August 02, 2005

Salvete, Discipuli!


Hannibal says, "This post is for JCL Geeks only."

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., one of the great milestones of the Second Punic War, in which Hannibal (pictured above) crushed a Roman army under the Consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Here is another short overview of the battle.

Although the Roman losses were horrific (estimated at up to 60,000), I think the most important aspect of this battle (and other Roman disasters such as the Battle of Lake Trasimene the year before) is the fact that it did not lead to Hannibal's conquest of Rome. This was due to a combination of Roman resolve and organization and the awe which these attributes struck in Hannibal himself, making him more hesitant to try and take Rome itself by force:

Despite this tremendous loss, the following defection of many allied cities, and the declaration of war by Philip of Macedon that was soon to come, the Romans showed a resiliency that defined them as people. According to Livy, "No other nation in the world could have suffered so tremendous a series of disasters and not been overwhelmed. The truth of that nature was self evident. While some in the Senate, such as Lucius Caecilius Metellus were ready to abandon the Republic as a lost cause, others like Scipio propped up the flagging Roman spirit with encouragement and undying oaths of loyalty to Rome.

Shortly after Cannae, the Romans rallied back, declaring full mobilization. Another dictator, M. Junius Pera, was elected to stabilize the Republic. New legions were raised with conscripts from previous untouched citizen classes. As the land owning population was heavily diminished by losses to Hannibal, the Romans took advantage of the masses. Those in debt were released from their obligations, non-land owners were recruited and even slaves were freed to join the legions. In so doing, the Romans also refused to pay ransoms to Hannibal for any captured legionaries who still remained. Hannibal, it was suggested, lost his spirit, understanding that Rome would rather sacrifice its own than surrender anything to him. While fortune would still be with Hannibal for some time, the war of attrition would only benefit Rome.

Just about any other civilization of the time would have quickly folded in the face of such crushing defeats.

YIPS from Steve: Something about Anita Hill and a can of Coke somehow comes to mind......who knew Clarence's humor was so high brow?

Posted by Robert at August 2, 2005 01:34 PM | TrackBack

During a trip to Italy, I actually visited the ruins of Cannae. At the time, they were working on building a museum there and excavating the ruins. But basically, it was a free-for-all walking around the site. There were pottery shards and random sculptures everywhere. Basically, had we wanted to, we could have walked off with some ancient Roman artifacts, and no one would have been the wiser. The only people out there were some day laborers building stair ways and such through the ruins--they didn't give us a second look, and were clearly more interested in loafing than preventing theft.

From the high points, you can see the whole sweeping valley, and easily imagine how the battle shaped up. It was a really cool experience, especially since, unlike Pompeii, it's not overflowing with tourists, or rigidly structured as to where you can go and what you can see.

Posted by: Beck at August 2, 2005 08:00 PM

Now THAT is cool.

Posted by: Robert the LB at August 3, 2005 10:11 AM
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