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The Hannibalian War

In the previous year (212 B. C.) Syracuse had fallen: the two Scipios had been conquered and killed in Spain: the siegeworks had been constructed round Capua, at the very time of the fall of Syracuse, i. e. in the autumn, Hannibal being engaged in fruitless attempts upon the citadel of Tarentum. See Livy, 25, 22.

Entirely surrounding the position of Appius Claudius,

B. C. 211. Coss. Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus, P. Sulpicius Galba. The Romans were still engaged in the siege of Capua.
Hannibal at first skirmished, and tried all he could to tempt him to come out and give him battle. But as no one attended to him, his attack became very like an attempt to storm the camp; for his cavalry charged in their squadrons, and with loud cries hurled their javelins inside the entrenchments, and the infantry attacked in their regular companies, and tried to pull down the palisading round the camp.
Q. Fulvius and Appius Claudius, the Consuls of the previous year, were continued in command there, with orders not to leave the place till it fell. Livy, 26, 1. Hannibal tries to raise the siege.
But not even so could he move the Romans from their purpose: they employed their light-armed troops to repulse those who were actually attacking the palisade, but protecting themselves with their heavy shields against the javelins of the enemy, they remained drawn up near their standards without moving. Discomfited at being neither able to throw himself into Capua, nor induce the Romans to leave their camp, Hannibal retired to consult as to what was best to be done.

It is no wonder, in my opinion, that the Carthaginians

The determination and cautious tactics of the Romans.
were puzzled. I think any one who heard the facts would be the same. For who would not have received with incredulity the statement that the Romans, after losing so many battles to the Carthaginians, and though they did not venture to meet them on the field, could not nevertheless be induced to give up the contest or abandon the command of the country? Up to this time, moreover, they had contented themselves with hovering in his neighbourhood, keeping along the skirts of the mountains; but now they had taken up a position on the plains, and those the fairest in all Italy, and were besieging the strongest city in it; and that with an enemy attacking them, whom they could not endure even the thought of meeting face to face: while the Carthaginians, who beyond all dispute had won the battles, were sometimes in as great difficulties as the losers. I think the reason of the strategy adopted by the two sides respectively was, that they both had seen that Hannibal's cavalry was the main cause of the Carthaginian victory and Roman defeat. Accordingly the plan of the losers after the battles, of following their enemies at a distance, was the natural one to adopt; for the country through which they went was such that the enemy's cavalry would be unable to do them any damage. Similarly what now happened at Capua to either side was natural and inevitable.

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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 22
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 1
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