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.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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