Hannibal Occupies Cannae
Thus through all that winter and spring the two
armies remained encamped facing each other.
But when the season for the new harvest
was come, Hannibal began to move from the
camp at Geronium; and making up his mind that it would
be to his advantage to force the enemy by any possible
means to give him battle, he occupied the citadel of a town
called Cannae, into which the corn and other supplies from
the district round Canusium
were collected by the Romans,
and conveyed thence to the camp as occasion required.
The town itself, indeed, had been reduced to ruins the year
before: but the capture of its citadel and the material of war
contained in it, caused great commotion in the Roman army;
for it was not only the loss of the place and the stores in it
that distressed them, but the fact also that it commanded the
surrounding district. They therefore sent frequent messages
asking for instructions: for if they approached the
enemy they would not be able to avoid an engagement, in view
of the fact that the country was being plundered, and the allies all
in a state of excitement.
The Senate order a battle.
The Senate passed
a resolution that they should give the enemy
battle: they, however, bade Gnaeus Servilius
wait, and despatched the Consuls to the seat of war. It was
to Aemilius that all eyes turned, and on him the most confident hopes were fixed; for his life had been a noble one, and
he was thought to have managed the recent Illyrian war with
advantage to the State. The Senate determined to bring eight
legions into the field, which had never been done at Rome
before, each legion consisting of five thousand men besides allies.
For the Romans, as I have stated before,1
four legions each year, each consisting of about four thousand
foot and two hundred horse; and when any unusual necessity
arises, they raise the number of foot to five thousand and of
the horse to three hundred. Of allies, the number in each
legion is the same as that of the citizens, but of the horse three
times as great. Of the four legions thus composed, they
assign two to each of the Consuls for whatever service is going
on. Most of their wars are decided by one Consul and two
legions, with their quota of allies; and they rarely employ all
four at one time and on service. But on this occasion, so
great was the alarm and terror of what would happen, they
resolved to bring not only four but eight legions into the field.