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BOOK I - FROM THE FALL OF SAGUNTO TO THE TRASIMENO BATTLE

I – Hannibal according to his own plans began with the subjection of Spain to the south of the Ebro, which we call Spagna Ulteriore (Further Spain).


Hannibal

He first attacked the Olcadi, then the Vaccei, who joined by the Carpetani, with the exiles of the Olcadi attacked the Carthaginians.

Hannibal, avoided the battle in the open field, contracted in favorable conditions and thanks to his forty elephants defeated the Spanish.

In brief all of Spain except Sagunto fell under the yoke of the Punics.

The Carthaginian to provoke the Roman reaction urged the Turdetani to make raids in the territory of the nearby Saguntini, from whom they were divided by long years of discord.

When the Saguntini, as our allies reclaimed the help of Rome, Hannibal, with the utmost contempt of truth, accused them of harassing the Turdetani, his allies.
The consuls Publius Cornelio Scipione and Tiberius Sempronio Longo reported to the Senate what situation had been determined.

The senators decided to send ambassadors to Spain to verify the state of affairs.
Hannibal, wanting to cause war, rushed the events.
Ambassadors had not yet left Rome, when Hannibal attacked Sagunto (March 219 BC).

Being changed the scenario, the Senate was reconvened, here, according to some, a consul was to be assigned to Spain, the other to Africa, leading the war on land and by sea, according to others it was to fight only in Spain against Hannibal.

Prevailed a third party, which asserted not to face such big business before the ambassadors returned from Spain.
This opinion was also supported by Gaio Flaminio Nepote on behalf of the plebs and by Quinto Fabio Massimo Verrucoso (=warty), for the patricians.

If the ambassadors had not been able to stop Hannibal, they would have to go to Carthage.
But our ambassadors were unable to confer with Hannibal, because he said  could not guarantee their safety raging such a fierce battle.

 

II – According to the instructions received by the Senate, then the Roman ambassadors sailed to Carthage.

Before the Roman legation arrived, in the Carthaginian Senate took the word Annone saying: “I know my enmity towards Amilcare, the father of this young, ambitious and unbridled, will make my words unwelcomed to many, yet I tell you that our only hope of salvation is to hand Hannibal to the  Romans to avoid a catastrophic war ”.


Annone

His words fell in general silence.

The Roman ambassadors had not yet received by the Carthaginian Senate when, after eight months of heroic resistance, Sagunto was conquered  (November 219) by the overwhelming forces of Hannibal.
Before the city fell into the enemy's hand, the Saguntini, aware of the fate that awaited them, fused their gold with other metals to prevent the Carthaginians from enjoying their wealth.

The fall of Sagunto, while paved the way for war, on the other hand, as was clear later, showed that Hannibal's army, very strong in the open field, was not equally valid in the assault of cities defended by strong walls, so that the Saguntini, while reduced to a few thousand men, resisted for months to the repeated assaults of tens and tens of thousands of Hannibal soldiers.

Finally, received in the Senate of Carthage, the Roman ambassadors asked if Hannibal attacked Sagunto for public deliberation.

The Barca supporters rejected the question of the Romans, began to disagree on the Ebro Treaty, claiming Hannibal's right to attack Sagunto, guilty of causing allied populations.

Then the oldest of the Roman ambassadors, the renowned Marco Fabio Buteone, taking the word, said:
“It is no longer time to discuss about treaties, Sagunto has been destroyed, our allies have been massacred, again I demand if Hannibal acted autonomously or for public deliberation”.


Buteone

In the Senate, while Annone abandoned the hall, raised a great clamour.
Then Marco Fabio, opened the fold of the toga, said:
"I have here two things to give you, peace or war."
Exalted, the Carthaginian senators replied that he could give them what he wanted.

The Roman, standing up, solemnly proclaimed:
“I give you the war.

 

III - Hannibal, destroyed Sagunto, returned to Cartagena, carrying the survived Saguntines as slaves.
And in the meantime he prepared the war against Rome.

To be sure that once he left the Spain the Spanish tribes did not rebel, committed his brother Asdrubal the command of the mercenaries, largely come from Africa, who had to keep the most belligerent populations out of the blue.

The army that he himself would drive was made up of about forty thousand men, among them, commanded by Maarbale, there were more than eight thousand knights, mostly Numidi.


Maarbale

.
The infantry was composed of Spaniards and Africans, while the Carthaginians occupied the command positions.
In order to have enough supply along the way to Gallia Cisalpina, Hannibal ordered that the army would hav been followed by a large number of wagons and beasts.
Finally to intimidate the enemies decided to leave with forty elephants.

When everything was ready and began the good season, at the beginning of April (218) left Cartagena and marched towards the Ebro.
From here ihe continued to the Pyrénées, without encountering excessive resistance, but overcoming the borders of Spain, the Spanish mercenaries, who knew nothing of Hannibal's intentions, asked where he would lead them.

He first tried to reassure them with the promise of a big booty, but in the meantime kept his target secret.
On the other hand half of his infantry was Spanish, so Hannibal was forced to stop just past the Pyrenees, trying to convince the Iberians not to abandon him.

As time passed the fortune came to the aid of the Carthaginian, in fact a delegation of Insubri and Boi leaders arrived to confer with him.
They declared that if Hannibal would have arrived in Cisalpina Gaul would have found hundreds of Gauls, with a strong cavalry, ready to support him, ready to fight against Rome, ready to march on Rome.

Hannibal had brought with him great riches, thanks to which with rich gifts assured the favor of the Gauls, promising them to equally divide the spoil, which with their victories would be assured.
The Carthaginian well knew how the recent war that had opposed Rome to the Taurini, the Insubri and the Boi, had not frozen the warlike spirit of the Gauls, made even more furious for the losses suffered.
The Gauls themselves were confident that by allying themselves with Hannibal they would have finally bent Rome.

 

IV – The Romans meanwhile, as they were indignant against the Carthaginians, were late in making the necessary decisions.
It happened that while they were thinking of fighting Hannibal in Spain, he had already crossed the Pyrenees.

Anyway before severely judging our inertia, it seems appropriate to consider that from the end of the First Punic War (241) we were constantly called to arms.

First, the rebellion of the Falischi, repressed in a short time, shortly after the insurrection of Sardinia and Corsica, after the expulsion of the Carthaginians, while in Iliria raged piracy.

Given the weakness of the Carthaginians, exausted by the Punic War and the Libyan War, we could not tolerate that the two islands would fall into the hands of populations likely ready to commit piracy, thus jeopardizing the trade of our allied cities such as Massalia (Marseilles) and Emporiae (today Empurias, Catalonia), as well as those of Etruria.

Rome conquered Corsica only after two years of wars (in 237), while the subordination of Sardinia demanded a great expense of forces for the continuing rebellion of local tribes.
Among other things, our act came to create an unmistakable dissension with the Carthaginians who, despite being driven from the islands, felt defrauded by us.

A few years after the Illyrian piracy in the Adriatic Sea became so unpunished that the same allied cities in Rome were victim. But unpunished should not remain, so we could not exempt from fighting the first Illiric War (231).
Shortly later was the turn of the Cisalpini Gauls who, with the exception of the Cenomani, came to war with an exterminated army, they were defeated in Etruria at Talamone and finally in Mediolanum by the consul Gaio Flaminio Nepote (224).

Taking advantage of the alleged difficulties of the Romans, Demetrius of Faro, resumed piracy causing the Second Illiric War (221), which the consuls Lucio Emilio Paolo and Marco Livio Salinatore carried out with the definitive defeat of the Illiri.

It seems therefore comprehensible that we want to avoid a new war, the worst we could wish for, while the campaigns abandoned by young people, called to arms for so many wars, became i every day ncreasingly unproductive. 

 

V – Returning to Hannibal, his advancement proceeded more slowly than he would have desired, in fact, crossed the Ebro river, he went to the Pyrenees and not to delay the march, avoided Emporiae, which, defended by mighty walls, could have resisted for a long time, allowing us to rescue the city by sea. But also to overcome the Pyrenees he had to negotiate with the local populations the conditions for crossing the territories, without having to wear out his own forces with undesirable conflicts.

And time passed.

Meanwhile, the Massalioti (Marseilles), informed the Romans that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro, fearing that the Carthaginian, as had captured Sagunto, wanted to assault their city, invoked our help.

Massalioti's fear was well founded, for if Massalia had fallen into the enemy's hand, Hannibal would have won a formidable naval base from which he would control the routes to and from Spain, threatened the ports of Etruria and finally assured all the necessary supplies without having to go through the same wandering ground, in which he was currently engaged.

 

VI – Beeing surprised the Roman Senate had to change all the plans of war.
To the new consuls Publio Cornelio Scipione (father of the African) was assigned the Spain, to stop Hannibal; to Tiberio Sempronio Longo, the Africa, with the task of bringing war close to Carthage. 

Scipione father Longo

As I shall say, Tiberius Sempronio, who had already left Sicily for Carthage, was called back to Italy, while Publio Cornelio was sent to Massalioti's rescue.

Embarked on Etruria, the consul landed at Massalia with two legions and about five thousand auxiliaries. From Massalia he continued to the foothills of the Rhône River, where, in an advantageous position, he set the camp waiting for Hannibal.
But since there were no traces of Carthaginians, he rested the troops.

Fatal was this delay since Hannibal had made him believe he was aiming for Massalia, while he was actually heading the Rhône River to the north.

The Volci, a particularly warlike Gallic tribe, who lived on both banks of the Rhône and was tied to Massalioti by the common commercial interests, did not come to terms with the Carthaginians.
They Bring on the east bank the people who lived on the right bank of the Rhône.

Pubius Cornelio not seeing the Carthaginians sent in exploration three hundred chosen riders accompanied by Massaliote guides.

Meanwhile Hannibal, however surprised by the resistance of the Volci, who had not bent even with the offerings of rich gifts and gold of which the Gauls are avid, did not lose heart.

Building a large number of boats to cross the river and deploying his army in battle, hoped to intimidate the enemies, who, lined up on the other side of the river, with great gunshots showed they would not have refused the battle.

The Carthaginian then had to resort to a new stratagem.
Informed by his guides that more to the north the Rhône had a smooth turn, in the middle of the night sent Annone son of Bomilcare (one of the most distinguished Carthaginian characters) with a large number of riders to this turret that left from his camp twenty-five miles (about 37 km).

Annone, having rested the knights, crossed the river and began to descend to the south to take the Volci behind.


Annone

 

VII – Meanwhile, the Roman cavalry, led by the Massalioti, climbing up the Rhône, collided with five hundred Carthaginian knights.

The battle was violent and almost equal the losses, but the enemies retreated.
Proud of their victory the riders came back to Pubblio Cornelio announcing that Hannibal was climbing the Rhône heading north.

As mentioned above, the accumulated delays were fatal, in fact if the consul, thanks to the mediation of Massalioti, would have deployed his army alongside the Volci, the Hannibal advance to Rome would end on the Rhône.
But this did not want the Fate that dominates men's lives.

The Volci, like all Gauls are valiant fighters, but in their indolence disdain the discipline, which presides over the art of war.

So they did not care to watch the enemy's moves, and when Annone attacked them from the north, with his formidable Numidic cavalry, they were caught in surprise, while Hannibal taking advantage of their disorientation began to cross the river.

The Gauls, as we have often witnessed, fight in the early hours of battle with incredible vigor, but with the passing of hours they lose strenght.
It also happened in this predicament.

The Volci, once defeated, dispersed in their territories, and Hannibal remained the master of the field, even though he had to pay a heavy tribute to his enemies.

 

VIII – Publius Cornelio, understood that Hannibal's goal was not Massalia, but intended to cross the Alps to invade Gallia Cisalpina, made a courageous and prosperous decision.
To prevent the enemy from being supplied by Spain, he entrusted much of his army to his brother Gneo Cornelio Scipione Calvo, who embarked at Massalia landed at Emporiae (north of Catalonia), our faithful ally, who welcomed him with great honors and with relief, as the fall of Sagunto, the historic ally of the Romans, had caused a great resentment among our allies against Rome who had not intervened in his defense.


Scipione Calvo

So the arrival of Gneo Cornelio was welcomed as proof that the Romans would not abandon Spain Citeriore (=nearest, from the Roman point of wiew).
That is the Spain to the north of the Ebro river.

Gneo Cornelio, besides being a great commander, was a man of unparalleled pity, thanks to these virtues he reconciled with the Romans the peoples in the northern Ebro, as said, indignant versus us, who had abandoned the Saguntini.

To defend the Citeriore Spain (Catalonia), about 170 miles (250 km) south of Emporiae, Gneo Scipione built the city of Tarraco (Tarragona), a fundamental naval base for the Romans, protected with impenetrable walls.

While halfway between Emporiae and Tarraco, he built the great fortress of Barcino (Barcellona).


Barcino

Meanwhile, Publio Cornelio, warned that Hannibal, after passing the Rhône, was crossing the Alps to descend to Gallia Cisalpina, embarked on Massalia, returning to Italy, where he landed in Pisae (Pisa).

 

IX – In order to free his advance, the Carthaginian led the Insubri and the Boi to attack the Roman colony of Placentia, whose inhabitants, largely veterans, defended by strong walls, bravely rejected the barbarians.

Shortly thereafter, with a legion, the Roman pretor Lucio Manlio Vulsone, who unkindly attacked the Gauls, was in turn rejected, leaving few victims on the ground.

The Taurini (inhabited the subalpine territories, including Turin), fearing that the Carthaginian army would have devastated their lands, broke the alliance with the Insubri, while the Cenomans, our allies, called the young people to arms, ready to concentrate on Brixia (Brescia).

The Insubri then called for help the Gesati, who remembering the recent defeat, in which they had lost both their kings, refused to go down again from the Alps, inter alia without knowing who they should serve, the Insubri or the Carthaginians?

In such predicaments, the Roman Senate ordered  the consul Tiberius Sempronio not to land in Africa but return to Italy to join his forces with those of Publio Cornelio.

However, on the way back, Tiberio Sempronio conquered the important Carthaginian naval base of Malta, leaving a strong garrison.  

 

X – Hannibal, put the Volci to fleight, gave a rest to the army and treated the wounded, then resumed the march to the Alps, but could not follow the most convenient way, as the easiest mountain passes were guarded by the belligerent Gesati.

They feared that Hannibal wanted to occupy their mountains, so on no conditions did they want to allow him to advance.
To overcome the peaks of the Alps, the Carthaginians had to fight step by step, and since the summer season was over, the army was hit by snowstorms, causing a large number of beasts to fall from the mountains with the supplies they carried and even about ten elephants were lost.

When they finally reached the subalpine valleys found the Taurini deployed to battle.
In vain Hannibal tried to negotiate the conditions for the transfer of his army into their territory, the word was left to arms.

Rejected by the Carthaginians Taurini took refuge in Taurasia (Turin) their largest city.
Taurini are a Gallo-Ligurian population, their major cities are indeed large villages, whose defense is entrusted to modest fences.

Despite the strenuous resistance, in less than a week Taurasia was stormed and here Hannibal showed his cruel nature, the population was massacred, probably to intimidate the other tribes.
The result he gained was ambiguous, the plain villages surrendered, while the populations living at the slopes of the mountains retreated inside.

In return the fame of the cruelty of the Carthaginians spread from Gaul to Etruria.
Meanwhile, the Cenomans concentrated in Brixia a strong army.
After these further clashes, Hannibal had to rest the army, that, due to the battles and to the crossing of the Alps, had radically reduced.

Before passing the Rhône, Hannibal was estimated to have forty thousand foot soldiers and eighty  thousand knights, while at this point the number of infants had halved and the knights had gone down to just over six thousand.

Waiting to reunite with Insubri and Boi, the Carthaginian committed himself to hiring the Ligurian warriors, not only famous for their value and resistance, but also because the eastern tribes are our enemies, while the Genuati (Inhabitants of Genoa) and the western tribes are our allies.

However, due to the poor territory, Eastern Liguria is a small population from which at that time Hannibal recruited no more than a thousand men.

 

XI – Publio Cornelio, landed at Pisae with the cavalry and a small number of infants, proceeded to the highest speed towards Clastidium (Casteggio in the vicinity of Pavia), inside the territory of the Insubri.

Here there were the two legions enlisted by the Praetorians Manlio and Atilio.

Publio Cornelio intended with this move, to intervene between the Insubri and the Boi, to prevent that joined would unite to aggregation with the Carthaginians.

It was a success, but not confident in the legionnaires' quality, mostly recruits, He enrolled a large number of Gaul knights.

From Clastidium he moved to the Ticino river, which descending from Hellvetia (Switzerland), with its waters, even more vortical for rains, that in September swept these rivers, constituted for Hannibal a difficult obstacle to overcome.

On the banks of the Ticino, Scipione built a wooden bridge to pass on the right bank of the river, where he intended to fortify himself in anticipation of the enemy.
But the enemy had already arrived.

Almost without the two commanders will the avant-gardes of the two armies faced. The Carthaginians consisted of the Numidic cavalry commanded by Maarbale, that of the Romans by the Gallic cavalry and by the Praetorian guard of Publio Cornelio.

At the first clash, the Gauls deserted.
The Roman consul was wounded and saved by his guard in which served his eighteen-year-old son (the future African).

The wooden bridge was cut, so the Carthaginians could not chase the Romans.
Our losses were no more than a few hundred men, but Hannibal's victory was exaggerated, so much to attract a large number of mercenaries.

However, the Senate attributed the defeat, if not to the imprudence of the consul who had entrusted his own life to the infamous Gallic cavalry.

Many mourning had to strike Rome to make it clear that the force of the Carthaginians was represented by the most valuable Numidian cavalry commanded by a great leader such as Maarbale,.
On the other hand, the uncontrollable trust of the Roman consuls in our infantry would have led them to imprudently accept many other battles.

Indeed, if Publio Cornelio, defended by Ticino river, had waited a few days he would have been reached by the other consul, and quite different could have been the outcome of this first clash.
But Pubblio Cornelio had been violently attacked for not preventing Hannibal from crossing the Rhône, so he tried to redeem himself in front of his citizens.

Finally, Hannibal in those days was thirty-one years old and, for the past ten years had spent his life in war and like him most of the Carthaginian commandants, while in Rome the consuls, commanders of the armies, remained in office for only one year.

 

XII – Tiberius Sempronio Longo proceeding the highest speed, departing part by sea and part by land, joined Publio Cornelio in Placentia.

A few days later a delegation of Cenomani Gauls came to him, asking for his help, because  Hanibal, knowing that they were our allies, devastated their territory. These requests were not ignored, Tiberio Sempronio, immediatly taking the Cenomani as guides, followed them with part of the cavalry and the infantry.

The Carthaginians, surprised, were defeated, while the survivors repaired in the Hannibal camp.
The Carthaginian surprised denied the battle, but remained inside his fortifications.
Proud for this victory, the consul intended to arrive at the decisive clash as soon as possible.

He feared that loosing time Hannibal would have recruited a large number of Gauls, including Boi, who, thanks to the work of Publio Cornelio, had not yet been able to join the Insubri and hence Hannibal himself.

However, the Carthaginian corrupted the chief of the Roman garrison of Clastidium, occupied the fortress, in which we had deposited large quantities of food, so the loss of Clastidium was particularly damaging.

The city was inhabited by that part of the Ligurians who is our ally and here the consul Marco Claudio Marcello (in 222) defeated in a great battle the Insubri.


Marco Claudio Marcello

The same consul killed by his hand Virdumaro king of the Insubri and consecrated his weapons to Jupiter. This was the last time a Roman consul conquered the “Spolia Opima” (so were  named the weapons of the enemy king killed by the same consul).

To demonstrate his magnanimity, as he had taken Clastidium without fighting, Hannibal spared the Roman garrison, which was mostly formed by Ligurians.
The fears of Tiberius Sempronio seemed to occur, in fact, as Clastidium fell, the people of Eastern Liguria, our enemies, had the way open to reach the Carthaginians.

 

XIII – For the mentioned reasons, the consul was looking for every opportunity to attack Annibale.
Some say that Publio Cornelio has called him to prudence, but still convalescent for the wound reported in Ticino battle, had few arguments to oppose his colleague, but moreover after the recent victorious clash with the Carthaginians.

Although the season was late (mid December 218) and weather very cold, Hanibal, pushed by the Gauls, wanted to come to battle.

Placed his camp about six miles (9,000 mt.) from the Roman camp, separated by the Trebbia River, started to provoke us.
The Carthaginian army could count on about thirty thousand men, archers and infants, against the thirty-six thousand Romans, but our cavalry was only four thousand men against the ten thousand enemies.

Tiberius Sempronio, who was unmoved by the cold waters of the river, crossed it.

At the beginning of the battle, the heavy Roman infantry ruthlessly compared the confrontation, but when the Numidian cavalry of Maarbale overcame our knights, they began to retreat, exposing the infantry's flanks. Therefore our infantry had to withdraw.

Strongly fighting our legionaries opened up a gap between the enemies and about ten thousand soldiers re-crossed the river, while the surviving knights had already themselves saved.

Of the auxiliaries, the Cenomani and the Liguri fled to their own lands, while part of the light infantry dispersed in the countryside, all the others were killed or captured.

Despite the serious defeat, the Roman Senate remained confident, attributing the cause to the supposed fitness of consul Tiberio Sempronio, who, being a plebeian man, did not enjoy great support in the Senate. The Romans were impressed by the value shown by our heavy infantry, who in an extreme danger had saved by killing a lot of enemies.

The surviving troops were conducted in the colonies of Placentia and Cremona, while the Carthaginians overwhelmed by fatigue gave up crossing the Trebbia.

 

XIV  - As I recalled, despite the defeat, the Senate remained confident, glorifying for the legionaries' value and ignoring the fact, though obviously, that the battle had been won by the enemy cavalry, largely formed by the famous Numidian knights, led by the expert Maarbale.

Finally for Hercules how could four thousand Roman knights resist ten thousand Carthaginians?

Indulging in these illusions, wasting the pause imposed by the rigors of winter, the Senate did not take the necessary decisions, preparing for future misfortunes.

For the following year (217) were elected consul the plebeian Gaio Flaminio Nepote and the patrician Gneo Servilio Gemino, who was sent with his legions to Ariminum (Rimini), which thanks to Via Flaminia, built three years earlier by the other consul, allowed a quick connection with Rome.

Gaio Flaminio was entrusted with the defense of Etruria. 


Gaio Flaminio Nepote

 

XV – While these things happened in Italy, Gneo Cornelio Scipione Calvo disembarked at Emporiae (September 218), as said, reconciled with the Romans all the people of the coast to the north of the Ebro river.

The bold populations of the mountainous inner areas, not tolerating the overthrow of the Carthaginians, covenanted with Gneo Cornelio, committing themselves to providing valuable auxiliaries.

Annone (one of the many Carthaginians with this name) left by Hannibal to preside, with ten thousand infantrymen and one thousand knights, the territories in the northern Ebro, fearing to face the superior Roman forces, awaited the arrival of Indibile, the most powerful commander of the Iberian tribes set up on the Ebro Mountains.

When Indiblie reached him, Annone moved toward Gneo Cornelio to attack the battle.


Indibile

The Roman fearing that even Asdrubale Barca could come with his army, was delighted to accept the challenge.


Asdrubale Barca

The battle took place in Cissa, south of Tarraco.

The clash was short, the Romans broke the enemies, capturing the same Annone and Indibile.
The booty was very rich, for in Cissa the Hannibal soldiers had left what was non usefull for the war, leaving all their precious things.

Before coming to know the disaster of Cissa, Asdrubale Barca crossed the Ebro, but when he knew what had happened, unable to face Gneo Cornelio, re-crossed the Ebro.

The Roman commander left in Tarraco a garrison, embarked for Emporiae.

 

XVI – Asdrubale as soon as he knew that Gneo Cornelio had embarked,  crossed the Ebro again, convincing the Ilergeti to devastae the lands of the allies of Rome.

Leaving the winter quarters Gneo Cornelio marched against the Ilergeti, while Asdrubale repaired again to the south of the Ebro.

Abandoned by the one who had pushed them into rebellion, all the Ilergeti took refuge in the town of Atenagro, which besieged after a few days surrendered, handing over to the Roman hostages and paying a tribute.
A far greater price touched the Lacetani, Carthaginians allies, who clashing versus the Romans, lost eleven thousand men.

Their leader Amusico fled to Asdrubale.
Agreed a tribute of twenty talents of silver (about 450 kg), the Lacetans capitulated.

What happened did teach Gneo Cornelio not to rely too much on the fidelity of the fickle Spanish tribes.
He therefore established the new winter quarters part in Tarraco, much further south of Emporiae and part in Barcino.
Thus through the two bases could control the northern coast of the Ebro and its people.

Tarraco, to be the southernmost base, had to be more strongly defended.
The legionaries not spent the winter in idleness, but according to the will of their commander, to defend the city, erected heavily very strong walls and expanded the harbor.

The built, or the reinforcing of naval bases, by Gnaeus Cornelius, as we shall see, had during the Hannibalic war a key strategic importance because it prevented the Carthaginians to send supplies to Hannibal from Spain by sea.

It ended with the victories of Gnaeus Cornelio Scipione Calvo an year (218) to Rome otherwise disastrous for the many favorable opportunities lost, the mistakes made and the great skill of Hannibal in turning every circumstance in his favor.

 

XVII – As mentioned, Gaio Flaminio Nepote was violently opposed by the Roman Senate, but at the same time strongly supported by the plebs, this was his second consulate (217).

Taking charge, he wrote to his predecessor, Tiberio Sempronio Longo, to concentrate the troops at Ariminum on March 15, to take over the command.
The Senate learned of the will of the consul attempted to prevent Gaio Flaminio from leaving Rome, using the most impudent superstitions.

Flaminio was forced to leave Rome as if he were a private citizen and reached Ariminum.
The Senators deliberated that the consul was called back.

Two ambassadors sent him to this task, but Flaminio, strong because of the popular plebiscite, by which he had been elected, sent ambassadors to Rome without paying any attention to them.
Flaminio therefore took charge of the two legions left by Sempronio and the two by the praetor Gaio Atilio Serrano, in one of whom I was also enrolled.

Young, tedious, impatient and ambitious, I was then doing everything to be noticed by the primipilus centurion, the valorous Lucio Licinio Gladio. Who noticed my eagerness to point out , named myself Aquilifer (bearer of the Legion Eagle).

Crossing the Appennine Gaio Flaminio led us to Etruria, where he predicted that Hannibal get down.
The Carthaginian was urged by the Gauls to invade Etruria, where they counted to plunder and at the same time to bring the war out of their territories.

Since Hannibal could not count on aid neither from Spain nor from Africa, as we had control of the seas, and Gneo Cornelio had driven our enemies beyond the Ebro, he had to perforce hear the Gauls, since they gave him the indispensable mercenaries.

So he left the winter quarters before the winter ended.

At the beginning of March he set out to march and, to surprise us, he chose the most unpleasant, but shorter route that crossing the Apennines leads to Pistoria (Pistoia).

 

XVIII – As soon as he came down to the plains of Etruria, Hannibal's mercenaries devastated the territory, and did not content themselves with looting but slaughtered all those who had not been able to repair behind the city walls.

As Flaminio was in a hurry to intercept Hannibal, warned the other consul to reach him as soon as possible.

But Hannibal also advanced rapidly to Rome.
Accustomed to the fickle Spanish people, Carthaginians thought our allies would rebel, opening the way to the Urbe (the city of Rome).

Flaminio, therefore, with the intention of stripping Annibale, engaged with the enemy a true race, but the Carthaginian had moved in advance and came close to the Trasimeno, hiding his troops in the valleys that surround the lake.

When we also came near the lake, were not only reached by the Gneo Servilio army, but for our misfortune we were surrounded by a fierce fog, while a tremendous earthquake shook the earth, dropping from above boulders and stones on our heads.

At the moment of our greatest confusion, Annibale, who occupied the top of the hills, free of fog, gave the signal of attack. The consul did not surrender to the enemy God, but took the weapons to prepare for the fight.
Licinius Gladio ordered the legionaries to follow the Eagle and the Insignia, then reaching the avant-garde stood beside Gaio Flaminio.

We fought harder, more animated by the desire to kill enemies, than by the hope of victory.
When the consul saw that we could no longer support the Carthaginian cavalry, spured his horse threw himself into the thick of the enemies.

His body was never found.

Lost the commander, the army broke down.

With few comrades, we headed to the shore of the lake, trying to outsmart the Numidian knights.
Here arrived, we found a boat, rowing we turned away from the shore, as it began to go down a gloomy night.

Protected by the darkness, after long rowing southward, we regained the shore.
Marched along countryside trails, we found ourselves on the Flaminia road.
Here we met a long line of legionaries, who, like us, headed for Rome.

It was then that I was aware of the tremendous disaster that had fallen upon us, in fact, while in our small group there were no injuries, many and bleeding were those who helped by the companions drag to our homeland.
Among these I saw Liclius Gladio, who wounded his chest, while losing much blood, refused to be brought by a litter.

In turn, we helped him walk, until he lost his senses, then finally we loaded him on an improvised litter.

Everything seemed lost.
While the terror of enemy knights was our companion .
It was already night when we heard the noise of hooves, in a whirlwind we hid in the bushes, but it was one of our tribunes that with a few riders ran to Rome, to warn the city praetor to prepare for the defense of the city.

Disappointed by hard work and oppressed by anguish, we stopped for a nasty sleep.
Finally, walking tirelessly for three days, we came to Rome.
Entering into a never so silent city, we were rescued and refreshed, while Licinio Gladio was treated with pitiful hands.

Almost every house hosted a wounded.

Yet we did well not to give up, in fact, the prisoners had different fate, Hannibal, in order to catch Italics benevolence, left free those who had fallen into his hands, the Romans were all massacred.

 

XIX – The Trasimeno catastrophe rewarded Hannibal's daring and fortune, but he had to pay for his infidelity twice as high a price.

In fact, the people of Etruria and Umbria, who had suffered the cruelty and harassment of Carthaginian mercenaries, far from opening to the enemy the gates of their cities, closed behind the walls ready to fight.
Hannibal then attempted to obtain by force what otherwise he had not obtained and in an attempt to give a terrifying example, marched towards Spoletium (Spoleto).

The city was besieged, but after more than a week, suffered heavy losses, Hannibal took off the siege and changed his programs.

Meanwhile, due to the death of one of the two consuls, was named dictator Quinto Fabio Massimo Verrucoso (275 – 203) and commander of the cavalry Marco Minucio Rufo.

Quinto Fabio Massimo Verrucoso Marco Minucio Rufo

Fabio Massimo, well before others, understood that the enemy was at the time invincible, therefore it was not to be dealt with in the open field. So first he fortified all the passes that from Umbria and Etruria lead to Rome.

At the same time, he placed his camps in elevated places, unmarked by the cavalry of Maarbale, and even following Annibale closely, avoided any clash, but as soon as the enemies left their camps, dispersed in the fields to sack, took them prisoners or killed them.

This led to exasperation the impatient Hannibal, who was forced to change his plans again.

 

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