with great spirit. It showed that a great change had taken place in the nature of the contest between Carthage and Rome, to find these vast powers, which were a few years before grappling each other with such destructive and terrible fury on the Po and at Cannae, now satisfying their declining animosity with such squibbing as this.
When the other modes by which Hannibal attempted to obtain re-enforcements failed, he made an attempt to have a second army brought over the Alps under the command of his brother Hasdrubal. It was a large army, and in their march they experienced the same difficulties, though in a much lighter degree, that Hannibal had himself encountered. And yet, of the whole mighty mass which set out from Spain, nothing reached Hannibal except his brother's head. The circumstances of the unfortunate termination of Hasdrubal's attempt were as follows:
When Hasdrubal descended from the Alps, rejoicing in the successful manner in which he had surmounted those formidable barriers, he imagined that all his difficulties were over. He dispatched couriers to his brother Hannibal, informing him that he had scaled the mountains, and that he was coming on as rapidly as possible to his aid.
The two consuls in office at this time were named, the one Nero, and the other Livius. To each of these, as was usual with the Roman consuls, was assigned a particular province, and a certain portion of the army to defend it, and the laws enjoined it upon them very strictly not to leave their respective provinces, on any pretext whatever, without authority from the Roman Legislature. In this instance Livius had been assigned to the northern part of Italy, and Nero to the southern. It devolved upon Livius, therefore, to meet and give battle to Hasdrubal on his descent from the Alps, and to Nero to remain in the vicinity of Hannibal, to thwart his plans, oppose his progress, and, if possible, conquer and destroy him, while his colleague prevented his receiving the expected re-enforcements from Spain.
Things being in this state, the couriers whom Hasdrubal sent with his letters had the vigilance of both consuls to elude before they could deliver them into Hannibal's hands. They did succeed in passing Livius, but they were intercepted by Nero. The patrols who seized these messengers brought them to Nero's tent. Nero opened and read the letters. All Hasdrubal's plans and arrangements were detailed in them very fully, so that Nero perceived that, if he were at once to proceed to the northward with a strong force, he could render his colleague such aid as, with the knowledge of Hasdrubal's plans, which he had obtained from the letters, would probably enable them to defeat him; whereas, if he were to leave Livius in ignorance and alone, he feared that Hasdrubal would be successful in breaking his way through, and in ultimately effecting his junction with Hannibal. Under these circumstances, he was, of course, very earnestly desirous of going northward to render the necessary aid, but he was strictly forbidden by law to leave his own province to enter that of his colleague without an authority from Rome, which there was not now time to obtain.
The laws of military discipline are very strict and imperious, and in theory they are never to be disobeyed. Officers and soldiers, of all ranks and gradations, must obey the orders which they receive from the authority above them, without looking at the consequences, or deviating from the line marked out on any pretext whatever. It is, in fact, the very essence of military subordination and efficiency, that a command, once given, suspends all exercise of judgment or discretion on the part of the one to whom it is addressed; and a good general or a good government would prefer generally that harm should be done by a strict obedience to commands, rather than a benefit secured by an unauthorized deviation from them. It is a good principle, not only in war, but in all those cases in social life where men have to act in concert, and yet wish to secure efficiency in action.
And yet there are cases of exception—cases where the necessity is so urgent, or the advantages to be derived are so great; where the interests involved are so momentous, and the success so sure, that a commander concludes to disobey and take the responsibility. The responsibility is, however, very great, and the danger in assuming it extreme. He who incurs it makes himself liable to the severest penalties, from which nothing but clear proof of the most imperious necessity, and, in addition to it, the most triumphant success, can save him. There is somewhere in English history a story of a naval commander, in the service of an English queen, who disobeyed the orders of his superiors at one time, in a case of great emergency at sea, and gained by so doing a very important victory. Immediately afterward he placed himself under arrest, and went into port as a prisoner accused of crime instead of a commander triumphing in his victory. He surrendered himself to the queen's officers of justice, and sent word to the queen herself that he knew very well that death was the penalty for his offense, but that he was willing to sacrifice his life in any way in the service of her majesty. He was pardoned!
Nero, after much anxious deliberation, concluded that the emergency in which he found himself placed was one requiring him to take the responsibility of disobedience. He did not, however, dare to go northward with all his forces, for that would be to leave southern Italy wholly at the mercy of Hannibal. He selected, therefore, from his whole force, which consisted of forty thousand men, seven or eight thousand of the most efficient and trustworthy; the men on whom he could most securely rely, both in respect to their ability to bear the fatigues of a rapid march, and the courage and energy with which they would meet Hasdrubal's forces in battle at the end of it. He was, at the time when Hasdrubal's letters were intercepted, occupying a spacious and well-situated camp. This he enlarged and strengthened, so that Hannibal might not suspect that he intended any diminution of the forces within. All this was done very promptly, so that, in a few hours after he received the intelligence on which he was acting, he was drawing off secretly, at night, a column of six or eight thousand men, none of whom knew at all where they were going.
He proceeded as rapidly as possible to the northward, and, when he arrived in the northern province, he contrived to get into the camp of Livius as secretly as he had got out from his own. Thus, of the two armies, the one where an accession of force was required was greatly strengthened at the expense of the other, without either of the Carthaginian generals having suspected the change.
Livius was rejoiced to get so opportune a re-enforcement. He recommended that the troops should all remain quietly in camp for a short time, until the newly-arrived troops could rest and recruit themselves a little after their rapid and fatiguing march; but Nero opposed this plan, and recommended an immediate battle. He knew the character of the men that he had brought, and he was, besides, unwilling to risk the dangers which might arise in his own camp, in southern Italy, by too long an absence from it. It was decided, accordingly, to attack Hasdrubal at once, and the signal for battle was given.
It is not improbable that Hasdrubal would have been beaten by Livius alone, but the additional force which Nero had brought made the Romans altogether too strong for him. Besides, from his position in the front of the battle, he perceived, from some indications that his watchful eye observed, that a part of the troops attacking him were from the southward; and he inferred from this that Hannibal had been defeated, and that, in consequence of this, the whole united force of the Roman army was arrayed against him. He was disheartened and discouraged, and soon ordered a retreat. He was pursued by the various divisions of the Roman army, and the retreating columns of the Carthaginians were soon thrown into complete confusion. They became entangled among rivers and lakes; and the guides who had undertaken to conduct the army, finding that all was lost, abandoned them and fled, anxious only to save their own lives. The Carthaginians were soon pent up in a position where they could not defend themselves, and from which they could not escape. The Romans showed them no mercy, but went on killing their wretched and despairing victims until the whole army was almost totally destroyed. They cut off Hasdrubal's head, and Nero sat out the very night after the battle to return with it in triumph to his own encampment. When he arrived, he sent a troop of horse to throw the head over into Hannibal's camp, a ghastly and horrid trophy of his victory.
Hannibal was overwhelmed with disappointment and sorrow at the loss of his army, bringing with it, as it did, the destruction of all his hopes. "My fate is sealed," said he; "all is lost. I shall send no more news of victory to Carthage. In losing Hasdrubal my last hope is gone."
While Hannibal was in this condition in Italy, the Roman armies, aided by their allies, were gaining gradually against the Carthaginians in various parts of the world, under the different generals who had been placed in command by the Roman senate. The news of these victories came continually home to Italy, and encouraged and animated the Romans, while Hannibal and his army, as well as the people who were in alliance with him, were disheartened and depressed by them. Scipio was one of these generals commanding in foreign lands. His province was Spain. The news which came home from his army became more and more exciting, as he advanced from conquest to conquest, until it seemed that the whole country was going to be reduced to subjection. He overcame one Carthaginian general after another until he reached New Carthage, which he besieged and conquered, and the Roman authority was established fully over the whole land.
Scipio then returned in triumph to Rome. The people received him with acclamations. At the next election they chose him consul. On the allotment of provinces, Sicily fell to him, with power to cross into Africa if he pleased. It devolved on the other consul to carry on the war in Italy more directly against Hannibal. Scipio levied his army, equipped his fleet, and sailed for Sicily.
The first thing that he did on his arrival in his province was to project an expedition into Africa itself. He could not, as he wished, face Hannibal directly, by marching his troops into the south of Italy, for this was the work allotted to his colleague. He could, however, make an incursion into Africa, and even threaten Carthage itself, and this, with the boldness and ardor which marked his character, he resolved to do.
He was triumphantly successful in all his plans. His army, imbibing the spirit of enthusiasm which animated their commander, and confident of success, went on, as his forces in Spain had done, from victory to victory. They conquered cities, they overran provinces, they defeated and drove back all the armies which the Carthaginians could bring against them, and finally they awakened in the streets and dwellings of Carthage the same panic and consternation which Hannibal's victorious progress had produced in Rome.
The Carthaginians being now, in their turn, reduced to despair, sent embassadors to Scipio to beg for peace, and to ask on what terms he would grant it and withdraw from the country. Scipio replied that he could not make peace. It rested with the Roman senate, whose servant he was. He specified, however, certain terms which he was willing to have proposed to the senate, and, if the Carthaginians would agree to them, he would grant them a truce, that is, a temporary suspension of hostilities, until the answer of the Roman senate could be returned.
The Carthaginians agreed to the terms. They were very onerous. The Romans say that they did not really mean to abide by them, but acceded for the moment in order to gain time to send for Hannibal. They had great confidence in his resources and military power, and thought that, if he were in Africa, he could save them. At the same time, therefore, that they sent their embassadors to Rome with their propositions for peace, they dispatched expresses to Hannibal, ordering him to embark his troops as soon as possible, and, abandoning Italy, to hasten home, to save, if it was not already too late, his native city from destruction.
When Hannibal received these messages, he was overwhelmed with disappointment and sorrow. He spent hours in extreme agitation, sometimes in a moody silence, interrupted now and then by groans of despair, and sometimes uttering loud and angry curses, prompted by the exasperation of his feelings. He, however, could not resist. He made the best of his way to Carthage. The Roman senate, at the same time, instead of deciding on the question of peace or war, which Scipio had submitted to them, referred the question back to him. They sent commissioners to Scipio, authorizing him to act for them, and to decide himself alone whether the war should be continued or closed, and if to be closed, on what conditions.
Hannibal raised a large force at Carthage, joining with it such remains of former armies as had been left after Scipio's battles, and he went forth at the head of these troops to meet his enemy. He marched five days, going, perhaps, seventy-five or one hundred miles from Carthage, when he found himself approaching Scipio's camp. He sent out spies to reconnoiter. The patrols of Scipio's army seized these spies and brought them to the general's tent, as they supposed, for execution. Instead of punishing them, Scipio ordered them to be led around his camp, and to be allowed to see every thing they desired. He then dismissed them, that they might return to Hannibal with the information they had obtained.
Of course, the report which they brought in respect to the strength and resources of Scipio's army was very formidable to Hannibal. He thought it best to make an attempt to negotiate a peace rather than to risk a battle, and he accordingly sent word to Scipio requesting a personal interview. Scipio acceded to this request, and a place was appointed for the meeting between the two encampments. To this spot the two generals repaired at the proper time, with great pomp and parade, and with many attendants. They were the two greatest generals of the age in which they lived, having been engaged for fifteen or twenty years in performing, at the head of vast armies, exploits which had filled the world with their fame. Their fields of action had, however, been widely distant, and they met personally now for the first time. When introduced into each other's presence, they stood for some time in silence, gazing upon and examining one another with intense interest and curiosity, but not speaking a word.
At length, however, the negotiation was opened. Hannibal made Scipio proposals for peace. They were very favorable to the Romans, but Scipio was not satisfied with them. He demanded still greater sacrifices than Hannibal was willing to make. The result, after a long and fruitless negotiation, was, that each general returned to his camp and prepared for battle.
In military campaigns, it is generally easy for those who have been conquering to go on to conquer: so much depends upon the expectations with which the contending armies go into battle. Scipio and his troops expected to conquer. The Carthaginians expected to be beaten. The result corresponded. At the close of the day on which the battle was fought, forty thousand Carthaginians were dead and dying upon the ground, as many more were prisoners in the Roman camp, and the rest, in broken masses, were flying from the field in confusion and terror, on all the roads which led to Carthage. Hannibal arrived at the city with the rest, went to the senate, announced his defeat, and said that he could do no more. "The fortune which once attended me," said he, "is lost forever, and nothing is left to us but to make peace with our enemies on any terms that they may think fit to impose."
HANNIBAL A FUGITIVE AND AN EXILE.
Hannibal's conquests.—Peaceful pursuits.—The danger of a spirit of ambition and conquest.—Gradual progress of Scipio's victories.—Severe conditions of peace exacted by Scipio.—Debates in the Carthaginian senate.—Terms of peace complied with.—Surrender of the elephants and ships.—Scipio burns the Carthaginian fleet.—Feelings of the spectators.—Scipio sails to Rome.—His reception.—Hannibal's position and standing at Carthage.—Orders from Rome.—Hannibal's mortification.—Syria and Phoenicia.—King Antiochus.—Hannibal's intrigues with Antiochus.—Embassy from Rome.—Flight of Hannibal.—Island of Cercina.—Stratagem of Hannibal.—He sails for Syria.—Excitement at Carthage.—Hannibal safe at Ephesus.—Carthaginian deputies.—The change of fortune.—Hannibal's unconquerable spirit.—His new plans.—Hannibal sends a secret messenger to Carthage.—The placards.—Excitement produced by them.—Roman commissioners.—Supposed interview of Hannibal and Scipio.—Hannibal's opinion of Alexander and Pyrrhus.—Anecdotes.—Hannibal's efforts prove vain.—Antiochus agrees to give him up.—Hannibal's treasures.—His plan for securing them.—Hannibal's unhappy condition.—The potion of poison.—Hannibal fails in his attempt to escape.—He poisons himself.
Hannibal's life was like an April day. Its brightest glory was in the morning. The setting of his sun was darkened by clouds and showers. Although for fifteen years the Roman people could find no general capable of maintaining the field against him, Scipio conquered him at last, and all his brilliant conquests ended, as Hanno had predicted, only in placing his country in a far worse condition than before.
In fact, as long as the Carthaginians confined their energies to useful industry, and to the pursuits of commerce and peace, they were prosperous, and they increased in wealth, and influence, and honor every year. Their ships went every where, and were every where welcome. All the shores of the Mediterranean were visited by their merchants, and the comforts and the happiness of many nations and tribes were promoted by the very means which they took to swell their own riches and fame. All might have gone on so for centuries longer, had not military heroes arisen with appetites for a more piquant sort of glory. Hannibal's father was one of the foremost of these. He began by conquests in Spain and encroachments on the Roman jurisdiction. He inculcated the same feelings of ambition and hate in Hannibal's mind which burned in his own. For many years, the policy which they led their countrymen to pursue was successful. From being useful and welcome visitors to all the world, they became the masters and the curse of a part of it. So long as Hannibal remained superior to any Roman general that could be brought against him, he went on conquering. But at last Scipio arose, greater than Hannibal. The tide was then turned, and all the vast conquests of half a century were wrested away by the same violence, bloodshed, and misery with which they had been acquired.
We have described the exploits of Hannibal, in making these conquests, in detail, while those of Scipio, in wresting them away, have been passed over very briefly, as this is intended as a history of Hannibal, and not of Scipio. Still Scipio's conquests were made by slow degrees, and they consumed a long period of time. He was but about eighteen years of age at the battle of Cannae, soon after which his campaigns began, and he was thirty when he was made consul, just before his going into Africa. He was thus fifteen or eighteen years in taking down the vast superstructure of power which Hannibal had raised, working in regions away from Hannibal and Carthage during all this time, as if leaving the great general and the great city for the last. He was, however, so successful in what he did, that when, at length, he advanced to the attack of Carthage, every thing else was gone. The Carthaginian power had become a mere hollow shell, empty and vain, which required only one great final blow to effect its absolute demolition. In fact, so far spent and gone were all the Carthaginian resources, that the great city had to summon the great general to its aid the moment it was threatened, and Scipio destroyed them both together.
And yet Scipio did not proceed so far as literally and actually to destroy them. He spared Hannibal's life, and he allowed the city to stand; but the terms and conditions of peace which he exacted were such as to put an absolute and perpetual end to Carthaginian dominion. By these conditions, the Carthaginian state was allowed to continue free and independent, and even to retain the government of such territories in Africa as they possessed before the war; but all their foreign possessions were taken away; and even in respect to Africa, their jurisdiction was limited and curtailed by very hard restrictions. Their whole navy was to be given to the Romans except ten small ships of three banks of oars, which Scipio thought the government would need for the purposes of civil administration. These they were allowed to retain. Scipio did not say what he should do with the remainder of the fleet: it was to be unconditionally surrendered to him. Their elephants of war were also to be all given up, and they were to be bound not to train any more. They were not to appear at all as a military power in any other quarter of the world but Africa, and they were not to make war in Africa except by previously making known the occasion for it to the Roman people, and obtaining their permission. They were also to pay to the Romans a very large annual tribute for fifty years.
There was great distress and perplexity in the Carthaginian councils while they were debating these cruel terms. Hannibal was in favor of accepting them. Others opposed. They thought it would be better still to continue the struggle, hopeless as it was, than to submit to terms so ignominious and fatal.
Hannibal was present at these debates, but he found himself now in a very different position from that which he had been occupying for thirty years as a victorious general at the head of his army. He had been accustomed there to control and direct every thing. In his councils of war, no one spoke but at his invitation, and no opinion was expressed but such as he was willing to hear. In the Carthaginian senate, however, he found the case very different. There, opinions were freely expressed, as in a debate among equals, Hannibal taking his place among the rest, and counting only as one. And yet the spirit of authority and command which he had been so long accustomed to exercise, lingered still, and made him very impatient and uneasy under contradiction. In fact, as one of the speakers in the senate was rising to animadvert upon and oppose Hannibal's views, he undertook to pull him down and silence him by force. This proceeding awakened immediately such expressions of dissatisfaction and displeasure in the assembly as to show him very clearly that the time for such domineering was gone. He had, however, the good sense to express the regret he soon felt at having so far forgotten the duties of his new position, and to make an ample apology.
The Carthaginians decided at length to accede to Scipio's terms of peace. The first instalment of the tribute was paid. The elephants and the ships were surrendered. After a few days, Scipio announced his determination not to take the ships away with him, but to destroy them there. Perhaps this was because he thought the ships would be of little value to the Romans, on account of the difficulty of manning them. Ships, of course, are useless without seamen, and many nations in modern times, who could easily build a navy, are debarred from doing it, because their population does not furnish sailors in sufficient numbers to man and navigate it. It was probably, in part, on this account that Scipio decided not to take the Carthaginian ships away, and perhaps he also wanted to show to Carthage and to the world that his object in taking possession of the national property of his foes was not to enrich his own country by plunder, but only to deprive ambitious soldiers of the power to compromise any longer the peace and happiness of mankind by expeditions for conquest and power. However this may be, Scipio determined to destroy the Carthaginian fleet, and not to convey it away.
On a given day, therefore, he ordered all the galleys to be got together in the bay opposite to the city of Carthage, and to be burned. There were five hundred of them, so that they constituted a large fleet, and covered a large expanse of the water. A vast concourse of people assembled upon the shores to witness the grand conflagration. The emotion which such a spectacle was of itself calculated to excite was greatly heightened by the deep but stifled feelings of resentment and hate which agitated every Carthaginian breast. The Romans, too, as they gazed upon the scene from their encampment on the shore, were agitated as well, though with different emotions. Their faces beamed with an expression of exultation and triumph as they saw the vast masses of flame and columns of smoke ascending from the sea, proclaiming the total and irretrievable ruin of Carthaginian pride and power.
Having thus fully accomplished his work, Scipio set sail for Rome. All Italy had been filled with the fame of his exploits in thus destroying the ascendency of Hannibal. The city of Rome had now nothing more to fear from its great enemy. He was shut up, disarmed, and helpless, in his own native state, and the terror which his presence in Italy had inspired had passed forever away. The whole population of Rome, remembering the awful scenes of consternation and terror which the city had so often endured, regarded Scipio as a great deliverer. They were eager to receive and welcome him on his arrival. When the time came and he approached the city, vast throngs went out to meet him. The authorities formed civic processions to welcome him. They brought crowns, and garlands, and flowers, and hailed his approach with loud and prolonged acclamations of triumph and joy. They gave him the name of Africanus, in honor of his victories. This was a new honor—giving to a conqueror the name of the country that he had subdued; it was invented specially as Scipio's reward, the deliverer who had saved the empire from the greatest and most terrible danger by which it had ever been assailed.
Hannibal, though fallen, retained still in Carthage some portion of his former power. The glory of his past exploits still invested his character with a sort of halo, which made him an object of general regard, and he still had great and powerful friends. He was elevated to high office, and exerted himself to regulate and improve the internal affairs of the state. In these efforts he was not, however, very successful. The historians say that the objects which he aimed to accomplish were good, and that the measures for effecting them were, in themselves, judicious; but, accustomed as he was to the authoritative and arbitrary action of a military commander in camp, he found it hard to practice that caution and forbearance, and that deference for the opinion of others, which are so essential as means of influencing men in the management of the civil affairs of a commonwealth. He made a great many enemies, who did every thing in their power, by plots and intrigues, as well as by open hostility, to accomplish his ruin.
His pride, too, was extremely mortified and humbled by an occurrence which took place very soon after Scipio's return to Rome. There was some occasion of war with a neighboring African tribe, and Hannibal headed some forces which were raised in the city for the purpose, and went out to prosecute it. The Romans, who took care to have agents in Carthage to keep them acquainted with all that occurred, heard of this, and sent word to Carthage to warn the Carthaginians that this was contrary to the treaty, and could not be allowed. The government, not willing to incur the risk of another visit from Scipio, sent orders to Hannibal to abandon the war and return to the city. Hannibal was compelled to submit; but after having been accustomed, as he had been, for many years, to bid defiance to all the armies and fleets which Roman power could, with their utmost exertion, bring against him, it must have been very hard for such a spirit as his to find itself stopped and conquered now by a word. All the force they could command against him, even at the very gates of their own city, was once impotent and vain. Now, a mere message and threat, coming across the distant sea, seeks him out in the remote deserts of Africa, and in a moment deprives him of all his power.