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he engaged, it was only in slight skirmishes, and so very cautiously, that his troops had always the advantage. By this conduct he revived, by insensible de. grees, courage of the soldiers, which the loss of three battles had entirely damped ; and enabled them to rely, as they had formerly done, on their valor and good success.
Hannibal, having got immensely rich spoils in Campania, where he had resided a considerable time, left it, with his army, in order that he might not consume the provisions he had laid up, and which he reserved for the winter season. Besides, he could no longer continue in a country of gardens and vineyards, which were more agreeable to the eye, than useful for the subsistence of an army ; a country where he would have been forced to take up his winter quarters among marshes, rocks, and sands, during which the Romans would have drawn plentiful supplies from Capua, and the richest parts of Italy. He therefore resolved to settle elsewhere.
Fabius naturally supposed that Hannibal would be obliged to return the same way he came, and that he might easily annoy him during his march. He began by throwing a considerable body of troops into, and there. by securing Casilinum, a small town situated on the Vulturnus, which separated the territories of Phaler. num from those of Capua: he afterwards detached four thousand men to go and seize the only narrow pass through which Hannibal could come out ; and then, according to his usual custom, posts himself with the remainder of the army on the hills adjoining to the road.
The Carthaginians arrive, and encamp in the plain at the foot of the mountains. And now the crafty Carthaginian falls into the same snare he had laid for Flaminius at the defile of Thrasymenè ; and it seemed impossible for him ever to extricate himself out of this difficulty, there being but one outlet, of which the Romans were possessed. Fabius, fancying himself sure of his prey, was only contriving how to seize it. He Aattered himself with the probable hopes of putting an end to the war by this single battle. Nevertheless, he thought fit to defer the attack till the next day.
Hannibal perceived that ‘his own artifices were now employed against him. It is in such junctures as these, that a general has need of great presence of mind, and unusual fortitude, to view danger in its utmost extent, without being struck with the least dread, and to find out sure and instant expedients without deliberating. Immediately the Carthaginian general caused two thousand oxen to be got together, and ordered small bundles of vinebranches to be tied to their horns. He then commanded the branches to be set on fire in the dead of night, and the oxen to be driven with violence to the top of the hills where the Romans were encamped. As soon as those creatures felt the flame, the pain putting them in a rage, they flew up and down on all sides, and set fire to the shrubs and bushes they met in their way. This squadron, of a new kind, was sustained by a good number of light armed soldiers, who had orders to seize upon the sum. mit of the mountain, and to charge the enemy in case they should meet them. All things happened which Hannibal had foreseen. The Romans, who guarded
• Nec Annibalem fefellit suis se artibus peti. Liv.
the defile, seeing the fires spread over the hills which were above them, and imagining that it was Hannibal making his escape by torchlight, quit their posts, and run up to the mountains to oppose
The main body of the army not knowing what to think of all this tumult, and Fabius himself not daring to stir, as it was excessively dark, for fear of a surprise, waits for the return of the day. Hannibal seizes this opportunity, marches his troops and the spoils through the defile which was now unguarded, and rescues his army out of a snare in which, had Fabius been but a little more vigorous, it would either have been destroy. ed, or at least very much weakened. It is glorious for a man to turn his very errors to his advantage, and make them subservient to his reputation.
The Carthaginian army returned to Apulia, still pursued and harrassed by the Romans. The dictator, being obliged to take a journey to Rome on account of some religious ceremonies, earnestly entreated his general of horse, before his departure, not to fight during his absence. However, Minucius did not re. gard either his advice or his entreaties; but the very first opportunity he had, whilst part of Hannibal's troops were foraging, he charged the rest, and gained some advantage. He immediately sent advice of this to Rome, as if he had obtained a considerable victory. The news of this, with what had just before happened at the passage of the defile, raised complaints and mur. murs against the slow and timorous circumspection of Fabius. In a word, matters were carried so far, that the Roman people gave his general of horse an equal authority with him ; a thing unheard of before. The dictator was upon the road when he received advice of this ; for he had left Rome, in order that he might not be an eyewitness of what was contriving against him. His constancy, however, was not shaken. He was very sensible, that though his authority in the com. mand was divided, yet his skill in the art of war was not so." This soon became manifest.
Minucius, grown arrogant at the advantage he had gained over his colleague, proposed that each should command a day alternately, or even a longer time : but Fabius rejected this proposal, as it would have exposed the whole army to danger, whilst under the command of Minucius. He therefore chose to divide the troops, in order that it might be in his power to preserve at least that part which should fall to his
Hannibal, fully informed of all that passed in the Roman camp, was overjoyed to hear of this dissention of the two commanders. He therefore laid a snare for the rash Minucius, who accordingly plunged headlong into it, and engaged the enemy on an eminence, in which an ambuscade was concealed. But his troops being soon put into disorder, were just upon the point of being cut to pieces, when Fabius, alarmed by the sudden outcrics of the wounded, called aloud to his soldiers, “Let us hasten to the assistance of Minucius ; let us fly and snatch the victory from the enemy, and extort from our fellowcitizens a confes. sion of their fault.” This succour was very seasona. ble, and compelled Hannibal to sound a retreat. The latter, as he was retiring, said, “That the cloud which had been long hovering on the summit of the moun
• Satis fidens haudquaquam cum imperii jure artem imperandi æquatam. Liv. l. xxii, n, 26.
tains, had at last burst with a loud crack, and caused a mighty storm.” So important and seasonable a ser- . vice done by the dictator, opened the eyes of Minu- . cius. He accordingly acknowledged his error, returned immediately to his duty and obedience, and shewed, that it is sometimes more glorious to know how to atone for a fault, than not to have committed it.
The state of affairs in Spain. In the beginning of this campaign, Cn. Scipio, having suddenly attacked the Carthaginian fleet, commanded by Hamilcar, defeated it, and took twenty five ships, with a great quantity of rich spoils. This victory made the Romans sensible that they ought to be particularly attentive to the affairs of Spain, because Hannibal could draw con. siderable supplies both of men and money from that country. Accordingly they sent a fleet thither, the command whereof was given to P. Scipio, who, after his arrival in Spain, having joined his brother, did the commonwealth very great service. Till that time the Romans had never ventured beyond the Ebro. They then were satisfied with their having gained the friendship of the nations situated between that river and Italy, and confirming it by alliances ; but under Pub. lius they crossed the Ebro, and carried their arms much further up into the country.
The circumstance which contributed most to promote their affairs, was the treachery of a Spaniard in Saguntum. Hannibal had left there the children of the most distinguished families in Spain, whom he had taken as hostages. Abelox, for so this Spaniard was called, persuaded Bostar, the governor of the city, to send back these young men into their country, in order,
• Polyb. 1. iii. p. 245–250. Liv. I. xxii. n. 19-22.