Hannibal lays waste the country between the city Cortona and the lake Trasimenus, with all the devastation of war, the more to exasperate the enemy to revenge the injuries inflicted on his allies.
They had now reached a place formed by nature for an ambuscade, where the Trasimenus comes nearest to the mountains of Cortona. A very narrow passage only intervenes, as though room enough just for that purpose had been left designedly; after that a somewhat wider plain opens itself, and then some hills rise up.
On these he pitches his camp, in full view, where he himself with his Spaniards and Africans only might be posted. The Baliares and his other light troops he leads round the mountains; his cavalry he posts at the very entrance of the defile, some eminences conveniently concealing them; in order that when the Romans had entered, the cavalry advancing, every place might be enclosed by the lake and the mountains.
Flaminius, passing the defiles before it was quite daylight, without reconnoitring, though he had arrived at the lake the preceding day at sunset, when the troops began to be spread into the wider plain, saw that part only of the enemy which was opposite to him; the ambuscade in his rear and overhead escaped his notice.
And when the Carthaginian had his enemy enclosed by the lake and mountains, and surrounded by his troops, he gives the signal to all to make a simultaneous charge;
and each running down the nearest way, the suddenness and unexpectedness of the event was increased to the Romans by a mist rising from the lake, which had settled thicker on the plain than on the mountains; and thus the troops of the enemy ran down from the various eminences, sufficiently well discerning each other, and therefore with the greater regularity.
A shout being raised on all sides, the Roman found himself [p. 771]
surrounded before he could well see the enemy; and the at- tack on the front and flank had commenced ere his line could be well formed, his arms prepared for action, or his swords unsheathed.