|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXI Chapter 47: Crossing the Po[218 BC]
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|This was the first battle with Hannibal; from which it clearly appeared that the Carthaginian was superior in cavalry; and on that account, that open plains, such as lie between the Po and the Alps, were not suited to the Romans for carrying on the war. On the following night, therefore, the soldiers being ordered to prepare their baggage in silence, the camp broke up from the Ticinus, and they hastened to the Po, in order that the rafts by which the consul had formed a bridge over the river, being not yet loosened, he might lead his forces across without disturbance or pursuit of the enemy. They arrived at Placentia before Hannibal had ascertained that they had set out from the Ticinus. He took, however, six hundred of those who loitered on the farther bank, who were slowly unfastening the raft; but he was not able to pass the bridge, as the whole raft floated down the stream as soon as the ends were unfastened. Coelius relates that Mago, with the cavalry and Spanish infantry, immediately swam the river; and that Hannibal himself led the army across by fords higher up the Po, the elephants being opposed to the stream in a line to break the force of the current. These accounts can scarcely gain credit with those who are acquainted with that river; for it is neither probable that the cavalry could bear up against the great violence of the stream, without losing their arms or horses, even supposing that inflated bags of leather had transported all the Spaniards; and the fords of the Po, by which an army encumbered with baggage could pass, must have been sought by a circuit of many days' march. Those authors are more credited by me, who relate that in the course of two days a place was with difficulty found fit for forming a bridge of rafts across the river, and that by this way the light-armed Spanish cavalry was sent forward with Mago. Whilst Hannibal, delaying beside the river to give audience to the embassies of the Gauls, conveys over the heavy-armed forces of infantry, in the mean time Mago and the cavalry proceed towards the enemy at Placentia one day's journey after crossing the river. Hannibal, a few days after, fortified his camp six miles from Placentia, and on the following day, having drawn up his line of battle in sight of the enemy, gave them an opportunity of fighting.