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Hannibal Occupies Cannae

Thus through all that winter and spring the two
Autumn, B. C. 216.
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 to Rome 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 habitually enrol 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.

1 See 1. 16.

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