They joined the conqueror of the Romans, indeed, after the cause of Rome seemed fairly lost, but they felt that the question was no longer one of liberty; it was simply the exchange of an Italian for a Phoenician master, and it was not enthusiasm, but despair that threw the Sabellian communities into the arms of the victor. Under such circumstances the war in Italy flagged. Hannibal, who commanded the southern part of the peninsula as far up as the Volturnus and Garganus, and who could not simply abandon these lands again as he had abandoned that of the Celts, had now likewise a frontier to protect, which could not be left uncovered with impunity; and for the purpose of defending the districts that he had gained against the fortresses which everywhere defied him and the armies advancing from the north, and at the same time of resuming the difficult offensive against central Italy, his forces--an army of about 40,000 men, without reckoning the Italian contingents--were far from sufficient.


Above all, he found that other antagonists were opposed to him. Taught by fearful experience, the Romans adopted a more judicious system of conducting the war, placed none but experienced officers at the head of their armies, and left them, at least where it was necessary, for a longer period in command. These generals neither looked down on the enemy's movements from the mountains, nor did they throw themselves on their adversary wherever they found him; but, keeping the true mean between inaction and precipitation, they took up their positions in entrenched camps under the walls of fortresses, and accepted battle where victory would lead to results and defeat would not be destruction. The soul of this new mode of warfare was Marcus Claudius Marcellus. With true instinct, after the disastrous day of Cannae, the senate and people had turned their eyes to this brave and experienced officer, and entrusted him at once with the actual supreme command. He had received his training in the troublesome warfare against Hamilcar in Sicily, and had given brilliant evidence of his talents as a leader as well as of his personal valour in the last campaigns against the Celts. Although far above fifty, he still glowed with all the ardour of the most youthful soldier, and only a few years before this he had, as general, cut down the mounted general of the enemy(1)--the first and only Roman consul who achieved that feat of arms. His life was consecrated to the two divinities, to whom he erected the splendid double temple at the Capene Gate--to Honour and to Valour; and, while the merit of rescuing Rome from this extremity of danger belonged to no single individual, but pertained to the Roman citizens collectively and pre-eminently to the senate, yet no single man contributed more towards the success of the common enterprise than Marcus Marcellus.

Hannibal Proceeds To Campania

From the field of battle Hannibal had turned his steps to Campania, He knew Rome better than the simpletons, who in ancient and modern times have fancied that he might have terminated the struggle by a march on the enemy's capital. Modern warfare, it is true, decides a war on the field of battle; but in ancient times, when the system of attacking fortresses was far less developed than the system of defence, the most complete success in the field was on numberless occasions neutralized by the resistance of the walls of the capitals. The council and citizens of Carthage were not at all to be compared to the senate and people of Rome; the peril of Carthage after the first campaign of Regulus was infinitely more urgent than that of Rome after the battle of Cannae; yet Carthage had made a stand and been completely victorious. With what colour could it be expected that Rome would now deliver her keys to the victor, or even accept an equitable peace? Instead therefore of sacrificing practicable and important successes for the sake of such empty demonstrations, or losing time in the besieging of the two thousand Roman fugitives enclosed within the walls of Canusium, Hannibal had immediately proceeded to Capua before the Romans could throw in a garrison, and by his advance had induced this second city of Italy after long hesitation to join him. He might hope that, in possession of Capua, he would be able to seize one of the Campanian ports, where he might disembark the reinforcements which his great victories had wrung from the opposition at home.

Renewal Of The War In Campania The War In Apulia

When the Romans learned whither Hannibal had gone, they also left Apulia, where only a weak division was retained, and collected their remaining forces on the right bank of the Volturnus. With the two legions saved from Cannae Marcus Marcellus marched to Teanum Sidicinum, where he was joined by such troops as were at the moment disposable from Rome and Ostia, and advanced--while the dictator Marcus Junius slowly followed with the main army which had been hastily formed--as far as the Volturnus at Casilinum, with a view if possible to save Capua. That city he found already in the power of the enemy; but on the other hand the attempts of the enemy on Neapolis had been thwarted by the courageous resistance of the citizens, and the Romans were still in good time to throw a garrison into that important port. With equal fidelity the two other large coast towns, Cumae and Nuceria, adhered to Rome. In Nola the struggle between the popular and senatorial parties as to whether they should attach themselves to the Carthaginians or to the Romans, was still undecided. Informed that the former were gaining the superiority, Marcellus crossed the river at Caiatia, and marching along the heights of Suessula so as to evade the enemy's army, he reached Nola in sufficient time to hold it against the foes without and within. In a sally he even repulsed Hannibal in person with considerable loss; a success which, as the first defeat sustained by Hannibal, was of far more importance from its moral effect than from its material results. In Campania indeed, Nuceria, Acerrae, and, after an obstinate siege prolonged into the following year (539), Casilinum also, the key of the Volturnus, were conquered by Hannibal, and the severest punishments were inflicted on the senates of these towns which had adhered to Rome.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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