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37. THE BATTLE OF CANNAE

At daybreak on the next morning the red ensign, which was the well-known signal for battle, was seen flying over Varro's headquarters; and he issued orders for the main army to cross the river and form in order of battle on the right bank. Hannibal also forded the stream and drew out his army opposite to the enemy. On the left were the Spanish and Gaulish horse; next in line, but thrown back a little, were half of the African infantry, armed like the Romans; in the centre were the Gauls and Spaniards, then came the rest of the African foot, and on the right of the whole line were the Numidian light horsemen. On the right of the Roman line were the legions, on the left the infantry of the allies; while between the Roman right and the river were the Roman horsemen, all of them of wealthy or noble families; on the left, opposed to the Numidians, were the horsemen of the Italians and of the Latin name.

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The overthrow at Cannae was so complete that every other nation but the Romans would at once have given up the idea of further resistance. It seemed that the pride of Rome must now at last be humbled and that she was as helplessly at the mercy of the invader as after the fatal battle on the Allia. What chance was there now of resisting this foe, whose victories became only the more crushing as the ranks of the legions became more dense? Since he had appeared on the south side of the Alps, no Roman had been able to resist him, and every successive blow which he had dealt had been harder. It seemed impossible that Italy could any longer bear within her own limits such an enemy as the Punic army. If Rome was unable to protect her allies, they had no alternative but to perish or to join the foreign invader.

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Never has the national will and spirit been embodied so completely and so nobly in one person as in Hannibal was embodied the spirit and the will of Carthage. Rome produced but one man who can compare with him. And this Hannibal, so great and powerful, so nearly fatal to the greatness and the very existence of Rome, is, though a stranger, the first person we meet with in the history of Rome who inspires us with a feeling of personal interest. Before Hannibal appears on the historic stage, the shadowy figures of the Valerii, the Claudii, the Fabii and other Roman heroes of the good old time, leave us cold and indifferent. They have too little reality, too little individuality about them. They are eclipsed by the foreigner Pyrrhus. But the adventures of Pyrrhus belong only in part to the history of Rome. Hannibal's whole life, on the contrary, was absorbed by his contest with the Roman people. He knew no other aim than to lay Rome in the dust. Hence the ancients did with justice call after his name the war of which he was the life and soul.

40. THE CHARACTER OF HANNIBAL

Hannibal was one of the greatest leaders of men who have ever been seen on the stage of events; he ruled an army of many races and tongues, whether in victory or defeat, with absolute sway; he mastered the government and the people of Carthage even in the hour of disaster and misfortune, and showed that he could be superior to fate; le bowed kings of the East to his will, when an exile and a soldier without a sword; he inspired Rome with terror even in his old age. His domestic life, as far as we can judge, was as pure and honorable as his public career; nor is there a doubt that the “ Punic faith,” which the Roman historians have made a charge against him, means simply that he was a master in the art of stratagem. A great modern historian has truly said: “Though anger and envy and meanness have written his history they have not been able to mar the spotless and noble image it presents."

41.

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It had been hard for him that spake it, to have put more truth and untruth together in few words than in that speech: “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” For it is most true that a natural and secret hatred and aversion towards society hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most untrue that it should have any character at all of the divine nature. But little do men perceive what solitude is and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company and faces are but a gallery of pictures and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no lovė. It is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast and not from humanity.

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