Battle of Lake Trasimene
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The Battle of Lake Trasimene was fought when a Carthaginian force under
Hannibal Hannibal (; xpu, 𐤇𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋, ''Ḥannibaʿl''; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Punic people, Carthaginian general and statesman who commanded the forces of Ancient Carthage, Carthage in their battle against the Roman ...
ambushed a
Roman army The Roman army (Latin language, Latin: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of Ancient Rome, from the Roman Kingdom (c. 500 BC) to the Roman Republic (500–31 BC) and the Roman Empire (31 BC–395 AD), and its ...
commanded by Gaius Flaminius on 21 June 217 BC, during the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For ...
. It took place on the north shore of Lake Trasimene, to the east of
Cortona Cortona (, ) is a town and ''comune'' in the province of Arezzo, in Tuscany, Italy. It is the main cultural and artistic centre of the Val di Chiana after Arezzo. Toponymy Cortona is derived from Latin Cortōna, and from Etruscan language, Etr ...
, and resulted in a heavy defeat for the Romans. After the end of the
First Punic War The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Roman Republic, Rome and Ancient Carthage, Carthage, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the early 3rd century BC. For 23 years ...
in 241 BC, in 219 BC Hannibal, ruler of the Carthaginian territories in south-east
Iberia The Iberian Peninsula (), ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a pe ...
, besieged, captured and sacked the Roman-protected Iberian town of Saguntum. Early in 218 BC Rome issued a
declaration of war A declaration of war is a formal act by which one state announces existing or impending war activity against another. The declaration is a performative speech act (or the signing of a document) by an authorized party of a national government, ...
and Hannibal left Iberia, crossed the Alps, and arrived in
Cisalpine Gaul Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After its conquest by the Roman Republic in the 200s BC it was con ...
(northern Italy) later that year. The Romans rushed reinforcements north from Sicily but were defeated at the
Battle of the Trebia The Battle of the Trebia (or Trebbia) was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian Empire, Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and a Roman Republic, Roman army under Tiberius Sempronius Longus (consul 218 B ...
. The following spring the Romans positioned two armies, one on each side of the
Apennines The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπέννινον ὄρος; la, Appenninus or  – a singular with plural meaning;''Apenninus'' (Greek or ) has the form of an adjective, which wou ...
, but were surprised when the Carthaginians crossed the mountains by a difficult but unguarded route. The Carthaginians moved south into
Etruria Etruria () was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what are now most of Tuscany, northern Lazio, and northern and western Umbria. Etruscan Etruria The ancient people of Etruria are identified as Etruscan civiliza ...
,
plundering Looting is the act of stealing, or the taking of goods by force, typically in the midst of a military, political, or other social crisis, such as war War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society ...
, razing the villages and killing all adult males encountered. Flaminius, in charge of the nearest Roman army, set off in pursuit. Hannibal arranged an ambush on the north shore of Lake Trasimene and trapped the Romans, killing or capturing all 25,000 of them. Several days later the Carthaginians wiped out the entire
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as light cavalr ...
of the other Roman army, who were not yet aware of the disaster. This destruction of an entire army as a result of ambush by an entire other army is widely considered a unique occurrence. The Carthaginians continued their march through Etruria, then crossed to
Umbria Umbria ( , ) is a Regions of Italy, region of central Italy. It includes Lake Trasimeno and Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. It is the only landlocked region on the Italian Peninsula, Apennine Peninsula. The ...
and marched south into
Apulia Apulia ( ), also known by its Italian name Puglia (), :: nap, label=, Puie :: nap, label=Tarantino dialect, Tarantino, Puje : scn, label=Salentino dialect, Salentino, Puia : frp, label=Faetar language, Faetar, Poulye : el, label=Griko language ...
, in the hope of winning over some of the ethnic
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
and Italic city-states of southern Italy. News of the defeat caused a panic in Rome and led to the election of
Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, surnamed Cunctator ( 280 – 203 BC), was a Roman statesman and general of the third century BC. He was Roman consul, consul five times (233, 228, 215, 214, and 209 BC) and was appointed Roman dictator, dictato ...
as dictator, but, impatient with his "
Fabian strategy The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a attrition warfare, war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employ ...
" of avoiding pitched conflict and relying instead on
guerrilla tactics Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or Irregular military, irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, Raid (military), raids ...
, the next year the Romans elected Lucius Aemilius Paullus and
Gaius Terentius Varro Gaius Terentius Varro ( 218–200 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistl ...
as
consuls A consul is an official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, as well as to facilitate trade and friendship between the peopl ...
. These more aggressive commanders engaged Hannibal at the
Battle of Cannae The Battle of Cannae () was a key engagement of the Second Punic War between the Roman Republic and Ancient Carthage, Carthage, fought on 2 August 216 BC near the ancient village of Cannae in Apulia, southeast Roman Italy, Italy. The Carthagini ...
in 216 BCE, a third disaster for Rome that was followed by thirteen more years of war.


Primary sources

The main source for almost every aspect of the Punic Wars is the historian
Polybius Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period. He is noted for his work , which covered the period of 264–146 BC and the Punic Wars in detail. Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed ...
( – ), a Greek general sent to Rome in 167 BC as a hostage. His works include a now-lost manual on
military tactics Military tactics encompasses the art of organizing and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. They involve the application of four battlefield functions which are closely related – kinetic or firepower, Mobility (military), mobil ...
, but he is now known for ''The Histories'', written after 146 BC. Polybius's work is considered broadly objective and largely neutral as between Carthaginian and
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter ...
points of view. Polybius was an analytical historian and wherever possible personally interviewed participants, from both sides, in the events he wrote about. The accuracy of Polybius's account has been much debated over the past 150 years, but the modern consensus is to accept it largely at face value, and the details of the battle in modern sources are largely based on interpretations of Polybius's account. Modern historians have described Polybius as "fairly reliable", "well-informed" and "insightful".
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
, who relied heavily on Polybius, is the other major source for the Battle of Lake Trasimene and the events around it. The classicist
Adrian Goldsworthy Adrian Keith Goldsworthy (; born 1969) is a British historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and researc ...
considers Livy's reliability to be "often suspect", especially in his descriptions of battles, and he is generally considered untrustworthy by modern historians. There are other ancient sources, written later, which mostly survive as fragments or summaries. Modern historians usually take into account the writings of various Roman
annalists Annalists (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around pres ...
, some contemporary; the Sicilian Greek
Diodorus Siculus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, wikt:Διόδωρος, Διόδωρος ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history ''Bibliotheca historica' ...
;
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
;
Appian Appian of Alexandria (; grc-gre, Ἀππιανὸς Ἀλεξανδρεύς ''Appianòs Alexandreús''; la, Appianus Alexandrinus; ) was a Ancient Greeks, Greek historian with Ancient Rome, Roman citizenship who flourished during the reigns of ...
; and
Dio Cassius Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of the History of ancient Rome, history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The ...
. Other sources include coins, inscriptions,
archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes ...
evidence and empirical evidence from reconstructions.


Background


Pre-war

The
First Punic War The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Roman Republic, Rome and Ancient Carthage, Carthage, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the early 3rd century BC. For 23 years ...
was fought between Carthage and Rome: the two main powers of the western
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...
in the 3rd century BC struggled for supremacy primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in
North Africa North Africa, or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in t ...
. The war lasted for 23 years, from 264 to 241 BC, until the Carthaginians were defeated. Under the
Treaty of Lutatius The Treaty of Lutatius was the agreement between Carthage Carthage was the capital city of Ancient Carthage, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic pro ...
, Carthage evacuated Sicily and paid Rome an
indemnity In contract law, an indemnity is a contractual obligation of one Party (law), party (the ''indemnitor'') to Financial compensation, compensate the loss incurred by another party (the ''indemnitee'') due to the relevant acts of the indemnitor or ...
of 3,200 silver talents over ten years. Four years later, Rome seized
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian language, Italian, Corsican language, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese dialect, Algherese and Catalan languag ...
and
Corsica Corsica ( , Upper , Southern ; it, Corsica; ; french: Corse ; lij, Còrsega; sc, Còssiga) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the Regions of France, 18 regions of France. It is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and ...
on a cynical pretence and imposed a further 1,200 talent indemnity. actions which fuelled Carthaginian resentment. Polybius considered this act of bad faith by the Romans to be the single greatest cause of war with Carthage breaking out again nineteen years later. In 236 BC, an army commanded by the leading Carthaginian general
Hamilcar Barca Hamilcar Barca or Barcas ( xpu, 𐤇𐤌𐤋𐤒𐤓𐤕𐤟𐤁𐤓𐤒, ''Ḥomilqart Baraq''; –228BC) was a Ancient Carthage, Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal Barca, Hasdrubal ...
landed in
Carthaginian Iberia The Carthaginian presence in Iberia is long and has been influential on the region. Background The Phoenicians Phoenicia () was an ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, ancient thalassocracy, thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levan ...
, now part of southeast Spain and Portugal, which became a quasi-monarchial, autonomous territory ruled by the Barcids. This expansion also gained Carthage silver mines, agricultural wealth,
manpower Human resources (HR) is the set of people who make up the workforce The workforce or labour force is a concept referring to the Pooling (resource management), pool of human beings either in employment or in unemployment. It is generally ...
, military facilities such as
shipyard A shipyard, also called a dockyard or boatyard, is a place where ships are shipbuilding, built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with ...
s and territorial depth, enabling it to resist future Roman demands. Hamilcar ruled as
viceroy A viceroy () is an official who reigns over a polity in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix ''vice-'', meaning "in the place of" and the French word ''roy'', meaning "k ...
until his death in 228 BC, when he was succeeded by his son-in-law,
Hasdrubal Hasdrubal ( grc-gre, Ἀσδρούβας, ''Hasdroúbas'') is the latinization of names, Latinized form of the Carthaginian name ʿAzrubaʿal ( xpu, 𐤏𐤆𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤋 , , "Help of Baal"). It may refer to: * Hasdrubal I of Carthage was the M ...
, then his son
Hannibal Hannibal (; xpu, 𐤇𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋, ''Ḥannibaʿl''; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Punic people, Carthaginian general and statesman who commanded the forces of Ancient Carthage, Carthage in their battle against the Roman ...
in 221 BC. In 226 BC, the
Ebro Treaty The Ebro Treaty was a treaty signed in 226 BC by Hasdrubal the Fair of Carthage and the Roman Republic, which fixed the river Ebro in Iberia as the boundary between the two powers of Rome and Carthage. Under the terms of the treaty, Carthag ...
established the
Ebro River , name_etymology = , image = Zaragoza shel.JPG , image_size = , image_caption = The Ebro River in Zaragoza , map = SpainEbroBasin.png , map_size = , map_caption = The Ebro ...
as the northern boundary of the Carthaginian
sphere of influence In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence (SOI) is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural, economic, military or political exclusivity. While there may be a formal al ...
. A little later Rome made a separate treaty of association with the city of
Saguntum Sagunto ( ca-valencia, Sagunt) is a municipality of Spain, located in the province of Valencia, Valencian Community. It belongs to the modern fertile ''comarques of the Valencian Community, comarca'' of Camp de Morvedre. It is located c. 30&nbs ...
, well south of the Ebro. In 218 BC a Carthaginian army under Hannibal besieged, captured and sacked Saguntum. In early 219 BC Rome
declared war A declaration of war is a formal act by which one state announces existing or impending war activity against another. The declaration is a performative speech act (or the signing of a document) by an authorized party of a national government, ...
on Carthage.


War in Cisalpine Gaul

It was the long-standing Roman procedure to elect two men each year, known as
consuls A consul is an official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, as well as to facilitate trade and friendship between the peopl ...
, to each lead an army. In 218 BC the Romans raised an army to campaign in Iberia under the consul Publius Scipio, who was accompanied by his brother Gnaeus. The major Gallic tribes in
Cisalpine Gaul Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After its conquest by the Roman Republic in the 200s BC it was con ...
(modern northern Italy), antagonised by the founding of several Roman settlements on traditionally Gallic territory, attacked the Romans, capturing several towns. They repeatedly ambushed a Roman relief force and blockaded it in Tannetum. The
Roman Senate The Roman Senate ( la, Senātus Rōmānus) was a governing and advisory assembly in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the Rome, city of Rome (traditionally found ...
detached one Roman and one allied legion from the force intended for Iberia to send to the region.


Carthage invades Italy

Meanwhile, Hannibal assembled a Carthaginian army in New Carthage (modern Cartagena) over the winter, marching north in May 218 BC he entered
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
to the east of the
Pyrenees The Pyrenees (; es, Pirineos ; french: Pyrénées ; ca, Pirineu ; eu, Pirinioak ; oc, Pirenèus ; an, Pirineus) is a mountain range straddling the border of France and Spain. It extends nearly from its union with the Cantabrian Mountains to C ...
, then took an inland route to avoid the Roman allies along the coast. Hannibal left his brother
Hasdrubal Barca Hasdrubal Barca (245– 22June 207BC), a latinization of ʿAzrubaʿal ( xpu, 𐤏𐤆𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤋 ) son of Hamilcar Barca, was a Carthaginian general in the Second Punic War. He was the brother of Hannibal and Mago Barca. Youth and Ibe ...
in charge of Carthaginian interests in Iberia. The Carthaginians crossed the
Alps The Alps () ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps ; sl, Alpe . are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately across seven Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Swi ...
with 38,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry in October, surmounting the difficulties of climate, terrain and the
guerrilla tactics Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or Irregular military, irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, Raid (military), raids ...
of the native tribes. Hannibal arrived with 20,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and an unknown number of elephantsthe survivors of the 37 with which he had left Iberia in Cisalpine Gaul (present
Piedmont Piedmont ( ; it, Piemonte, ) is a region of Northwest Italy, one of the regions of Italy, 20 regions of the country. It borders the Liguria region to the south, the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions to the east and the Aosta Valley region to th ...
) in northern Italy. The Romans had already withdrawn to their winter quarters and were astonished by Hannibal's appearance. The Carthaginians needed to obtain supplies of food, as they had exhausted theirs on their journey, and obtain allies among the north Italian Gallic tribes from which they could recruit, in order to build up their army to a size which would enable it to effectively take on the Romans. The local tribe, the
Taurini The Taurini were a Celto-Ligurian tribe dwelling in the upper valley of the river Po, around present-day Turin Turin ( , Piedmontese language, Piedmontese: ; it, Torino ) is a city and an important business and cultural centre in Northern ...
, were unwelcoming, so Hannibal besieged their capital (near the site of modern
Turin Turin ( , Piedmontese language, Piedmontese: ; it, Torino ) is a city and an important business and cultural centre in Northern Italy. It is the capital city of Piedmont and of the Metropolitan City of Turin, and was the first Italian capital ...
), stormed it, massacred the population and seized the supplies there. An interpretation of these brutal actions is that Hannibal was sending a message to the other Gallic tribes as to the likely consequences of non-cooperation. The Romans went on the attack against the reduced force which had survived the rigours of the march, and Publius Scipio personally led the
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as light cavalr ...
and
light infantry Light infantry refers to certain types of lightly equipped infantry throughout history. They have a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry. Historically, light infantry often fought ...
of the army he commanded against the Carthaginian cavalry at the
Battle of Ticinus The battle of Ticinus was fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal Hannibal (; xpu, 𐤇𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋, ''Ḥannibaʿl''; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Punic people, Carthaginian general and statesman who ...
. He was soundly beaten and personally wounded. The Romans retreated to near Placentia, fortified their camp and awaited reinforcement. The Roman army in Sicily under Sempronius Longus was redeployed to the north and joined with Scipio's force. After a day of heavy skirmishing in which the Romans gained the upper hand, Sempronius was eager for a battle.
Numidian cavalry Numidian cavalry was a type of light cavalry developed by the Numidians. After they were used by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, they were described by the Roman historian Livy as "by far the best horsemen in Africa (Roman province), Africa. ...
lured Sempronius out of his camp and onto ground of Hannibal's choosing, where the
Battle of the Trebia The Battle of the Trebia (or Trebbia) was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian Empire, Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and a Roman Republic, Roman army under Tiberius Sempronius Longus (consul 218 B ...
took place. Fresh Carthaginian cavalry
rout A rout is a Panic, panicked, disorderly and Military discipline, undisciplined withdrawal (military), retreat of troops from a battlefield, following a collapse in a given unit's discipline, command authority, unit cohesion and combat morale ...
ed the outnumbered Roman cavalry, and Carthaginian light infantry outflanked the Roman infantry. A previously hidden Carthaginian force attacked the Roman infantry in the rear. Most of the Roman units then collapsed and most Romans were killed or captured by the Carthaginians, but 10,000 under Sempronius maintained formation and fought their way out to the safety of Placentia. Recognising the Carthaginians as the dominant force in Cisalpine Gaul, Gallic recruits flocked to them and their army grew to 60,000. When news of the defeat reached Rome, it initially caused panic. This calmed once Sempronius arrived to preside over the consular elections in the usual manner. Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and Gaius Flaminius were selected and Sempronius then returned to Placentia to see out his term to 15 March. The Carthaginian cavalry isolated both Placentia and
Cremona Cremona (, also ; ; lmo, label=Cremunés, Cremùna; egl, Carmona) is a city and ''comune'' in northern Italy, situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po (river), Po river in the middle of the ''Pianura Padana'' (Po Valley). It is the capi ...
, but these could be supplied by boat up the Po. The consuls-elect recruited further legions, both Roman and from Rome's Latin allies; reinforced Sardinia and Sicily against the possibility of Carthaginian raids or invasion; placed garrisons at Tarentum and other places for similar reasons; built a fleet of 60
quinquereme From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the ...
s; and established supply depots at
Ariminum Rimini ( , ; rgn, Rémin; la, Ariminum) is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It sprawls along the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia (the ancient ''Ariminus ...
and
Arretium Arezzo ( , , ) , also ; ett, 𐌀𐌓𐌉𐌕𐌉𐌌, Aritim. is a city and ''comune'' in Italy and the capital of the Province of Arezzo, province of the same name located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about southeast of Florence at an elevation o ...
in
Etruria Etruria () was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what are now most of Tuscany, northern Lazio, and northern and western Umbria. Etruscan Etruria The ancient people of Etruria are identified as Etruscan civiliza ...
in preparation for marching north later in the year. Two armiesof four legions each, two Roman and two allied, but with stronger than usual cavalry contingentswere formed. One was stationed at Arretium, and one on the
Adriatic The Adriatic Sea () is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan Peninsula. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ...
coast; they would be able to block Hannibal's possible advance into central Italy, and be well positioned to move north to operate in Cisalpine Gaul. In spite of their losses, the Romans fielded twenty-two legions in 217 BC, ten more than in 218 BC. According to Polybius, the Carthaginians were now recognised as the dominant force in Cisalpine Gaul and most of the Gallic tribes sent plentiful supplies and recruits to Hannibal's camp. Livy, however, claims the Carthaginians suffered from a shortage of food throughout the winter. In Polybius's account there were only minor operations during the winter and most of the surviving Romans were evacuated down the Po and assigned to one of the two new armies being formed, while the flow of Gallic support for the Carthaginians became a flood and their army grew to 60,000. Livy provides dramatic accounts of winter confrontations which Goldsworthy describes as "probably an invention".


Prelude

In spring 217BC, probably early May, the Carthaginians crossed the
Apennines The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπέννινον ὄρος; la, Appenninus or  – a singular with plural meaning;''Apenninus'' (Greek or ) has the form of an adjective, which wou ...
unopposed, taking a difficult but unguarded route and so surprising the Romans. The Carthaginians moved south into Etruria, plundering the plentiful stocks of food and looting, razing the villages and small towns and killing out of hand all adult males encountered. Hannibal learnt that one Roman army was at Arretium and was eager to bring it to battle, before it could be reinforced: Hannibal surmised the Romans would have another army on the east coast. Once he learnt that he had been bypassed, Flaminius, the commander of the Roman army at Arrentium, set off in pursuit. Goldsworthy points out that as they passed through territory devastated by the Carthaginians there would have been a feeling of military failure and humiliationthe army existed in order to protect its homelandand that the small farmers of the legions and their landowner officers would have taken this despoliation as an intense provocation. The Romans gained the impression, possibly fostered by Hannibal, that the Carthaginians were fleeing south before them, and according to Polybius anticipated an easy victory. The Romans were pursuing so rapidly they were unable to carry out proper
reconnaissance In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration of an area by military forces to obtain information about enemy forces, terrain, and other activities. Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (skirmishers, ...
, but they closed to less than a day's march behind their opponents. The Carthaginians bypassed the Roman-garrisoned city of
Cortona Cortona (, ) is a town and ''comune'' in the province of Arezzo, in Tuscany, Italy. It is the main cultural and artistic centre of the Val di Chiana after Arezzo. Toponymy Cortona is derived from Latin Cortōna, and from Etruscan language, Etr ...
and on 20 June marched along the shore of
Lake Trasimene Lake Trasimeno ( , also ; it, Lago Trasimeno ; la, Trasumennus; ett, Tarśmina), also referred to as Trasimene ( ) or Thrasimene in English, is a lake in the province of Perugia The Province of Perugia ( it, Provincia di Perugia) is the ...
. Hannibal decided this was a suitable spot to turn and fight.


Opposing forces


Roman

Most male
Roman citizens Citizenship in ancient Rome (Latin language, Latin: ''civitas'') was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance. Citizenship in Ancient Rome was complex and based upon many d ...
were eligible for military service and would serve as
infantry Infantry is a military specialization which engages in ground combat on foot. Infantry generally consists of light infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry & mechanized infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, and marine i ...
, a better-off minority providing a cavalry component. Traditionally, when at war the Romans would raise two legions, each of 4,200 infantry and 300 cavalry. Approximately 1,200 of the infantry, poorer or younger men unable to afford the armour and equipment of a standard
legionary The Roman legionary (in Latin ''legionarius'', plural ''legionarii'') was a professional heavy infantryman of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin language, Latin: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of Anc ...
, served as
javelin A javelin is a light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport. The javelin is almost always thrown by hand, unlike the sling (weapon), sling, bow and arrow, bow, and crossbow, whi ...
-armed
skirmisher Skirmishers are light infantry or light cavalry soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of an army An army (from Old French ''armee'', itself derived from the Latin verb ''armāre'', meaning "to arm", and related to the Latin ...
s, known as ; they carried several javelins, which would be thrown from a distance, a short sword, and a shield. The balance were equipped as
heavy infantry Heavy infantry consisted of heavily weapon, armed and body armor, armoured Infantry, infantrymen who were trained to mount frontal assaults and/or anchor the defensive center of a line (formation), battle line. This differentiated them from ligh ...
, with
body armour Body armor, also known as body armour, personal armor or armour, or a suit or coat of armor, is protective clothing designed to absorb or deflect physical attacks. Historically used to protect military personnel, today it is also used by variou ...
, a large
shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from close-ranged weaponry or projectiles such as arrows, by means of ...
and short thrusting swords. They were divided into three ranks, of which the front rank also carried two javelins, while the
second The second (symbol: s) is the unit of Time in physics, time in the International System of Units (SI), historically defined as of a day – this factor derived from the division of the day first into 24 hours, then to 60 minutes and finally t ...
and
third Third or 3rd may refer to: Numbers * 3rd, the ordinal form of the cardinal number 3 * , a fraction A fraction (from la, fractus, "broken") represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. When spoken in everyd ...
ranks had a thrusting spear instead. Both legionary sub-units and individual legionaries fought in relatively open order. An army was usually formed by combining a Roman legion with a similarly sized and equipped legion provided by their Latin allies; allied legions usually had a larger attached complement of cavalry than Roman ones. At Lake Trasimene the Romans fielded four legionstwo Roman and two made up of alliesfor a total of approximately 25,000 men.


Carthaginian

Carthage usually recruited foreigners to make up its army. Many would be from North Africa which provided several types of fighters including: close-order infantry equipped with large shields, helmets, short swords and long thrusting
spear A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with Fire hardening, fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable m ...
s; javelin-armed light infantry skirmishers; close-order shock cavalry (also known as "heavy cavalry") carrying spears; and light cavalry skirmishers who threw javelins from a distance and avoided close combat. Both Iberia and Gaul provided experienced infantry; unarmoured troops who would charge ferociously, but had a reputation for breaking off if a combat was protracted. Most of the Carthaginian infantry would fight in a tightly packed formation known as a
phalanx The phalanx ( grc, φάλαγξ; plural phalanxes or phalanges, , ) was a rectangular mass military Tactical formation, formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pike (weapon), pikes, sarissas, or similar pole we ...
, usually forming two or three lines. Specialist slingers were recruited from the Balearic Islands. The numbers fielded by the Carthaginians are not known, but an approximation can be made. Hannibal had arrived in Italy with 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, and had fought at the Trebia in December 218 BC with 31,000 and 11,000 respectively. In 216 BC at
Cannae Cannae (now Canne della Battaglia, ) is an ancient village of the Apulia Apulia ( ), also known by its Italian name Puglia (), :: nap, label=, Puie :: nap, label=Tarantino dialect, Tarantino, Puje : scn, label=Salentino dialect, Salentino, Pu ...
the Carthaginians, not having been reinforced since crossing the Apennines, had 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry; it is usually assumed that more than this fought at Lake Trasimene. In any event, the Carthaginian army was considerably larger than the Roman.


Battle


Setting the ambush

The shoreline has changed since, but at the time of the battle the road led along the north shore of the lake, then turned south, still along the lakeshore, before climbing away from the lake through a defile. To the north of the road were a range of low hills which came closer to the lake towards the east, and the defile, steadily reducing the open ground between them and the lake. The Carthaginians made camp where the hills were closest to the lake, near the defile. This was clearly visible to the Romans. Once it was dark, Hannibal sent the various components of his army on night marches behind the hills to the north of the lake to take up positions from which they could ambush the Roman army. Night marches are notoriously difficult and often result in units becoming lost in the dark or alerting their enemy. The Carthaginians avoided both of these and took up positions on the reverse slopes of the hills. The Carthaginian cavalry were positioned furthest to the west, the north Italian Gallic infantry to their east and the experienced African and Iberian infantry furthest east, relatively close to their camp. Modern historians place the bulk of the large number of Carthaginian light infantry either around the defile and its mouth or as reinforcing the Gauls in the centre of the Carthaginian line. On the morning of June 21 the Romans set off very early and marched eastward along the northern edge of the lake. Ancient accounts state that a thick morning mist near the lake limited visibility, but some modern historians have suggested that this was either invented or exaggerated to excuse the Romans' subsequent unreadiness for battle. As Flaminius was expecting battle, the Romans probably marched in three parallel columns, which was their habit prior to a battle as this was relatively quicker to wheel into a battle line compared with a single line of march. This swiftness was relative, as forming an army up in battle order was a complicated affair which would take several hours under any circumstances. The Romans would have had a screen of light infantry out to their front and, to a lesser extent, their flank, as skirmishing was usual before a battle with the armies' respective light troops shielding their close order colleagues while they formed up. Flaminius did not send out cavalry scouts to make a more distant reconnaissance; Roman armies of the time rarely did so.


Springing the trap

The leading Romans made contact with the most easterly of the Carthaginians, probably some of the African or Iberian close-order infantry, and the signal was given for all of the Carthaginians to advance, possibly by the sounding of trumpets. According to some ancient accounts the Romans could hear these signals on their flank and to their rear, but could not see their enemy, which caused confusion. It would have taken several hours for the Romans to convert their formation into a battle array, even when they had been facing the direction expected. As it was, with the Carthaginians attacking unexpectedly from the flank and the rear, possibly with poor visibility, there was no chance to form even a rudimentary fighting line. Some Romans fled, others clustered into groups of various sizes, ready to engage the enemy on all sides. The fugitives and many of the impromptu Roman groups were rapidly cut down or captured. Other groups of Romans put up a stiff fight; especially in the centre, where the attacking Gauls suffered heavy casualties before beating down the trapped Romans after three hours of heavy combat. According to Polybius, Flaminius was completely surprised and provided no effective leadership; Livy, who otherwise paints a poor picture of him, records that Flaminius was active and valiant in attempting to rally his army and organise a defence before being cut down by a Gaul. The trapped portion of the Roman army collapsed. Men attempted to swim across the lake and drowned; others waded out until the water was up to their necks, and the Carthaginian cavalrymen swam their horses out to chop at the exposed heads. The trap failed to close on the 6,000 Romans at the front of the column, who were possibly also the Romans most prepared for battle, and they pushed their way out of the defile against little opposition. Realising that they could not affect the battle behind them, they marched on. Later in the day they were surrounded by pursuing Carthaginians and surrendered to
Maharbal Maharbal ( xpu, 𐤌‬𐤄‬𐤓𐤁‬𐤏𐤋, ; centuryBC) was a Numidian army commander in charge of the cavalry under Hannibal and his second-in-command during the Second Punic War. Maharbal was a very close friend to Hannibal and admired hi ...
on the promise of being disarmed and freed; "with a garment apiece" according to Livy. However, Hannibal disapproved and only applied this to the allied captives while selling the Romans into slavery. Many of the Carthaginian infantry, especially the Libyans, equipped themselves with captured Roman armour.


Casualties

The ancient sources are unclear as to the fate of the approximately 25,000 Romans known to have been engaged. According to the contemporary annalist and senator Fabius Pictor 15,000 were killed and 10,000 scattered. Polybius has 15,000 killed and most of the rest captured. Polybius reports losses of 1,500 killed for the Carthaginians, most of them Gauls; while Livy gives 2,500 killed and "many" who died of their wounds.


Follow up

The second Roman army, originally positioned on the Adriatic coast and commanded by Gnaeus Geminus, had been marching west, intending to join up with Flaminius. Unaware that the destruction of Flaminius's army had left the Carthaginians able to manoeuvre freely, Geminus's entire cavalry force of 4,000 was scouting ahead when it was surprised by the Carthaginians a few days after Trasimene. Nearly 2,000 were killed in the first clash; the balance were surrounded and captured the next day. Geminus withdrew his infantry back to Ariminum (modern
Rimini Rimini ( , ; rgn, Rémin; la, Ariminum) is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It sprawls along the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia (the ancient ''Ariminus ...
) on the Adriatic.


Evaluation

According to the modern military historian
Basil Liddell Hart Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (31 October 1895 – 29 January 1970), commonly known throughout most of his career as Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, was a British soldier, military historian and military theorist. He wrote a series of military histor ...
, Hannibal had successfully planned and executed "the greatest ambush in history." The ambush and destruction of one army by another is widely considered a unique occurrence, with military historian Theodore Dodge commenting, "It is the only instance in history of lying in ambush with the whole of a large army." Similarly, historian Robert O’Connell writes, " t wasthe only time an entire large army was effectively swallowed and destroyed by such a maneuver." The historian Toni Ñaco del Hoyo describes the Battle of Lake Trasimene as one of the three "great military calamities" suffered by the Romans in the first three years of the war, the others being the Trebia and Cannae.


Aftermath

The prisoners were badly treated if they were Romans; the Latin allies who were captured were well treated by the Carthaginians and many were freed and sent back to their cities, in the hope that they would speak well of Carthaginian martial prowess and of their treatment. Hannibal hoped some of these allies could be persuaded to defect. The Carthaginians continued their march through Etruria, then Umbria, to the Adriatic coast; continuing their devastation and plundering of the territory they crossed and the killing of any adult males captured; the Gauls were especially brutal in this respect. Contemporary reports claim that the Carthaginian soldiers accumulated so much booty they had to cease looting because they could not carry any more. The army then marched south into Apulia, in the hope of winning over some of the ethnic Greek and Italic
city state A city-state is an independent sovereignty, sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including ci ...
s of southern Italy. News of the defeat caused a panic in Rome.
Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, surnamed Cunctator ( 280 – 203 BC), was a Roman statesman and general of the third century BC. He was Roman consul, consul five times (233, 228, 215, 214, and 209 BC) and was appointed Roman dictator, dictato ...
was elected
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship is a state ruled by one dictator or by a small clique. The word originated as the title of a Roman dictator elected by the Roman Senate to rule the republic in times ...
by the Roman Assembly and adopted the "
Fabian strategy The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a attrition warfare, war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employ ...
" of avoiding pitched conflict, relying instead on low-level harassment to wear the invader down, until Rome could rebuild its military strength. Hannibal was left largely free to ravage
Apulia Apulia ( ), also known by its Italian name Puglia (), :: nap, label=, Puie :: nap, label=Tarantino dialect, Tarantino, Puje : scn, label=Salentino dialect, Salentino, Puia : frp, label=Faetar language, Faetar, Poulye : el, label=Griko language ...
for the next year, until the Romans ended the dictatorship and elected Paullus and
Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath and a prolific author. He is regarded as ancient Rome's greatest scholar, and was described by Petrarch as "the third great light of Rome" (after Vergil and Cicero). He is sometimes calle ...
as consuls. These more aggressive commanders offered battle to Hannibal, who accepted and won a victory at Cannae which Richard Miles describes as "Rome's greatest military disaster". Subsequently the Carthaginians campaigned in southern Italy for a further 13 years. In 204 BC
Publius Cornelius Scipio Publius Cornelius Scipio may refer to: * Publius Cornelius Scipio (consular tribune 395 BC) * Publius Cornelius Scipio Asina (c. 260 BC - after 211 BC), consul in 221 BC * Publius Cornelius Scipio (consul 218 BC) Publius Cornelius Scipio (d ...
, the son of the Scipio who had been wounded at Ticinus, invaded the Carthaginian homeland, defeated the Carthaginians in two major battles and won the allegiance of the
Numidia Numidia (Berber languages, Berber: ''Inumiden''; 202–40 BC) was the ancient kingdom of the Numidians located in northwest Africa, initially comprising the territory that now makes up modern-day Algeria, but later expanding across what is tod ...
n kingdoms of North Africa. Hannibal and the remnants of his army were recalled from Italy to confront him. They met at the
Battle of Zama The Battle of Zama was fought in 202 BC near Zama (Tunisia), Zama, now in Tunisia, and marked the end of the Second Punic War. A Roman Republic, Roman army led by Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius Scipio, with crucial support from Numidia ...
in October 202BC and Hannibal was decisively defeated. As a consequence Carthage agreed a
peace treaty A peace treaty is an treaty, agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armistice, which is an agreement to stop hostilities; a ...
which stripped it of most of its territory and power.


Notes, citations and sources


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Battle Of Lake Trasimene Trasimene Trasimene Trasimene Trasimene Ambushes in Europe Trasimene Trasimene