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Full Version: Metaurus River & Hasdrubal
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In this months Military History magazine, there is a description of the battle at the Metaurus River in the Punic Wars, where the two consular armies 'ambush' Hasdrubal. The description is that the strategy is to make it appear to Hasdrubal that there is only one consular army in front of him, and spring the 2nd as a surprise. However, (and I wonder where they got this) because of Hasdrubal's knowledge of Roman military, he spots that half the troops in front of him look "unshaven, and with unpolished armor" where the other half, presumably, are clean shaven and all polished up.<br>
Two points: 1) if Hasdrubal is killed in the battle, who wrote that up? Livy says they killed most of the Carthaginians and their allies;<br>
2) did Roman troops all shave every day? you have to presume that their armor was plate since chain mail doesn't polish up well.<br>
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<p>Richard Campbell, Legio XX.
http://www.geocities.com/richsc53/studies/
ICQ 940236
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Anonymous

I read that article, overall I thought it was pretty good. I noticed several of the same things Rich did, however, so I got out my Livy and looked. I have no idea where the reference to clean shaven troops comes from. Livy does mention the appearance of some seemingly older, worn shields in the ranks, but I can't find any references to unshaven soldiers. Regardless of this, Livy explains that Hamilcar's basis for presuming that two consuls were present was the sounding of the trumpet in the camp:<br>
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"[After sending a patrol close to the Roman ramparts] The only thing that worried [Hasdrubal], experienced general as he was and familiar with Roman practice in the field, was the report that the trumpet had sounded only once in the praetor's camp, but twice in the consul's. This undoubtedly meant that there were two consul's present, and the question how the second had got away from Hannibal tortured him with anxiety." (XXVII, 47).<br>
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Livy does mention the fate of Hasdrubal once defeat was certain, however.<br>
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"When at last no doubt remained that the day was lost, he refused to survive the great army which had followed his fame, and setting spurs to his horse galloped straight into the midst of a Roman cohort. There, still fighting, he found a death worthy of his father Hamilcar and his brother Hannibal . . . Nero on his return to Canusium had Hasdrubal's head, which he had carefully preserved during his march, flung on the ground in front of Hannibal's outposts . . . The story is that Hannibal under the double blow of so great a public and personal distress exclaimed: 'Now, at last, I see the destiny of Carthage plain.'" (XXVII, 49 & 51). <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

There are a few facts about the Metaurus river battle worthy of mention.<br>
The first one is that before that battle Hasdrubal was on the other side of the Alps and that --like his brother Hannibal-- he managed to slip through and surprise the Romans one more time. Another blow to the legend of the Alps "unpassable wall". Mountains are unpassable only if the passes are garrisoned. And even then..<br>
Another fact is blind luck as usual: one of the two consuls, Marcus Claudius Nero was In Canosa, nearby Cannae, following Hannibal around. He was lucky enough to intercept the message from Hasdrubal to his brother informing him of his arrival in northern Italy.<br>
He took 6000 battle hardened legionaries and 1000 troopers and rushed north without hesitation to reinforce the army of the other consul, Salinator.<br>
A very bold move but the right one. There was still about six legions to hold Hannibal in the south and Hasdrubal had to be eliminated if possible before Hannibal received news of his arrival as he sooner or later would.<br>
That army was reinforced along the way by volunteers and would have covered the 480 kilometeres between Canosa and Sena Gallica where Salinator was encamped in a week. That's about 70 kilometers a day and either those guys were really, really super trained athletes, or it took them two or three days more and the ancient sources are a bit too patriotic..<br>
They managed to slip into Salinator's camp without giving the game away to the Carthaginians until someone forgot to tell Nero's bugler not to sound the call for the evening watch. So he sounded the call and so did Salinator's bugler. And Hasdrubal upon hearing the two calls knew then that another army had moved into the roman camp.<br>
That didn't change much for Hasdrubal. Seeing an army from the south in here, he must have feared the worse for Hannibal. He then tried to extricate himself, got hopelessly lost and eventually was forced to give battle.<br>
Again Nero distinguished himself by apparently moving on his own intiative around a hillock right into the carthaginian rear.<br>
The more dubious fame of another Nero has all but erased the fame of this Nero. Too bad. He was a bold man and a good general, apparently.<br>
We must also perform at least a week of public prayers to thank Nero and Salinator for cooperating with each other. They of course, as befitted consuls, hated each other's guts and that of course had sometimes questionable results on the tactical level..<br>
...And come to think of it, I actually like the other Nero too.. <p></p><i></i>