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Appian's History of Rome: The Hannibalic War §§51-55


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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  [§51] [208] Being angry with the Salapians, Hannibal sent a Roman deserter to them with a letter stamped with the signet ring of [Marcus Claudius] Marcellus, before the latter's death had become generally known, saying that the army of Marcellus was on the way thither and that Marcellus gave orders that the gates should be opened to receive them. But the citizens had received letters a little before from [Titus Quinctius] Crispinus, who had sent word to all the surrounding towns that Hannibal had got possession of Marcellus' ring. So they sent Hannibal's messenger back in order that he might not know by remaining there what was going on, and they promised to do as they had been ordered.

Then they armed themselves and having taken their station on the walls awaited the result of the stratagem. When Hannibal came with his Numidians, whom he had armed with Roman weapons, they drew up the portcullis as though they were gladly welcoming Marcellus. When they had admitted as many as they thought they could easily master, they dropped the portcullis and slew all those who had gained entrance. Upon those who were still standing around outside the walls they hurled missiles from above and covered them with wounds. Hannibal, having failed in his second attempt against the city, now withdrew.

[§52] [207] In the meantime his brother Hasdrubal, with the army he had enlisted in Celtiberia, marched to Italy. Being received in a friendly way by the Gauls he had passed over the Alps by the road that Hannibal had opened, accomplishing in two months the journey which had previously taken Hannibal six. He debouched in Etruria with 48,000 foot, 8000 horse, and fifteen elephants. He sent letters to his brother announcing his arrival.

These letters were intercepted by the Romans so that the consuls, [Marcus Livius] Salinator and [Gaius Claudius] Nero, learned the number of his forces. They combined their own forces in one body, moved against him, and encamped opposite him near the town of Sena. He did not intend to fight yet, but hastening to join his brother, moved off, marching by night among swamps and pools and along an unfordable river [the Metaurus], where he lost his way. At daybreak the Romans came up with them, while they were scattered about and wearied with toil and want of sleep, and slew most of them with their officers, while they were still assembling and getting themselves in order of battle. Hasdrubal himself was slain with them. Many of them were taken prisoners. Thus was Italy delivered from a great fear, since Hannibal could never have been conquered if he had received this addition to his forces.

[§53] It seems to me that a god gave this victory to the Romans as a compensation for the disaster of Cannae, as it came not long afterward and was about equal to it in other respects. In both cases the commanding generals lost their lives, and the number of soldiers killed and the number of prisoners taken were very nearly the same in each case. Each side also captured the other's camp and a vast quantity of baggage. Thus did Rome taste good and bad fortune alternately. Of the Celtiberians who escaped the slaughter, some made their way to their own country and some to Hannibal.

[§54] Hannibal was greatly depressed by the loss of his brother and of so great an army, destroyed suddenly through ignorance of the roads. Deprived of all that he had gained by the untiring labors of fourteen years, during which he had fought with the Romans in Italy, he withdrew to Bruttium, whose people were the only ones that remained in alliance with him. Here he remained quiet, awaiting new forces from Carthage.

They sent him 100 merchant ships laden with supplies, soldiers, and money, but as they had not a sufficient force of rowers they were driven by the wind to Sardinia. The praetor of Sardinia attacked them with his warships, sunk twenty and captured sixty of them. The remainder escaped to Carthage.

Thus was Hannibal still further straitened and he despaired of assistance from the Carthaginians. Nor did Mago, who was collecting mercenaries in Gaul and Liguria, send him any aid, but waited to see what turn affairs would take. Perceiving that he could not stay there long, Hannibal now began to despise the Bruttians themselves as men who would soon be strangers to him, and he loaded them with taxes. He transferred the strongholds of their towns to the plains as though they were planning a revolt. He despoiled many of their men, bringing accusations against them in order that he might confiscate their property. Such was his situation.

[§55] [205] In Rome the consuls at this time were [Publius] Licinius Crassus and Publius [Cornelius] Scipio, the conqueror of Spain. Crassus conducted the war against Hannibal in Apulia, but Scipio advised the people that they would never drive Hannibal and the Carthaginians out of Italy except by sending a Roman army into Africa and so bringing danger to their own doors.

By persisting strenuously and persuading those who hesitated he was himself chosen general for Africa and sailed forthwith to Sicily. Having collected and drilled an army there he sailed suddenly to Locri in Italy which was garrisoned by Hannibal. Having slain the garrison and put the town under the command of Pleminius he embarked for Africa.

Pleminius visited upon the Locrians every kind of outrage, licentiousness, and cruelty, and ended by robbing the temple of Proserpina. For this the Romans put him and his companions in wrongdoing to death in prison, and gave the property they left to the Locrians to be deposited in the treasury of the goddess. All the rest of the plunder that they could find they restored to the goddess, and what they could not find they made good out of their own public treasury.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Hannibalic war   :   part 12
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