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The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Etext Book III From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States
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• Contents of Mommsen's History of Rome
• Ancient Rome
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• The Fall of Rome


The War Under Hannibal To The Battle of Cannae

War in Lower Italy

He had calculated correctly, when he chose this time for remodeling his infantry. The surprise of his antagonists, who were in constant expectation of an attack on the capital, allowed him at least four weeks of undisturbed leisure for the execution of the unprecedentedly bold experiment of changing completely his military system in the heart of a hostile country and with an army still comparatively small, and of attempting to oppose African legions to the invincible legions of Italy. But his hope that the confederacy would now begin to breakup was not fulfilled. in this respect the Etruscans, who had carried on their last wars of independence mainly with Gallic mercenaries, were of less moment; the flower of the confederacy, particularly in a military point of view, consisted -- next to the Latins -- of the Sabellian communities, and with good reason Hannibal had now come into their neighbourhood. But one town after another closed its gates; not a single Italian community entered into alliance with the Phoenicians. This was a great, in fact an all-important, gain for the Romans. Nevertheless it was felt in the capital that it would be imprudent to put the fidelity of their allies to such a test, without a Roman army to keep the field. The dictator Quintus Fabius combined the two supplementary legions formed in Rome with the army of Ariminum, and when Hannibal marched past the Roman fortress of Luceria towards Arpi, the Roman standards appeared on his right flank at Aeca. Their leader, however, pursued a course different from that of his predecessors. Quintus Fabius was a man advanced in years, of adeliberation and firmness, which to not a few seemed procrastination and obstinacy. Zealous in his reverence for the good old times, for the political omnipotence of the senate, and for the command of the burgomasters, he looked to a methodical prosecution of the war as -- next to sacrifices and prayers -- the means of saving the state. A political antagonist of Gaius Flaminius, and summoned to the head of affairs in virtue of the reaction against his foolish war-demagogism, Fabius departed for the camp just as firmly resolved to avoid a pitched battle at any price, as his predecessor had been determined at any price to fight one; he was without doubt convinced that the first elements of strategy would forbid Hannibal to advance so long as the Roman army confronted him intact, and that accordingly it would not be difficult to weaken by petty conflicts and gradually to starve out the enemyÕs army, dependent as it was on foraging for its supplies.
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