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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER VII - Struggle between Pyrrhus and Rome, and Union of Italy


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Page 27

The elephants which had hitherto been kept in reserve were brought up to meet the cavalry; the horses took fright at them; the soldiers, not knowing how to encounter the huge beasts, turned and fled; the masses of disordered horsemen and the pursuing elephants at length broke the compact ranks of the Roman infantry, and the elephants in concert with the excellent Thessalian cavalry wrought great slaughter among the fugitives. Had not a brave Roman soldier, Gaius Minucius, the first hastate of the fourth legion, wounded one of the elephants and thereby thrown the pursuing troops into confusion, the Roman army would have been extirpated; as it was, the remainder of the Roman troops succeeded in retreating across the Siris.

Their loss was great; 7000 Romans were found by the victors dead or wounded on the field of battle, 2000 were brought in prisoners; the Romans themselves stated their loss, including probably the wounded carried off the field, at 15,000 men. But Pyrrhus's army had suffered not much less: nearly 4000 of his best soldiers strewed the field of battle, and several of his ablest captains had fallen.

Considering that his loss fell chiefly on the veteran soldiers who were far more difficult to be replaced than the Roman militia, and that he owed his victory only to the surprise produced by the attack of the elephants which could not be often repeated, the king, skilful judge of tactics as he was, may well at an after period have described this victory as resembling a defeat; although he was not so foolish as to communicate that piece of self-criticism to the public--as the Roman poets afterwards invented the story--in the inscription of the votive offering presented by him at Tarentum.

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