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43. Hannibal, perceiving that the Romans, although they had acted ill-advisedly, had not proceeded to the extremity of rashness, returned to the camp, his stratagem having been detected and rendered idle. [2] There, however, the scarcity of corn forbade his remaining many days, and new plans were daily forming, not only amongst the soldiers, the mingled offscourings of every race on earth, but even in the mind of the general himself. [3] For when the men, with murmurs at first and afterwards with loud clamours, demanded their arrears of pay, and complained at first of the scarcity of corn, and finally of being starved; and when the report went round that the mercenaries —particularly those of Spanish blood —had resolved on going over to the enemy; [4] they say that even Hannibal himself had thoughts of abandoning all his infantry and saving himself and his cavalry by escaping into Gaul. [5] Such being the projects that were entertained in camp and such the temper of his soldiers, he decided to move from his present quarters to Apulia,1 where the climate was warmer and in consequence of this the harvest earlier; at the same time it would be the more difficult, the greater their distance from the enemy, for those of his followers who [p. 345]were fickle to desert. [6] He set out in the night,2 after making up some fires, as before, and leaving a few tents standing where they would be seen, so that the Romans might be withheld from following him through fear of an ambush, as before.3

But when the same Lucanian, Statilius, had made a thorough reconnaissance beyond the camp and on the other side of the mountains, and had reported seeing the enemy on the march a long way off, then the question of pursuing him began to be [8] debated. The consuls were each of the same mind as they had always been; but Varro had the support of almost everybody, Paulus of none except Servilius, the consul of the year [9] before. The will of the majority prevailed, and they set forward, under the urge of destiny, to make Cannae famous for the calamity which there befell the [10] Romans. This was the village near which Hannibal had pitched his camp,4 with his back to the Volturnus,5 a wind that brings clouds of dust over the drought-parched [11] plains. Such a disposition was very convenient for the camp itself and bound to be particularly salutary when the troops formed up for battle, facing in the opposite direction, with [p. 347]the wind blowing only on their backs, and ready to6 fight with enemies half-blinded by the dust driven into their faces.

1 According to Polybius (III. cvii. ff.), Servilius, consul in 217, was still in command of the army before Gereonium when Hannibal marched south and seized the citadel of Cannae, which the Romans had been using as a granary. On receiving the disquieting news of this serious loss, Servilius sent to Rome and asked for instructions. The senate decided to give battle, and sent the new consuls to the front to take command. The engagement at Cannae was fought seven days after the Romans had set out to follow Hannibal.

2 B.C. 216

3 Weissenborn suggests the possibility that the repetition of this stratagem in Livy's narrative may be due to a combination of different versions occurring respectively in Coelius Antipater and in Valerius Antias. The whole passage (chap. xl. [7] —chap. xliii.) is discussed by De Sanctis, III. 2, p. 59.90, who regards the story of the two camps at Gereonium as a repetition of the situation on the Aufidus (chap. xliv. § 1). The scarcity of provisions attributed to Hannibal was invented, he thinks, in order to make it appear the less excusable in the Romans to have accepted battle. The new skirmish at Gereonium is a repetition of the one to which Polybius refers as taking place fifty stades from Cannae. Finally, the stratagem of the abandoned camp is ridiculous and absurd, for the Romans had only to occupy it with a couple of legions and Hannibal would have found it very difficult to recover, and even if Aemilius had chosen to allow Hannibal to return to his camp, he would have deserved a court-martial if he had not first destroyed the tents and levelled the camp and filled the trenches. De Sanctis thinks that the whole episode is characteristic of Valerius Antias.

4 Livy forgets to point out that Hannibal later crossed the river and encamped on the western side (Map 7).

5 This was the Eurus of the Greeks (Seneca, Nat. Quaest. v. xvi. 4), now called Scirocco. The Latin name is from Mt. Voltur in Apulia, S.W. of Cannae.

6 B.C. 216

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load focus Summary (Latin, W. Weissenborn, H. J. Müller, 1884)
load focus Summary (Latin, Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., 1929)
load focus Summary (English, Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., 1929)
load focus Latin (Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., 1929)
load focus English (Rev. Canon Roberts, 1912)
load focus Latin (Robert Seymour Conway, Charles Flamstead Walters, 1929)
load focus English (D. Spillan, A.M., M.D., Cyrus Evans, 1849)
load focus Latin (W. Weissenborn, H. J. Müller, 1884)
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  • Commentary references to this page (5):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 31-32, commentary, 32.36
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 34.11
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 35-38, commentary, 37.18
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 43-44, commentary, 44.28
    • E.C. Marchant, Commentary on Thucydides: Book 7, 7.5
  • Cross-references to this page (6):
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (8):
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