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THE BATTLE OF TREBIA
 AFTER the hardships they had endured while crossing the Alps
Hannibal and his army were forced to rest. But in a
short time Hannibal was ready to lead his men along the
left bank of the river Po, having sent a corps of
cavalry forward to reconnoitre.
Scipio, you remember, had determined to await Hannibal
in the valley of the Po, and he was now also marching
along the left bank of the river.
As he crossed the Ticinus, a tributary of the Po, he
suddenly found himself face to face with the cavalry of
A fierce struggle at once took place, but before long
the Roman soldiers turned and fled, in spite of all the
Consul could do to rally them. He himself showed the
greatest courage, fighting in the forefront of the
battle and so being wounded. Had it not been for the
bravery of his young son, he would indeed have been
captured or killed.
Seeing that his father was wounded and surrounded by
the enemy, the lad, who was only sixteen years of age,
dashed into their midst. He was followed by his men,
who were ashamed to linger behind their young leader.
His daring attack scattered the foe, and the Consul was
carried off the field in safety. This lad of sixteen
was the Scipio who afterwards became known as Scipio
Africanus, the conqueror of Hannibal.
The battle at the Ticinus was in reality only a
skirmish. But Scipio was warned by this defeat to be
cautious, and he determined to withdraw across the Po.
There he would
 await his colleague Sempronius, who had been recalled
from Sicily, when it became known that Hannibal meant
to invade Italy.
Although the fight at Ticinus was only a skirmish, yet
the victory of Hannibal's cavalry encouraged many
Gallic tribes to throw off their fear of Rome and join
Even those Gauls who had joined the Roman camp were
eager to escape, and one night more than two thousand
of them mutinied, and, overpowering the sentinels, left
the Romans to join Hannibal.
After the flight of the Gauls, Scipio thought it would
be wise to move to a safer position, so he marched to
the upper Trebia, another tributary of the Po. Here he
was joined by Sempronius.
Hannibal was eager to fight while the Gauls were still
faithful to him, for he, as well as the Romans, knew
their unstable character. Scipio on the other hand,
wished to delay meeting the enemy, for he was still
wounded. Moreover, he thought that if a battle did not
take place soon, the Gauls would be more than likely to
forsake their new ally.
But Sempronius, who had entire charge of both the Roman
armies since Scipio was wounded, could brook no delay.
The Carthaginian general had already discovered that it
would be easy to tempt the second Consul to fight. He
therefore determined to entice him to cross the river
It was winter. Heavy rains and sleet had fallen, and
the river was flooded, when, early one bleak morning,
Hannibal ordered his brave young brother Mago, with a
large number of troops, to lie in ambush in a dried-up
watercourse, where they were hidden by high banks and
tall bushes. Until a signal bade them dash out upon
the enemy, they were not to stir.
Meanwhile a body of Carthaginian cavalry had been
 sent across the river, close to the Roman camp. The
cavalry was to tempt Sempronius to leave his camp and
The Consul no sooner saw the enemy, than without
waiting for his men to have breakfast, he ordered the
horsemen to advance at once, and the infantry to follow
as soon as possible.
Cold and hungry, the Roman army obeyed, and the Punic
cavalry retreated across the river before the enemy.
The Roman foot soldiers were ordered to follow,
although the water was cold as ice, and reached almost
to their shoulders. When they scrambled up on the
other bank, they were chilled to the bone as well as
faint for want of food. More miserable bedraggled
Roman soldiers had never been seen. They were scarcely
fit to attack a small body of the enemy, much less to
face the main body of the Carthaginian army, which, well
fed and warm, awaited them in battle array.
Hannibal, with his usual care for his soldiers, had
seen that they had a good meal, after which he had bade
them rub their bodies with oil in front of the camp
fires, before they buckled on their armour.
It was soon plain that the Romans were not fit to cope
with the comfortable Carthaginian troops.
Yet in spite of the elephants, that trampled them
underfoot, and in spite, too, of the Punic cavalry
which was stronger than their own, the Roman legions
held their ground.
It was only when the signal had been given, and Mago,
with two thousand men rushed from his ambush, and
attacked them in the rear, that the Romans gave way.
Then they turned and fled towards the Trebia, hoping to
be able to cross it and to regain their camp. But many
of them were cut down before they reached the river,
while, of those who attempted to recross the cold and
swollen waters, many were drowned.
Only ten thousand in the centre of the Roman army
succeeded in keeping their ranks unbroken. These brave
 soldiers pushed their way through the enemy and
retreated to Placentia, a town on the river Po, which
had already been taken and fortified by their own
Before the day was over the Carthaginians, too, had
suffered severely from the weather. Showers of rain
and snow forced them at length to give up the pursuit
of the Romans and hasten to their tents for shelter and
warmth. Many of the elephants perished in the storm.
When Rome heard of the defeat of her two armies, and
that both her Consuls were shut up in Placentia with a
remnant of their soldiers, she was dismayed at the
greatness of the disaster. Moreover,
she was well aware that this
victory would make the Gauls cleave more steadfastly
than before to the successful general.
Thus the year 218 B.C. drew to a close, while signs of
evil omen added to the anxiety of the citizens of Rome.
Rain fell; no gentle, refreshing showers, but rain of
red-hot stones. In the market-place a bull ran up the
third story of a house and leapt from thence into the
street. And who ever heard of a child of six months
old being able to speak! Yet one of just such tender
age was heard to shout "Triumph."
Even the least superstitious saw in these strange
portents the hand of the gods, and they trembled for
what might next befall.