Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hannibal Part 4: Rome fails to fall

Phelan, California – It was the winter solstice, December, 218 years before the birth of Christ. The Roman general Sempronius was eager to give Hannibal battle before the other general, Scipio, could recover and assume command. The Roman soldiers were not ready to fight, to Hannibal decided now would be the best time to be certain they did.

There was a place between the two camps where thorns and brush ran alongside a water course. Hannibal put his brother Mago and some of his best men here during the night. When the morning came, the Numidian cavalry-some of the best in the world- were sent out to provoke the unruly Romans to march into battle. They hurled their javelins at the enemy, who at last began coming out.
The horsemen retreated from them, while Hannibal’s main army began to advance. On either of his flanks his elephants waited. The day was cold. The two wings of Hannibal’s army pushed the Roman flanks into the river. At about the same time, Rome’s rear passed the ambuscade. Hannibal’s brother and his men stormed out, attacking the Roman rear. The line began to collapse. The army was soon in full retreat.
The next night, the Roman army crossed the river in retreat, now again under the command of the ill Scipio. Hannibal captured a nearby supply depot, and waited for spring.
A series of battles followed, Battle of Lake Trasimene, in which a Roman army was forced into a lake and drowned. The Battle of Cannae, in which another Roman army was maneuvered to have the dust and sun in their faces, surrounded, and destroyed. But in the end the allies of Rome would not leave her, realizing that she would not fall.
Although the Romans could not defeat him in the field, they did not need to fight him. There was no way he could take the massive city itself. So the generals eventually stopped fighting him, and instead waited for him and his undefeated army to leave. They showed such contempt that when he camped before Rome, according to one historian, the very land he camped on was sold at public auction, showing the Romans expected him to leave.
At about this time the Roman senate became even more powerful, as the farmers came flocking into the city for protection, the senators bought their land from them, and the farmers joined the army.
During all the time he was in Italy, almost no attempt was made by Carthage to aid its native son against their great enemy. Hanno the great saw to that. In the end, the Roman sidestepped the man they could not defeat, and attacked Carthage. Carthage, the nation that had slighted their greatest general, now begged him to come home and protect them. He did come home, and the third and last Punic War was about to begin, but this time, it would be the battle for Carthage.

Andrew C. Abbott

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