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were, to discover the genius and character of Fla. minius, in order that he might take advantage of his foible, which, according to Polybius, ought to be the chief study of a general. He was told, that Flaminius was greatly conceited of his own merit, bold, enterprising, rash, and fond of glory. To plunge him the deeper into these excesses, to which he was naturally prone, 9 he inflamed his impetuous spirit, by laying waste and burning the whole country, in his sight.
Flaminius was not of a temper to continue inactive in his camp, though Hannibal should have lain still. But when he saw the territories of his allies laid waste before his eyes, he thought it would reflect dishonour upon him, should he suffer Hannibal to ransack Italy without controul, and even advance to the very walls of Rome, without meeting any resistance.
He rejected with scorn the prudent counsels of those who advised him to wait the arrival of his colleague, and to be satisfied for the present with putting a stop to the devastation of the enemy.
In the mean time, Hannibal was still advancing towards Rome, having Cortona on the left hand, and the lake Thrasymene on the right. When he saw that the consul followed close after him, with the design to give him battle, by stopping him in his march ; having observed that the ground was convenient for that purpose, he also began to prepare himself for the battle. The lake Thrasymenè and the mountains of Cortona form a very narrow defile, which leads into a large valley, lined, on both sides, with hills of a considerable height, and closed, at the outlet, by a steep hill of difficult access. On this hill, Hannibal, after having crossed the valley, came and encamped with the main body of his army ; posting his light armed infantry in ambuscade upon the hills on the right, and part of his cavalry behind those on the left, as far almost as the entrance of the defile, through which Flaminius was obliged to pass. Accordingly this general, who followed him very eagerly, with the resolution to fight him, being come to the defile near the lake, was forced to halt, because night was coming on; but he entered it the next morning at daybreak.
9 Apparebat ferociter omnia ac præpropere acturum. Quoque pra. nior esset in sua vitia, agitare eum atque irritare Pænus parat. Liv. d xxil n. 3.
Hannibal having permitted him to advance, with all his forces, above half way through the valley, and seeing the Roman vanguard pretty near him, he sounded the charge, and commanded his troops to come out of their ambuscade, in order that he might attack the enemy, at the same time, from all quarters. The reader may guess at the consternation with which the Romans were seized.
They were not yet drawn up in order of battle, neither had they got their arms in readiness, when they found themselves attacked in front, in rear, and in flank. In a moment all the ranks were put into disorder. Flaminius, alone undaunted in so universal a surprise, animates his soldiers both with his hand and voice ; and exhorts them to cut themselves a passage with their swords through the midst of the enemy. But the tumult which reigned every where, the dreadful shouts of the enemy, and a fog that was risen, prevented his being seen or heard. However, when the Romans saw themselves surrounded on all sides, either by the enemy or the lake, and the impossibility of saving their lives by flight, it roused their courage, and
both parties began the fight with astonishing animosity. Their fury was so great, that not a soldier in either army perceived an earthquake, which happened in that country, and buried whole cities in ruins. In this confusion, Flaminius being slain by one of the Insubrian Gauls, the Romans began to give ground, and at last quite ran away. Great numbers, to save them. selves, leaped into the lake; whilst others, climbing over the mountains, fell into the enemy's hands whom they strove to avoid. Six thousand only cut their way through the conquerors, and retreated to a place of safety ; but the next day they were taken prisoners. In this battle fifteen thousand Romans were killed, and about ten thousand escaped to Rome, by different roads. Hannibal sent back the Latins, who were allies of the Romans, into their own country, without demanding the least ransom. He commanded search to be made for the body of Flaminius, in order to give it burial, but it could not be found. He afterwards put his troops into quarters of refreshment, and solemnized the funerals of thirty of his chief officers, who were killed in the battle. He lost in all but fifteen hundred men, most of whom were Gauls.
Immediately after, Hannibal dispatched a courier to Carthage, with the news of his good success in Italy. This caused the greatest joy for the present, raised the most promising hopes with regard to the future, and revived the courage of all the citizens. They now prepared with incredible ardour, to send into Italy and Spain all necessary succours.
Rome, on the contrary, was filled with universal grief and alarm, as soon as the praètor had pronounced from the rostra the following words, “we have lost
a great battle.” The senate, studious of nothing but the public welfare, thought that in so great a calamity and so imminent a danger, recourse must be had to extraordinary remedies. They therefore appointed Quintus Fabius dictator, a person as conspicuous for his wisdom as his birth. It was the custom at Rome that the moment a dictator was nominated, all authority ceased, that of the tribunes of the people excepted. M. Minucius was appointed his general of horse. We are now in the second year of the war.
Hannibal's conduct with respect to Fabius. 'Hannibal, after the battle of Thrasymenè, not thinking it yet proper to march directly to Rome, contented himself, in the mean time, with laying waste the country. He crossed Umbria and Picenum ; and, after ten days march, arrived in the territory of Adria.' He got a very considerable booty in this march. Out of his implacable enmity to the Romans, he commanded that all who were able to bear arms, should be put to the sword ; and meeting no obstacle any where, he ad. vanced as far as Apulia ; plundering the countries which lay in his way, and carrying desolation wherever he came, in order to compel the nations to disengage themselves from their alliance with the Romans; and to show all Italy, that Rome itself, now quite dispirited, yielded him the victory.
Fabius, followed by Minucius and four legions, had marched from Rome in quest of the
of the enemy, but with a firm resolution not to let him take the least advantage, nor to advance one step till he had first reconnoitred every place; nor hazard a battle till he should be sure of success.
• Polyb. I. xxiii. p. 239-255. Liv. 1. xxü. 8. 9–30.
As soon as both armies were in sight, Hannibal, to terrify the Roman forces, offered them battle, by advancing very near the intrenchments of their camp. But finding every thing quiet there, he retired; blaming, in appearance, the outward cowardice of the enemy, whom he upbraided with having at last lost that valor so natural to their ancestors; but fretted inwardly, to find he had to do with a general of so different a genius from Sempronius and Flaminius; and that the Romans, instructed by their defeat, had at last made choice of a commander capable of opposing Hannibal.
From this moment he perceived that the dictator would not be formidable to him by the boldness of his attacks, but by the prudence and regularity of his conduct, which might perplex and embarrass him very much. The only circumstance he now wanted to know was, whether the new general had resolution enough to pursue steadily the plan he seemed to have laid down. He endeavoured therefore to rouse him, by his frequent removals from place to place, by laying waste the lands, plundering the cities, and burning the villages and towns. He, at one time, would raise his camp with the utmost precipitation ; and at another, stop short in some valley out of the common rout, to try whether he could not surprise him in the plain. However, Fabius still kept his troops on hills, but without losing sight of Hannibal ; never approaching near enough to come to an engagement; nor yet keeping at such a distance as might give him an opportunity of escaping him. He never suffered his soldiers to stir out of the camp, except to forage, and on those occasions, not without a numerous convoy. If ever