Punica (The Second Carthaginian War)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved
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- Book VIII:1-38 Juno summons Anna as her messenger
- Book VIII:39-70 The tale of Dido’s sister
- Book VIII:71-103 Anna meets Aeneas again
- Book VIII:104-159 Anna recalls Dido’s death
- Book VIII:160-184 Dido appears to her in dream
- Book VIII:185-201 Anna as the goddess of the River Numicius
- Book VIII:202-241 Anna visits Hannibal
- Book VIII:242-277 Varro rouses the masses
- Book VIII:278-326 Fabius offers Paullus his advice
- Book VIII:327-355 Paullus swears to do his duty
- Book VIII:356-375 The Italian forces at Cannae: I
- Book VIII:376-411 The Italian forces at Cannae: II
- Book VIII:412-445 The Italian forces at Cannae: III
- Book VIII:446-467 The Italian forces at Cannae: IV
- Book VIII:468-494 The Italian forces at Cannae: V
- Book VIII:495-523 The Italian forces at Cannae: VI
- Book VIII:524-545 The Italian forces at Cannae: VII
- Book VIII:546-561 The Italian forces at Cannae: VIII
- Book VIII:562-587 The Italian forces at Cannae: IX
- Book VIII:588-621 The Italian forces at Cannae: X
- Book VIII:622-655 Omens of disaster
- Book VIII:656-676 A soldier foretells disaster
Book VIII:1-38 Juno summons Anna as her messenger
Fabius first showed the Romans the backs of
the retreating Carthaginians. He alone the army
called their father, he alone Hannibal, in rage
and impatient of delay, regarded as his enemy:
he must wait, seemingly, for Fabius’ death for
a chance to fight, summon the Fates as allies
in action; for as long as this old man breathed,
there was no hope of shedding Roman blood.
Moreover a united foe, serving beneath those
standards; the command restored to a single
general, obliging him to struggle again and
yet again with one man, Fabius; all weighed
the more heavily on Hannibal’s anxious mind.
Fabius, by cunning and caution, by slowing
the pace of war, had achieved much: above
all in depriving the Punic army of supplies;
and though their battle to the finish still lay
ahead, he was already the master of the foe.
And then the Gauls, vaniloquent and fickle,
spirited at the start but changeable of mind,
were turning their gaze homeward; unused
to waging a war free of slaughter, they now
were worried that their right hands, lacking
opportunity to exercise their spears, were
becoming weak, thus deprived of conflict.
Then Hannibal’s problems were increased
by troubles at home, through the jealousy of
fellow-citizens, and by Hanno’s opposition
to the campaign; he refusing to allow their
senate to send reinforcements or supplies.
It was Juno, foreseeing Cannae, delighted
by all that was to come, who renewed his
hopes and wild ambitions, despite those
tormenting cares, which led him to fear
the worst. For summoning Anna, nymph
or the Numicius, that river of Laurentum,
she addressed her with a flattering appeal:
Goddess a warrior, a relative of yours, is
in distress, Hannibal, a name that recalls
your kin Belus. Go now, quickly, calm
a sea of troubles, and drive Fabius from
his mind. He alone prevents the Romans
from passing beneath the yoke, but now
he is disengaging from the war, and it is
Varro whom Hannibal must fight, Varro
whom he must meet in battle. So let him
advance his banners, not fail his destiny.
I myself will be there. Let him march now
to Apulia’s plain, where the outcome of
Trebia and Trasimene shall be repeated.’
Book VIII:39-70 The tale of Dido’s sister
Then that nymph, who lived near a grove
sacred to Aeneas, replied: ‘It is right that
I obey your command with no delay, yet
I ask this one thing and this alone, allow
me to keep my former country’s favour,
adhere to my solemn pledge to my sister,
Dido, though Anna Perenna’s divinity is
honoured in Latium.’ The reason for that
lies far back, buried in deep darkness by
the fog of centuries; the reason, that is, as
to why the Italians should have named
a temple for a Phoenician deity, and why
Dido’s sister was worshipped in Aeneas’
realm. But I shall retell the legend from
the beginning, narrating the tale within
strict limits, and briefly recall the past.
After Dido was deserted by her Trojan
guest, Aeneas, and all hope abandoned,
in frenzy she rushed to mount that fatal
pyre in the palace depths: then resolved
on death, she seized the deadly sword
given her by that ‘husband’ as he fled.
His hand having been refused in marriage,
Iarbas usurped the throne, as Anna fled
her sister’s still-warm pyre. Who would
help her in her hour of need, when that
King of the Numidians held power far
and wide? Battus then chanced to rule,
and mildly, in Cyrene, being a kindly
man, and ready to shed a tear for any in
distress. Seeing the suppliant, shaken
by the fate of princes, he stretched out
his right hand to her. There she stayed
awhile, till the reapers had harvested
the golden grain twice; then she could
no longer take advantage of Battus’
friendship, since he informed her that
Pygmalion, King of Tyre and Dido’s
hostile brother, was sailing there to
slay her. So she was driven to set out
over the waves, angry with the gods
and with herself at not dying with her
sister. She was hurled about, the sails
in shreds, until at last the deadly storm
wrecked her on the coast of Laurentum.
A stranger to that land, clime and people,
the Phoenician princess was full of fear
finding herself cast up on Italy’s shore.
Book VIII:71-103 Anna meets Aeneas again
Behold, Aeneas, whose face she knew,
now, with his kingdom won, appeared,
godlike Iulus alongside him. She fixed
her eyes on the ground, fearfully, then
knelt before the tearful Iulus, but Aeneas
raised her and led her gently to the palace.
Once his courteous reception had eased
her anxiety, and she felt free of danger,
he asked to hear of Dido’s unhappy fate.
Mingling speech with many tears, Anna
began, in gentle words to suit the hour:
‘O son of the goddess, my sister’s throne
and life were yours alone; so her death and
funeral pyre declare (alas why were they
not also mine!) And when the sight of your
face was no longer hers, she now sat, now
stood, wretched, on the shore. Watching
the wind’s course, unhappily, Aeneas, she
called out to you, a piercing cry, begging
you to carry her away on your ship, your
sole companion. Then distressed she hurried
to her chamber, trembled suddenly and stood
there, still, afraid to touch that sacred couch.
Then, distracted, she now clasped the lovely
statue of shining Iulus, then directing all her
thoughts towards you, clung to your image,
complaining to you, hoping for an answer.
Love never abandons hope. Now she left
the palace, returned frenzied to the harbour,
as if some opposing wind might bring you
back. She was even driven, in the perverse,
self-deceiving, fashion of the Massylian
race, to consult the foolish arts of magic.
Alas, the delusions of the holy wizards!
While they summoned the infernal gods,
and promised balms for her strange woes,
(what horror I, deceived, now witnessed!)
she heaped on the fatal pyre each memento
of you, every one of your ill-starred gifts.’
Book VIII:104-159 Anna recalls Dido’s death
Then Aeneas, revisited by love’s sweetness,
answered: ‘Anna, I swear by this land, whose
name you both heard me often mingle with
our vows, and by the life of gentle Iulus, so
dear to you and to your sister, I left your
kingdom with a troubled mind, ever looking
back, nor would I have deserted a marriage,
had not Mercury, god of Cyllene, sent me
aboard with his own hand, with dire threats,
driving the fleet to sea on a following wind.
But why (alas, my warning comes too late!)
why at such a time did you allow her wild
unwatched passion, full reign?’ Anna, with
trembling lips and breathless voice, sobbed
in answer: ‘I chanced to be preparing fresh
offerings to the Dark Lord whom the third
realm obeys, and to the partner of his dim
chamber, to ease my sister’s troubled mind
and broken heart, in her state of restlessness:
I was bringing black-fleeced sheep, hastening
to avert an evil dream. For, in sleep, a dread
fear had filled my heart: Sychaeus, her dead
husband, his face flushed with pride and joy,
thrice claimed Dido, thrice, with a great cry.
I drove this from my thoughts, and prayed
to the gods to give a favourable turn to this
dream when day came, and then I purified
myself in the running stream. Dido passed
quickly to the shore, kissing the mute sand
where you had stood, again and again; then
she clasped the earth where your footprints
showed, just as a mother claps to her breast
the ashes of her lost son. Then, hair unbound,
she rushed to a great tall pyre she had already
raised, from which the whole city of Carthage
was visible, and the sea. And then she donned
her Roman robes, and that necklace of pearls;
recalling, poor wretch, the memory of the day
when she first saw those gifts, and the festive
banquet greeting your arrival, at which you
told the long tale of Troy’s ruin, in its order
of events, and she sat late to hear you speak.
Now she turned her wild weeping eyes toward
the harbour, crying: “You gods of endless night,
whose power is greater at the hour of our death,
help me, I pray! Welcome, gently, this spirit
love has conquered. Aeneas’ marriage partner,
Venus’ daughter-in-law, I avenged my husband
Sychaeus, saw the towers of my Carthage rise.
Now the shade of a great queen descends to you.
And perhaps that husband, whose love was once
sweet to me, waits there, eager to love as before.”
So saying, she drove the sword deep in her heart,
that sword received as a pledge of Aeneas’ love.
Witnessing this, her servants ran grieving through
the halls beating their breasts. The palace echoed
to their loud cries. Unhappily, I heard the news
and, terrified by that dreadful death, I tore at my
face with my nails, as I ran wildly to the palace,
and laboured to scramble up the massive steps.
Three times I tried to pierce myself with that
accursed sword, three times I fell prostrate on
my dead sister’s corpse. And now the rumour
spread through the neighbouring towns: those
Numidian chieftains, with fierce Iarbas, readied
themselves for war. Then, driven on by destiny,
I came to this city of Cyrene, for the strength of
the waves now carried me here, to your shores.’
Book VIII:160-184 Dido appears to her in dream
Aeneas was moved, presenting a gentle stance,
a kindly manner, towards Anna in her troubles.
Soon her grief and sorrow seemed eased, and
she no longer a stranger in that Trojan palace.
When the dark of night had wrapped all things
on earth, and the expanse of calm sea, in silent
sleep, she dreamed that her sister Dido, spoke
to her, with a sad aspect and a sorrowful face:
‘Ah, sister, how can you bear to sleep beneath
this roof so long and so incautiously? Do you
not see the snares laid for you, and the dangers
that surround you? Do you not yet know that
the Trojans bring ruin to our land and nation?
As long as the sky and stars revolve in their
swift course, and the moon reflects the sun’s
light to Earth, there can be no lasting peace
between Aeneas’ people and those of Tyre.
Rise, and go; already I suspect some secret
act of deceit on the part of his wife, Lavinia,
that she nurtures some dark plot in her heart.
Moreover (for do not think it all sleep’s idle
imaginings) not far from here the Numicius
descends from a little spring, and flows with
gentle current through the valley. Sister, you
must make your way to a safe harbour there.
The Nymphs will happily admit you to their
sacred stream, and your divine power will be
honoured, forever, throughout Italian lands.’
So Dido spoke, then vanished into thin air.
Book VIII:185-201 Anna as the goddess of the River Numicius
Terrified by her strange dream, Anna started
from sleep, her whole body drenched in cold
sweat. Then she sprang from her bed, just as
she was, the one thin garment covering her,
and, climbing from the low window sill, ran
swiftly through the open fields, till, they say,
Numicius accepted her to his sandy depths,
and concealed her there in his glassy caves.
The sun had filled the whole world with its
rays, when the Trojans found her missing
from her chamber. They scoured the fields,
calling loudly, then they tracked her clear
trail to the river-bank, marvelling amongst
themselves when the river turned back in its
passage to the sea, and she was seen seated
among her sister Naiads, and spoke to those
followers of Aeneas in kindly speech. Since
that time Anna’s festival has been celebrated
at the New Year, and her divinity honoured,
with religious reverence, throughout Italy.
Book VIII:202-241 Anna visits Hannibal
Once Juno had exhorted her to rouse Hannibal
to battle, bringing sorrow on Italy, she headed
for the heavens in her swift chariot, longing
finally to quench her thirst for Roman blood.
Anna readily obeyed the goddess, and sought
the great leader of the Libyans, seen by none.
He chancing to be absent from company, she
found him pondering the war’s uncertainties,
sighing anxiously, but with alert mind. She
soothed his cares with friendly words thus:
‘O most powerful ruler of the Phoenicians,
why, sick with anxiety, nurse such troubles?
Now, all the gods’ anger towards you has
been placated, all their favour turned once
more towards the descendants of Agenor.
Arouse yourself from idleness and delay,
lead the forces of Marmarica on to battle.
Fresh consuls are appointed: that heroic
scion of Hercules, Fabius, has laid aside
his weapons at the Senate’s ill-advised
bidding, and you only have to face one
more Flaminius in battle. Juno, consort
of almighty Jupiter, has sent me to you,
doubt it not. For though I am honoured
as an immortal divinity in Italian lands,
I was born of the line of your ancestor
Belus. Linger not: launch the lightning
bolts of war swiftly, where Garganus
extends its slopes to Apulia’s fields:
it is not far, direct your banners there!’
She spoke, and her watery shape rose
to the clouds. Hannibal revived by this
promise of honour to come, called after
her: ‘Glory of our nation, nymph sacred
to me as any goddess, favour us with all
success. Grant me a battle, and I will set
your statue in a marble shrine high on
the citadel of Carthage, and there I will
dedicate Dido’s statue with like honour.’
So saying, and swelling with pride, he
roused his cheering comrades. ‘Soldiers,
Italy’s doom is here, and an end to heavy
hearts and the slow torment of inaction:
we have placated the gods’ anger; they
favour us once more. I tell you, Fabius’
malign power is ended, the rods and axes
precede some new consul. Let each of you
now renew his oath to me, and make good
that promise of valiant deeds sworn when
all battle was denied us. Behold, a divinity,
native to our country, has pledged a future
greater than the past. Raise those banners,
follow our goddess, to a field of ill-omen
to Trojans, to Arpi, founded by Diomede!’
Book VIII:242-277 Varro rouses the masses
Inspired, the Carthaginians made for Arpi,
while Varro, empowered by the consul’s
purple-bordered toga, appropriated as a gift
from the people, ranted from the Rostrum,
hastening to open a broad path to ruin, and
seal Rome’s fate. Varro’s birth was obscure,
and the names of his ancestors went unheard,
but his impudent tongue wagged endlessly
in eloquent flow. Thus he acquired wealth
and was liberal with the spoils, so that by
courting the lowest of the low, and exposing
the Senate, he rose so high in a city shaken
by war, that he alone dictated the course of
events and became the arbiter of its destiny,
though Italy should have been ashamed to
think its safety might be won by such as he.
Mindless voters had granted that blot on our
register a place among such heroes as Fabius,
the Scipios, both names sacred to Mars, and
Marcellus, who offered an enemy general’s
spoils to Jove. The evil of Cannae was due
to bribery, a corrupted vote in the Campus,
a field more fatal to us than that of Diomede.
Despite his perversity as a citizen, skilful at
sowing ill-will, stirring up trouble, Varro was
useless in the field, ignorant of the arts of war,
unknown for any worthwhile actions, yet he
sought to gain military glory through words,
by sounding the war-cry from the Rostrum.
So he quickly declared Fabius to blame for
the delay, as if celebrating his own ovation,
attacking the Senate in a speech to the crowd:
‘As consul, I ask of you, who wield supreme
power, directions as to the conduct of the war.
Am I to sit still, or wander about the hills, while
Garamantians and dusky Moors parcel out Italy?
Or am I to use the sword you place in my hands?
Listen, dear Fabius, to what the people of Mars
demand: that the Libyans be expelled and Rome
relieved of her enemy. Is this impatience, when
they have endured so much, and already a third
year burdens them with its suffering and tears?
So rise and arm, citizens: a brief march alone
prevents your victory: and the day that reveals
the enemy to you will end the Senate’s reign
and our war with Carthage. Advance with joy;
for I shall lead Hannibal through Rome with
chains around his neck, while Fabius looks on!’
Book VIII:278-326 Fabius offers Paullus his advice
After this harangue, brushing aside all obstacles,
he swiftly led the army through the gates, like
a clumsy charioteer, not in control of the reins,
who, when the starting-gate is lifted, crouches,
with unstable foothold, and flicks at the horses,
only to be carried along headlong at their mercy:
then the axle smokes with their turn of speed, as
the tangled chariot reins swing wildly to and fro.
Now Aemilius Paullus (who was voted equal
powers as Varro’s colleague) saw that the State
was headed for ruin, at the hands of a perverse
consul, yet the crowd’s anger is easily roused,
and the scars of their previous disparagement,
scored on his mind, checked the tide of protest
though his heart was troubled; for when consul
in his youth, after victory in Illyricum, envy’s
black maw had gaped for him, and spewed its
blast of slander. Hence he was gripped by fear,
bowing before the people’s enmity. And yet
he was descended from the gods, related by
his ancestry to those lords of heaven: since
through their founder, one Amulius, he traced
his origins to Assaracus, and thereby to Jove;
nor would any who saw him fight dispute it.
Now as he sought the camp, Fabius addressed
him: ‘Though the words are almost torn from
my breast unwillingly, Paullus, you are wrong
if you think Hannibal is the greatest challenge
you face. Conflict and a worse enemy reside
in the Roman camp, or I have learnt nothing
from my long experience of war. I have heard
Varro pledge to battle with Hannibal, war’s
favourite, the moment he sees him (alas how
age irks and wearies me, that I might live to
endure the ruin I foresee!) How close we are,
Paullus, to utter destruction, if this consul’s
boast reaches Hannibal’s eager ear! No doubt
his soldiers are already deployed to oppose us
on the plains, waiting with swords raised for
the next Flaminius! What vast forces you will
rouse (heaven help us) Varro, in your mad rush
to battle! Are you a man determined to examine
the ground before us, or test the enemy’s ways?
You, without the foresight to probe their supply
lines, the strength of their positions or manner
of warfare, or guard against chance that weighs
more heavily than any weapon? Paullus, keep
unswervingly to the path of duty; for, if a single
arm may destroy a country, why should a single
arm not preserve it? That wretched Hannibal is
short of food for his men, his allies lack loyalty,
and have lost their battle fervour. No home here
offers him hospitality under a friendly roof, no
loyal city welcomes him within its walls, no
fresh recruits are here to make good his losses.
Barely a third of that force survives who came
from the raw banks of the Ebro. Persevere, use
delay, delight in that recipe for safe attrition.
But if, meanwhile, a favourable breeze arises
and the gods approve, seize the moment swiftly.’
Book VIII:327-355 Paullus swears to do his duty
Paullus answered him, briefly and sadly, thus:
‘The path of virtue will be mine, indeed; while
I will meet the enemy with that spirit that renders
you invincible. Nor will our one recourse, delay,
fail me, which you employed until an enfeebled
Hannibal saw all opportunity for battle crushed.
But why are the gods angered? Carthage, I see,
has been granted the one consul, Italy the other.
Varro carries all with him, as if the idiot fears
lest Rome is ruined first by some other leader.
One of Carthage’s senators, summoned as my
colleague, would prove less savage of purpose.
No horse is swift enough to bear that madman
into action; he resents the shadows, when night
falls and hinders his course of action; marches
proudly with half-drawn swords, lest plucking
them from the sheath delays a battle. I swear,
by the Tarpeian Rock, by the temple of that
Jove whose scion I am, and by these walls of
glorious Rome, which, with their citadel, I
leave yet standing, that wherever the safety
of the State summons me I shall go, scorning
danger. And should the army fight, deaf to my
warning, then I shall no longer wait for you,
my sons, the dear descendants of Assaracus,
nor ruined Rome see me return alive like Varro.’
Thus two consuls left to join their two armies,
their minds at cross-purposes, while Hannibal
had already camped, prepared for battle, on
the plains of Arpi, as Anna had advised him.
Never did the land of Italy echo to a greater
mass of men or that force of cavalry in arms.
For the Romans feared the end of their nation
and of Rome, in expectation of one final battle.
Book VIII:356-375 The Italian forces at Cannae: I
The Rutulians, a sacred band, gathered for war.
Scions of Faunus, they lived in Daunus’ realm,
under Laurentum’s roofs, joying in Numicius’
stream: and they were joined by the Sicilians.
Men were sent out by Castrum, and by Ardea
once hostile to exiled Trojans, and Lanuvium
Juno’s home on the steep hillside, and Collatia
that nurtured the virtuous Lucius Junius Brutus.
Those who love the grove of inexorable Diana
and the mouths of the Tiber, gathered, and those
who bathe Cybele’s stone in Almo’s warm flow.
From Tivoli they came, city of Arcadian Catillus,
and Praeneste, its sacred hill dedicated to Fortune,
Antemnae more ancient even than Crustumerium,
and Labicum, its men so handy with the plough,
and those too who drink imperial Tiber’s waters,
and those too who live on the banks of the Anio,
and draw water from that chill lake Simbruvius,
and harrow the fields of Aequicula. All of these
Scaurus led, who though as yet of tender years
already showed promise of lasting glory. They
were not accustomed to hurl the spear in battle,
or empty the quiver filled with feathered shafts,
but preferred the javelin and handy short-sword,
wore bronze helms with plumes rising overhead.
Book VIII:376-411 The Italian forces at Cannae: II
Sezze, whose grape is chosen for Bacchus’ own
table, sent its men, and famous Velletri’s valley,
and Cora, and Segni of the bitter sparkling wine,
and the Pontine Marshes breeding disease, where
Satura’s misty swamp clothes the land, the dark
Ufens driving its black mud-filled current through
soiled fields to stain the sea with slime. All these
were led by brave Scaevola, true to his ancestors,
whose shield displayed Mucius Scaevola’s dread
heroic deed, when fire blazed on the altar and he,
in the midst of the Etruscans, turned his anger on
himself with a ruthless bravery seen on the shield.
Astounded by the example of steadfastness he set,
Lars Porsena was seen, on that shield, abandoning
the war and fleeing the sight of that scorched hand.
Sulla led men to war, who tilled Formia’s slopes,
and Terracina’s cliff-top fields, also the Hernici
who drive the ploughshare deep in stony ground,
and those who cultivate Anagnia’s rich friable soil;
summoning bodies from Ferentino, and Priverno,
with Sora’s warriors and their gleaming weapons.
Here were the lads from Scaptia and Fabrateria,
nor did men fail to descend from Atina’s snowy
heights, and Suessa Pometia, reduced by the wars,
and Frosinone, battle-hardened behind the plough.
The tough men from Arpino, who live by the Liris
which mingles sulphurous water with the Fibreno
and runs its silent course to the sea, they too armed,
with them came warriors from Venafro and Larino,
while mighty Aquino too was drained of all its men.
Tullius led their mail-clad forces to battle, scion of
kings, whose ancestor was that Tullus Attius of old.
How noble his youthful promise, and how great his
immortal descendant, that Cicero, he gave to Italy,
whose voice would fill the earth, even past Ganges
and the Indian tribes, and that would quell the fury
of war in those thunderous speeches; he, in that way,
winning renown no other orator could hope to equal!
Book VIII:412-445 The Italian forces at Cannae: III
Behold, Nero, unequalled in his swift acts of daring,
he of the Spartan blood of Attus Clausus, rides before
the men of Amiterna, and Casperia of eastern-sounding
name, and Foruli, and Reiti sacred to Rea mother of all
the gods, and Norcia the home of frost; and the cohorts
from rocky Tetricus. They all bore spears, had rounded
shields, helmets unadorned, and a greave on the left leg.
They marched, some raising a song in honour of Sancus
founder of their people, while other praised you Sabus,
who gave a name to the wide possessions of the Sabines.
And what of Curio, who had roused the men of Picenum,
with his scaly armour and his horse-hair plume, almost
an army in himself! They roll past like the billows on
a stormy sea, that whiten among the breaking waves;
no brisker her cavalry when Penthesilea the Warrior
Maiden with her crescent-shaped shield reviews her
thousand squadrons, mimicking battle, till the earth
and Thermodon, the river of the Amazons, resound.
And here are to be seen those nurtured by the fields
of rocky Numana, and those for whom Cupra’s altar
smokes with incense by the shore, and those who
guard the towers and the river-mouth of Truentum;
their shield-ranks gleam far off with the sun’s rays,
throwing a blood-red radiance towards the clouds.
Here stand the men of Ancona, which rivals Sidon,
in its dyeing of cloth, the Libyan purple; here are
the men of Adria, which is bathed by the Vomano;
with the fierce standard-bearers of wooded Ascoli.
Picus, the famous son of old Saturn, was founder
and father of Ascoli Picenum long ago, he whom
Circe changed into the woodpecker, condemning
him to fly through the air, speckling his feathers
with bright saffron as he fled. They say that even
earlier the Pelasgians possessed the land, subjects
of Aesis, from whom the name of the river Esino
derives, and his people whom he called the Asili.
Book VIII:446-467 The Italian forces at Cannae: IV
And the rural Umbrians strengthened the forces no
less, arriving from their hills and valleys washed
not only by the Esino, but the Savio, the Metaurus,
now Metauro, with its swift current eddying loudly
among the rocks, and Clitunno, once the Clitumnus,
that bathed their mighty bulls in its sacred waters;
the Nar, or Nera, whose pale flow hastens to join
the Tiber; the Tinia or Topino unknown to fame;
the Clanis or Chiana; the Rubicon; and the Nevola
once the Sena, named then for the Senones; while
Father Tiber flows through their midst in a mighty
tide, his channel grazing their walls. Their towns
are Arna, Bevagna with its rich pastures, Spello,
and Narni on its cliffs on the rocky mountain slope,
Gubbio once unhealthy with its mists, and Foligno,
that spreads un-walled on the open plain. They sent
tough men: Amerians, and Camertes celebrated for
sword and plough, the men of Sarsina rich in flocks,
and warriors from Todi, no laggards in time of war.
These death-defying forces were led by Piso, with
handsome but boyish face, though with a wisdom
to equal his elders and an intellect beyond his years.
He led the vanguard, radiant in shining armour, as
a fiery gem gleams on the collar of a Parthian king.
Book VIII:468-494 The Italian forces at Cannae: V
Now another army appeared manned by Etruscans,
under Galba of glorious name. His ancestral line
derived from Minos, and that Pasiphae whom a
bull from the sea seduced, with all their famous
descendants. Cerveteri and Cortona, the seat of
proud Tarchon, sent their choicest men, so too
ancient Graviscae. That city by the sea Halaesus
the Argive loved, Alsium, sent its warriors also,
and Fregenae, bordered inland by a barren plain.
Fiesole was represented, that interprets winged
lightning from heaven, and Clusium, that once
menaced the walls of Rome, when Lars Porsena
demanded, in vain, that the Romans obey those
tyrants they expelled. And Luni sent men from
its marble quarries, from that famed harbour, as
spacious as any that, well-enclosed, can shelter
innumerable vessels. And Vetulonia, the pride,
once, of all Etruria. That city gave us the twelve
bundles of rods that go before a consul, those
twelve axes with their silent menace, she first
adorned the high curule chairs with ivory, and
first trimmed official robes with Tyrian purple;
while the bronze trumpet that stirs the warriors,
that too was her invention. With them gathered
the men of Nepi, and those Aequi of Falerium,
and those who hailed from Flavina, and those
who lived by the Sabatian and Ciminian pools,
their neighbours from Sutri, and those living
by Soracte, Phoebus sacred hill. Each carried
two spears, a wild-beast’s pelt sufficient for
their heads, while scorning the Lycian bow.
Book VIII:495-523 The Italian forces at Cannae: VI
They all knew how to wage war, yet the Marsi
could not merely fight but also send snakes to
sleep by the use of spells, and rob the serpent’s
tooth of venom by means of herbs and charms.
Anguitia, they say, a daughter of Aeetes, first
showed them the use of magic herbs, teaching
them how to banish the moon from the sky, to
halt the flow of rivers with their cries, denude
the hills by summoning the trees. Their name
though derives from Marsyas, who fleeing in
fear over the sea from Phrygian Crenai, after
Apollo’s lyre outplayed his Mygdonian flute,
settled there. Maruvium, is their capital, which
bears the famous name of the ancient Marrus,
while further inland lies Alba Fucens, among
the water-meadows, fruit-trees compensating
for its lack of corn. Their other citadels, with
no name among the people, unknown to fame,
are nonetheless ample in number, too. They
were quickly joined by the Pelignians, who
brought their men swiftly from chilly Sulmo.
And no less eager were the men from Teano
Sidicinum, whose mother-city is Cales with
no mean founder, but, as legend tells, Calais,
nurtured in Thracian caves by Orithyia, she
having been carried off through the stormy
air by wanton Boreas. There too were those
serried ranks of the Vestini, inferior to none
in battle, toughened by hunting wild-beasts,
while their flocks graze on Mount Fiscellus,
over green Pinna, and the meadows of Aveia,
which are quick to renew their growth again.
The Marrucini, and their rivals the Frentani,
gathered too, bringing the men of Corfinium,
and great Chieti. All these bore a pike to war,
a sling that had downed many a bird, and for
armour wore bear-skins, spoils of the hunt.
Book VIII:524-545 The Italian forces at Cannae: VII
The Oscans, too, whom Campania, rich in
wealth and noble blood, had sent from her
wide realm to fight, were stationed close by,
waiting for their leader. Men from Sinuessa
of the warm springs; from Volturnum within
sound of the sea; Amyclae whose mother-city
in Laconia, silence once ruined; Fondi and
Gaeta, realm of Laestrygonian King Lamus,
and home to King Antiphates’ deep harbour;
Liternum with its marshy pools, and Cumae
with its oracle that could foretell the future.
From Nuceria and Mount Gaurus too, and
from Puteoli, men raised from their arsenal.
Naples, the Greek Parthenope, gave many
a soldier also, Nola which would repulse
Hannibal, and Alife, and Acerra, forever
threatened by its river Clanius. You might
have seen the Sarrastians and all the men
from along the gentle river Sarno. There
were picked troops from the Phlegraean
bays rich in sulphur; from Miseno, and
Baiae, the seat of Baius the Ithacan, pilot
to Odysseus, with its giant volcanic crater.
The men of Procida’s isle were there, of
Ischia, a place appointed for ever-burning
Typhoeus, and Capri the rocky island of
Teleboas, and Calatia with its little walls.
Sorrento too sent men, and stony Avella
poor in arable land to plough; above all
Capua was represented there, though she
unable to restrain herself in prosperity,
would be undone by her perverse pride!
Book VIII:546-561 The Italian forces at Cannae: VIII
Young Scipio organised all these fine men
for war, funding javelins and steel armour;
the native weapons being much lighter, in
the manner of their fathers, fire-hardened
wooden shafts lacking iron points, clubs
and axes, forged for rural labour. Amongst
them, Scipio, showed promise of his fame
to come, flinging stakes, leaping trenches
beneath city walls, meeting the sea-waves
fully armed, such his brave display before
his men. Often his swift feet outran some
charger as it flew by, spurred savagely over
the open plain, often standing tall he would
hurl a stone or spear beyond the boundary
of the camp. With martial brow, flowing
untrimmed hair, and a bright gentle gaze,
he awed and delighted those who saw him.
Book VIII:562-587 The Italian forces at Cannae: IX
The Samnites also gathered, their allegiance
not to Carthage as of yet, but still revealing
their ancient enmity to Rome; the reapers of
Paduli and Nucrae, and the hunters of Boiano,
those who cling to the Caudine pass; and those
Rufrae and Isernia sent; and remote Ordona
from her untilled slopes. The Bruttians came,
equal in spirit to any, and the warriors out of
the Lucanian Hills, and the Hirpini; all with
their sharp spears and clothed in the shaggy
pelts of wild beasts. They won a living from
the hunt, dwelt in the woods, quenched their
thirst in the rivers, earning their sleep by toil.
All these were joined by the men of Calabria,
and troops from Sallentia and from Brindisi,
out of Italy’s far south. Their command was
granted to bold Cethegus, who controlled
their united forces, not separate companies.
Here were men from Leucosia, and those
Picentia sent from Paestum, and men from
Cerillae, later emptied by the Punic army,
and those nurtured by the Silarus, or Sele,
river, which they say could turn branches
dipped in its flow to stone. And Cethegus
praised too the sickle-shaped swords, with
which the fighting Salernians were armed,
and the rough oak clubs which the warriors
from Buxentum shaped to their grip. While
he himself, with shoulders and arms bare in
the manner of his ancestors, took delight in
his mettlesome steed, exerting his youthful
strength, wheeling his hard-mouthed mount.
Book VIII:588-621 The Italian forces at Cannae: X
You too, tribes of the River Po, though now
reduced and bereft of men, rushed to battle
and defeat, no god listening to your prayers.
Piacenza, though crippled by war, vied with
Modena, while Cremona sent out her sons in
its rivalry with Mantua, home of the Muses,
exalted to the heavens by Virgil’s immortal
verse, in emulation of Homer’s lyre. They
came from Verona through which the Adige
flows; from Faenza, skilfully nurturing her
pine trees, grown everywhere to surround
her fields; Vercelli, and Polenzo with its
wealth from dusky fleeces; and Bologna
with its Reno river, the ‘little Rhine’, that
was once the seat of Ocnus, and joined
with Aeneas against Laurentum long ago.
There came the men of Ravenna, they who
drag their heavy oars slowly through muddy
water, cleaving their stagnant marshy pools;
and a force from Padua, from the Euganean
country, once exiled with Antenor from his
sacred shore; Aquileia with a complement
of the Veneti; and the agile men of Liguria,
and the Vagenni who live scattered along
its rocky shore, they too sent hardy youths
to swell the Roman ranks, and Hannibal’s
triumph. Brutus led them all, their great
hope, and he roused their courage against
this enemy they already knew. Cheerful,
though dignified, his powerful intellect
gained hearts, with nothing severe in his
manner: it was never his way to adopt a
frowning face or win unhappy praise for
harshness: nor did he court notoriety by
exceeding the limits of the ordered life.
Add, to all these, three thousand skilled
archers sent by Hiero of Syracuse from
Sicilian Etna, while Elba armed fewer
men with her native iron that war loves,
yet all of them eager to wield a sword.
He might well have excused Varro’s zeal
to fight a battle, who saw so mighty an
army muster. When great Agamemnon
attacked Troy, that Hellespont which
Leander swam saw the thousand ships
moor, with as vast a host, at Rhoeteum.
Book VIII:622-655 Omens of disaster
On reaching Cannae, the site of an ancient
city, the Roman forces set up their doomed
standards on the ill-omened ramparts. Nor,
did the gods, with impending destruction
hanging over the army, fail to foretell that
imminent disaster. Javelins, in the hands
of their astonished owners, were wreathed
in fire; tall battlements along the walls fell;
the quivering summit of Mount Garganus
collapsed and laid low the forest; Aufidus
quaked and roared in its river-bed; while,
over the distant waves sailors were terrified
as fires burned high on the Ceraunian hills.
The day was plunged into sudden darkness,
and Calabrian mariners searched in vain for
the coast and headland of Sipontum; while
shriek-owls perched on the camp’s gates.
Dense swarms of bees constantly wound
themselves around the quivering standards,
and more than one bright comet, dethroner
of kings, shone balefully, with its hairy tail.
In the silence of the night wild beasts broke
through ramparts and entered camp, snatching
up sentries before their frightened comrades’
gaze, scattering the limbs over nearby fields.
Dreadful visions mocked sleep: men dreamt
that the Gallic shades were rising from their
graves. In Rome, the Tarpeian Rock shook
repeatedly, and was split at the base; while
a stream of dark blood flowed from Jove’s
temple; and the ancient statue of Quirinus,
the deified Romulus, shed floods of tears.
The fatal Allia overflowed its banks; while
the Alps quaked, and the Apennines’ vast
gorges trembled all day and night. Bright
meteors crossed Italy from African skies,
and the heavens burst apart with a dreadful
crash as the face of the Thunderer was seen.
Vesuvius roared too, spewing flames like
Etna’s, and its fiery plume hurled rocks to
the clouds, and touched the trembling stars.
Book VIII:656-676 A soldier foretells disaster
Behold, a soldier in their midst now prophesied
the outcome of the battle, his mind and aspect
distracted, he filled all the camp with his wild
cries, gasping out news of the tragedy to come:
‘Oh, merciless gods, spare us; there is not room
enough now for those heaps of dead; I see him,
the Carthaginian commander, charging through
our serried ranks, driving his chariot furiously
over human limbs, weapons, and our standards.
The wind gusts wildly, driving the dust of war
in our faces. You are lost, Gnaeus Servilius,
careless of your life, your absence at Lake
Trasimene’s field of no avail! Where goes
Varro? By the gods, Aemilius Paullus, last
hope of the despairing, is downed by a rock!
Trebia cannot rival such destruction. Behold,
the Aufidus reeks and spews out corpses, as
the heaped bodies of the dead bridge its flow,
as the Carthaginian elephants tread the plain
in victory. Hannibal carries the consular axes,
after our fashion, lictors bear blood-stained
rods, the pomp of triumph passing now from
Rome to Libya. O tragedy! Do you command
us to witness even this, O you powers above?
Victorious Carthage weighs Rome’s defeat in
gold-rings torn from the left hands of the dead!’
End of Book VIII of the Punica