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Appian's History of Rome: The Hannibalic War §§41-45


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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  [§41] [211] Hannibal, on a certain moonless night, having observed that [consul Quintus] Fulvius [Flaccus], at the close of the day, had neglected to throw up a wall in front of his camp (but had merely dug a ditch with certain spaces in lieu of gates, and the earth thrown outward instead of a wall), quietly sent a body of cavalry to a fortified hill overlooking Fulvius' camp, and ordered them to keep silence until the Romans should believe the hill unoccupied. Then he ordered his Indians to mount their elephants and break into the camp of Fulvius through the open spaces, and over the piles of earth, in any way they could. He also directed a number of trumpeters and horn-blowers to follow at a short distance. When they should be inside the entrenchments some of them were ordered to run around and raise a great tumult so that they might seem to be very numerous, while others, speaking Latin, should call out that Fulvius, the Roman general, ordered the evacuation of the camp and the seizure of the neighboring hill. Such was Hannibal's stratagem, and at first all went according to his intention.

The elephants broke into the camp, trampling down the guards, and the trumpeters did as they were ordered. The unexpected clamor striking the ears of the Romans as they started out of bed in the darkness of the night was some-thing fearful. Hearing orders given in Latin directing them to take refuge on the hill, they hurried in that direction.

[§42] Fulvius, who was always looking out for some stratagem and suspecting one in everything that Hannibal did, being guided either by his own intelligence or by divine inspiration, or having learned the facts from some prisoner, quickly stationed his military tribunes in the roads leading to the hill to stop those who were rushing that way, and to tell them that it was not the Roman general but Hannibal who had given the command in order to lead them into an ambush. Then he stationed strong guards at the ramparts to repel any new attack from without, and with others passed rapidly through the camp exclaiming that there was no danger and that those who had broken in with the elephants were but few.

Torches were lighted and fires kindled on all sides. Then the smallness of the attacking force was so manifest that the Romans utterly despised them, and, turning from fear to wrath, slew them the more easily since they were few in number and light-armed. The elephants not having room to turn around, and being entangled among the tents and huts, furnished an excellent mark for darts by reason of the narrowness of the place and the size of their bodies. Enraged with pain and unable to reach their enemies, they shook off their riders and trampled them under foot with fury and savage outcries, and broke out of the camp.

Thus did Fulvius Flaccus by his constancy and skill bring to naught this unexpected ambush, frustrate Hannibal, and save his army, which had always been in terror of Hannibal's stratagems.

[§43] When his scheme had failed, Hannibal moved his army to Lucania and went into winter quarters, and here this fierce warrior gave himself up to unaccustomed luxury and the delights of love. From this time, little by little, his fortune changed.

Fulvius returned to his colleague at Capua and both of them pressed the siege vigorously, hastening to take the city during the winter while Hannibal remained quiet. The Capuans, their supplies being exhausted and no more being obtainable from any quarter, surrendered themselves to the Roman generals, together with the Carthaginian garrison and their two commanders, another Hanno and Bostar.

The Romans stationed a garrison in the city and cut off the hands of all the deserters they found there. They sent the Carthaginian nobles to Rome and the rest they sold as slaves. Of the Capuans themselves they put to death those who had been chiefly responsible for the defection of the city. From the others they only took away their land. (All the country round about Capua is very fertile, being a plain.) When Capua was once more restored to the Romans the principal advantage possessed by the Carthaginians in Italy was taken from them.

[§44] [210] In Bruttium, which is a part of Italy, there was a man of the town of Tisia (which was garrisoned by the Carthaginians) who was in the habit of plundering and sharing his booty with the commander of the garrison, and who had by this means so ingratiated himself with the latter that he almost shared the command with him. This man was incensed at the arrogant behavior of the garrison toward his country. Accordingly, by an arrangement with the Roman general, with whom he exchanged pledges, he brought in a few soldiers each day as prisoners and lodged them in the citadel, to which place he took their arms also as spoils. When he had introduced a sufficient number he released and armed them, and overpowered the Carthaginian garrison, after which he brought in another garrison from the Roman forces.

But as Hannibal passed that way not long afterwards, the guards fled in terror to Rhegium, and the inhabitants of Tisia delivered themselves up to Hannibal, who burned those who had been guilty of the defection and placed another garrison in the town.

[§45] In Salapia, subject to Carthage in Apulia, were two men preeminent by birth, wealth, and power, but for a long time enemies to each other. One of these, named Dasius, sided with the Carthaginians, the other, Blatius, with the Romans. While Hannibal's affairs were flourishing Blatius remained quiet, but when the Romans began to recover their former supremacy he endeavored to come to an understanding with his enemy, simply for the sake of their country, lest, if the Romans should take it by force, some irreparable harm should befall it. Dasius, pretending to agree with him, communicated the matter to Hannibal. Hannibal took the part of a judge between them, Dasius accusing and Blatius defending himself, and saying that he was slandered by reason of his accuser's personal enmity. He was emboldened to use such language in the presence of his enemy, because he foresaw that such a foe would be likely to be distrusted on account of his private grudge. Hannibal thought that it was not wise to reject the accusation altogether, or to put too much faith in an accuser who was a personal enemy; so he dismissed them as though he would consider of the matter by himself. As they were going out by a very narrow passage Blatius said to Dasius in a low tone, "Are you not willing to save your country, good sir?" The latter immediately repeated the words in a loud voice, thus letting Hannibal know.

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