For no long time thereafter, while the cold1
was still unbearable, he allowed his men to rest, and on the first doubtful
signs of spring broke up his winter quarters and marched towards Etruria, with the object of drawing that nation also to his standards, either by force or with their own consent, as he had done with the Gauls and the Ligurians.
In attempting to cross the Apennines he was assailed by a storm so terrible as almost to surpass the horrors of the Alps. With the wind and rain blowing full in their faces, at first —because they must either have dropped their arms or else, if they struggled against it, be caught by the hurricane and hurled to the ground —they
halted; then, when it actually stopped their breath and would not allow them to respire, they turned their backs on the gale and for a time huddled together on the ground.
And now the heavens resounded with a frightful tumult, and between the terrific crashes the lightning flashed.
Deafened and blinded, they were all stunned with fear. At length the downpour ceased, but the wind only blew the more furiously, and there seemed to be nothing to do but to pitch camp on the very spot where they had been caught.
This, however, was but a fresh beginning of their troubles, for they could neither spread nor set up a tent, nor, once set up, would it stay in place, for the wind rent [p. 175]
everything to shreds and swept it away;
presently the moisture taken up by the wind had been congealed over the cold mountain ridges, it descended in such a storm of sleet that the men let go of everything and threw themselves on their faces on the ground, overwhelmed by their shelters rather than protected by them;
and the cold that ensued was so severe that when anyone sought to rise and lift himself from out that pitiful heap of men and beasts, for a long time he would be unable, because his sinews were so stiff and tense that he could hardly bend his joints.
Afterwards, when at last by exerting themselves they had recovered the power of motion and regained their courage, and had begun here and there to kindle fires, each, in his helplessness, applied to someone else for help.
For two days they remained on that spot as if beleaguered. Many men and many horses perished, and seven of the elephants that had survived the battle on the Trebia.