Frontinus Illustrates Hannibal’s Military Genius

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[6] At Numistro, when Hannibal was expecting a battle with Marcellus, he secured a position where his flank was protected by hollows and precipitous roads. By thus making the ground serve as a defense, he won a victory over a most renowned commander.

[7] Again at Cannae, when Hannibal learned that the Volturnus River, at variance with the nature of other streams, sent out high winds in the morning, which carried swirling sand and dust, he so marshaled his line of battle that the entire fury of the elements fell on the rear of his own troops, but struck the Romans in the face and eyes. Since this difficulty was a serious obstacle to the enemy, he won that memorable victory.

[21] Hannibal, on one occasion, learned that the camp of Fulvius, the Roman commander, was carelessly fortified and that Fulvius himself was taking many rash chances besides. Accordingly, at daybreak, when dense mists afforded cover, he permitted a few of his horsemen to show themselves to the sentries of our fortifications; whereupon Fulvius suddenly advanced. Meanwhile, Hannibal, at a different point, entered Fulvius's camp, and overwhelming the Roman rear, slew eight thousand of the bravest soldiers along with their commander himself.

[22] Once, when the Roman army had been divided between the dictator Fabius and Minucius, master of the horse, and Fabius was watching for a favourable opportunity, while Minucius was burning with eagerness for battle, the same Hannibal pitched his camp on the plain between the hostile armies, and having concealed a portion of his troops among rough rocks, sent others to seize a neighbouring hillock, as a challenge to the foe. When Minucius had led out his forces to crush these, the men placed here and there in ambush by Hannibal suddenly sprang up, and would have annihilated Minucius's army, had not Fabius come to help them in their distress.

[23] When the same Hannibal was encamped in the depths of winter at the Trebia, with the camp of the consul, Sempronius Longus, in plain view and only the river flowing between, he placed Mago and picked men in ambush. Then he commanded Numidian cavalry to advance up to Sempronius's fortifications, in order to lure forth the simple-minded Roman. At the same time, he ordered these troops to retire by familiar fords at our first onset. By heedlessly attacking and pursuing the Numidians, the consul gave his troops a chill, as a result of fording the stream in the bitter cold and without breakfast. Then, when our men were suffering from numbness and hunger, Hannibal led against them his own troops, whom he had got in condition for that purpose by warm fires, food, and rubbing down with oil. Mago also did his part, and cut to pieces the rear of his enemy at the point where he had been posted for the purpose.

[24] At Trasimenus, where a narrow way, running out between the lake and the base of the hills, led out to the open plain, the same Hannibal, feigning flight, made his way through the narrow road to the open districts and pitched his camp there. Then, posting soldiers by night at various points over the rising ground of the hill and at the ends of the defile, at daybreak, under cover of a fog, he marshalled his line of battle. Flaminius, pursuing the enemy, who seemed to be retreating, entered the defile and did not see the ambush until he was surrounded in front, flank, and rear, and was annihilated with his army. [25] The same Hannibal, when contending against the dictator Junius, ordered six hundred cavalrymen to break up into a number of squadrons, and at dead of night to appear in successive detachments without intermission around the camp of the enemy. Thus all night long the Romans were harassed and worn out by sentry duty on the rampart and by the rain, which happened to fall continuously, so that in the morning, when Junius gave the signal for recall, Hannibal led out his own troops, who had been well rested, and took Junius's camp by assault. [27] At the battle of Cannae, Hannibal, having drawn up his line of battle, ordered six hundred Numidian cavalry to go over to the enemy. To prove their sincerity, these surrendered their swords and shields to our men, and were dispatched to the rear. Then, as soon as the engagement began, drawing out small swords, which they had secreted, and picking up the shield of the fallen, they slaughtered the troops of the Romans.

— Frontinus, Stratagems 2.2.6–7, 21–25, 27 (translated by C. E. Bennett)