Titus Livy Book Titus Livius essay

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The consul was wounded in the battle. It was here that the one who will become Hannibal's greatest rival, the consul's son Publius Cornelius Scipio, did his first deed of valor, when he helped save his father (Livius also gives the alternate account of the Consul's rescue by a Ligurian slave, but he says he wishes the most popular account, accepted by most of the historians, to be correct). After this, the Roman cavalry retreated and their army broke camp the same night and crossed the Po River to the town of Placentia (Piacenza). Pursued by Hannibal, the Consul and his army retreated further over the river Trebia and set camp in a strong position, to await the arrival of his colleague, the Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus, who had been recalled from the operations in Sicily.

On the front in Sicily, the actions were fought mainly by the navies, with the Romans scoring a victory against a fleet of 35 quinqereme sent by Hannibal to conquer Lylibaeum and set a foot hold in Sicily. After this battle, the Consul leaves for Italy with his army, leaving a part of the fleet and some troops to guard Sicily. He soon reached northern Italy and joined Consul Cornelius Scipio at Trebia.

Here, despite the opposition of his colleague, consul Sempronius Longus met Hannibal in battle. The Carthaginian leader not only chose the ground for the confrontation, a valley surrounded by wooded hills, but he was also able to sent his brother Mago to hide with some troops to fall into the back of the Roman line once the battle was joined. He made again excellent use of his cavalry and elephants, employing them on the wings. This use of the cavalry, which defeated the weaker Roman and allied cavalry and the ambush set up by Mago proved decisive against the excellent Roman infantry, and Hannibal won a great victory. Some 10.000 Roman heavy infantry together with Consul Sempronius Longus broke through the ranks of the Carthaginians and went to Placentia, and the rest of the survivors got to the camp and from there were led by Consul Cornelius Scipio to Cremona.

After this defeat, the Consul elections were held in Rome, Flaminius and Cn. Servilius being elected Consuls for the coming year. An attempt by Hannibal to take Placentia was foiled by the garrison with the help of Consul Scipio and a number of other minor engagements were fought with different results.

In Spain, Cn. Scipio, sent by the consul with an army in order to deny Hannibal the resources of this region successfully engaged first Hanno, and then Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, the generals left by Hannibal to defend the Spain. He succeeded in conquering the north of the Iberian Peninsula, above the river Iberus, the territory conquered earlier by Hannibal and camped there for the winter.

Book 21 ends with a vivid description of the miracles and omens following these events. The new Consul, Flaminius, a leader of the plebeian party, leaves Rome for the troubled provinces in secret, fearing opposition from the Patricians, and takes up his office and the command of the army under very inauspicious signs.

The rest of the war is told by Livius in books 22 to 45. The war lasted for 17 years of which 15 Hannibal remained on Roman soil, dealing some of the worst defeats in the history of Rome: Trebia, Trasimenus and especially Cannae, which is still to this day one of the bloodiest battle in terms of single lives lost in a day. It was after this battle that Hannibal was so near to Rome, that his riders were seen from the city's walls. But the Romans were able to avoid major engagements after that, and Hannibal lacked the resources to assault Rome itself, and slowly the tide of war turned against him. During his absence Spain was lost, his two brothers killed in battle in Italy while trying to come to his aid with reinforcements, and Africa was invaded. The war ended when Scipio crossed the Mediterranean in Africa and menaced Carthage directly, forcing Hannibal to retreat from Italy, and finally defeating him in 202 BC at Zama (today in northern Tunisia). A rupture between Carthage and the Numidian state had occurred earlier, and Masinissa, one of the pretenders to the throne of Numidia, switched sides and fought for the Romans. Deprived of the aid of the Numidian cavalry that proved decisive in so many of his earlier battle Hannibal was unable to counter the tactics of Scipio and lost the battle, effectively losing the war.

Livius paints in his books the portraits of the most prominent men of the time who participated in the events. A few stand out: Hannibal, the central figure of the Second Punic War, young Publius Scipio (who will become Scipio Africanus), the Roman general who ended the war by defeating Hannibal at Zama, Hanno, a leader of the Carthaginian party who opposes to war, and some of the other Roman commanders and politicians.

Hannibal's portrait is painted in detail by Titus Livius. He gives his moral portrait in the opening of Book 21, attributing to Hannibal many of the virtues that Romans admired in their own legendary commanders like Cincinnatus and Furius Camillus: modesty, endurance, sobriety, fearlessness but also prudence. But Livius also attributes to him a lot of negative traits: "inhuman cruelty, more than Punic perfidy, no truth, no reverence for things sacred, no fear of the gods, no respect for oaths, no sense of religion" (Ab Urbe Condita, Titus Livius). Some of them may have been true, some necessary in time of war and in a campaign fought for so many years on enemy territory, some surely show the resentment that Roman annalists and historians (Livius' sources) had towards the great Carthaginian.

From his speeches, Hannibal is revealed as an astute commander, who knew how to motivate his men to achieve victory, with promises of fame and material gain and appeals to their sense of duty. His victories are due in part to his ability to command his men in risky maneuvers, requiring perfect discipline and the careful choice of the battlefield. The victories won reveal him as a brilliant tactician, one of the best generals of the antiquity. His battle of Cannae is an example of strategy, still studied in military schools, providing a classic example of the pincer movement. For 15 years he campaigned in enemy territory, with little support from his native Carthage, being forced to get all of his resources from uncertain allies and enemy territories.

Livius also emphasizes Hannibal's relation with his native Carthaginian State. Despite being great patriots, the Barca family had a long history of opposing the State, especially the pro-Roman faction led by Hanno. Hannibal's belligerent attitude was characterized by the ancient authors as a kind personal vendetta inherited from his father, who had seen Carthage defeated in the First Punic War, forced to agree to a shameful peace and then robbed by its possessions of Corsica and Sardinia against the Roman State. Indeed, Livius gives as one of the reasons for the war an oath that Hannibal, influenced by his father Hamilcar, swore as a child, to forever hate Rome (Andreola Rossi). His attitude may have contributed his downfall, as he went largely unsupported by Carthage during his whole campaign.

With the defeat at Zama the Second Punic War was over, but Hannibal's saga continued. For fourteen years after the end of the war he proved a capable leader of his city, restoring much of his former glory. Alarmed by this, the Romans demanded his surrender and he left in a voluntary exile. His hate for the Romans drove him to enlist into the service of many kingdoms and cities who were struggling against the ever increasing Roman influence, sometimes by force of arms. He was ever pursued by Roman agents who demanded his surrender. He sought refuge to Prusias of Bythinia, and helped him in the war against Rome's ally Eumenes the II of Pergamon. It was here that the Romans cought up with him again and asked for his surrender, to which this frightened king agreed. Not wanting to be cought alive, Hannibal poisoned himself.

Hannibal left an enduring impression upon the Romans and the world in general. It was said that the fear of Hannibal was so great, that years after the war the women of Rome used to frighten their children when they misbehaved with stories about the terrible Carthaginian and whenever disaster struck, Romans would exclaim:

"Hannibal ante portas

Bibliography:

Mommsen, Theodor. 2006. The History of Rome, Book III; Hard Press

Titus Livius. Ab Urbe Condita; Books Nine to Twenty-Six. Project Gutenberg eBook http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10907/10907-h/10907-h.htm#book21. Last retrieved on February 25, 2010

Andreola Rossi. 2004. Parallel Lives: Hannibal and Scipio in Livy's Third Decade; Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 134, No. 2. pp. 359-381 Published by:…[continue]

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