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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXII Chapter 49: The Romans defeated.[216 BC]
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On the other side of the field, Paulus, though severely wounded from a sling in the very commencement of the battle, with a compact body of troops, frequently opposed himself to Hannibal, and in several quarters restored the battle, the Roman cavalry protecting him; who, at length, when the consul had not strength enough even to manage his horse, dismounted from their horses. And when some one brought intelligence that the consul had ordered the cavalry to dismount, it is said that Hannibal observed, "How much rather would I that he delivered them to me in chains." The fight maintained by the dismounted cavalry was such as might be expected, when the victory was undoubtedly on the side of the enemy, the vanquished preferring death in their places to flight; and the conquerors, who were enraged at them for delaying the victory, butchering those whom they could not put to flight. They at length, however, drove the few who remained away, worn out with exertion and wounds. After that they were all dispersed, and such as could, sought to regain their horses for flight. Gnaeus Lentulus, a military tribune, seeing, as he rode by, the consul sitting upon a stone and covered with blood, said to him: Lucius Aemilius! the only man whom the gods ought to regard as being guiltless of this day's disaster, take this horse, while you have any strength remaining, and I am with you to raise you up and protect you. Make not this battle more calamitous by the death of a consul. There is sufficient matter for tears and grief without this addition." In reply the consul said: "Do thou indeed go on and prosper, Gnaeus Servilius, [Note 1] in your career of virtue! But beware lest you waste in bootless commiseration the brief opportunity of escaping from the hands of the enemy. Go and tell the fathers publicly, to fortify the city of Rome, and garrison it strongly before the victorious enemy arrive: and tell Quintus Fabius individually, that Lucius Aemilius lived, and now dies, mindful of his injunctions. Allow me to expire amid these heaps of my slaughtered troops, that I may not a second time be accused after my consulate, or stand forth as the accuser of my colleague, in order to defend my own innocence by criminating another." While finishing these words, first a crowd of their flying countrymen, after that the enemy, came upon them; they overwhelm the consul with their weapons, not knowing who he was: in the confusion his horse rescued Lentulus. After that they fly precipitately. Seven thousand escaped to the lesser camp, ten to the greater, about two thousand to the village itself of Cannae who were immediately surrounded by Carthalo and the cavalry, no fortifications protecting the village. The other consul, whether by design or by chance, made good his escape to Venusia with about seventy horse, without mingling with any party of the flying troops. Forty thousand foot, two thousand seven hundred horse, there being an equal number of citizens and allies, are said to have been slain. Among both the quaestors of the consuls, Lucius Atilius and Lucius Furius Bibaculus; twenty-one military tribunes; several who had passed the offices of consul, praetor, and aedile; among these they reckon Gnaeus Servilius Geminus, and Marcus Minucius, who had been master of the horse on a former year, and consul some years before: moreover eighty, either senators, or who had borne those offices by which they might be elected into the senate, and who had voluntarily enrolled themselves in the legions. Three thousand infantry and three hundred cavalry are said to have been captured in that battle. |
Note 1: Plutarchus calls him Cornelius Lentulus.