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TICINUS

TICINUS (Τίκινος: Ticino), a considerable river of Northern Italy, and one of the most important of the northern tributaries of the Padus. It has its sources among the high Alps, in the Mons Adula or Month St. Gothard, and, where it first emerges from the Alpine valleys forms an extensive lake, called the LACUS VERBANUS or Lago Maggiore. Where it issues from this again it is a deep, clear, and rapid stream, and flows through the level plains of Lombardy, with a course of above 60 miles, passing under the walls of Ticinum (Pavia), and discharging its waters into the Padus or Po, about 3 miles below that city. (Strab. iv. p.209, v. p. 217; Plin. Nat. 2.103. s. 106, 3.19. s. 23.) Throughout this lower part of its course (from the Lago Maggiore to the Po) it is navigable for vessels of considerable burden; but the extreme rapidity of the current renders the navigation inconvenient if not dangerous. Its banks are low and marshy, the river being bordered on each side by a belt of thickets and marshy woods. This character of its banks is noticed by Claudian (de VI. Cons. Hon. 194), while Silius Italicus alludes to the beautiful clearness of its waters. (Sil. Ital. 4.82.)

The Ticinus appears to have been recognised at an early period as the boundary between the Insubrians and their neighbours the Libicii and Laevi (Liv. 5.34, 35). From its geographical position it must always have presented a formidable barrier to any invader advancing into Itally after having crossed the Cottian, Graian or Pennine Alps, and for this reason its banks have been the scene of many successive battles. Even in the first descent of the Gauls into the plains of Northern Italy, we are told that they defeated the Etruscans in a battle near the river Ticinus (Liv. 5.34). But much the most celebrated of the contests which were fought on its banks was that between Hannibal and P. Scipio in B.C. 218, shortly after the descent of the Carthaginian general into Italy. The precise scene of this action cannot, however, be determined; but it appears to have been fought on the W. or right bank of the Ticinus, at a short distance from the Padus, and probably not far from the site of Ticinum or Pavia. Livy marks it more distinctly as being within 5 miles of a place called Victumvii(?); but as no other mention of this obscure name occurs, this lends us no assistance. (Liv. 21.45.) The narrative of Polybius is far from clear and has given rise to considerable discussion. Scipio, who had hastened from Pisae into Cisalpine Gaul, on hearing that Hannibal had actually crossed the Alps and descended into the plains of Italy, advanced to meet him, crossed the Padus by a bridge constructed for the occasion, and afterwards crossed the Ticinus in like manner. After this, Polybius tells us, “both generals advanced along the river, on the side facing the Alps, the Romans having the stream on their left hand, the Carthaginians on their right” (3.65). It is clear that this is not consistent with the statement that the Romans had crossed the Ticinus1, as in ascending that river they would have had the stream on their right, unless we suppose “the river” to mean not the Ticinus but the Padus, which is at least equally consistent with the general plan of operations. Hannibal was in fact advancing from the country of the Taurini, and no reason can be assigned why he should have turned so far to the N. as to be descending the Ticinus, in the manner supposed by those who would place the battle near Vigevano or Borgo S. Siro. If we are to understand the river in question to be the Ticinus, the words of Polybius above quoted would necessarily require that the battle should have been fought on the left bank of the Ticinus, which is at variance with all the other particulars of the operations, as well as with the probabilities of the case. The battle itself was a mere combat of cavalry, in which the Roman horse was supported by a portion of their light-armed troops. They were, however, defeated, and Scipio at once retreated to the bridge over the Padus, leaving a small body of troops to break up that over the Ticinus. These troops, 600 in number, were cut off and made prisoners by Hannibal, who, however, gave up the attempt to pursue Scipio, and turned up the stream of the Padus, till he could find a point where he was able to construct a bridge of boats across it. (Pol. 3.65, 66.) The account of Livy (which is based mainly upon that of Polybius, though he must have taken some points, such as the name of Victumvii, from other sources) agrees with the above explanation, though he certainly seems to have transferred what Polybius relates as occurring at the bridge over the Ticinus to that over the Padus. It appears also by his own account that there was considerable discrepancy among his authorities as to the point at which Hannibal eventually crossed the Padus. (Liv. 21.45-47.) It may therefore on the whole be assumed as probable that the battle was fought at a short distance W. of the Ticinus, and not close to the banks of that river: the circumstance that Scipio had encamped on the banks of the Ticinus just before, and advanced from thence to meet Hannibal will explain why the battle was always called the “pugna ad Ticinum” or “apud Ticinum.”

Two other battles were fought in the same neighbourhood before the close of the Roman empire: one [p. 2.1207]in A.D. 270, in which the Alemanni, who had invaded Italy, were finally defeated by the Emperor Aurelian (Vict. Epit. 35): the other in A.D. 352, between the rival emperors Magnentius and Constantius. (Ib. 42.)

[E.H.B]

1 Polybius, indeed, does not distinctly say that the Romans crossed the Ticinus, but it is implied in his whole narrative, as he tells us that the consul ordered a bridge to be built over the Ticinus with the purpose of crossing that river, and afterwards relates their advance without further allusion to it (3.64, 65). But after narrating the defeat and retreat of Scipio, he says that Hannibal followed him as far as the bridge on the first river, which can be no other than the Ticinus. (Ib. 66.)

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