Hannibal’s double envelopment and destruction of a Roman army sets a high (and chimerical) bar for future generals
On the morning of August 2, 216 B.C., perhaps the largest Roman army ever assembled prepared for battle on the dusty plain of Cannae, in southeastern Italy. Commanding this mighty force were both of the elected Consuls for that year: Lucius Aemilius Paullus and his junior colleague, Gaius Terentius Varro. It was unusual for both Consuls to operate in the same theater of war, much less the same battlefield. But these were extraordinary times. They faced an enemy who had for two years triumphed on Roman soil, destroying two Roman armies in battle, killing a Consul of Rome in the process: Hannibal Barca. They were determined that here they would bring him to a final, decisive battle; one favorable to Rome.
The Second Punic War was in its third year. Since its beginning, the war had thus far been one long catalogue of disaster for the Romans.
When war had been declared by the Senate of Rome against its bitter rival, Carthage, it was expected in Rome that this war would follow the same victorious course that the First Punic War had taken a generation before. Namely, that Roman fleets would sweep the sea of Punic opposition; Roman armies would land in Africa; and Carthage would be forced to submit.
But Hannibal, Carthage’s leading statesman and general, had other ideas.
Hannibal Barca (Hannibal: “Grace of Baal”; Barca: “The Thunderbolt”) was the son of Hamilcar Barca, the most successful Carthaginian general in the otherwise stunningly unsuccessful First Punic War. He’d grown to manhood in his father’s camp, surrounded by soldiers. He had learned well the lessons his capable father had taught him; and one of these was an undying hatred for their Roman enemies. Upon a sacred alter, the sons of Hamilcar had all sworn an oath to bring destruction to Rome……
(Deadliest Blogger has moved to a new home. To continue reading, go here)