On the following day, since by now the barbarians were attacking with less vigour, his forces were re-united and surmounted the pass; and though they suffered some casualties, still they lost more baggage animals than men.
From this point on the mountaineers appeared in smaller numbers, and, more in the manner of brigandage than warfare, attacked sometimes the van, sometimes the rear, whenever the ground afforded an advantage, or the invaders, pushing on too far ahead or lagging behind, gave opportunity.
The elephants could be induced to move but very slowly along the steep and narrow trails; but wherever they went they made the column safe from its enemies, who were unaccustomed to the beasts and afraid of venturing too near them.
On the ninth day they arrived at the summit of the Alps, having come for the most part over trackless wastes and by roundabout routes, owing either to the dishonesty of their guides, or —when they would not trust the guides —to their blindly entering some valley, guessing at the way. For two days they lay encamped on the summit.
The soldiers, worn with toil and fighting, were permitted to rest; and a number of baggage animals which had fallen among the rocks made their way to the camp by following the tracks of the army.
Exhausted and discouraged as the soldiers were by many hardships, a snow-storm —for the constellation of the Pleiades was now setting1
—threw them into a great fear.
The ground was everywhere covered deep with snow2
when at dawn they began to march, and as the column moved slowly on, dejection and despair were to be read in every countenance.
Then Hannibal, who had gone on before the standards, made the army halt on a certain promontory which commanded an extensive prospect, and pointing out Italy to them, and just under the Alps the plains about the Po, he told them that they were now scaling the ramparts not only of Italy, but of Rome itself; the rest of the way would be level or downhill;
and after one, or, at the most, two battles, they would have in their hands and in their power the citadel and capital of Italy.
The column now began to make some progress, and even the enemy had ceased to annoy them, except to make a stealthy raid, as occasion offered. But the way was much more difficult than the ascent had been, as indeed the slope of the Alps on the Italian
side is in general more precipitous in proportion as it is shorter.
For practically every road was steep, narrow, and treacherous, so that neither could they keep from slipping, nor could those who had been thrown a little off their balance retain their footing, but came down, one on top of the other, and the beasts on top of the men.