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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VIII. THE GREAT AGE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC, 264-31 B.C.
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HANNIBAL'S INVASION OF ITALY
The Romans planned to conduct the war in Spain and Africa, at a distance from their own shores. Hannibal's bold movements totally upset these calculations. The Carthaginian general had determined that the conflict should take place in the Italian peninsula itself. Since Roman fleets now controlled the Mediterranean, it was necessary for Hannibal to lead his army, with its supplies, equipment, and beasts of burden, by the long and dangerous land route from Spain to Italy. In the summer of 218 B.C. Hannibal set out from Spain with a large force of infantry and cavalry, besides a number of elephants. Beyond the river Ebro he found himself in hostile territory, through which the soldiers had to fight their way. To force the passage of the Pyrenees and the Alps cost him more than half his original army. When, after a five months' march he stood on the soil of Italy, Hannibal had scarcely twenty-five thousand troops with which to meet the immense power of Rome—a power that, given time, could muster to her defense more than half a million disciplined soldiers.
FIRST VICTORIES OF HANNIBAL
The Romans were surprised by the boldness and rapidity of Hannibal's movements. They had expected to conduct the war far away in foreign lands; they now knew that they must fight for their own homes and firesides. The first battles were complete victories for the Carthaginians and opened the road to Rome. Hannibal's plans, however, did not include a siege of the capital. He would not shatter his victorious army in an assault on a fortified town. Hannibal's real object was to bring the Italians over to his side, to ruin Rome through the revolts of her allies. But now he learned, apparently for the first time, that Italy was studded with Latin colonies, each a miniature Rome, each prepared to resist to the bitter end. Not a single city opened its gates to the invader. On such solid foundations rested Roman rule in Italy.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy