Images de page

100. Having passed the Pyrenees, Hannibal advanced through friendly tribes of Gauls to the Rhone, which he crossed near the modern town of Orange, gaining an advance of three days upon the army of Scipio, the consul, who had intended to stop him. The passage of the Alps, with such a force, was one of the greatest military achievements of ancient times. The higher mountains were already obstructed by the snows of early autumn; hostile tribes contested his passage in narrow and dangerous defiles; and in two fierce battles, the army of Hannibal narrowly escaped total destruction. When, after fifteen days of toilsome and dangerous marching, he emerged into the plain of the Po, it was with scarcely more than one-fourth of the great army which had accompanied him from Carthagena.

101. The Insubrian Gauls welcomed Hannibal as their deliverer from the hated power of Rome. After a short period of rest in their hospitable country, he sought Scipio, and totally routed his forces in a battle on the Tici'nus. By a still greater victory on the Tre'bia, over the forces of the two consuls (Dec., 218 B. C.), Hannibal became master of northern Italy. All the Gauls who had wavered now hastened to join his standard; but the gain from this quarter was balanced by the irreparable loss of his elephants, and the severe suffering of his African and Spanish troops from the unwonted coldness of the winter.

In the spring of 217 B. C., he crossed the Apennines, and traversed the marshes of the Arno, a passage of tremendous difficulty, in which many of his beasts of burden perished. Again seeking battle, Hannibal passed the army of Flaminius at Arretium, and laid waste the country toward Peru'sia, thus provoking the consul to follow. When he had drawn the Roman army into a most perilous position, between precipitous cliffs and the Lake Thrasymene, he let loose his Gauls and Numidians to the attack. The defeat of the Romans was overwhelming: thousands were forced into the lake; thousands fell by the sword, among whom was Flaminius himself; and 15,000 prisoners remained in the hands of the enemy.

102. A panic seized Rome; the conqueror was instantly expected at her gates, and Fabius was elected dictator with unlimited powers. But Hannibal had sought to detach the Italian allies from Rome, by releasing without ransom all their prisoners whom he had taken. Wishing to give time for the disunion to take effect, he turned aside into Apulia, where he rested and recruited his troops worn by so many hardships.

It was already proved in three battles that the Carthaginian was irresistible in the field. The policy of Fabius, therefore, was to avoid a general engagement, while he annoyed and weakened his enemy by cutting off his foraging parties, and otherwise harassing his march. In vain Hannibal crossed the Apennines into the rich Campanian fields, plundering and destroying the crops; he could neither capture a town nor entice

[ocr errors]

Fabius into a battle. The latter fortified the Samnian mountain-passes, thinking to catch his enemy in a trap; but Hannibal eluded the snare and retired safe into Apulia, laden with abundant provision for the comfort of his winter-quarters.

103. Great discontent was felt at Rome with the cautious policy of the dictator, and, in the spring of 216 B. C., an army of nearly 90,000 men was led into Apulia by the two consuls Æmilius Paulus and Terentius Varro. They were met by Hannibal on the plain of the Aufidus, near the little town of Cannæ. The Carthaginians were inferior in numbers but superior in discipline, especially in the Numidian horsemen, who had always been victorious in an open field. Never had the Romans suffered so overwhelming a defeat. Their army was annihilated. From 40,000 to 50,000 men lay dead upon the plain, among whom were Æmilius the consul, eighty senators, and the flower of Roman knighthood. Varro, the other consul, with a small but resolute band, made his way in good order from the battle-field; the rest of the survivors were either dispersed or taken prisoners.

104. Southern Italy was now lost to Rome. Except the Roman colonies and the Greek cities held by Roman garrisons, all submitted to Hannibal. Capua opened her gates and became the winter-quarters of the African army. Philip of Macedon and Hieronymus of Syracuse made alliance with Carthage, and wars with these two powers divided the attention of the Romans. Still, beside keeping two armies in the foreign fields, they occupied every province of Italy with a separate force; and though. too wise to meet Hannibal again in a general engagement, hemmed him in closely and cut off his supplies. The great general was now but faintly supported at home, and the ungenerous policy of Carthage probably deprived her of the conquest of Italy.

105. Three years, therefore, passed with no decisive events. In 212 B. C., Syracuse was taken by Marcellus after two years' siege. The attacks of the Romans had been long foiled by the skill of Archimedes, the philosopher, who is said to have burnt their ships at the distance of a bow-shot from the walls, by means of a combination of mirrors which concentrated the sun's rays. He constructed powerful engines, which, when attached to the walls, grappled the Roman ships and lifted them out of the water; and, in short, the brain of Archimedes was a better defense to Syracuse than the arms of all her soldiers. In the taking of the city, the philosopher was slain by some ignorant troopers; but Marcellus deeply regretted the event. He ordered him to be buried with high honors, and distinguished his family by many marks of friendship.

106. Hannibal had been long anxiously awaiting the arrival of his brother from Spain; but the generalship of the two Scipios, Cneius and Publius, who conducted the war in that country, and more especially the A. H.-37.

[ocr errors]

brilliant genius of the son of the latter, afterward known as Africanus, had detained Hasdrubal and involved him in many disasters, even the loss of his capital, Carthagena. At last, in 208 B. C., Hasdrubal left Spain to the care of two other generals, and striking out a new path, as his brother's route of eleven years before was now guarded by the Romans, he crossed the Pyrenees at their western extremity and plunged into the heart of Gaul. Many of the restless people flocked to his standard, and he "descended from the Alps like a rolling snow-ball, far greater than he came over the Pyrenees."

He found some of Hannibal's roads uninjured; the mountaineers made no effort to dispute his passage, and he arrived in Italy before he was expected, so that no Roman army was ready to receive him. He might, perhaps, have settled once for all the supremacy of Carthage by marching directly on Rome, for the resources of the Republic, both in men and money, had been drained to the utmost, and another Thrasymene or Cannæ would have ended her existence.

107. Hasdrubal lost time in the siege of Placentia, and his letter, describing to Hannibal his plan of operations, fell into the hands of Nero, the consul, who, by a rapid and secret march, joined his colleague at Sena with 7,000 men, leaving the main part of his army still facing Hannibal in the south. Hasdrubal was uninformed of the reinforcement of his enemy, but his quick ear caught one more trumpet-note than usual, at sunrise, in the Roman camp; and as he rode forth to reconnoiter, he discovered that the horses appeared over-driven, and the armor of the men stained. He therefore delayed until night-fall, and then moved to cross the river Metauʼrus in search of a stronger position. But his guides betrayed him, and when morning dawned his worn and weary troops were still on the nearer side of the river, where they were soon overtaken by the foe. He made the best arrangement of his men which the crisis would admit, placing the ten elephants in front “like a line of moving fortresses," his veteran Spanish infantry on the right, the Ligurians in the center, and the Gauls on the left.

The battle was fiercely contested, for both armies felt that the decision of the day would be final, and that there was no hope for the vanquished. At last Nero, by a circuitous movement, fell upon the Spanish infantry, which had already borne the brunt of the fighting. Hasdrubal saw that the day was lost, and scorning to survive his men or to adorn a Roman triumph, he spurred his horse into the midst of a cohort, and died, sword in hand, B. C. 207.

108. The consul Nero returned to his camp before Hannibal had even discovered his absence. Hasdrubal's arrival in Italy, the battle and its result were first made known to the great general by seeing the ghastly head of his brother, which Nero had brutally ordered to be thrown within

his lines. Hannibal read the tale of disaster in the terrible message, and groaned aloud that he recognized the fate of Carthage. Though he remained four years strongly posted in the mountain fastnesses of Bruttium, the issue of the war was already decided. In 204 B. C., the younger Scipio crossed into Africa, and the Carthaginians were compelled to recall Hannibal.

The final battle was fought at Zama, B. C. 202. The great Carthaginian displayed again his perfect generalship, but he had no longer his invincible cavalry, and his elephants were rendered useless by the skillful tactics of Scipio. He was defeated with the loss of 20,000 men slain, and an equal number of prisoners. The peace, concluded in the following year, took from Carthage all her possessions beyond the limits of Africa, and all the lands conquered from Numidia, whose king, Mas'sinis'sa, had rendered important aid to Scipio in the recent war. She surrendered, also, her fleet and elephants, promised a yearly tribute of 200 talents, and engaged to make no war without permission from Rome.


The First Punic War (B. C. 264–241) begins with the invasion of Sicily by the Romans, who are joined by many Greek cities, capture Messana and Agrigentum, equip a fleet upon a Carthaginian model, and gain many naval victories. They invade Africa, and ravage the lands of Carthage almost without opposition; but Xanthippus arrives with auxiliaries, defeats and captures Regulus. Five years of disaster to the Romans are followed by the great victory of Metellus at Palermo; and after eight years of again unsuccessful warfare, the victory of Lutatius among the Ægates ends the contest. During the peace which follows, Sardinia and Corsica are seized by the Romans, and placed under proconsular government; the Illyrian pirates are subdued, B. C. 229, 228; Cisalpine Gaul conquered, B. C. 225–222. The Second Punic War is begun, B. C. 218, by Hannibal. He crosses the Pyrenees and Alps, defeats the Romans on the Ticinus and the Trebia, and still more disastrously near the Lake Thrasymene and at Cannæ. Syracuse, though defended by the science of Archimedes, is captured by Marcellus. The three Scipios make successful war in Spain. Hasdrubal comes at last to the relief of his brother, but is defeated and slain on the Metaurus, B. C. 207. Hannibal is recalled to Africa, and finally defeated at Zama by Scipio Africanus, B. C. 202.


109. A triumph was awarded to Scipio, who was received at Rome with unbounded enthusiasm. The Triumph, which was the highest reward a Roman general could attain, may here be described once for all. The victorious chief waited without the walls until the Senate had decided upon his claim to the honor. Several conditions were to be observed: the victory must have been over foreign and not domestic foes; it must have been, not the recovery of something lost, but an actual extension of Roman territory; the war must be completed and the army withdrawn from the field, for the soldiers were entitled to a share in the triumph of

their general. The honor was limited to persons of consular or, at least, prætorian rank; an officer of lower grade might receive an ovation, in which he entered the city on foot, but the chariot was a mark of kingly state which could only be permitted to the highest.

110. If a triumph was decreed, a special vote of the people continued to the general his military command for the day within the walls, for without a suspension of the law, he must have laid it down on entering the gates. On the appointed day, he was met at the Triumphal Gate by the Senate and all the magistrates, in splendid apparel. Taking the lead of the procession, they were followed by a band of trumpeters, and a train of wagons laden with the spoils of the conquered countries, which were indicated by tablets inscribed in large letters with their names. Models in wood or ivory of the captured cities; pictures of mountains, rivers, or other natural features of the regions subdued; loads of gold, silver, precious. stones, vases, statues, and whatever was most rich, curious, or admirable in the spoils of temples and palaces, made an important part of the display. Then came a band of flute players, preceding the white oxen destined for sacrifice, their horns gilded and adorned with wreaths of flowers and fillets of wool. Elephants and other strange animals from the conquered countries, were followed by a train of captive princes or leaders with their families, and a crowd of captives of inferior rank, loaded with fetters.

Then came the twelve lictors of the imperator in single file, their fasces wreathed in laurel; and, lastly, the triumphant general himself, in his circular chariot drawn by four horses. His robes glistened with golden embroidery; he bore a scepter, and upon his head was a wreath of Delphic laurel. A slave standing behind him held a crown of Etruscan gold; he was instructed to whisper from time to time in his master's ear, "Remember that thou art but a man." Behind the general rode his sons and lieutenants, and then came the entire army, their spears adorned with laurels —— who either sang hymns of praise, or amused themselves and the by-standers with coarse jokes and doggerel verses at their general's expense. This rude license of speech was thought to neutralize the effect of overmuch flattery, which the Romans, like the modern Italians, were taught especially to dread. All the people, in gala dress, thronged the streets, and every temple and shrine were adorned with flowers.

111. As a terrible contrast to the joy of the day, just as the procession had nearly finished its course to the Capitol, some of the captured chiefs were led aside and put to death. When their execution was announced, the sacrifices were offered in the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter; the laurel crown of the general was placed in the lap of the image; a magnificent banquet was served, and the "triumphator" was escorted home, late in the evening, by a crowd of citizens bearing torches and pipes. The state presented him a site for a house, and at the entrance to this triumphal

« PrécédentContinuer »