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The Disaster At the Thrasymene Lake

The day was exceedingly misty: and as soon as the
The battle, 22d June.
greater part of the Roman line was in the valley, and the leading maniples were getting close to him, Hannibal gave the signal for attack; and at the same time sent orders to the troops lying in ambush on the hills to do the same, and thus delivered an assault upon the enemy at every point at once. Flaminius was taken completely by surprise: the mist was so thick, and the enemy were charging down from the upper ground at so many points at once, that not only were the Centurions and Tribunes unable to relieve any part of the line that was in difficulties, but were not even able to get any clear idea of what was going on: for they were attacked simultaneously on front, rear, and both flanks. The result was that most of them were cut down in the order of march, without being able to defend themselves: exactly as though they had been actually given up to slaughter by the folly of their leader. Flaminius himself, in a state of the utmost distress and despair, was attacked and killed by a company of Celts. As many as fifteen thousand Romans fell in the valley, who could neither yield nor defend themselves, being habituated to regard it as their supreme duty not to fly or quit their ranks. But those who were caught in the defile between the lake and the cliff perished in a shameful, or rather a most miserable, manner: for being thrust into the lake, some in their frantic terror endeavoured to swim with their armour on, and presently sank and were drowned; while the greater number, wading as far as they could into the lake, remained there with their heads above water; and when the cavalry rode in after them, and certain death stared them in the face, they raised their hands and begged for quarter, offering to surrender, and using every imaginary appeal for mercy; but were finally despatched by the enemy, or, in some cases, begged the favour of the fatal blow from their friends, or inflicted it on themselves. A number of men, however, amounting perhaps to six thousand, who were in the valley, defeated the enemy immediately in front of them; but though they might have done much to retrieve the fortune of the day, they were unable to go to the relief of their comrades, or get to the rear of their opponents, because they could not see what was going on. They accordingly pushed on continually to the front, always expecting to find themselves engaged with some of the enemy: until they discovered that, without noticing it, they were issuing upon the higher ground. But when they were on the crest of the hills, the mist broke and they saw clearly the disaster which had befallen them; and being no longer able to do any good, since the enemy was victorious all along the line, and in complete possession of the ground, they closed their ranks and made for a certain Etrurian village. After the battle Maharbal was sent by Hannibal with the Iberians and light-armed troops to besiege the village; and seeing themselves surrounded by a complication of dangers, they laid down their arms and surrendered on condition of their lives being spared. Such was the end of the final engagement between the Romans and Carthaginians in Etruria.

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