Such was the first battle fought with1
Hannibal, in which it was clearly seen that the Phoenician was superior in cavalry and that consequently open plains, like those between the Po and the Alps, were ill-suited to the Romans for campaigning.
Accordingly, the next night Scipio gave his men the order to pack up without making any noise, and quitting his camp on the Ticinus, marched swiftly to the Po, intending to use the bridge of boats which he had thrown across the river and had not yet broken up, in order to set his army over without confusion or interruption by the enemy.
They were at Placentia before Hannibal was well aware that they were gone from the Ticinus; nevertheless some six hundred men, who were lingering on the northern bank and taking their time about casting off the raft, fell into Hannibal's hands. He was not able to cross the bridge, for when the end was cast off, the whole raft swung down stream with the current.2
Coelius states that Mago with the cavalry and the Spanish foot immediately swam the river, and that Hannibal himself led his army across the Po by an upper ford, after placing the elephants in a line to break the current of the river.
Those who are acquainted with the Po will hardly credit this account;3
for, in the first place, it is unlikely that the horsemen could have breasted so strong a current without the loss of arms or horses, even if all the Spaniards had swum over on inflated skins, and in the second place it would have needed a circuitous march of many days to reach fords on the Po by which an army encumbered with baggage could get across.
Those writers seem to me more worthy of belief4
who relate that in two days' search a pace was scarcely found where the river could be spanned by a bridge of boats; by this the cavalry and light Spanish infantry were sent forward under Mago.
While Hannibal, who had lingered on the northern bank to give a hearing to some Gallic embassies, was bringing over the heavy infantry, Mago and his horsemen advanced a day's march from the crossing of the river towards Placentia and the enemy.
A few days later, Hannibal went into camp behind entrenchments, six miles from the town, and on the following day drew up his troops in sight of the enemy and offered battle.