While the consul employs himself at Rome in appeasing the gods and holding the levy, Hannibal, setting out from his winter quarters, because it was reported that the consul Flaminius had now arrived at Arretium, although a
longer but more commodious route was pointed out to him, takes the nearer road through a marsh where the Arno had, more than usual, overflowed its banks.
He ordered the Spaniards and Africans (in these lay the strength of his veteran army) to lead, their own baggage being intermixed with them, lest, being compelled to halt any where, they should want what [p. 768]
might be necessary for their use: the Gauls he ordered to go next, that they might form the middle of the marching body;
the cavalry to march in the rear: next, Mago with the light-armed Numidians to keep the army together, particularly coercing the Gauls, if, fatigued with exertion and the length of the march, as that nation is wanting in vigour for such exertions, they should fall away or halt.
The van still followed the standards wherever the guides did but lead them, through the exceeding deep and almost fathomless eddies of the river, nearly swallowed up in mud, and plunging themselves in.
The Gauls could neither support themselves when fallen, nor raise themselves from the eddies. Nor did they sustain their bodies with spirit, nor their minds with hope; some scarce dragging on their wearied limbs;
others dying where they had once fallen, their spirits being subdued with fatigue, among the beasts which themselves also lay prostrate in every place. But chiefly watching wore them out, endured now for four days and three nights.
When, the water covering every place, not a dry spot could be found where they might stretch their weary bodies, they laid themselves down upon their baggage, thrown in heaps into the waters.
Piles of beasts, which lay every where through the whole route, afforded a necessary bed for temporary repose to those seeking any place which was not under water.
Hannibal himself, riding on the only remaining elephant, to be the higher from the water, contracted a disorder in his eyes, at first from the unwholesomeness of the vernal air, which is attended with transitions from heat to cold;
and at length from watching, nocturnal damps, the marshy atmosphere disordering his head, and because he had neither opportunity nor leisure for remedies, loses one of them.