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Appian's History of Rome: The Hannibalic War §§46-50


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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  [§46] [210] Then in a piteous tone Blatius cried out with much appearance of credibility, that his cunning enemy had made a plot against him. "This present scheme," he said, "will relieve me from all suspicion, if there was any, as to the former one. For who would have made a confidant of an enemy in such matters in the first place, or, if he had been so thoughtless before, would now, while still in danger and under trial and denying the charge against him, dare to say the same things a second time to one who had been his false accuser concerning these very matters, and especially in the judgment hall where many can hear his words and where his accuser stands ready to renew the charge against him. Even supposing the accuser had suddenly become friendly and well disposed, how would he be able to cooperate with me in saving the country after what has happened? Why should I ask the aid of one who is not able to give any?"

I think that Blatius again designedly whispered those things to Dasius because he foresaw the event, in order to discredit him still more, and thus induce Hannibal to disbelieve his former accusations. Nor did Blatius, after he had been acquitted, desist from persuading his enemy to change sides, for he despised him now as a person utterly discredited. So Dasius again pretended to agree with him and sought to learn the plan of the revolt. Blatius replied without hesitation: "I will ride to one of the Roman camps (indicating one that was very far distant) the commander of which is my particular friend, and obtain a force which I will bring hither. You will remain here and keep watch upon affairs in the city."

[§47] Having spoken thus he immediately rode away, without the knowledge of Dasius, not to the camp he had named but to Rome by a shorter journey, and having given his son as a hostage to the Senate, he asked for a thousand horse, with which he hastened back with all speed, anticipating what would be the result. Dasius not seeing his enemy during the next few days thought that he had taken in hand the business they had agreed upon, as now having confidence in him. Supposing that Blatius had in fact gone to the more distant camp he rode to Hannibal, not doubting that he should get back before Blatius. "And now," said he to Hannibal, "I will deliver Blatius to you in the very act of bringing a hostile force into the city."

Having exposed the affair and having received a military force, he hastened back to the town, not imagining that Blatius was yet anywhere near. But the latter was already inside, having slain the Carthaginian garrison, which was small, and taken care to prevent anybody from going out. He had also closed all the gates except that by which Dasius was expected to return. On that side he removed the guards from the wall to avoid suspicion, but the ground inside was intersected by ditches so that an attacking force should not be able to make its way through the whole town. Dasius was delighted when he saw the gates open, thinking that he had anticipated his enemy, and he entered the town rejoicing. Then Blatius shut the gate and slew him and his companions, who were squeezed together in a narrow place and had no way of passage through the ditches. A few of them escaped by leaping from the walls. Thus did Blatius overcome Dasius at the third encounter of their wits.

[§48] While [Gnaeus] Fulvius [Centumalus], the Roman consul, was besieging Herdonia, Hannibal approached him quietly one evening, having given orders that no fires should be lighted and that strict silence should be observed. Early in the morning, which happened to be foggy, he sent a body of horse to attack the Roman camp. The latter repelled them with some confusion as they hurried from their beds, but with boldness, for they believed their foe to be some few men from somewhere or other. As Hannibal was passing around to the other side of the town with a body of infantry in order to reconnoiter, and at the same time to encourage the people inside, he fell in with the Romans in the course of his circuit, either by chance or by design, and surrounded them. Being attacked on both sides they fell confusedly and in heaps. About 8,000 of them were killed, including the consul Fulvius himself. The remainder took refuge inside a fortification in front of their camp, and by fighting bravely preserved it and prevented Hannibal from taking the camp.

[§49] After this, the Romans ravaged the country of the revolted Apulians, and Hannibal that of the Campanians, all of whom had returned to the Roman allegiance except the Atellaei. The latter he settled in Thurii in order that they might not suffer by the war that was raging in Bruttium, Lucania, and Apulia. The Romans settled the exiles of Nuceria in Atella and then, continuing their attacks on Hannibal's allies, they took Aulonia and overran the territory of the Bruttians. 

[209] They also laid siege by land and sea to Tarentum, which was under the command of Carthalo. The latter, as he had few Carthaginian soldiers present, had taken Bruttians into his service. The captain of these Bruttians was in love with a woman whose brother was serving with the Romans, and the latter managed, by means of his sister, that this captain should surrender that part of the wall which he commanded to the Romans, who were directing their engines against it. In this way the Romans again got possession of Tarentum, a place admirably situated for the purposes of war both by land and by sea.

[§50] [208] Hannibal was hastening to its relief when he learned of its capture. He turned aside to Thurii greatly disappointed, and proceeded thence to Venusia. There [Marcus] Claudius Marcellus, who had conquered Sicily and was now consul for the fifth time, and Titus [Quinctius] Crispinus took the field against him, not venturing, however, to fight a pitched battle.

But Marcellus happening to see a party of Numidians carrying off plunder, and thinking that they were only a few, attacked them confidently with three hundred horse. He led the attack in person, being a man of daring courage in battle and ever despising danger. Suddenly, a large body of Africans started up and attacked him on all sides. Those Romans who were in the rear early took to flight, but Marcellus, who thought that they were following him, fought valiantly until he was thrust through with a dart and killed. When Hannibal stood over his body and saw the wounds all on his breast, he praised him as a soldier but criticized him as a general. He took off his ring, burned his body with distinguished honors, and sent his bones to his son in the Roman camp.

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