ROME-THE PUNIC WARS.
posted himself to await his brother's arrival, or, at any rate, news of his
Meanwhile the other consul, Marcus Livius Salinator, had marched to the
north to confront Hasdrubal and prevent his progress. The two consular
armies were thus interposed between the two of the Carthaginians. In this
situation of affairs Nero, as it appears, grasped the solution of the
problem. He conceived the plan of retiring unnoticed from before Hannibal,
marching quickly to the north, joining his colleague, and crushing
Hasdrubal by a combined attack of both arms. The latter general had in the
mean time laid his plan to advance into Umbria, join his brother, and then
march on Rome.
Nero's scheme was successfully carried out. Selecting his best soldiers he
escaped from his camp without exciting the suspicions of Hannibal. Marching
rapidly northward he joined his colleague at Sena, taking care by a night
entrance into the camp of Livius not to give the enemy notice of his
approach. Nevertheless, Hasdrubal detected by the sound of the trumpets and
the increased numbers in his front that the other consular army, or a
portion of it, was in his front. From this he drew the inference that his
brother had been defeated, perhaps destroyed, and that the whole issue now
depended on himself. He therefore determined to seek a stronger position on
the other side of the river Metaurus, which was just in his rear. But in
attempting to retire across this stream he was pursued by the Romans, and
missing the fords was obliged to give battle on the south side of the
river. The struggle that ensued was one of the most desperate of the war.
Though the Carthaginians were exhausted as well as foiled in their attempt
to retreat to a more defensible position, they fought with almost savage
heroism; but the legionaries gradually drove them back and crowded them
against the river. The slaughter and rout became general. Hasdrubal,
despairing at last of the battle, threw himself upon the Romans and was
slain. His army was well-nigh annihilated; only a few escaped in broken
As soon as the victory was complete, Nero began his march to Canusium. He
was the herald of his own triumph. Hannibal had learned nothing of what was
done. On arriving safely in camp, Nero sent to the Carthaginian his
brother's head as an earnest of the news. Two prisoners were also sent to
Hannibal's quarters to tell him in their own way the story of the Metaurus.
"I foresee the doom of Carthage," was the melancholy comment of Hannibal
when his brother's head was thrown over the rampart into the camp.
It is the quality of the greatest not to despair. So did not Hannibal. He
saw that Italy was lost-but perhaps not hopelessly. As for himself, the
Romans had never yet beaten him in an open battle of the field. He would
remember his oath of eternal enmity. Looking around the horizon, he saw
that the best course for him to pursue was to retire into the hill-country
of Southern Italy, and there continue the struggle according to the
suggestions of destiny. He accordingly retired from Canusium, and fell back
into the Bruttian peninsula. Here, on account of the nature of the country
rather than from the now slender forces at his command, he was enabled to
take such positions as to give him comparative immunity from attack.
Meanwhile Publius Cornelius Scipio, having completed the conquest and
pacification of Spain, returned to Italy, and was elected to the
consulship. (1) To him the people now began to look with confidence for the
completion of the war. For himself, he had long entertained the design of
invading Africa, and repaying Carthage in her own dominions for the
devastation of Italy. The conservative and unenthusiastic Senate was little
disposed to favor his plan-indeed, opposed it; but the popular party were
heartily for the daring Scipio. The vote of the popular assemblies was
unanimous for his measures. The Senate, having assigned him Sicily as his
province, gave a reluctant consent to the African invasion, but crippled
the enterprise by voting no adequate support to the proposed expedition.
Scipio was left to the expedient of raising an army by volunteering, and
the first year (B. C. 205) of his ________________________________ 1 It
will be remembered that this remarkable man had never yet held a higher
office than that of aedile.