The Punic Wars: The Road to 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 couriers of Carthago came with the news of the coming war, Hannibal organised his army in the neighbourhood of Carthagena (Nova Carthago). Spies on Sicily warned him that a large Roman force was prepared to attack Carthago. What could Hannibal do? Carthago had no trained soldiers within its walls and no navy that was big enough to resist. But if Hannibal returned to defend Carthago, the enemy would take Spain. Immediately Hannibal sent his wife and son (at that time one year old) to Carthago, and he himself took the command of his forces and marched north. The army consisted of many nationalities: Numidians (cavalry), Lybians, Spaniards (archers and hurlers), Celts and Africans. This huge army crossed the Ebro without any resistence.
It took Hannibal three and a half month to conquer the land between the Ebro and the Pyrenees. Two Gauls out of the North of Italy came to visit Hannibal and told him that there was a revolt going on against the Romans in the plains of the river Po. Hannibal understood that this was the chance he had been waiting for. The Roman troops that were heading towards Spain had to return to fight the Gauls. Hannibal promised to help the Gauls, directed his army towards Gallia, and crossed the Pyrenees through the Pertuspass. He concluded a treaty with the people on the other side of the mountains and reached the Rhône already four days later. It took him two days to cross the river, including a battle with the Gauls on the other side.
It took the newly elected consul Scipio four months to raise an army and to sail towards the Rhône delta. When he arrived, he was awaited by the Greek officers of the colony Massilia (Marseille). They told him that Hannibal was here, on the other side of the Rhône. Scipio laughed and said: "the Ebro, you mean", they replied: "no, here at the Rhône, two days walking from here!". Scipio sent the cavalry to investigate this nonsense. They came back five days later already, having seen the remnants of a Carthaginian camp, left two days ago. Scipio sent his men to Spain under command of his brother, and left for Pisa. The army already present in Sicily was sent to the valley of the Po to stop Hannibal there.
A few days later Hannibal his army was facing the Alps. The soldiers got scared. They weren't used to these high mountains and to their climate. Hannibal was furious, he incited his army. The Carthaginians ransacked some villages in order to get provisions and warm clothes. They entered the Alps through the valley of the Drôme, a tributary river of the Rhône. But not only the mountains and the weather were enemies, but also the Allobrogi, a tribe of Celts living in the mountains. They were attacked several times, but eventually won the battle. Once the top was reached, the army was given two days of rest. The third day Hannibal came to collect his officers and took them atop a high rock. Below they could see the green fields of Italy. Hannibal said: "these are not only the walls of Italy we have conquered, but also the walls of Rome!". They finally reached the other side, crossing the Alps in fifteen days. Of the 38 000 men 26 000 survived.