Today’s installment concludes Battle of Metaurus,
our selection from The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Creasy published in 1851.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of eleven thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Battle of Metaurus.
Time: 207 BC
Place: Metaurus River, Italy
Nero commanded the right wing, Livius the left, and the praetor Porcius had the command of the centre. “Both Romans and Carthaginians well understood how much depended upon the fortune of this day, and how little hope of safety there was for the vanquished. Only the Romans herein seemed to have had the better in conceit and opinion that they were to fight with men desirous to have fled from them; and according to this presumption came Livius the consul, with a proud bravery, to give charge on the Spaniards and Africans, by whom he was so sharply entertained that the victory seemed very doubtful. The Africans and Spaniards were stout soldiers, and well acquainted with the manner of the Roman fight. The Ligurians also were a hardy nation, and not accustomed to give ground, which they needed the less, or were able now to do, being placed in the midst. Livius, therefore, and Porcius found great opposition; and with great slaughter on both sides prevailed little or nothing. Besides other difficulties, they were exceedingly troubled by the elephants, that brake their first ranks and put them in such disorder as the Roman ensigns were driven to fall back; all this while Claudius Nero, laboring in vain against a steep hill, was unable to come to blows with the Gauls that stood opposite him, but out of danger. This made Hasdrubal the more confident, who, seeing his own left wing safe, did the more boldly and fiercely make impression on the other side upon the left wing of the Romans.”*
* Sir Walter Raleigh: Historie of the World.
But at last Nero, who found that Hasdrubal refused his left wing, and who could not overcome the difficulties of the ground in the quarter assigned to him, decided the battle by another stroke of that military genius which had inspired his march. Wheeling a brigade of his best men round the rear of the rest of the Roman army, Nero fiercely charged the flank of the Spaniards and Africans. The charge was as successful as it was sudden. Rolled back in disorder upon each other, and overwhelmed by numbers, the Spaniards and Ligurians died, fighting gallantly to the last. The Gauls, who had taken little or no part in the strife of the day, were then surrounded, and butchered almost without resistance. Hasdrubal, after having, by the confession of his enemies, done all that a general could do, when he saw that the victory was irreparably lost, scorning to survive the gallant host which he had led, and to gratify, as a captive, Roman cruelty and pride, spurred his horse into the midst of a Roman cohort, and sword in hand, met the death that was worthy of the son of Hamilcar and the brother of Hannibal.
Success the most complete had crowned Nero’s enterprise. Returning as rapidly as he had advanced, he was again facing the inactive enemies in the South before they even knew of his march. But he brought with him a ghastly trophy of what he had done. In the true spirit of that savage brutality which deformed the Roman national character, Nero ordered Hasdrubal’s head to be flung into his brother’s camp. Ten years had passed since Hannibal had last gazed on those features. The sons of Hamilcar had then planned their system of warfare against Rome which they had so nearly brought to successful accomplishment. Year after year had Hannibal been struggling in Italy, in the hope of one day hailing the arrival of him whom he had left in Spain, and of seeing his brother’s eye flash with affection and pride at the junction of their irresistible hosts. He now saw that eye glazed in death, and in the agony of his heart the great Carthaginian groaned aloud that he recognized his country’s destiny.
Meanwhile, at the tidings of the great battle, Rome at once rose from the thrill of anxiety and terror to the full confidence of triumph. Hannibal might retain his hold on Southern Italy for a few years longer, but the imperial city and her allies were no longer in danger from his arms; and, after Hannibal’s downfall, the great military republic of the ancient world met in her career of conquest no other worthy competitor. Byron has termed Nero’s march “unequalled,” and, in the magnitude of its consequences, it is so. Viewed only as a military exploit, it remains unparalleled save by Marlborough’s bold march from Flanders to the Danube in the campaign of Blenheim, and perhaps also by the Archduke Charles’ lateral march in 1796, by which he overwhelmed the French under Jourdan, and then, driving Moreau through the Black Forest and across the Rhine, for a while freed Germany from her invaders.
This ends our series of passages on Battle of Metaurus by Edward Creasy from his book The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo published in 1851. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history