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Punic Wars - Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C. - Battle of the Second Punic War

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Battles of the 2nd Punic War | Battle of Cannae

During the Second Punic War, the Carthaginian leader Hannibal's greatest victory occurred at Cannae on the banks of the Aufidus River, on August 2, 216 B.C. He faced eight Roman legions under Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus, with Varro blamed for the defeat. At Cannae, with a substantially smaller force*, Hannibal encircled the Roman troops and used his cavalry to crush the Roman infantry. He hamstrung those who fled so he could later return to finish the job. Some estimates claim that of 70,000 Roman troops at Cannae, less than 2000 survived. As Gregory Daly says in Cannae: the experience of battle in the Second Punic War, more Romans and Italians were killed in a single day of fighting than Americans were killed in combat during the Vietnam War. In two years, Hannibal had defeated the equivalent of 8 consular armies. After Cannae, Capua and other smaller Italian cities defected to Hannibal's side.

See Polybius on the Battle of Cannae

Ancient Rome Glossary | Table of Roman Battles

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* At the Battle of Cannae, "Varro had sixty-six thousand foot and seven thousand two hundred horse in line to Hannibal's thirty-two thousand foot and ten thousand horse," according to Theodore Ayrault Dodge in Hannibal: A History of the Art of War Among the Carthaginians and Romans.

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