Hannibal Prepares An Ambush
Now he had some time before remarked a certain
Hannibal prepares an ambuscade.
piece of ground which was flat and treeless,
and yet well suited for an ambush, because
there was a stream in it with a high overhanging bank thickly covered with thorns and brambles.
Here he determined to entrap the enemy. The place was
admirably adapted for putting them off their guard; because
the Romans were always suspicious of woods, from the fact
of the Celts invariably choosing such places for their ambuscades,
but felt no fear at all of places that were level and without
trees: not knowing that for the concealment and safety of an
ambush such places are much better than woods; because
the men can command from them a distant view of all that
is going on: while nearly all places have sufficient cover to
make concealment possible,—a stream with an overhanging
bank, reeds, or ferns, or some sort of bramble-bushes,—which
are good enough to hide not infantry only, but sometimes even
cavalry, if the simple precaution is taken of laying conspicuous
arms flat upon the ground and hiding helmets under shields.
Hannibal had confided his idea to his brother Mago and to his
council, who had all approved of the plan. Accordingly, when
the army had supped, he summoned this young man to his
tent, who was full of youthful enthusiasm, and had been
trained from boyhood in the art of war, and put under his
command a hundred cavalry and the same number of infantry.
These men he had himself earlier in the day selected as the
most powerful of the whole army, and had ordered to come to
his tent after supper. Having addressed and inspired them
with the spirit suitable to the occasion, he bade each of them
select ten of the bravest men of their own company, and to
come with them to a particular spot in the camp. The order
having been obeyed, he despatched the whole party, numbering
a thousand cavalry and as many infantry, with guides, to the
place selected for the ambuscade; and gave his brother
directions as to the time at which he was to make the attempt.
At daybreak he himself mustered the Numidian cavalry, who
were conspicuous for their powers of endurance; and after
addressing them, and promising them rewards if they behaved
with gallantry, he ordered them to ride up to the enemy's lines,
and then quickly cross the river, and by throwing showers of
darts at them tempt them to come out: his object being to
get at the enemy before they had had their breakfast, or made
any preparations for the day. The other officers of the army
also he summoned, and gave them similar instructions for the
battle, ordering all their men to get breakfast and to see to
their arms and horses.