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success, and had defeated the Carthaginian generals in two pitched battles with great loss.
The Roman operations in Sardinia had likewise been completely successful.
In another quarter too fortune favoured the Romans; for the ambassadors of Philip of Macedon were, on their homeward voyage, captured by a Roman fleet and carried prisoners to Rome; thus at once revealing the impending danger, and giving time for the necessary measures to forestall it by attacking Philip at home. For this purpose M. Valerius, prætor, who commanded two legions in Apulia, was ordered to take the command of the Roman fleet at Tarentum and Brundisium, and to cross the Ionian gulf to endeavour to form a Greek coalition, against Macedon, of the Ætolians and other tribes which bordered Philip's western frontier.
Thus, on the whole, the prospects of Rome were decidedly improved; Hannibal had been unable to mark the campaign with a victory, and the Romans, encouraged by the prosperous turn of their affairs, were ready to make even greater sacrifices than had yet been demanded of them for the prosecution of the war.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CAMPAIGNS.
1. The relation of the events of these two campaigns is very obscure. We are told that Marcellus marched from Ostia with one legion, and that he was allowed by Hannibal to pass within a few miles of his victorious army, and to enter Canusium, there to organise a new force. But this it is impossible to believe. The explanation is probably that Marcellus himself alone repaired to Canusium, to take over the command from Varro.
It appears strange that Hannibal did not march on Canusium and attempt to capture it immediately after Cannæ. It was garrisoned by only 10,000 men, who had just suffered a most depressing defeat, and were many of them without arms. The disorganisation of the garrison is evidenced by the intended desertion of many of the officers, and Hannibal would have been justified in expecting that his appearance before Canusium, on the day after the battle, would be followed by the surrender of the town.
We are in ignorance of Hannibal's reasons; but he left the Roman troops in Canusium to recover from their consternation, and to form the germ of a new army; and the fact of his not being in a condition to undertake the reduction of that place, is a sufficient answer to those who find fault with him for not marching against Rome. Yet, although he may not have been able to reduce Canusium, he was able to prevent a body of 10,000 men under Marcellus from entering it almost under his nose. But we may have sufficient faith in the genins of Hannibal to feel sure that he did not commit such an oversight, and that our perplexity in this instance, as in others, arises from the loose and disjointed manner in which the historians of the period have chronicled the events of the war.
2. The conduct of Varro at Canusium, in resisting the panic among his troops, and his manly submission to the will of his country, prove that, although ignorant of war, he was possessed of qualities which are very valuable in a commander. As a citizen he must have been a very remarkable man, as is shown by the estimation in which he was held even by his political enemies notwithstanding the disaster of Cannæ, so that some writers relate that he was offered the dictatorship immediately thereafter by the general voice of the senate and people, but that he refused to accept the office. And although the truth of this story is more than doubtful, the fact of its having been believed at all is a proof of the general respect in which he was held.
It is certain that Varro continued to exercise authority as consul after the battle of Cannæ, during the remainder of the year; for he is spoken of by the best historians as commanding a legion in Apulia after Marcellus withdrew from Canusium, although the fact has not been noticed in this narrative, because it is not told anywhere when he went, how he went, or how his legion was raised. In the succeeding year Varro was employed as proconsul, and we find him constantly in authority to the very end of the war.
The above facts ought to be sufficient to overbear the testimony against him of writers who were his political enemies.
3. It is difficult to account for the apathy with which the armies of Junius Gracchus and Marcellus witnessed the blockade and surrender of so important a place as Casilinum, which in Roman hands would be a constant thorn in the side to Capua at the distance of only three miles; and was moreover a most important strategical point, covering the road to Rome and commanding the only bridge over the Vulturnus. The proper position for Junius and his army was at Casilinum, not Teanum.
But the whole account of the capture of Casilinum by Hannibal is irreconcilable with what we know to have been its situation. Livy tells us that the town was divided by the Vulturnus into two parts, and that a permanent bridge afforded communication between them. How then could Hannibal blockade the town? To do so he must pass half of his army to the right bank of the river, which would thus be separated from the other half by a deep and rapid stream, not fordable; and these separated halves would be exposed to be attacked on the one side by M. Junius from Teanum, on the other by Marcellus from Nola, to say nothing of the difficulty of effecting the passage of such a river in the face of the army of the dictator, which would naturally approach Casilinum from Teanum, directly such an operation should be threatened.
The possession of Casilinum conferred greatly the advantage of “interior lines” on the party holding that place. When Fabius, in the campaign of 215, wished to effect a junction with Marcellus, he could not do so without undertaking a long and arduous march round by Allifæ, by which he uncovered Rome. If Hannibal had desired to advance on that city, the possession of Casilinum enabled him to cross the Vulturnus at that place, and thereby to gain a long start of his enemies.
So important is the strategical position of Casilinum, that it has now become a strong fortress under the name of Modern Capua.
If Casilinum had been maintained, Hannibal's march to Cumæ in the campaign of 215 would have been full of risk. The army of Fabius would have been at Casilinum, and might have followed the Carthaginian march to Cumæ, not close enough to be forced to an action by Hannibal suddenly turning upon it, but ready to attack the enemy in rear while Gracchus sallied from the town upon his front.
4. Nearly all the historians of Hannibal have followed the example of Livy in blaming him for exposing his army to the temptations and luxuries of Capua, and in attributing to the consequent demoralisation of his troops, the undoubted fact that from the winter there spent dates the change in the fortunes of the great Carthaginian.
But these reproaches are destitute of all just foundation. Hannibals troops did not, after that winter, manifest any falling off in discipline or courage; but the Roman armies from this time forth were led by generals who estimated correctly the personal superiority of their