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A Second Disaster in Etruria

About the same time as the battle of Thrasymene,
Servilius's advanced guard cut to pieces.
the Consul Gnaeus Servilius, who had been stationed on duty at Ariminum,—which is on the coast of the Adriatic, where the plains of Cis-Alpine Gaul join the rest of Italy, not far from the mouths of the Padus,—having heard that Hannibal had entered Etruria and was encamped near Flaminius, designed to join the latter with his whole army. But finding himself hampered by the difficulty of transporting so heavy a force, he sent Gaius Centenius forward in haste with four thousand horse, intending that he should be there before himself in case of need. But Hannibal, getting early intelligence after the battle of Thrasymene of this reinforcement of the enemy, sent Maharbal with his light-armed troops, and a detachment of cavalry, who falling in with Gaius, killed nearly half his men at the first encounter; and having pursued the remainder to a certain hill, on the very next day took them all prisoners. The news of the battle of Thrasymene was three days' old at Rome, and the sorrow caused by it was, so to speak, at its hottest, when this further disaster was announced. The consternation caused by it was no longer confined to the people. The Senate now fully shared in it; and it was resolved that the usual annual arrangements for the election of magistrates should be suspended, and a more radical remedy be sought for the present dangers; for they came to the conclusion that their affairs were in such a state, as to require a commander with absolute powers.

Feeling now entirely confident of success, Hannibal rejected the idea of approaching Rome for the present; but traversed the country plundering it without resistance, and directing his march towards the coast of the Adriatic.

Hannibal's advance after the battle.
Having passed through Umbria and Picenum, he came upon the coast after a ten days' march with such enormous booty, that the army could neither drive nor carry all the wealth which they had taken, and after killing a large number of people on his road. For the order was given, usual in the storming of cities, to kill all adults who came in their way; an order which Hannibal was prompted to give now by his deep-seated hatred of Rome.1

1 This treatment of non-combatants was contrary to the usages of civilised warfare even in those days, and seems to have been the true ground for the charge of crudelitas always attributed to Hannibal by Roman writers, as opposed to the behaviour of such an enemy as Pyrrhus (Cic. de Am. 28). It may be compared to the order of the Convention to give no quarter to English soldiers, which the French officers nobly refused to execute.

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    • Cicero, De Amicitia, 28
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