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While these preparations were making on the side of the Romans, Hannibal

was steadily though not without great difficulty, advancing to his purpose.

After the passage of the Rhone, he proceeded to the Isere, and ascended

this stream to the foot of the Little St. Bernard. From this point he

commenced the passage of the Alps. The native tribes of this region

attacked him with great audacity, and many of his troops were cut off. Many

more perished amid the solitudes of the mountain passes. Most of the

elephants pitched from the precipices, and went down roaring into

fathomless chasms-a scene without a parallel in history. At last the

survivors emerged in the valley of the Duria, and soon found themselves on

the sunny plains of Cisalpine Gaul. The Carthaginians were reduced one-half

in numbers, and the rest were chilled and exhausted. A few days' rest,

however, brought the veterans again into condition for battle, and Hannibal

signalized his first week in Italy by the capture of the capital of the

Taurinians-the modern Turin. So decisive and energetic were his blows that

the other Gaulish tribes took counsel of discretion and sent in their

submission to the invader.

Meanwhile the consul Scipio gathered what forces he could from the colonies

of Placentia and Cremona, and with no adequate idea of the character of his

antagonist, advanced to meet him. The Roman march was up the left bank of

the Po as far as the Ticinus, where the consul encountered a part of the

Carthaginian array, and was severely handled. He was himself badly wounded

and compelled to save his army by a retreat to Placentia. Here on the banks

of the Trebia he made a stand, and awaited the arrival of Sempronius from

Sicily. The latter had already been ordered to return to Italy, and his

troops had been embarked for Ariminum. From this point the army marched

rapidly to Placentia, and formed a junction with Scipio.

The Romans were now superior in numbers to the Carthaginians, and the

consuls no longer avoided battle. It was already midwinter, B.C. 218. The

December rains had filled the Trebia bank full. The weather was cold and

gloomy, the air thick with sleet and snow. Hannibal succeeded by

maneuvering in drawing the Romans from their position on the other side of

the river and joining battle on a field of his own choosing. The consuls

proved no match in generalship for the Carthaginian. The contest was hotly

waged for a brief time, but the Romans were presently thrown into confusion

by a charge of the Numidian cavalry, and driven back to the river. The

slaughter became excessive. Those who were not slain or drowned escaped

across the Trebia and took refuge within the fortifications of Placentia.

The defeat was decisive. The Gaulish populations of Cisalpine rose in a

mass and joined themselves to Hannibal's standard. To the barbaric

imagination of the North as well as to the sun-born imagination of Africa

the spoils of all Italy seemed waiting to be devoured.

Rome was now thoroughly aroused from her apathy. She came suddenly to

understand that there was a herd of African lions loose within her borders.

After the battle of Trebia she began to prepare resistance with her old

time energy. In the spring of B. C. 217 four new legions were levied and

equipped. Two of these were sent forward, under the command of the recently

elected consul, Cneius Servilius to Ariminum, and the other two, commanded

by Caius Flaminius, were dispatched to Arretium. The latter general was the

favorite of the Roman people, being the same who as tribune had secured the

passage of that agrarian law by which the northern lands had been recently

distributed to the poor; but he was by no means possessed of such military

talents as to make him a match for Hannibal.

The latter now crossed the Apennines, and reached the valley of the Arno,

whence he proceeded towards Perusia, leaving the consular army under

Flaminius in Arretium. The Roman consul followed in his track as far as

Lake Trasimenus, where the Carthaginian had posted himself for battle. The

latter took possession of the heights commanding a narrow defile, through

which the Roman army must pass. On the day of the battle the region about

the lake was surrounded with a thick fog, and the Romans, uninformed of the

position of their enemy, advanced into the defile,