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32. TRASU MENUS
When Hannibal had reached the Lake Trasumenus, he resolved to wait for the Romans, who were closely following him, and having chosen his ground, he arranged his forces for the coming struggle. On the northern side of the lake a steep range of hills approaches near to the water's edge, so that the road passes through a defile, formed by the lake on the right and the mountains on the left. In one spot only the hills recede to some distance and leave a small expanse of level ground, bordered on the south by the lake and everywhere else by steep heights. On these heights Hannibal drew up his army. Late in the evening Flaminius arrived in the neighborhood and encamped for the night. Early the next morning he continued his march and entered the defile. A thick mist had risen from the lake and covered the road and the foot of the hills. Suddenly the stillness of the morning was broken by the wild cry of battle, and before the Romans could seize their arms the enemy was upon them.
33. AFTER TRASU MENUS
Religion in the mind of Q. Fabius was not a mere instrument for party purposes; he was convinced that reverence for the gods was an essential element in the character of a nation, without which it must assuredly degenerate. Therefore, on the very day he became dictator he summoned the senate, and moved that the Sibylline books should forthwith be consulted. They directed, among other things, that the Roman people should vow to the gods what was called “a holy spring”—that is to say, that every animal fit for sacrifice born in the spring of that year, between the first day of March and the thirtieth of April, should be offered to Juppiter. Extraordinary games were also vowed to be celebrated in the Circus Maximus, and for three days those solemn sacrifices were performed in which the images of the gods were taken down from their temples and laid on couches richly covered, with tables full of meat and wine set before them, in the sight of all the people.
34. BEFORE CANNAE
Spring was come and well-nigh departing; and in the warm plains of Apulia the corn was ripening fast, while Hannibal's winter supplies were now nearly exhausted. He broke up his camp before Geronium, descended into the Apulian plains, and while the Roman army was still in its winter position, he threw himself on its rear and surprised a great magazine at Cannae. The citadel of Cannae was a fortress of some strength; this accordingly he occupied and placed himself, on the very eve of harvest, between the Roman army and its expected resources, while he secured to himself all the corn of southern Apulia. It was only in such low and warm situations that the corn was nearly ready; the higher country in the immediate neighborhood of Samnium is cold and backward, and the Romans were under the necessity of receiving their supplies from a great distance, or else of retreating or of offering battle.
The two armies were now so near each other that a battle was inevitable; and this was clear to Aemilius Paullus himself. On the day, therefore, on which he had the supreme command he divided the legions and passed with about one-third of his forces from the camp, which was on the right bank of the Aufidus, to the left bank, where, a short distance lower down and nearer to the enemy, he erected a second and smaller camp. This movement towards the Carthagenian army was evidently a challenge and shows very clearly with what degree of security and self-confidence the Roman armies could maneuvre in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy. Hannibal was highly delighted at the resolution of the Romans. A whole year had passed since the battle on Lake Trasumenus, a year in which all his attempts to bring on a battle had been in vain, but now at length it seemed likely that his wish was to be gratified.
36. BEFORE CANNAE
The country about Cannae was level and suitable to the evolutions of cavalry, and without doubt had for this reason been selected by Hannibal. Paullus seeing this is said to have been anxious to postpone the battle until he should have drawn Hannibal into ground of his own choosing. The historians who have praised Paullus for this forgot, in their eagerness to throw all the blame for what happened afterwards on the
'butcher's son,” that the orders of the authorities to fight a battle at once were stringent, and it is not likely that Hannibal would, by any artifices of the Roman consuls, be drawn off from a position selected by himself, well fortified and well supplied. It was impossible for an army of 80,000 men to linger long in so exhausted a country without striking a blow; and to linger there or to retreat without fighting would have been alike fatal to the Roman cause in Apulia.