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.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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