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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 14: Marcellus defeats Hannibal the next day[209 BC]
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When this was reported to Hannibal, he remarked, "Evidently we have to do with an enemy who cannot endure either good fortune or bad. If he is victorious he follows up the vanquished in fierce pursuit; if he is defeated he renews the struggle with his conquerors." Then he ordered the advance to be sounded, and led his men on to the field. The fighting was much hotter than on the previous day; the Carthaginians did their utmost to maintain the prestige they had gained, the Romans were equally determined to wipe out the disgrace of their defeat. The contingents who had formed the Roman left and the cohorts who had lost their standards were fighting in the front line, and the twentieth legion was stationed on their right. Lucius Cornelius Lentulus and Gaius Claudius Nero commanded the wings; Marcellus remained in the centre to encourage his men and mark how they bore themselves in battle. Hannibal's front line consisted of his Spanish troops, the flower of his army. After a long and undecided struggle he ordered the elephants to be brought up into the fighting line, in the hope that they would create confusion and panic among the enemy. At first they threw the front ranks into disorder, trampling some underfoot and scattering those round in wild alarm. One flank was thus exposed, and the rout would have spread much farther had not Gaius Decimius Flavius, one of the military tribunes, snatched the standard of the foremost maniple of hastati and called on them to follow him. He took them to where the animals trotting close to one another were creating the greatest tumult, and told his men to hurl their javelins at them. Owing to the short distance and the huge mark presented by the beasts, crowded as they were together, every missile went home. They were not all hit, but those in whose flanks the javelins were sticking turned the uninjured ones to flight, for these animals cannot be depended upon. Not only the men who first attacked them, but every soldier within reach hurled his javelin at them as they galloped back into the Carthaginian ranks, where they caused much more destruction than they had caused amongst the enemy. They dashed about much more recklessly and did far greater damage when driven by their fears, than when directed by their drivers. Where the line was broken by their charge, the Roman standards at once advanced, and the broken and demoralised enemy was put to rout without much fighting. Marcellus sent his cavalry after the fugitives, and the pursuit did not slacken till they had been driven in wild panic to their camp. To add to their confusion and terror two of the elephants had fallen and blocked up the camp-gate, and the men had to scramble into their camp over fosse and rampart. It was here that they suffered the heaviest loss; 8000 men were killed and five elephants. The victory was anything but a bloodless one for the Romans; out of the two legions some 1700 men were killed and 1300 of the allied contingents, besides a very large number of wounded in both divisions. The following night Hannibal shifted his camp. Marcellus, though anxious to follow him, was unable to do so owing to the enormous number of wounded. Reconnoitring parties who were sent out to watch his movements reported that he had taken the direction of Bruttium. |
Actions in Italy in 209 BC. Tarentum.