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.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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