The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5)
by Theodor Mommsen
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Scipio meanwhile held councils of war in Massilia as to the proper mode of occupying the ferries of the Rhone, and was not induced to move even by the urgent messages that came from the leaders of the Celts. He distrusted their accounts, and he contented himself with detaching a weak Roman cavalry division to reconnoitre on the left bank of the Rhone. This detachment found the whole enemy's army already transported to that bank, and occupied in bringing over the elephants which alone remained on the right bank of the stream; and, after it had warmly engaged some Carthaginian squadrons in the district of Avignon, merely for the purpose of enabling it to complete its reconnaissance—the first encounter of the Romans and Phoenicians in this war—it hastily returned to report at head-quarters. Scipio now started in the utmost haste with all his troops for Avignon; but, when he arrived there, even the Carthaginian cavalry that had been left behind to cover the passage of the elephants had already taken its departure three days ago, and nothing remained for the consul but to return with weary troops and little credit to Massilia, and to revile the "cowardly flight" of the Punic leader. Thus the Romans had for the third time through pure negligence abandoned their allies and an important line of defence; and not only so, but by passing after this first blunder from mistaken slackness to mistaken haste, and by still attempting without any prospect of success to do what might have been done with so much certainty a few days before, they let the real means of repairing their error pass out of their hands. When once Hannibal was in the Celtic territory on the Roman side of the Rhone, he could no longer be prevented from reaching the Alps; but if Scipio had at the first accounts proceeded with his whole army to Italy—the Po might have been reached by way of Genoa in seven days—and had united with his corps the weak divisions in the valley of the Po, he might have at least prepared a formidable reception for the enemy. But not only did he lose precious time in the march to Avignon, but, capable as otherwise he was, he wanted either the political courage or the military sagacity to change the destination of his corps as the change of circumstances required. He sent the main body under his brother Gnaeus to Spain, and returned himself with a few men to Pisae.

Hannibal's Passage of the Alps

Hannibal, who after the passage of the Rhone had in a great assembly of the army explained to his troops the object of his expedition, and had brought forward the Celtic chief Magilus himself, who had arrived from the valley of the Po, to address the army through an interpreter, meanwhile continued his march to the passes of the Alps without obstruction. Which of these passes he should choose, could not be at once determined either by the shortness of the route or by the disposition of the inhabitants, although he had no time to lose either in circuitous routes or in combat. He had necessarily to select a route which should be practicable for his baggage, his numerous cavalry, and his elephants, and in which an army could procure sufficient means of subsistence either by friendship or by force; for, although Hannibal had made preparations to convey provisions after him on beasts of burden, these could only meet for a few days the wants of an army which still, notwithstanding its great losses, amounted to nearly 50,000 men. Leaving out of view the coast route, which Hannibal abstained from taking not because the Romans barred it, but because it would have led him away from his destination, there were only two routes of note leading across the Alps from Gaul to Italy in ancient times:(3) the pass of the Cottian Alps (Mont Genevre) leading into the territory of the Taurini (by Susa or Fenestrelles to Turin), and that of the Graian Alps (the Little St. Bernard) leading into the territory of the Salassi (to Aosta and Ivrea). The former route is the shorter; but, after leaving the valley of the Rhone, it passes by the impracticable and unfruitful river-valleys of the Drac, the Romanche, and the upper Durance, through a difficult and poor mountain country, and requires at least a seven or eight days' mountain march. A military road was first constructed there by Pompeius, to furnish a shorter communication between the provinces of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul.

The route by the Little St. Bernard is somewhat longer; but after crossing the first Alpine wall that forms the eastern boundary of the Rhone valley, it keeps by the valley of the upper Isere, which stretches from Grenoble by way of Chambery up to the very foot of the Little St. Bernard or, in other words, of the chain of the higher Alps, and is the broadest, most fertile and most populous of all the Alpine valleys. Moreover, the pass of the Little St. Bernard, while not the lowest of all the natural passes of the Alps, is by far the easiest; although no artificial road was constructed there, an Austrian corps with artillery crossed the Alps by that route in 1815. And lastly this route, which only leads over two mountain ridges, has been from the earliest times the great military route from the Celtic to the Italian territory. The Carthaginian army had thus in fact no choice. It was a fortunate coincidence, but not a motive influencing the decision of Hannibal, that the Celtic tribes allied with him in Italy inhabited the country up to the Little St. Bernard, while the route by Mont Genevre would have brought him at first into the territory of the Taurini, who were from ancient times at feud with the Insubres.

So the Carthaginian army marched in the first instance up the Rhone towards the valley of the upper Isere, not, as might be presumed, by the nearest route up the left bank of the lower Isere from Valence to Grenoble, but through the "island" of the Allobroges, the rich, and even then thickly peopled, low ground, which is enclosed on the north and west by the Rhone, on the south by the Isere, and on the east by the Alps. The reason of this movement was, that the nearest route would have led them through an impracticable and poor mountain- country, while the "island" was level and extremely fertile, and was separated by but a single mountain-wall from the valley of the upper Isere. The march along the Rhone into, and across, the "island" to the foot of the Alpine wall was accomplished in sixteen days: it presented little difficulty, and in the "island" itself Hannibal dexterously availed himself of a feud that had broken out between two chieftains of the Allobroges to attach to his interests one of the most important of the chiefs, who not only escorted the Carthaginians through the whole plain, but also supplied them with provisions, and furnished the soldiers with arms, clothing, and shoes. But the expedition narrowly escaped destruction at the crossing of the first Alpine chain, which rises precipitously like a wall, and over which only a single available path leads (over the Mont du Chat, near the hamlet Chevelu). The population of the Allobroges had strongly occupied the pass. Hannibal learned the state of matters early enough to avoid a surprise, and encamped at the foot, until after sunset the Celts dispersed to the houses of the nearest town; he then seized the pass in the night Thus the summit was gained; but on the extremely steep path, which leads down from the summit to the lake of Bourget, the mules and horses slipped and fell. The assaults, which at suitable points were made by the Celts upon the army in march, were very annoying, not so much of themselves as by reason of the turmoil which they occasioned; and when Hannibal with his light troops threw himself from above on the Allobroges, these were chased doubtless without difficulty and with heavy loss down the mountain, but the confusion, in the train especially, was further increased by the noise of the combat. So, when after much loss he arrived in the plain, Hannibal immediately attacked the nearest town, to chastise and terrify the barbarians, and at the same time to repair as far as possible his loss in sumpter animals and horses. After a day's repose in the pleasant valley of Chambery the army continued its march up the Isere, without being detained either by want of supplies or by attacks so long as the valley continued broad and fertile. It was only when on the fourth day they entered the territory of the Ceutrones (the modern Tarantaise) where the valley gradually contracts, that they had again greater occasion to be on their guard. The Ceutrones received the army at the boundary of their country (somewhere about Conflans) with branches and garlands, furnished cattle for slaughter, guides, and hostages; and the Carthaginians marched through their territory as through a friendly land. When, however, the troops had reached the very foot of the Alps, at the point where the path leaves the Isere, and winds by a narrow and difficult defile along the brook Reclus up to the summit of the St. Bernard, all at once the militia of the Ceutrones appeared partly in the rear of the army, partly on the crests of the rocks enclosing the pass on the right and left, in the hope of cutting off the train and baggage. But Hannibal, whose unerring tact had seen in all those advances made by the Ceutrones nothing but the design of procuring at once immunity for their territory and a rich spoil, had in expectation of such an attack sent forward the baggage and cavalry, and covered the march with all his infantry. By this means he frustrated the design of the enemy, although he could not prevent them from moving along the mountain slopes parallel to the march of the infantry, and inflicting very considerable loss by hurling or rolling down stones. At the "white stone" (still called -la roche blanche-), a high isolated chalk cliff standing at the foot of the St. Bernard and commanding the ascent to it, Hannibal encamped with his infantry, to cover the march of the horses and sumpter animals laboriously climbing upward throughout the whole night; and amidst continual and very bloody conflicts he at length on the following day reached the summit of the pass. There, on the sheltered table-land which spreads to the extent of two and a half miles round a little lake, the source of the Doria, he allowed the army to rest. Despondency had begun to seize the minds of the soldiers. The paths that were becoming ever more difficult, the provisions failing, the marching through defiles exposed to the constant attacks of foes whom they could not reach, the sorely thinned ranks, the hopeless situation of the stragglers and the wounded, the object which appeared chimerical to all save the enthusiastic leader and his immediate staff—all these things began to tell even on the African and Spanish veterans. But the confidence of the general remained ever the same; numerous stragglers rejoined the ranks; the friendly Gauls were near; the watershed was reached, and the view of the descending path, so gladdening to the mountain-pilgrim, opened up: after a brief repose they prepared with renewed courage for the last and most difficult undertaking, —the downward march. In it the army was not materially annoyed by the enemy; but the advanced season—it was already the beginning of September—occasioned troubles in the descent, equal to those which had been occasioned in the ascent by the attacks of the adjoining tribes. On the steep and slippery mountain- slope along the Doria, where the recently-fallen snow had concealed and obliterated the paths, men and animals went astray and slipped, and were precipitated into the chasms. In fact, towards the end of the first day's march they reached a portion of the path about 200 paces in length, on which avalanches are constantly descending from the precipices of the Cramont that overhang it, and where in cold summers snow lies throughout the year. The infantry passed over; but the horses and elephants were unable to cross the smooth masses of ice, on which there lay but a thin covering of freshly-fallen snow, and the general encamped above the difficult spot with the baggage, the cavalry, and the elephants. On the following day the horsemen, by zealous exertion in entrenching, prepared a path for horses and beasts of burden; but it was not until after a further labour of three days with constant reliefs, that the half-famished elephants could at length be conducted over. In this way the whole army was after a delay of four days once more united; and after a further three days' march through the valley of the Doria, which was ever widening and displaying greater fertility, and whose inhabitants the Salassi, clients of the Insubres, hailed in the Carthaginians their allies and deliverers, the army arrived about the middle of September in the plain of Ivrea, where the exhausted troops were quartered in the villages, that by good nourishment and a fortnight's repose they might recruit from their unparalleled hardships. Had the Romans placed a corps, as they might have done, of 30,000 men thoroughly fresh and ready for action somewhere near Turin, and immediately forced on a battle, the prospects of Hannibal's great plan would have been very dubious; fortunately for him, once more, they were not where they should have been, and they did not disturb the troops of the enemy in the repose which was so greatly needed.(4)


The object was attained, but at a heavy cost. Of the 50,000 veteran infantry and the 9000 cavalry, which the army had numbered at the crossing of the Pyrenees, more than half had been sacrificed in the conflicts, the marches, and the passages of the rivers. Hannibal now, according to his own statement, numbered not more than 20,000 infantry—of whom three-fifths were Libyans and two-fifths Spaniards—and 6000 cavalry, part of them doubtless dismounted: the comparatively small loss of the latter proclaimed the excellence of the Numidian cavalry no less than the consideration of the general in making a sparing use of troops so select. A march of 526 miles or about 33 moderate days' marching—the continuance and termination of which were disturbed by no special misfortunes on a great scale that could not be anticipated, but were, on the other hand, rendered possible only by incalculable pieces of good fortune and still more incalculable blunders of the enemy, and which yet not only cost such sacrifices, but so fatigued and demoralized the army, that it needed a prolonged rest in order to be again ready for action—is a military operation of doubtful value, and it may be questioned whether Hannibal himself regarded it as successful. Only in so speaking we may not pronounce an absolute censure on the general: we see well the defects of the plan of operations pursued by him, but we cannot determine whether he was in a position to foresee them—his route lay through an unknown land of barbarians—or whether any other plan, such as that of taking the coast road or of embarking at Cartagena or at Carthage, would have exposed him to fewer dangers. The cautious and masterly execution of the plan in its details at any rate deserves our admiration, and to whatever causes the result may have been due —whether it was due mainly to the favour of fortune, or mainly to the skill of the general—the grand idea of Hamilcar, that of taking up the conflict with Rome in Italy, was now realized. It was his genius that projected this expedition; and as the task of Stein and Scharnhorst was more difficult and nobler than that of York and Blucher, so the unerring tact of historical tradition has always dwelt on the last link in the great chain of preparatory steps, the passage of the Alps, with a greater admiration than on the battles of the Trasimene lake and of the plain of Cannae.

Notes for Chapter IV

1. Our accounts as to these events are not only imperfect but one- sided, for of course it was the version of the Carthaginian peace party which was adopted by the Roman annalists. Even, however, in our fragmentary and confused accounts (the most important are those of Fabius, in Polyb. iii. 8; Appian. Hisp. 4; and Diodorus, xxv. p. 567) the relations of the parties appear dearly enough. Of the vulgar gossip by which its opponents sought to blacken the "revolutionary combination" (—etaireia ton ponerotaton anthropon—) specimens may be had in Nepos (Ham. 3), to which it will be difficult perhaps to find a parallel.

2. The Barca family conclude the most important state treaties, and the ratification of the governing board is a formality (Pol. iii. 21). Rome enters her protest before them and before the senate (Pol. iii. 15). The position of the Barca family towards Carthage in many points resembles that of the Princes of Orange towards the States-General.

3. It was not till the middle ages that the route by Mont Cenis became a military road. The eastern passes, such as that over the Poenine Alps or the Great St. Bernard—which, moreover, was only converted into a military road by Caesar and Augustus—are, of course, in this case out of the question.

4. The much-discussed questions of topography, connected with this celebrated expedition, may be regarded as cleared up and substantially solved by the masterly investigations of Messrs. Wickham and Cramer. Respecting the chronological questions, which likewise present difficulties, a few remarks may be exceptionally allowed to have a place here.

When Hannibal reached the summit of the St. Bernard, "the peaks were already beginning to be thickly covered with snow" (Pol. iii. 54), snow lay on the route (Pol. iii. 55), perhaps for the most part snow not freshly fallen, but proceeding from the fall of avalanches. At the St. Bernard winter begins about Michaelmas, and the falling of snow in September; when the Englishmen already mentioned crossed the mountain at the end of August, they found almost no snow on their road, but the slopes on both sides were covered with it. Hannibal thus appears to have arrived at the pass in the beginning of September; which is quite compatible with the statement that he arrived there "when the winter was already approaching" —for —sunaptein ten tes pleiados dusin— (Pol. iii. 54) does not mean anything more than this, least of all, the day of the heliacal setting of the Pleiades (about 26th October); comp. Ideler, Chronol. i. 241.

If Hannibal reached Italy nine days later, and therefore about the middle of September, there is room for the events that occurred from that time up to the battle of the Trebia towards the end of December (—peri cheimerinas tropas—, Pol. iii. 72), and in particular for the transporting of the army destined for Africa from Lilybaeum to Placentia. This hypothesis further suits the statement that the day of departure was announced at an assembly of the army —upo ten earinen oran— (Pol. iii. 34), and therefore towards the end of March, and that the march lasted five (or, according to App. vii. 4, six) months. If Hannibal was thus at the St. Bernard in the beginning of September, he must have reached the Rhone at the beginning of August —for he spent thirty days in making his way from the Rhone thither —and in that case it is evident that Scipio, who embarked at the beginning of summer (Pol. iii. 41) and so at latest by the commencement of June, must have spent much time on the voyage or remained for a considerable period in singular inaction at Massilia.


The War under Hannibal to the Battle of Cannae

Hannibal and the Italian Celts

The appearance of the Carthaginian army on the Roman side of the Alps changed all at once the situation of affairs, and disconcerted the Roman plan of war. Of the two principal armies of the Romans, one had landed in Spain and was already engaged with the enemy there: it was no longer possible to recall it. The second, which was destined for Africa under the command of the consul Tiberius Sempronius, was fortunately still in Sicily: in this instance Roman delay for once proved useful. Of the two Carthaginian squadrons destined for Italy and Sicily, the first was dispersed by a storm, and some of its vessels were captured by the Syracusans near Messana; the second had endeavoured in vain to surprise Lilybaeum, and had thereafter been defeated in a naval engagement off that port. But the continuance of the enemy's squadrons in the Italian waters was so inconvenient, that the consul determined, before crossing to Africa, to occupy the small islands around Sicily, and to drive away the Carthaginian fleet operating against Italy. The summer passed away in the conquest of Melita, in the chase after the enemy's squadron, which he expected to find at the Lipari islands while it had made a descent near Vibo (Monteleone) and pillaged the Bruttian coast, and, lastly, in gaining information as to a suitable spot for landing on the coast of Africa; so that the army and fleet were still at Lilybaeum, when orders arrived from the senate that they should return with all possible speed for the defence of their homes.

In this way, while the two great Roman armies, each in itself equal in numbers to that of Hannibal, remained at a great distance from the valley of the Po, the Romans were quite unprepared for an attack in that quarter. No doubt a Roman army was there, in consequence of an insurrection that had broken out among the Celts even before the arrival of the Carthaginian army. The founding of the two Roman strongholds of Placentia and Cremona, each of which received 6000 colonists, and more especially the preparations for the founding of Mutina in the territory of the Boii, had already in the spring of 536 driven the Boii to revolt before the time concerted with Hannibal; and the Insubres had immediately joined them. The colonists already settled in the territory of Mutina, suddenly attacked, took refuge in the town. The praetor Lucius Manlius, who held the chief command at Ariminum, hastened with his single legion to relieve the blockaded colonists; but he was surprised in the woods, and no course was left to him after sustaining great loss but to establish himself upon a hill and to submit to a siege there on the part of the Boii, till a second legion sent from Rome under the praetor Lucius Atilius succeeded in relieving army and town, and in suppressing for the moment the Gaulish insurrection. This premature rising of the Boii on the one hand, by delaying the departure of Scipio for Spain, essentially promoted the plans of Hannibal; on the other hand, but for its occurrence he would have found the valley of the Po entirely unoccupied, except the fortresses. But the Roman corps, whose two severely thinned legions did not number 20,000 soldiers, had enough to do to keep the Celts in check, and did not think of occupying the passes of the Alps. The Romans only learned that the passes were threatened, when in August the consul Publius Scipio returned without his army from Massilia to Italy, and perhaps even then they gave little heed to the matter, because, forsooth, the foolhardy attempt would be frustrated by the Alps alone. Thus at the decisive hour and on the decisive spot there was not even a Roman outpost. Hannibal had full time to rest his army, to capture after a three days' siege the capital of the Taurini which closed its gates against him, and to induce or terrify into alliance with him all the Ligurian and Celtic communities in the upper basin of the Po, before Scipio, who had taken the command in the Po valley, encountered him.

Scipio in the Valley of the Po Conflict on the Ticino The Armies at Placentia

Scipio, who, with an army considerably smaller and very weak in cavalry, had the difficult task of preventing the advance of the superior force of the enemy and of repressing the movements of insurrection which everywhere were spreading among the Celts, had crossed the Po presumably at Placentia, and marched up the river to meet the enemy, while Hannibal after the capture of Turin marched downwards to relieve the Insubres and Boii. In the plain between the Ticino and the Sesia, not far from Vercelli, the Roman cavalry, which had advanced with the light infantry to make a reconnaissance in force, encountered the Punic cavalry sent out for the like purpose, both led by the generals in person. Scipio accepted battle when offered, notwithstanding the superiority of the enemy; but his light infantry, which was placed in front of the cavalry, dispersed before the charge of the heavy cavalry of the enemy, and while the latter engaged the masses of the Roman horsemen in front, the light Numidian cavalry, after having pushed aside the broken ranks of the enemy's infantry, took the Roman horsemen in flank and rear. This decided the combat. The loss of the Romans was very considerable. The consul himself, who made up as a soldier for his deficiencies as a general, received a dangerous wound, and owed his safety entirely to the devotion of his son of seventeen, who, courageously dashing into the ranks of the enemy, compelled his squadron to follow him and rescued his father. Scipio, enlightened by this combat as to the strength of the enemy, saw the error which he had committed in posting himself, with a weaker army, in the plain with his back to the river, and resolved to return to the right bank of the Po under the eyes of his antagonist. As the operations became contracted into a narrower space and his illusions regarding Roman invincibility departed, he recovered the use of his considerable military talents, which the adventurous boldness of his youthful opponent's plans had for a moment paralyzed. While Hannibal was preparing for a pitched battle, Scipio by a rapidly projected and steadily executed march succeeded in reaching the right bank of the river which in an evil hour he had abandoned, and broke down the bridge over the Po behind his army; the Roman detachment of 600 men charged to cover the process of destruction were, however, intercepted and made prisoners. But as the upper course of the river was in the hands of Hannibal, he could not be prevented from marching up the stream, crossing on a bridge of boats, and in a few days confronting the Roman army on the right bank. The latter had taken a position in the plain in front of Placentia; but the mutiny of a Celtic division in the Roman camp, and the Gallic insurrection breaking out afresh all around, compelled the consul to evacuate the plain and to post himself on the hills behind the Trebia. This was accomplished without notable loss, because the Numidian horsemen sent in pursuit lost their time in plundering, and setting fire to, the abandoned camp. In this strong position, with his left wing resting on the Apennines, his right on the Po and the fortress of Placentia, and covered in front by the Trebia—no inconsiderable stream at that season—Scipio was unable to save the rich stores of Clastidium (Casteggio) from which in this position he was cut off by the army of the enemy; nor was he able to avert the insurrectionary movement on the part of almost all the Gallic cantons, excepting the Cenomani who were friendly to Rome; but he completely checked the progress of Hannibal, and compelled him to pitch his camp opposite to that of the Romans. Moreover, the position taken up by Scipio, and the circumstance of the Cenomani threatening the borders of the Insubres, hindered the main body of the Gallic insurgents from directly joining the enemy, and gave to the second Roman army, which meanwhile had arrived at Ariminum from Lilybaeum, the opportunity of reaching Placentia through the midst of the insurgent country without material hindrance, and of uniting itself with the army of the Po.

Battle on the Trebia

Scipio had thus solved his difficult task completely and brilliantly. The Roman army, now close on 40,000 strong, and though not a match for its antagonist in cavalry, at least equal in infantry, had simply to remain in its existing position, in order to compel the enemy either to attempt in the winter season the passage of the river and an attack upon the camp, or to suspend his advance and to test the fickle temper of the Gauls by the burden of winter quarters. Clear, however, as this was, it was no less clear that it was now December, and that under the course proposed the victory might perhaps be gained by Rome, but would not be gained by the consul Tiberius Sempronius, who held the sole command in consequence of Scipio's wound, and whose year of office expired in a few months. Hannibal knew the man, and neglected no means of alluring him to fight. The Celtic villages that had remained faithful to the Romans were cruelly laid waste, and, when this brought on a conflict between the cavalry, Hannibal allowed his opponents to boast of the victory. Soon thereafter on a raw rainy day a general engagement came on, unlocked for by the Romans. From the earliest hour of the morning the Roman light troops had been skirmishing with the light cavalry of the enemy; the latter slowly retreated, and the Romans eagerly pursued it through the deeply swollen Trebia to follow up the advantage which they had gained. Suddenly the cavalry halted; the Roman vanguard found itself face to face with the army of Hannibal drawn up for battle on a field chosen by himself; it was lost, unless the main body should cross the stream with all speed to its support. Hungry, weary, and wet, the Romans came on and hastened to form in order of battle, the cavalry, as usual, on the wings, the infantry in the centre. The light troops, who formed the vanguard on both sides, began the combat: but the Romans had already almost exhausted their missiles against the cavalry, and immediately gave way. In like manner the cavalry gave way on the wings, hard pressed by the elephants in front, and outflanked right and left by the far more numerous Carthaginian horse. But the Roman infantry proved itself worthy of its name: at the beginning of the battle it fought with very decided superiority against the infantry of the enemy, and even when the repulse of the Roman horse allowed the enemy's cavalry and light-armed troops to turn their attacks against the Roman infantry, the latter, although ceasing to advance, obstinately maintained its ground. At this stage a select Carthaginian band of 1000 infantry, and as many horsemen, under the leadership of Mago, Hannibal's youngest brother, suddenly emerged from an ambush in the rear of the Roman army, and fell upon the densely entangled masses. The wings of the army and the rear ranks of the Roman centre were broken up and scattered by this attack, while the first division, 10,000 men strong, in compact array broke through the Carthaginian line, and made a passage for itself obliquely through the midst of the enemy, inflicting great loss on the opposing infantry and more especially on the Gallic insurgents. This brave body, pursued but feebly, thus reached Placentia. The remaining mass was for the most part slaughtered by the elephants and light troops of the enemy in attempting to cross the river: only part of the cavalry and some divisions of infantry were able, by wading through the river, to gain the camp whither the Carthaginians did not follow them, and thus they too reached Placentia.(1) Few battles confer more honour on the Roman soldier than this on the Trebia, and few at the same time furnish graver impeachment of the general in command; although the candid judge will not forget that a commandership in chief expiring on a definite day was an unmilitary institution, and that figs cannot be reaped from thistles. The victory came to be costly even to the victors. Although the loss in the battle fell chiefly on the Celtic insurgents, yet a multitude of the veteran soldiers of Hannibal died afterwards from diseases engendered by that raw and wet winter day, and all the elephants perished except one.

Hannibal Master of Northern Italy

The effect of this first victory of the invading army was, that the national insurrection now spread and assumed shape without hindrance throughout the Celtic territory. The remains of the Roman army of the Po threw themselves into the fortresses of Placentia and Cremona: completely cut off from home, they were obliged to procure their supplies by way of the river. The consul Tiberius Sempronius only escaped, as if by miracle, from being taken prisoner, when with a weak escort of cavalry he went to Rome on account of the elections. Hannibal, who would not hazard the health of his troops by further marches at that inclement season, bivouacked for the winter where he was; and, as a serious attempt on the larger fortresses would have led to no result, contented himself with annoying the enemy by attacks on the river port of Placentia and other minor Roman positions. He employed himself mainly in organizing the Gallic insurrection: more than 60,000 foot soldiers and 4000 horsemen from the Celts are said to have joined his army.

Military and Political Position of Hannibal

No extraordinary exertions were made in Rome for the campaign of 537. The senate thought, and not unreasonably, that, despite the lost battle, their position was by no means fraught with serious danger. Besides the coast garrisons, which were despatched to Sardinia, Sicily, and Tarentum, and the reinforcements which were sent to Spain, the two new consuls Gaius Flaminius and Gnaeus Servilius obtained only as many men as were necessary to restore the four legions to their full complement; additions were made to the strength of the cavalry alone. The consuls had to protect the northern frontier, and stationed themselves accordingly on the two highways which led from Rome to the north, the western of which at that lime terminated at Arretium, and the eastern at Ariminum; Gaius Flaminius occupied the former, Gnaeus Servilius the latter. There they ordered the troops from the fortresses on the Po to join them, probably by water, and awaited the commencement of the favourable season, when they proposed to occupy in the defensive the passes of the Apennines, and then, taking up the offensive, to descend into the valley of the Po and effect a junction somewhere near Placentia. But Hannibal by no means intended to defend the valley of the Po. He knew Rome better perhaps than the Romans knew it themselves, and was very well aware how decidedly he was the weaker and continued to be so notwithstanding the brilliant battle on the Trebia; he knew too that his ultimate object, the humiliation of Rome, was not to be wrung from the unbending Roman pride either by terror or by surprise, but could only be gained by the actual subjugation of the haughty city. It was clearly apparent that the Italian federation was in political solidity and in military resources infinitely superior to an adversary, who received only precarious and irregular support from home, and who in Italy was dependent for primary aid solely on the vacillating and capricious nation of the Celts; and that the Phoenician foot soldier was, notwithstanding all the pains taken by Hannibal, far inferior in point of tactics to the legionary, had been completely proved by the defensive movements of Scipio and the brilliant retreat of the defeated infantry on the Trebia. From this conviction flowed the two fundamental principles which determined Hannibal's whole method of operations in Italy—viz., that the war should be carried on, in somewhat adventurous fashion, with constant changes in the plan and in the theatre of operations; and that its favourable issue could only be looked for as the result of political and not of military successes—of the gradual loosening and final breaking up of the Italian federation. That mode of carrying on the war was necessary, because the single element which Hannibal had to throw into the scale against so many disadvantages—his military genius—only told with its full weight, when he constantly foiled his opponents by unexpected combinations; he was undone, if the war became stationary. That aim was the aim dictated to him by right policy, because, mighty conqueror though he was in battle, he saw very clearly that on each occasion he vanquished the generals and not the city, and that after each new battle the Romans remained just as superior to the Carthaginians as he was personally superior to the Roman commanders. That Hannibal even at the height of his fortune never deceived himself on this point, is worthier of admiration than his most admired battles.

Hannibal Crosses the Apennines

It was these motives, and not the entreaties of the Gauls that he should spare their country—which would not have influenced him—that induced Hannibal now to forsake, as it were, his newly acquired basis of operations against Italy, and to transfer the scene of war to Italy itself. Before doing so he gave orders that all the prisoners should be brought before him. He ordered the Romans to be separated and loaded with chains as slaves—the statement that Hannibal put to death all the Romans capable of bearing arms, who here and elsewhere fell into his hands, is beyond doubt at least strongly exaggerated. On the other hand, all the Italian allies were released without ransom, and charged to report at home that Hannibal waged war not against Italy, but against Rome; that he promised to every Italian community the restoration of its ancient independence and its ancient boundaries; and that the deliverer was about to follow those whom he had set free, bringing release and revenge. In fact, when the winter ended, he started from the valley of the Po to search for a route through the difficult defiles of the Apennines. Gaius Flaminius, with the Etruscan army, was still for the moment at Arezzo, intending to move from that point towards Lucca in order to protect the vale of the Arno and the passes of the Apennines, so soon as the season should allow. But Hannibal anticipated him. The passage of the Apennines was accomplished without much difficulty, at a point as far west as possible or, in other words, as distant as possible from the enemy; but the marshy low grounds between the Serchio and the Arno were so flooded by the melting of the snow and the spring rains, that the army had to march four days in water, without finding any other dry spot for resting by night than was supplied by piling the baggage or by the sumpter animals that had fallen. The troops underwent unutterable sufferings, particularly the Gallic infantry, which marched behind the Carthaginians along tracks already rendered impassable: they murmured loudly and would undoubtedly have dispersed to a man, had not the Carthaginian cavalry under Mago, which brought up the rear, rendered flight impossible. The horses, assailed by a distemper in their hoofs, fell in heaps; various diseases decimated the soldiers; Hannibal himself lost an eye in consequence of ophthalmia.


But the object was attained. Hannibal encamped at Fiesole, while Gaius Flaminius was still waiting at Arezzo until the roads should become passable that he might blockade them. After the Roman defensive position had thus been turned, the best course for the consul, who might perhaps have been strong enough to defend the mountain passes but certainly was unable now to face Hannibal in the open field, would have been to wait till the second army, which had now become completely superfluous at Ariminum, should arrive. He himself, however, judged otherwise. He was a political party leader, raised to distinction by his efforts to limit the power of the senate; indignant at the government in consequence of the aristocratic intrigues concocted against him during his consulship; carried away, through a doubtless justifiable opposition to their beaten track of partisanship, into a scornful defiance of tradition and custom; intoxicated at once by blind love of the common people and equally bitter hatred of the party of the nobles; and, in addition to all this, possessed with the fixed idea that he was a military genius. His campaign against the Insubres of 531, which to unprejudiced judges only showed that good! soldiers often repair the errors of bad generals,(2) was regarded by him and by his adherents as an irrefragable proof that the Romans had only to put Gaius Flaminius at the head of the army in order to make a speedy end of Hannibal. Talk of this sort had procured for him his second consulship, and hopes of this sort had now brought to his camp so great a multitude of unarmed followers eager for spoil, that their number, according to the assurance of sober historians, exceeded that of the legionaries. Hannibal based his plan in part on this circumstance. So far from attacking him, he marched past him, and caused the country all around to be pillaged by the Celts who thoroughly understood plundering, and by his numerous cavalry. The complaints and indignation of the multitude which had to submit to be plundered under the eyes of the hero who had promised to enrich them, and the protestation of the enemy that they did not believe him possessed of either the power or the resolution to undertake anything before the arrival of his colleague, could not but induce such a man to display his genius for strategy, and to give a sharp lesson to his inconsiderate and haughty foe.

Battle on the Trasimene Lake

No plan was ever more successful. In haste, the consul followed the line of march of the enemy, who passed by Arezzo and moved slowly through the rich valley of the Chiana towards Perugia. He overtook him in the district of Cortona, where Hannibal, accurately informed of his antagonist's march, had had full time to select his field of battle—a narrow defile between two steep mountain walls, closed at its outlet by a high hill, and at its entrance by the Trasimene lake. With the flower of his infantry he barred the outlet; the light troops and the cavalry placed themselves in concealment on either side. The Roman columns advanced without hesitation into the unoccupied pass; the thick morning mist concealed from them the position of the enemy. As the head of the Roman line approached the hill, Hannibal gave the signal for battle; the cavalry, advancing behind the heights, closed the entrance of the pass, and at the same time the mist rolling away revealed the Phoenician arms everywhere along the crests on the right and left. There was no battle; it was a mere rout. Those that remained outside of the defile were driven by the cavalry into the lake. The main body was annihilated in the pass itself almost without resistance, and most of them, including the consul himself, were cut down in the order of march. The head of the Roman column, formed of 6000 infantry, cut their way through the infantry of the enemy, and proved once more the irresistible might of the legions; but, cut off from the rest of the army and without knowledge of its fate, they marched on at random, were surrounded on the following day, on a hill which they had occupied, by a corps of Carthaginian cavalry, and—as the capitulation, which promised them a free retreat, was rejected by Hannibal—were all treated as prisoners of war. 15,000 Romans had fallen, and as many were captured; in other words, the army was annihilated. The slight Carthaginian loss—1500 men—again fell mainly upon the Gauls.(3) And, as if this were not enough, immediately after the battle on the Trasimene lake, the cavalry of the army of Ariminum under Gaius Centenius, 4000 strong, which Gnaeus Servilius had sent forward for the temporary support of his colleague while he himself advanced by slow marches, was likewise surrounded by the Phoenician army, and partly slain, partly made prisoners. All Etruria was lost, and Hannibal might without hindrance march on Rome. The Romans prepared themselves for the worst; they broke down the bridges over the Tiber, and nominated Quintus Fabius Maximus dictator to repair the walls and conduct the defence, for which an army of reserve was formed. At the same time two new legions were summoned under arms in the room of those annihilated, and the fleet, which might become of importance in the event of a siege, was put in order.

Hannibal on the East Coast Reorganization of the Carthaginian Army

But Hannibal was more farsighted than king Pyrrhus. He did not march on Rome; nor even against Gnaeus Servilius, an able general, who had with the help of the fortresses on the northern road preserved his army hitherto uninjured, and would perhaps have kept his antagonist at bay. Once more a movement occurred which was quite unexpected. Hannibal marched past the fortress of Spoletium, which he attempted in vain to surprise, through Umbria, fearfully devastated the territory of Picenum which was covered all over with Roman farmhouses, and halted on the shores of the Adriatic. The men and horses of his army had not yet recovered from the painful effects of their spring campaign; here he rested for a considerable time to allow his army to recruit its strength in a pleasant district and at a fine season of the year, and to reorganize his Libyan infantry after the Roman mode, the means for which were furnished to him by the mass of Roman arms among the spoil. From this point, moreover, he resumed his long- interrupted communication with his native land, sending his messages of victory by water to Carthage. At length, when his army was sufficiently restored and had been adequately exercised in the use of the new arms, he broke up and marched slowly along the coast into southern Italy.

War in Lower Italy Fabius

He had calculated correctly, when he chose this time for remodelling his infantry. The surprise of his antagonists, who were in constant expectation of an attack on the capital, allowed him at least four weeks of undisturbed leisure for the execution of the unprecedentedly bold experiment of changing completely his military system in the heart of a hostile country and with an army still comparatively small, and of attempting to oppose African legions to the invincible legions of Italy. But his hope that the confederacy would now begin to break up was not fulfilled. In this respect the Etruscans, who had carried on their last wars of independence mainly with Gallic mercenaries, were of less moment; the flower of the confederacy, particularly in a military point of view, consisted—next to the Latins—of the Sabellian communities, and with good reason Hannibal had now come into their neighbourhood. But one town after another closed its gates; not a single Italian community entered into alliance with the Phoenicians. This was a great, in fact an all-important, gain for the Romans. Nevertheless it was felt in the capital that it would be imprudent to put the fidelity of their allies to such a test, without a Roman army to keep the field. The dictator Quintus Fabius combined the two supplementary legions formed in Rome with the army of Ariminum, and when Hannibal marched past the Roman fortress of Luceria towards Arpi, the Roman standards appeared on his right flank at Aeca. Their leader, however, pursued a course different from that of his predecessors. Quintus Fabius was a man advanced in years, of a deliberation and firmness, which to not a few seemed procrastination and obstinacy. Zealous in his reverence for the good old times, for the political omnipotence of the senate, and for the command of the burgomasters, he looked to a methodical prosecution of the war as —next to sacrifices and prayers—the means of saving the state. A political antagonist of Gaius Flaminius, and summoned to the head of affairs in virtue of the reaction against his foolish war-demagogism, Fabius departed for the camp just as firmly resolved to avoid a pitched battle at any price, as his predecessor had been determined at any price to fight one; he was without doubt convinced that the first elements of strategy would forbid Hannibal to advance so long as the Roman army confronted him intact, and that accordingly it would not be difficult to weaken by petty conflicts and gradually to starve out the enemy's army, dependent as it was on foraging for its supplies.

March to Capua and Back to Apulia War in Apulia

Hannibal, well served by his spies in Rome and in the Roman army, immediately learned how matters stood, and, as usual, adjusted the plan of his campaign in accordance with the individual character of the opposing leader. Passing the Roman army, he marched over the Apennines into the heart of Italy towards Beneventum, took the open town of Telesia on the boundary between Samnium and Campania, and thence turned against Capua, which as the most important of all the Italian cities dependent on Rome, and the only one standing in some measure on a footing of equality with it, had for that very reason felt more severely than any other community the oppression of the Roman government. He had formed connections there, which led him to hope that the Campanians might revolt from the Roman alliance; but in this hope he was disappointed. So, retracing his steps, he took the road to Apulia. During all this march of the Carthaginian army the dictator had followed along the heights, and had condemned his soldiers to the melancholy task of looking on with arms in their hands, while the Numidian cavalry plundered the faithful allies far and wide, and the villages over all the plain rose in flames. At length he opened up to the exasperated Roman army the eagerly-coveted opportunity of attacking the enemy. When Hannibal had begun his retreat, Fabius intercepted his route near Casilinum (the modern Capua), by strongly garrisoning that town on the left bank of the Volturnus and occupying the heights that crowned the right bank with his main army, while a division of 4000 men encamped on the road itself that led along by the river. But Hannibal ordered his light- armed troops to climb the heights which rose immediately alongside of the road, and to drive before them a number of oxen with lighted faggots on their horns, so that it seemed as if the Carthaginian army were thus marching off during the night by torchlight. The Roman division, which barred the road, imagining that they were evaded and that further covering of the road was superfluous, marched by a side movement to the same heights. Along the road thus left free Hannibal then retreated with the bulk of his army, without encountering the enemy; next morning he without difficulty, but with severe loss to the Romans, disengaged and recalled his light troops. Hannibal then continued his march unopposed in a north-easterly direction; and by a widely-circuitous route, after traversing and laying under contribution the lands of the Hirpinians, Campanians, Samnites, Paelignians, and Frentanians without resistance, he arrived with rich booty and a full chest once more in the region of Luceria, just as the harvest there was about to begin. Nowhere in his extensive march had he met with active opposition, but nowhere had he found allies. Clearly perceiving that no course remained for him but to take up winter quarters in the open field, he began the difficult operation of collecting the winter supplies requisite for the army, by means of its own agency, from the fields of the enemy. For this purpose he had selected the broad and mostly flat district of northern Apulia, which furnished grain and grass in abundance, and which could be completely commanded by his excellent cavalry. An entrenched camp was constructed at Gerunium, twenty-five miles to the north of Luceria. Two-thirds of the army were daily despatched from it to bring in the stores, while Hannibal with the remainder took up a position to protect the camp and the detachments sent out.

Fabius and Minucius

The master of the horse, Marcus Minucius, who held temporary command in the Roman camp during the absence of the dictator, deemed this a suitable opportunity for approaching the enemy more closely, and formed a camp in the territory of the Larinates; where on the one hand by his mere presence he checked the sending out of detachments and thereby hindered the provisioning of the enemy's army, and on the other hand, in a series of successful conflicts in which his troops encountered isolated Phoenician divisions and even Hannibal himself, drove the enemy from their advanced positions and compelled them to concentrate themselves at Gerunium. On the news of these successes, which of course lost nothing in the telling, the storm broke, forth in the capital against Quintus Fabius. It was not altogether unwarranted. Prudent as it was on the part of Rome to abide by the defensive and to expect success mainly from the cutting off of the enemy's means of subsistence, there was yet something strange in a system of defence and of starving out, under which the enemy had laid waste all central Italy without opposition beneath the eyes of a Roman army of equal numbers, and had provisioned themselves sufficiently for the winter by an organized method of foraging on the greatest scale. Publius Scipio, when he commanded on the Po, had not adopted this view of a defensive attitude, and the attempt of his successor to imitate him at Casilinum had failed in such a way as to afford a copious fund of ridicule to the scoffers of the city. It was wonderful that the Italian communities had not wavered, when Hannibal so palpably showed them the superiority of the Phoenicians and the nullity of Roman aid; but how long could they be expected to bear the burden of a double war, and to allow themselves to be plundered under the very eyes of the Roman troops and of their own contingents? Finally, it could not be alleged that the condition of the Roman army compelled the general to adopt this mode of warfare. It was composed, as regarded its core, of the capable legions of Ariminum, and, by their side, of militia called out, most of whom were likewise accustomed to service; and, far from being discouraged by the last defeats, it was indignant at the but little honourable task which its general, "Hannibal's lackey," assigned to it, and it demanded with a loud voice to be led against the enemy. In the assemblies of the people the most violent invectives were directed against the obstinate old man. His political opponents, with the former praetor Gaius Terentius Varro at their head, laid hold of the quarrel—for the understanding of which we must not forget that the dictator was practically nominated by the senate, and the office was regarded as the palladium of the conservative party—and, in concert with the discontented soldiers and the possessors of the plundered estates, they carried an unconstitutional and absurd resolution of the people conferring the dictatorship, which was destined to obviate the evils of a divided command in times of danger, on Marcus Minucius,(4) who had hitherto been the lieutenant of Quintus Fabius, in the same way as on Fabius himself. Thus the Roman army, after its hazardous division into two separate corps had just been appropriately obviated, was once more divided; and not only so, but the two sections were placed under leaders who notoriously followed quite opposite plans of war. Quintus Fabius of course adhered more than ever to his methodical inaction; Marcus Minucius, compelled to justify in the field of battle his title of dictator, made a hasty attack with inadequate forces, and would have been annihilated had not his colleague averted greater misfortune by the seasonable interposition of a fresh corps. This last turn of matters justified in some measure the system of passive resistance. But in reality Hannibal had completely attained in this campaign all that arms could attain: not a single material operation had been frustrated either by his impetuous or by his deliberate opponent; and his foraging, though not unattended with difficulty, had yet been in the main so successful that the army passed the winter without complaint in the camp at Gerunium. It was not the Cunctator that saved Rome, but the compact structure of its confederacy and, not less perhaps, the national hatred with which the Phoenician hero was regarded on the part of Occidentals.

New War-like Preparations in Rome Paullus and Varro

Despite all its misfortunes, Roman pride stood no less unshaken than the Roman symmachy. The donations which were offered by king Hiero of Syracuse and the Greek cities in Italy for the next campaign—the war affected the latter less severely than the other Italian allies of Rome, for they sent no contingents to the land army—were declined with thanks; the chieftains of Illyria were informed that they could not be allowed to neglect payment of their tribute; and even the king of Macedonia was once more summoned to surrender Demetrius of Pharos. The majority of the senate, notwithstanding the semblance of legitimation which recent events had given to the Fabian system of delay, had firmly resolved to depart from a mode of war that was slowly but certainly ruining the state; if the popular dictator had failed in his more energetic method of warfare, they laid the blame of the failure, and not without reason, on the fact that they had adopted a half-measure and had given him too few troops. This error they determined to avoid and to equip an army, such as Rome had never sent out before—eight legions, each raised a fifth above the normal strength, and a corresponding number of allies—enough to crush an opponent who was not half so strong. Besides this, a legion under the praetor Lucius Postumius was destined for the valley of the Po, in order, if possible, to draw off the Celts serving in the army of Hannibal to their homes. These resolutions were judicious; everything depended on their coming to an equally judicious decision respecting the supreme command. The stiff carriage of Quintus Fabius, and the attacks of the demagogues which it provoked, had rendered the dictatorship and the senate generally more unpopular than ever: amongst the people, not without the connivance of their leaders, the foolish report circulated that the senate was intentionally prolonging the war. As, therefore, the nomination of a dictator was not to be thought of, the senate attempted to procure the election of suitable consuls; but this only had the effect of thoroughly rousing suspicion and obstinacy. With difficulty the senate carried one of its candidates, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, who had with judgment conducted the Illyrian war in 535;(5) an immense majority of the citizens assigned to him as colleague the candidate of the popular party, Gaius Terentius Varro, an incapable man, who was known only by his bitter opposition to the senate and more especially as the main author of the proposal to elect Marcus Minucius co-dictator, and who was recommended to the multitude solely by his humble birth and his coarse effrontery.

Battle at Cannae

While these preparations for the next campaign were being made in Rome, the war had already recommenced in Apulia. As soon as the season allowed him to leave his winter quarters, Hannibal, determining as usual the course of the war and assuming the offensive, set out from Gerunium in a southerly direction, and marching past Luceria crossed the Aufidus and took the citadel of Cannae (between Canosa and Barletta) which commanded the plain of Canusium, and had hitherto served the Romans as their chief magazine. The Roman army which, since Fabius had conformably to the constitution resigned his dictatorship in the middle of autumn, was now commanded by Gnaeus Servilius and Marcus Regulus, first as consuls then as proconsuls, had been unable to avert a loss which they could not but feel. On military as well as on political grounds, it became more than ever necessary to arrest the progress of Hannibal by a pitched battle. With definite orders to this effect from the senate, accordingly, the two new commanders-in-chief, Paullus and Varro, arrived in Apulia in the beginning of the summer of 538. With the four new legions and a corresponding contingent of Italians which they brought up, the Roman army rose to 80,000 infantry, half burgesses, half allies, and 6000 cavalry, of whom one-third were burgesses and two-thirds allies; whereas Hannibal's army numbered 10,000 cavalry, but only about 40,000 infantry. Hannibal wished nothing so much as a battle, not merely for the general reasons which we have explained above, but specially because the wide Apulian plain allowed him to develop the whole superiority of his cavalry, and because the providing supplies for his numerous army would soon, in spite of that excellent cavalry, be rendered very difficult by the proximity of an enemy twice as strong and resting on a chain of fortresses. The leaders of the Roman forces also had, as we have said, made up their minds on the general question of giving battle, and approached the enemy with that view; but the more sagacious of them saw the position of Hannibal, and were disposed accordingly to wait in the first instance and simply to station themselves in the vicinity of the enemy, so as to compel him to retire and accept battle on a ground less favourable to him. Hannibal encamped at Cannae on the right bank of the Aufidus. Paullus pitched his camp on both banks of the stream, so that the main force came to be stationed on the left bank, but a strong corps took up a position on the right immediately opposite to the enemy, in order to impede his supplies and perhaps also to threaten Cannae. Hannibal, to whom it was all-important to strike a speedy blow, crossed the stream with the bulk of his troops, and offered battle on the left bank, which Paullus did not accept. But such military pedantry was disapproved by the democratic consul—so much had been said about men taking the field not to stand guard, but to use their swords—and he gave orders accordingly to attack the enemy, wherever and whenever they found him. According to the old custom foolishly retained, the decisive voice in the council of war alternated between the commanders-in-chief day by day; it was necessary therefore on the following day to submit, and to let the hero of the pavement have his way. On the left bank, where the wide plain offered full scope to the superior cavalry of the enemy, certainly even he would not fight; but he determined to unite the whole Roman forces on the right bank, and there, taking up a position between the Carthaginian camp and Cannae and seriously threatening the latter, to offer battle. A division of 10,000 men was left behind in the principal Roman camp, charged to capture the Carthaginian encampment during the conflict and thus to intercept the retreat of the enemy's army across the river. The bulk of the Roman army, at early dawn on the and August according to the unconnected, perhaps in tune according to the correct, calendar, crossed the river which at this season was shallow and did not materially hamper the movements of the troops, and took up a position in line near the smaller Roman camp to the westward of Cannae. The Carthaginian army followed and likewise crossed the stream, on which rested the right Roman as well as the left Carthaginian wing. The Roman cavalry was stationed on the wings: the weaker portion consisting of burgesses, led by Paullus, on the right next the river; the stronger consisting of the allies, led by Varro, on the left towards the plain. In the centre was stationed the infantry in unusually deep files, under the command of the consul of the previous year Gnaeus Servilius. Opposite to this centre Hannibal arranged his infantry in the form of a crescent, so that the Celtic and Iberian troops in their national armour formed the advanced centre, and the Libyans, armed after the Roman fashion, formed the drawn-back wings on either side. On the side next the river the whole heavy cavalry under Hasdrubal was stationed, on the side towards the plain the light Numidian horse. After a short skirmish between the light troops the whole line was soon engaged. Where the light cavalry of the Carthaginians fought against the heavy cavalry of Varro, the conflict was prolonged, amidst constant charges of the Numidians, without decisive result. In the centre, on the other hand, the legions completely overthrew the Spanish and Gallic troops that first encountered them; eagerly the victors pressed on and followed up their advantage. But meanwhile, on the right wing, fortune had turned against the Romans. Hannibal had merely sought to occupy the left cavalry wing of the enemy, that he might bring Hasdrubal with the whole regular cavalry to bear against the weaker right and to overthrow it first. After a brave resistance, the Roman horse gave way, and those that were not cut down were chased up the river and scattered in the plain; Paullus, wounded, rode to the centre to turn or, if not, to share the fate of the legions. These, in order the better to follow up the victory over the advanced infantry of the enemy, had changed their front disposition into a column of attack, which, in the shape of a wedge, penetrated the enemy's centre. In this position they were warmly assailed on both sides by the Libyan infantry wheeling inward upon them right and left, and a portion of them were compelled to halt in order to defend themselves against the flank attack; by this means their advance was checked, and the mass of infantry, which was already too closely crowded, now had no longer room to develop itself at all. Meanwhile Hasdrubal, after having completed the defeat of the wing of Paullus, had collected and arranged his cavalry anew and led them behind the enemy's centre against the wing of Varro. His Italian cavalry, already sufficiently occupied with the Numidians, was rapidly scattered before the double attack, and Hasdrubal, leaving the pursuit of the fugitives to the Numidians, arranged his squadrons for the third time, to lead them against the rear of the Roman infantry. This last charge proved decisive. Flight was not possible, and quarter was not given. Never, perhaps, was an army of such size annihilated on the field of battle so completely, and with so little loss to its antagonist, as was the Roman army at Cannae. Hannibal had lost not quite 6000 men, and two-thirds of that loss fell upon the Celts, who sustained the first shock of the legions. On the other hand, of the 76,000 Romans who had taken their places in the line of battle 70,000 covered the field, amongst whom were the consul Lucius Paullus, the proconsul Gnaeus Servilius, two-thirds of the staff- officers, and eighty men of senatorial rank. The consul Gaius Varro was saved solely by his quick resolution and his good steed, reached Venusia, and was not ashamed to survive. The garrison also of the Roman camp, 10,000 strong, were for the most part made prisoners of war; only a few thousand men, partly of these troops, partly of the line, escaped to Canusium. Nay, as if in this year an end was to be made with Rome altogether, before its close the legion sent to Gaul fell into an ambush, and was, with its general Lucius Postumius who was nominated as consul for the next year, totally destroyed by the Gauls.

Consequences of the Battle of Cannae Prevention of Reinforcements from Spain

This unexampled success appeared at length to mature the great political combination, for the sake of which Hannibal had come to Italy. He had, no doubt, based his plan primarily upon his army; but with accurate knowledge of the power opposed to him he designed that army to be merely the vanguard, in support of which the powers of the west and east were gradually to unite their forces, so as to prepare destruction for the proud city. That support however, which seemed the most secure, namely the sending of reinforcements from Spain, had been frustrated by the boldness and firmness of the Roman general sent thither, Gnaeus Scipio. After Hannibal's passage of the Rhone Scipio had sailed for Emporiae, and had made himself master first of the coast between the Pyrenees and the Ebro, and then, after conquering Hanno, of the interior also (536). In the following year (537) he had completely defeated the Carthaginian fleet at the mouth of the Ebro, and after his brother Publius, the brave defender of the valley of the Po, had joined him with a reinforcement of 8000 men, he had even crossed the Ebro, and advanced as far as Saguntum. Hasdrubal had indeed in the succeeding year (538), after obtaining reinforcements from Africa, made an attempt in accordance with his brother's orders to conduct an army over the Pyrenees; but the Scipios opposed his passage of the Ebro, and totally defeated him, nearly at the same time that Hannibal conquered at Cannae. The powerful tribe of the Celtiberians and numerous other Spanish tribes had joined the Scipios; they commanded the sea, the passes of the Pyrenees, and, by means of the trusty Massiliots, the Gallic coast also. Now therefore support to Hannibal was less than ever to be looked for from Spain.

Reinforcements from Spain

On the part of Carthage as much had hitherto been done in support of her general in Italy as could be expected. Phoenician squadrons threatened the coasts of Italy and of the Roman islands and guarded Africa from a Roman landing, and there the matter ended. More substantial assistance was prevented not so much by the uncertainty as to where Hannibal was to be found and the want of a port of disembarkation in Italy, as by the fact that for many years the Spanish army had been accustomed to be self-sustaining, and above all by the murmurs of the peace party. Hannibal severely felt the consequences of this unpardonable inaction; in spite of all his saving of his money and of the soldiers whom he had brought with him, his chests were gradually emptied, the pay fell into arrear, and the ranks of his veterans began to thin. But now the news of the victory of Cannae reduced even the factious opposition at home to silence. The Carthaginian senate resolved to place at the disposal of the general considerable assistance in money and men, partly from Africa, partly from Spain, including 4000 Numidian horse and 40 elephants, and to prosecute the war with energy in Spain as well as in Italy.

Alliance between Carthage and Macedonia

The long-discussed offensive alliance between Carthage and Macedonia had been delayed, first by the sudden death of Antigonus, and then by the indecision of his successor Philip and the unseasonable war waged by him and his Hellenic allies against the Aetolians (534-537). It was only now, after the battle of Cannae, that Demetrius of Pharos found Philip disposed to listen to his proposal to cede to Macedonia his Illyrian possessions—which it was necessary, no doubt, to wrest in the first place from the Romans—and it was only now that the court of Pella came to terms with Carthage. Macedonia undertook to land an invading army on the east coast of Italy, in return for which she received an assurance that the Roman possessions in Epirus should be restored to her.

Alliance between Carthage and Syracuse

In Sicily king Hiero had during the years of peace maintained a policy of neutrality, so far as he could do so with safety, and he had shown a disposition to accommodate the Carthaginians during the perilous crises after the peace with Rome, particularly by sending supplies of corn. There is no doubt that he saw with the utmost regret a renewed breach between Carthage and Rome; but he had no power to avert it, and when it occurred he adhered with well-calculated fidelity to Rome. But soon afterwards (in the autumn of 538) death removed the old man after a reign of fifty-four years. The grandson and successor of the prudent veteran, the young and incapable Hieronymus, entered at once into negotiations with the Carthaginian diplomatists; and, as they made no difficulty in consenting to secure to him by treaty, first, Sicily as far as the old Carthagino-Sicilian frontier, and then, when he rose in the arrogance of his demands, the possession even of the whole island, he entered into alliance with Carthage, and ordered the Syracusan fleet to unite with the Carthaginian which had come to threaten Syracuse. The position of the Roman fleet at Lilybaeum, which already had to deal with a second Carthaginian squadron stationed near the Aegates, became all at once very critical, while at the same time the force that was in readiness at Rome for embarkation to Sicily had, in consequence of the defeat at Cannae, to be diverted to other and more urgent objects.

Capua and Most of the Communities of Lower Italy Pass over to Hannibal

Above all came the decisive fact, that now at length the fabric of the Roman confederacy began to be unhinged, after it had survived unshaken the shocks of two severe years of war. There passed over to the side of Hannibal Arpi in Apulia, and Uzentum in Messapia, two old towns which had been greatly injured by the Roman colonies of Luceria and Brundisium; all the towns of the Bruttii—who took the lead—with the exception of the Petelini and the Consentini who had to be besieged before yielding; the greater portion of the Lucanians; the Picentes transplanted into the region of Salernum; the Hirpini; the Samnites with the exception of the Pentri; lastly and chiefly, Capua the second city of Italy, which was able to bring into the field 30,000 infantry and 4000 horse, and whose secession determined that of the neighbouring towns Atella and Caiatia. The aristocratic party, indeed, attached by many ties to the interest of Rome everywhere, and more especially in Capua, very earnestly opposed this change of sides, and the obstinate internal conflicts which arose regarding it diminished not a little the advantage which Hannibal derived from these accessions. He found himself obliged, for instance, to have one of the leaders of the aristocratic party in Capua, Decius Magius, who even after the entrance of the Phoenicians obstinately contended for the Roman alliance, seized and conveyed to Carthage; thus furnishing a demonstration, very inconvenient for himself, of the small value of the liberty and sovereignty which had just been solemnly assured to the Campanians by the Carthaginian general. On the other hand, the south Italian Greeks adhered to the Roman alliance—a result to which the Roman garrisons no doubt contributed, but which was still more due to the very decided dislike of the Hellenes towards the Phoenicians themselves and towards their new Lucanian and Bruttian allies, and their attachment on the other hand to Rome, which had zealously embraced every opportunity of manifesting its Hellenism, and had exhibited towards the Greeks in Italy an unwonted gentleness. Thus the Campanian Greeks, particularly Neapolis, courageously withstood the attack of Hannibal in person: in Magna Graecia Rhegium, Thurii, Metapontum, and Tarentum did the same notwithstanding their very perilous position. Croton and Locri on the other hand were partly carried by storm, partly forced to capitulate, by the united Phoenicians and Bruttians; and the citizens of Croton were conducted to Locri, while Bruttian colonists occupied that important naval station. The Latin colonies in southern Italy, such as Brundisium, Venusia, Paesturn, Cosa, and Cales, of course maintained unshaken fidelity to Rome. They were the strongholds by which the conquerors held in check a foreign land, settled on the soil of the surrounding population, and at feud with their neighbours; they, too, would be the first to be affected, if Hannibal should keep his word and restore to every Italian community its ancient boundaries. This was likewise the case with all central Italy, the earliest seat of the Roman rule, where Latin manners and language already everywhere preponderated, and the people felt themselves to be the comrades rather than the subjects of their rulers. The opponents of Hannibal in the Carthaginian senate did not fail to appeal to the fact that not one Roman citizen or one Latin community had cast itself into the arms of Carthage. This groundwork of the Roman power could only be broken up, like the Cyclopean walls, stone by stone.

Attitude of the Romans

Such were the consequences of the day of Cannae, in which the flower of the soldiers and officers of the confederacy, a seventh of the whole number of Italians capable of bearing arms, perished. It was a cruel but righteous punishment for the grave political errors with which not merely some foolish or miserable individuals, but the Roman people themselves, were justly chargeable. A constitution adapted for a small country town was no longer suitable for a great power; it was simply impossible that the question as to the leadership of the armies of the city in such a war should be left year after year to be decided by the Pandora's box of the balloting-urn. As a fundamental revision of the constitution, if practicable at all, could not at least be undertaken now, the practical superintendence of the war, and in particular the bestowal and prolongation of the command, should have been at once left to the only authority which was in a position to undertake it—the senate—and there should have been reserved for the comitia the mere formality of confirmation. The brilliant successes of the Scipios in the difficult arena of Spanish warfare showed what might in this way be achieved. But political demagogism, which was already gnawing at the aristocratic foundations of the constitution, had seized on the management of the Italian war. The absurd accusation, that the nobles were conspiring with the enemy without, had made an impression on the "people." The saviours to whom political superstition looked for deliverance, Gaius Flaminius and Gaius Varro, both "new men" and friends of the people of the purest dye, had accordingly been empowered by the multitude itself to execute the plans of operations which, amidst the approbation of that multitude, they had unfolded in the Forum; and the results were the battles on the Trasimene lake and at Cannae. Duty required that the senate, which now of course understood its task better than when it recalled half the army of Regulus from Africa, should take into its hands the management of affairs, and should oppose such mischievous proceedings; but when the first of those two defeats had for the moment placed the rudder in its hands, it too had hardly acted in a manner unbiassed by the interests of party. Little as Quintus Fabius may be compared with these Roman Cleons, he had yet conducted the war not as a mere military leader, but had adhered to his rigid attitude of defence specially as the political opponent of Gaius Flaminius; and in the treatment of the quarrel with his subordinate, had done what he could to exasperate at a time when unity was needed. The consequence was, first, that the most important instrument which the wisdom of their ancestors had placed in the hands of the senate just for such cases—the dictatorship—broke down in his hands; and, secondly—at least indirectly—the battle of Cannae. But the headlong fall of the Roman power was owing not to the fault of Quintus Fabius or Gaius Varro, but to the distrust between the government and the governed—to the variance between the senate and the burgesses. If the deliverance and revival of the state were still possible, the work had to begin at home with the re-establishment of unity and of confidence. To have perceived this and, what is of more importance, to have done it, and done it with an abstinence from all recriminations however just, constitutes the glorious and imperishable honour of the Roman senate. When Varro—alone of all the generals who had command in the battle —returned to Rome, and the Roman senators met him at the gate and thanked him that he had not despaired of the salvation of his country, this was no empty phraseology veiling the disaster under sounding words, nor was it bitter mockery over a poor wretch; it was the conclusion of peace between the government and the governed. In presence of the gravity of the time and the gravity of such an appeal, the chattering of demagogues was silent; henceforth the only thought of the Romans was how they might be able jointly to avert the common peril. Quintus Fabius, whose tenacious courage at this decisive moment was of more service to the state than all his feats of war, and the other senators of note took the lead in every movement, and restored to the citizens confidence in themselves and in the future. The senate preserved its firm and unbending attitude, while messengers from all sides hastened to Rome to report the loss of battles, the secession of allies, the capture of posts and magazines, and to ask reinforcements for the valley of the Po and for Sicily at a time when Italy was abandoned and Rome was almost without a garrison. Assemblages of the multitude at the gates were forbidden; onlookers and women were sent to their houses; the time of mourning for the fallen was restricted to thirty days that the service of the gods of joy, from which those clad in mourning attire were excluded, might not be too long interrupted—for so great was the number of the fallen, that there was scarcely a family which had not to lament its dead. Meanwhile the remnant saved from the field of battle had been assembled by two able military tribunes, Appius Claudius and Publius Scipio the younger, at Canusium. The latter managed, by his lofty spirit and by the brandished swords of his faithful comrades, to change the views of those genteel young lords who, in indolent despair of the salvation of their country, were thinking of escape beyond the sea. The consul Gaius Varro joined them with a handful of men; about two legions were gradually collected there; the senate gave orders that they should be reorganized and reduced to serve in disgrace and without pay. The incapable general was on a suitable pretext recalled to Rome; the praetor Marcus Claudius Marcellus, experienced in the Gallic wars, who had been destined to depart for Sicily with the fleet from Ostia, assumed the chief command. The utmost exertions were made to organize an army capable of taking the field. The Latins were summoned to render aid in the common peril. Rome itself set the example, and called to arms all the men above boyhood, armed the debtor-serfs and criminals, and even incorporated in the army eight thousand slaves purchased by the state. As there was a want of arms, they took the old spoils from the temples, and everywhere set the workshops and artisans in action. The senate was completed, not as timid patriots urged, from the Latins, but from the Roman burgesses who had the best title. Hannibal offered a release of captives at the expense of the Roman treasury; it was declined, and the Carthaginian envoy who had arrived with the deputation of captives was not admitted into the city: nothing should look as if the senate thought of peace. Not only were the allies to be prevented from believing that Rome was disposed to enter into negotiations, but even the meanest citizen was to be made to understand that for him as for all there was no peace, and that safety lay only in victory.

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