Skirmishes Before Cannae
Next morning the two Consuls broke up their camp,
The Roman army approaches Cannae.
and advanced to where they heard that the enemy
were entrenched. On the second day they
arrived within sight of them, and pitched their
camp at about fifty stades' distance. But when Aemilius observed that the ground was flat and bare for some distance
round, he said that they must not engage there with an enemy
superior to them in cavalry; but that they must rather try to
draw him off, and lead him to ground on which the battle would
be more in the hands of the infantry. But Gaius Terentius being,
from inexperience, of a contrary opinion, there was a dispute
and misunderstanding between the leaders, which of all things
is the most dangerous.
Terentius Varro orders an advance.
It is the custom, when the two Consuls
are present, that they should take the chief command on alternate days; and the next day
happening to be the turn of Terentius, he
ordered an advance with a view of approaching the enemy,
in spite of the protests and active opposition of his colleague.
Hannibal set his light-armed troops and cavalry in motion to meet
him, and charging the Romans while they were
still marching, took them by surprise and caused
a great confusion in their ranks.
The Romans are successful.
repulsed the first charge by putting some of their heavy-armed
in front; and then sending forward their light-armed and
cavalry, began to get the best of the fight all along the
line: the Carthaginians having no reserves of any importance,
while certain companies of the legionaries were mixed with the
Roman light-armed, and helped to sustain the battle. Nightfall for the present put an end to a struggle which had not
at all answered to the hopes of the Carthaginians. But next
day Aemilius, not thinking it right to engage, and yet being
unable any longer to lead off his army, encamped with twothirds of it on the banks of the Aufidus
, the only river which
flows right through the Apennines
,—that chain of mountains
which forms the watershed of all the Italian rivers, which flow
either west to the Tuscan sea, or east to the Hadriatic. This
chain is, I say, pierced by the Aufidus
, which rises on the side
nearest the Tuscan Sea, and is discharged into the
Hadriatic. For the other third of his army he caused a camp
to be made across the river, to the east of the ford, about
ten stades from his own lines, and a little more from those of
the enemy; that these men, being on the other side of the river,
might protect his own foraging parties, and threaten those of