Battle of Grumentum

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Battle of Grumentum
Part of the Second Punic War
Battles second punic war.png
Date 207 BC
Location Grumentum, present-day Italy
Result minor Roman victory
Belligerents
Carthage Roman Republic
Commanders and leaders
Hannibal, Mago Gaius Claudius Nero
Strength
5,000 6,000 infantry 600 cavalry
Casualties and losses
800 killed, 700 captured 500 killed

The Battle of Grumentum was fought in 207 BC between Romans led by Gaius Claudius Nero, and a part of Hannibal's Carthaginian army. The battle was a minor Roman victory, and Nero marched north where he defeated and killed Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal at Metaurus. The battle is described by Livy at 27.41-42.[1]

Background[edit]

Upon Hannibal's descent from the alps he had for three years won an impressive string of victories against Rome[2] The battle of Ticinus, Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae were some of the more notable victories that he'd won. These had been disastrous defeats for the Romans, especially the latter battle. This victory brought the Romans to the brink of despair. The Senate had issued a decree that forbade anyone to say the word, "Peace" within the city. Mourning was legislatively circumscribed to 30 days, women were not permitted to cry in the public venues. In spite of such measures, there was much despair in the city and some young Romans of high birth were proposing mass desertion from the army and establishment of a new colony elsewhere. The proposed defection was put down and all thoughts of surrender were circumscribed.[2]:pp.382–388

Despite these setbacks, Rome itself remained secure from attack. Hannibal did not believe that that he had the resources necessary for a siege of Rome, and, even after the battle of Cannae, he had not been able to break up the Roman Symmachy. Not a single member of the Italian Confederacy ever broke its treaty with Rome, the roots of Roman power in the peninsula were sown deep, based upon time and the mutual benefit that both Rome and her subordinate allies had received from the alliance. Some colonies had been detached from the Confederacy in Cisalpine Gaul, but no seriously demoralizing blow had been struck at the Symmachy.[2]:pp.382–386

So, after Cannae, Hannibal set about just this task. It was indeed upon the basis of his being able to detach the confederates of Rome that Hannibal had calculated upon a lasting victory. Without them, nothing serious could be brought about. So after the battle itself, Hannibal started to conduct diplomacy to this effect. Phillip V of Macedon promised a navy and an army to descend on Italy—it was in this way that he hoped to simultaneously strike a blow at Rome herself while regaining Epirus to his kingdom. In addition to this, Hiero of Syracuse recently passed, and his successor concluded a treaty with Hannibal. With the end of detaching more confederates from the Roman Symmachy, after the battle Hannibal released all soldiers that had been enlisted under the banners as a result of their cities' treaty with Rome without request for ransom.[2]:pp.383–391

However, in spite of the seeming ascendancy of Hannibal over Rome, his cause was in reality anything but that. His military chest was stretched to its limit, and to this effect he sent a deputation to Rome that requested money in return for hostages. The deputation was forbidden to enter the city, and the Senate forbade the purchase of hostages from the Carthaginians on an individual basis—deeming any enrichment of Hannibal through the wealth of Rome and its citizens to be unacceptable.[2]:p.391

What happened at this point, was a number of Roman allies—not including any Latin confederate—were detached. Capua, the second city of Italy, in a commanding position on the crucial plain of Campania, was detached. This city had been much oppressed by the Romans, and faced discriminatory treatment by the Senate and the chief magistrates of the Republic. Capua was said to be able to furnish Hannibal with 30,000 foot and 4,000 cavalry. This was a major blow to the Symmachy, as demoralizing as the defeat at Cannae had been. Following the example of Capua were Uxuntum, much of Bruttia, much of Lucaria, the Picentes of Salernia, the Harpini, almost all of Samnium. Hannibal had effectively consolidated all of southern Italy with the exception of a string of Roman forts.[2]:pp.391–393

Hannibal's army spent the winter of 216-215 BC in Capua,[2] during which time it is said to have engaged in liscentious conduct. However, this is not surprising considering that the army had spent the previous 4 years incessantly campaigning in Italy.[2] Many of Hannibal's veterans from Iberia were gone, and the composition of his army was this time to take a different form. Recruits from his allies in Italy would be a major contributor to his army.[2] In addition to this, the Romans were to start treating him with the respect he deserved, and all the meanwhile their legions would be gaining in ability and experience while Hannibal would constantly be compelled to train fresh recruits. In spite of this, until Hannibal departs from Italy we shall see the Roman consuls and praetors dealing with him in a similar way to which Fabius dealt with him - that is to attack his foragers and avoid him in a major battle.

The consuls for the year 215 BC were the former dictator Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius Grachus. Marcellus was to take the field in his capacity as Proconsul. These were all tried and tested officers, and they would conduct their armies armies accordingly. The Senate, as one of its first measures, decided to double imports and taxes of all sorts, in order to be able to equip their legionnaires and pay their salaries. The Senate ordered the various army commanders to continue the Fabian strategy.[2]:pp.410–412

Hannibal and the five armies opposed to him in 215 BC in Capua

Hannibal encamped on Mt. Tifata, where he could control the healthy pastures for his cavalry and his herds, while simultaneously being in such a position as to descend on any one of the Roman armies currently opposed to him. Hannibal was to make an observable change in his strategy, from seeking battle and engaging in offense against the Romans he was to observe a decidedly more defensive strategy. As the Romans were not seeking to engage him either, as per their fabian strategy, there was only small skirmishes between the Carthaginians and Romans. The Capuans sought to seize the oppidum of Cumae through treachery, but failed in their attempt after the Cumaens informed the consul Gracchus of the Capuan-instigated negotiations. Hannibal sought to seize the place thereafter, as it was on the coast and he required a port from which to communicate with Carthage. However, this failed. After this, three Roman armies, the two consular armies and that of the proconsul Marcellus, were marched into Campania, where they encamped close to each other so as to sustain one another. This strategy was so effective that Hannibal knew it was only a matter of time before the Romans drove him from Campania. Leaving a strong garrison in his camp on Mt. Tifata, he marched towards Nola, where some of his friends were attempting to gain that city over to the Carthaginian side. Here he received reinforcements including 4,000 infantry and a number of elephants. After a combat Hannibal would conduct his army back to his camp at Mt. Tifata. After failing to take Nola, he opted to march to Apulia and winter near Arpi.[2]:pp.414–419

Hannibal and the armies in the field against him 214 BC

The consuls for the year 214 BC were Fabius and Marcellus. The armies under the command of a praetor were commanded by Fulvius, Fabius Jr., Octalius and Lentulus.[2]:p.428 The consuls were ordered by the Senate to put afoot 20 legions which, with the 20 allied legions to be put into the field, would total something over 200,000 men. These legions were disperesed as follows; Lentulus the governor of Sicily for the year had two legions in Sicily, there were another two in Quintus Mucius in Sardinia, and two in cisalpine gaul under Manius Pomponius which was attached to the Roman Army in Spain. In Italy there were; Two fresh legions under the consul Fabius, Another two legions under his colleague Marcellus, Gracchus was opposite Hannibal with two legions that were manned by slaves promised with manumission for meritorious service, Fabius Jr. as praetor had two legions. There were, of course, two in Rome - Varro, the commander who had conducted himself so poorly at Cannae, had a legion near Cisalpine gaul which was placed there as a reserve to the legions in Cisalpine Gaul. The last legion was in Brundisium. Another fleet was constructed by fiat of the Senate and it was financed by a tax on the wealthiest citizens. Four of these armies were stationed directly against the Carthaginian army, the rest were to be involved in the war indirectly by attacking and harassing the allies of Hannibal.[2]:p.428

An appeal was sent from Capua, to which Hannibal responded. Once he arrived there he took up his old quarters—but the situation was not as dire as had been made out to him. In spite of this however, Hannibal decided to conduct operations in Campania, and headed off to one of its seaports. While conducting operations on the Campanian coast he received a deputation from a group of young, disgruntled nobles from the southern Greek city of Tarentum.[2]:p.432 Hannibal, deeming this a crucial opportunity decided to seize it. he thought this because of the geographical advantages that Tarentum would afford him for descents on Italy from both Carthage and Macedonia. On his way, he ordered Hanno to march north with the 17,000 men he recruited in Bruttium, however he was defeated when the Romans forced him to battle and he (Hanno) made his escape with 2,000 foot and some of his cavalry. After another attempt at the city of Nola, he opted to retire upon an inconclusive engagement before that oppidum. He then set off to Tarentum, but a Roman officer rallied the city's Roman supporters to baulk the designed assault. After Hannibal left Campania, the two consuls decided to besiege Casilinum, which they succeeded in capturing.[2]:p.441

For the Year 213 BC the consuls were Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Fabius Jr. The praetors for the year were M. Atilius Regulus,[3] Sempronius Tuditantus, Cneius Fulvius, and Aemilius Lepidus. Fabius the dictator was to be a legate of his sons.[2]:pp.429–445

References[edit]

  1. ^ Livy's History of Rome, Book 27 at Project Gutenberg
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Dodge, Theodore (1994). Hannibal. Mechanicsburg, PA: Greenhill Books. 
  3. ^ Possibly a textual misreading of the name Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, per Magistrates of the Roman Republic, v. I