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Quote of the day: Those who are nearest to the Gauls are a
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 26: Ambuscades[208 BC]
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Hannibal had already fought two battles with Marcellus during the past year, in one he had been victorious, the other he lost. After this experience he felt that if he had to meet him again there was as much ground for fear as for hope, and he was therefore far from feeling himself equal to the two consuls together. He decided to employ his old tactics and looked out for a position suitable for an ambuscade. Both sides, however, confined themselves to skirmishes, with varying success, and the consuls thought that as the summer was being spun out in this way there was no reason why the siege of Locri should not be resumed. So they sent written instructions to Lucius Cincius to take his fleet from Sicily to Locri, and as the walls of that city were open to a land attack also, they ordered a portion of the army which was garrisoning Tarentum to be marched there. These plans were disclosed to Hannibal by some people from Thurium, and he sent a force to block the road from Tarentum. 3000 and 2000 infantry were concealed under a hill above Petelia. The Romans, marching on without reconnoitring, fell into the trap, and 2000 were killed and 1500 taken prisoners. The rest fled through the fields and woods back to Tarentum. Between the Carthaginian camp and that of the Romans there was a wooded hill which neither side had taken possession of for the Romans did not know what that side of it was like which fronted the enemy, and Hannibal regarded it as better adapted for an ambuscade than for a camp. He accordingly sent a force of Numidians during the night to conceal themselves in the wood, and there they remained the following day without stirring from their position, so that neither they nor their arms were visible. It was being everywhere remarked in the Roman camp that the hill ought to be seized and strengthened with defences, for if Hannibal seized it they would have the enemy, so to speak, over their heads. The idea impressed Marcellus, and he said to his colleague: "Why do we not go with a few horsemen and examine the place? When we have seen it for ourselves we shall know better what to do." Crispinus assented, and they started with 220 mounted men, 40 whom were from Fregellae, the rest were Etruscans. They were accompanied by two military tribunes,Marcus Marcellus, a son of the consul, and Aulus Manlius, and also by two prefects of allies, Lucius Arrenius and Manius Aulius. Some writers assert that whilst Marcellus was sacrificing on that day, the liver of the first victim was found to have no head; in the second all the usual parts were present, but the head appeared abnormally large. The haruspex was seriously alarmed at finding after misshaped and stunted parts such an excess of growth.

Actions in Italy in 208 BC

Event: Actions in Italy in 208 BC