|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE DEFEAT OF HASDRUBAL
 EARLY in the spring of 207 B.C. Hasdrubal was on his way from
Spain to join Hannibal in Italy. He had with him a
large army and much money to enable his brother to
carry on the war.
Hasdrubal crossed the Alps with less difficulty than
Hannibal, for it was springtime and the passes were not
covered with newly fallen snow. The native guides,
too, proved friendly.
He was also greatly helped by the bridges which
Hannibal had built, and by the cuttings he had made
through the rocks. Even now, after seven years, the
bridges were still trustworthy, the cuttings clear.
While he awaited his brother, Hannibal encamped near
Venusia, on the borders of Lucania and Apulia, and here
he hoped Hasdrubal would join him. But the Romans were
watching the brothers, and they hoped to be able to
keep them apart.
One Roman army, under the Consul Claudius Nero, had
already had skirmishes with the Carthaginians, and was
now encamped not far from Venusia. As Claudius had
lost fifteen hundred men in these skirmishes, he did
not again venture to attack the enemy.
The other Consul, Livius, was stationed near the river
Sena, to stop Hasdrubal should he attempt to march
southward to join his brother.
But Hasdrubal intended to march not to Venusia, but
 into the Umbrian country, where he wished Hannibal to
go to meet him. To let his brother know his plans, he
wrote a letter, and entrusting it to four soldiers, he
bade them deliver it to no one save the Carthaginian
The soldiers mounted their horses and rode away,
promising to deliver the letter to Hannibal. They knew
that they were risking their lives, for at any moment
they might fall into the hands of the Roman soldiers,
of whom the country through which they had to pass was
They reached Apulia without difficulty, but not finding
Hannibal, they rode toward Tarentum, and were captured
by a band of Roman soldiers, who demanded what they
were doing in that part of the country.
The soldiers' answers were not very clear, and they
were threatened with torture unless they frankly told
the object for which they were riding toward Tarentum.
In their terror the men acknowledged that they were
looking for Hannibal, and that they carried with them a
letter from his brother Hasdrubal.
The soldiers were then hastily dragged before Claudius,
and in a short time the letter was in the Consul's
hands, the letter that the men should have guarded with
Claudius was exultant! He knew the secret that was
meant only for Hannibal. Now at length the
Carthaginians would meet the fate they deserved. The
Consul laid his plans with care, and carried them out
with complete success.
A messenger was sent to Livius to warn him that
Claudius intended to join him with a company of his
When night fell the Consul and his men stole quietly
out of their camp, so quietly that Hannibal did not
know that they had gone. Claudius had left soldiers to
guard the camp, so that the great general might suspect
As the Consul and his soldiers passed along the road,
 Italian townsfolk and village folk alike, came out to
welcome them. It was plain that they trusted that the
Romans would banish the invaders who had poured down
into Italy from the Alps.
Men left their work, women their homes, children their
play—all were eager to see the Consul pass. To show
their goodwill many of them brought food for the
Thousands of men joined the army as volunteers, and
they, and the regular soldiers, were so eager to reach
the camp of Livius that they would hardly interrupt
their march to eat and drink.
The Roman camp lay to the south of the river Metaurus,
and not far off was the camp of Hasdrubal.
Claudius had arranged to reach his colleague at night.
He arrived as quietly as he had left his own camp, and
his men were at once scattered among the tents in which
the soldiers of Livius were already for the most part
As the camp had not been enlarged, the Consuls thought
that Hasdrubal would not notice that the army of the
enemy had been increased.
But Hasdrubal had fought with Romans in Spain, and he
knew their signals. So the following morning, when he
heard two trumpets sound instead of one, as had been
the case on other days, he was aware that the second
Consul had joined the camp. And when the army was
drawn up, Hasdrubal would have been unobservant indeed
if he had not seen that the number of Roman soldiers
was greater than before. How it was that the camp
remained unchanged may have proved a puzzle which
Hasdrubal had no time to solve.
The new soldiers were haggard and worn, as though they
had marched far and fast, or as though they had been on
the battlefield, and, seeing this, Hasdrubal grew
Had Hannibal by some strange chance been at last
defeated, and were these the exhausted but triumphant
 Had his letter failed to reach his brother? Nay,
worse still, had it fallen into the enemy's hands?
In his uncertainty Hasdrubal determined that when night
fell he would withdraw his army to the other side of
the river. It would be safer there until he heard from
So when it was dark the camp was broken up, and the
army set out with guides to ford the river.
But the guides proved faithless, and fled, leaving
Hasdrubal and his men to wander up and down the river
bank in search of a ford. Thus much precious time was
When morning broke, Hasdrubal was still but a short
distance from the enemy's camp, and the Romans, who
were early astir, were soon able to overtake him.
Hasdrubal saw that he could not avoid a battle although
he would fain have done so until his troops had rested.
He had not, indeed, time to throw up fortifications
before the enemy was upon him.
But Hasdrubal was a brave soldier, and he made up his
mind to fight to the death.
His army he arranged in the best possible position, and
his elephants he hoped would prove of great service.
They, however, grew restive, and as often happened, did
as much harm to their friends as to their foes.
After a fierce struggle, Claudius succeeded in
attacking the brave Spanish soldiers both in the rear
and in the flank, and they, overcome by the numbers
that attacked them, fell, after a bold and desperate
When Hasdrubal saw that the Spaniards, on whom he
chiefly relied, were being slaughtered, he knew that
the day was lost.
For himself, he resolved neither to leave the field,
nor to be taken alive. Putting spurs to his horse, he
galloped wildly into the midst of the enemy and was
slain, still grasping his sword in his hand.
 Not only were ten thousand of Hasdrubal's soldiers
slain, but many were taken prisoner. The spoil was
enormous, for Hasdrubal had plundered the country as he
had passed through it, and he had also been carrying
large sums of money to Hannibal.
Perhaps it was little wonder that the Romans felt that
even the awful battle of Cannæ was now avenged.
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