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Appian's History of Rome: The Hannibalic War §§36-40


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. Although his account of the War against Hannibal contains not much information that can not be found in other sources (Polybius of Megalopolis and Livy), it is fortunately well-preserved and certainly accessible.

The translation was made by Horace White; footnotes and additions in green by Jona Lendering. 


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A beardless Hannibal on a coin by Hannibal.
A beardless Melqart on a coin
of Hannibal  (©!!)
[§36] [211] The Romans decided to attack the Capuans, and Hannibal sent Hanno with 1,000 foot and as many horse to enter Capua by night. This he did without the knowledge of the Romans. At daylight the Romans discovered what had taken place by observing greater numbers of men on the walls. So they turned back from the city forthwith and began hurriedly to reap the harvest of the Capuans and the other inhabitants of Campania.

When the Campanians bewailed their losses Hannibal said to them that he had plenty of grain in Apulia, and he gave an order that they should send and get it as often as they wished. Accordingly they sent not only their pack animals and men, but also their women and children, to bring loads of corn. They had no fear of danger on the way because Hannibal had transferred his headquarters from Apulia to Campania and was encamped on the river Calor near the country of the Beneventines, whom alone they feared as the latter were still in alliance with Rome. While Hannibal was there they despised all their enemies.

[§37] [212] It happened, however, that Hannibal was called by Hanno into Lucania, leaving the greater part of his baggage under a small guard in the camp near Beneventum. One of the two Roman consuls who were in command there ([Quintus] Fulvius Flaccus and Appius Claudius [Pulcher]), learning of this, fell upon the Campanians who were bringing grain and slew many who were unprepared for an attack, and gave the grain to the Beneventines. He also took Hannibal's camp and plundered his baggage, and, as Hannibal was still in Lucania, drew a line of circumvallation around Capua. Then the two consuls built another wall outside of this and established their camp between the two. They erected battlements also, some toward the besieged Capuans and others toward the enemy outside. There was the appearance of a great city enclosing a smaller one. 

The space between the enclosing wall and Capua was about 350 meters, in which many enterprises and encounters took place each day and many single combats, as in a theater surrounded by walls, for the bravest were continually challenging each other. A certain Capuan named Taureus having had a single combat with the Roman Claudius Asellus, and seeking to escape, retreated, Asellus pursuing till he came to the walls of Capua. The latter not being able to check his horse dashed at full speed through the gate into Capua, and galloping through the whole city, ran out at the opposite gate and rejoined the Romans, and was thus marvelously saved.

[§38] [211] Hannibal, having failed in the task that called him to Lucania, turned back to Capua, considering it very important to defend a city so large, and which had been a city of importance under Roman sway. He accordingly attacked their enclosing wall, but as he accomplished nothing and could devise no way to introduce either provisions or soldiers into the city, and as none of them could communicate with him on account of the closeness of the siege, he marched to Rome with his whole army, having learned that the Romans also were hard pressed by famine and hoping to draw the Roman generals away from Capua, or to accomplish something more important than its relief. Moving with the greatest celerity through the country inhabited by many hostile peoples, some of whom were not able to hinder him while others would not incur the risk of battle, he encamped at the river Anio, 5¾ kilometers from Rome.

[§39] The city was thrown into consternation as never before. They were without any suitable force (what they had being in Campania), and now this strong, hostile army came suddenly against them under a general of invincible bravery and good fortune. Nevertheless, for the present emergency those who were able to bear arms manned the gates, the old men mounted the walls, and the women and children brought stones and missiles, while those who were in the fields flocked in all haste to the city. Confused cries, lamentations, prayers, and mutual exhortations on every side filled the air. Some went out and cut down the bridge over the river Anio. The Romans had at one time fortified a small town among the Aequi, which they called Alba after the name of their mother city.[1] Its inhabitants with the lapse of time, either because of carelessness of pronunciation or corruption of language, or to distinguish them from the Albanians, were called Albenses. Two thousand of these Albenses hastened to Rome to share the danger. As soon as they arrived they armed themselves and mounted guard at the gates. Such zeal did this one small town, out of many colonies, exhibit, just as the little city of Plataea came to the aid of the Athenians at Marathon and shared their danger.

[§40] Appius [Claudius Pulcher], one of the Roman generals, remained at Capua, believing that he could capture the place by himself. [Quintus] Fulvius Flaccus, the other one, marched with untiring haste by other roads and encamped opposite Hannibal, with the river Anio flowing between them. When Hannibal found that the bridge had been destroyed and that Fulvius was occupying the opposite bank, he decided to go around by the sources of the stream. Fulvius moved parallel with him on the other side.

Here, again, as was his custom, Hannibal devised a stratagem. He left some Numidian horse behind, who, as soon as the armies had moved off, crossed the Anio and ravaged the Roman territory until they had come very near to the city itself, and had carried consternation into it, when they rejoined Hannibal according to their orders. The latter, when he had passed around the sources of the stream, whence the road to Rome was not long, is said to have reconnoitered the city with three body-guards secretly by night, and to have observed the lack of force and the confusion prevailing.

Nevertheless he went back to Capua, either because divine Providence turned him aside this time as in other instances, or because he was intimidated by the valor and fortune of the city, or because, as he said to those who urged him to attack it, he did not wish to bring the war to an end lest the Carthaginians should deprive him of his command. At any rate, the army under Fulvius was by no means a match for him. Fulvius followed him as he retreated, merely preventing him from foraging and taking care not to fall into any traps.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Hannibalic war   :   part 9
Note 1:
The Romans believed that their city was founded by shepherds from a town called Alba Longa.
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