The Punic Wars: The War in Italia
by: Q. Claudius Locatus Barbatus
PARS I | PARS II | PARS III | PARS IV | PARS V | PARS VI | PARS VII | PARS VIII | PARS IX | PARS X | PARS XI
When the army reached the valley floor, Gauls' rebellion was not only over already, Hannibal was also welcomed in a hostile way. Hannibal reacted quickly by conquering their capital (Torino) and gave his men and animals the time to recover. Most of the elephants hadn't survived the bad weather. Then Hannibal marched towards Milan and even further until they saw a Roman army facing them, at the river Ticino.
Scipio had landed in Pisa and had met the army that was sent forward to end the Gaul uprising. He was very surprised when he heard that Hannibal had managed to cross the Alps. The invisible enemy would no longer escape Roman swords now. In accordance with the last census there were 770 000 possible soldiers in Italia. Scipio was very confident. The Romans started marching towards the Carthaginian army.
On a misty morning the Romans were marching towards the Carthaginians. The Roman legions were protected by their cavalry on the sides. All of a sudden they were attacked byt the Spanish cavalry of Hannibal. The Romans had to yield for them and Scipio was severely wounded. The Romans retreated to their camp. Hannibal had discovered the weak point of the Romans: they were used to discipline and planning their battles, but couldn't decide what to do in a new situation by themselves. Hannibal made his plans...
Scipio was, together with his soldiers, evacuated to Placentia (Piacenza). Soon the other (plebeian) consul joined him with his own army. His name was Tiberius Sempronius Congus, a very greedy man. He was determined to end the "riots" in this part of Italy. It was a shame that 14 000 legionnaries and 22 000 Auxilii were behind walls waiting for an enemy to show up on Italian territory! And besides, elections would be organised next year. Who would be elected? The ill Scipio or the victor Sempronius? Against all advice of Scipio, he ordered his soldiers to build a camp along the river Trebia. Winter was passing and Sempronius began to despair. Wasn't anything going to happen after all? Suddenly the Numidian cavalry came attacking the camp.
Hannibal knew he had to conquer the army of Sempronius. He found a proper place for battle. A small hill with a muddy riverbed before it. On the hill a trench was dug. That trench was filled up with the Spanish archers and hurlers. At the sides the cavalry was drawn up, and after the riverbed the infantry was hidden. Everything was ready for battle, the Numidian cavalry was sent out as bait.
The Roman soldiers were pursuing the enemy. It was snowing and the plains were full of nearly frozen water. The soldiers were freezing. Then they even had to enter a muddy riverbed! The Carthaginians attacked, first the archers and hurlers, than the cavalry and at last the infantry. That night only 10 000 Roman soldiers returned to their camp. Hannibal captured a lot of them. The allies of the Romans were released, but for the legionnaries a ransom had to be paid. Scipio returned to his army in Spain, Sempronius was defeated in the elections and the Carthaginians finally had some rest... and the support of the Gallian tribes of the Po plains.
Two months later 10 000 Gauls had joined the Carthaginian army and they started marching towards the south. They chose the shortest route: over the hills of the Apennines. This was not only the shortest but also the hardest way. It was full of swamps and many men and animals were killed by fever and other illnesses. Even Hannibal was ill. They soon left the swaps, descending into the valley of Facsulae (Fiesole). Only one elephant had survived the journey, and Hannibal became blind on one eye, due to his illness. Soon the rumours of a large Roman army waiting for them encountered the Carthaginian army.
Hannibal decided to avoid the Romans. He went to the valleys and passed the Roman army that was hiding in the mountains. That Roman army was lead by a new consul, Gaius Flaminius (elected in the same year, 217 BC). He was a capable man, although he was a little overconfident. His plan was simple: his legions would follow Hannibal through the plains. The other consul, Servilius, would block of Hannibals way a bit further. In that case the Carthaginians would be attacked on both sides. But what he didn't know was that Hannibal had seen that the Romans were following. He made a plan.