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Awaiting the Carthaginian army on the left bank of the Rhone was a tribe of Gauls called the Cavares. Hannibal formulated his plan according to this model as indeed it is held up as a cookie cutter way to cross rivers, even to cadets at military institutions to this day ordered one of his lieutenants; Hanno, Son of Bomilcar to make a northern circuit, [58] [61] [61] to cross the Rhone at a location that he deemed to be suitable for the purpose, and then by forced marches, march south and to take the Barbarian army in flank while he was crossing the river.

Esprit there was an island that divided the Rhone into two small streams. During this time, Hannibal had been completing his preparations to cross the Rhone. His preparations were designed to draw their attention away from their northern flank and focus their attention on his own preparations. The crossing itself was carefully designed to be as smooth as possible. Every detail was well thought out. The heavy horsemen were put across furthest upstream, and in the largest boats, so that the boats that Hannibal had less confidence in could be rowed to the left eastern bank in the lee of the larger and more sturdy craft.

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Seeing that the Carthaginians were finally crossing, the Cavares rose from their entrenchments and prepared their army on the shore near the Carthaginian landing point. Often in antiquity, to intimidate their enemy, armies would be ordered to pound their shields with their weapons and raise loud cries at exactly the same moment to create the greatest amount of noise. It was at precisely this moment, while the Carthaginian army was in the middle of the stream jeering at the enemy from the boats and the Cavares were challenging them to come on from the left bank, [62] that Hanno's corp revealed itself and charged down on the rear and flanks of the Cavares.

There was barely even a semblance of resistance; [65] surrounded as they were, pandemonium took control of their ranks, and each man looked to his own safety as they retreated pell-mell away from the carefully arrayed Carthaginian phalanx. While the actual conflict only took a matter of minutes, Hannibal had spent five days preparing this dangerous and risky operation from every angle, ensuring that it was ready at all points and as little as possible was left to chance.

Hannibal needed to reach the Alps quickly in order to beat the onset of winter. He knew that if he waited until springtime on the far side of the mountains, the Romans would have time to raise another army.


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He had intelligence that the consular army was camped at the mouth of the Rhone. He sent Numidian cavalry down the eastern bank of the river to acquire better information concerning the forces massed to oppose him. This force encountered mounted Romans who had been sent up the river for the same purpose. The Numidians were defeated with of their number killed in this exchange between scouting parties; in addition to Roman losses. The Numidians were followed back to the Carthaginian camp, which was almost assembled excepting the elephants, which required more time getting across.

Upon seeing Hannibal had not crossed with the whole of his force, the scouts raced back to the coast to alert the consul. Upon receiving this information, the consul dispatched his army up the river in boats, but arrived too late. In the face of winter and hostile tribes, the consul decided to return to Italy and await the arrival of Hannibal as he descended from the Alps. However, in accordance with the Senate's orders, the consul ordered his brother, Gnaeus Scipio to take a majority of the army to Spain. Despite their established tactical system formations and troop evolutions, etc.

They did not know how to force an enemy to battle by cutting off their communications, they were not aware of which flank was the strategic flank of an enemy in a battle. In addition, they were negligent about their order of march, [68] and early Roman history is littered with massacres of consular armies by other nations because of their lack of proper precaution against these evils. On getting the whole of his army on the left bank of the Rhone, Hannibal introduced his army to Magilus, [64] and some other less notable Gallic chiefs of the Po valley.

Speaking through an interpreter, [70] Magilus spoke of the support that the recently conquered Padane Gauls had for the Carthaginians and their mission of destroying Rome. Hannibal then addressed the officers himself. The troops' enthusiasm was uplifted by Hannibal's inspiring address.

Upon crossing the river, Hannibal ordered his infantry to start their march the day after the assembly, followed by the supply train. The cavalry would skirmish with the Roman scouts, while giving the rest of the army time to form up. This contingency did not occur. Hannibal was in the rearguard with the elephants. The rearguard was well manned to ensure that it could skirmish with the Roman army while the main body of his infantry and cavalry could form up for battle against the Romans if they should attack from that quarter.

This contingency, however, also did not occur. While assuming this order of march, Hannibal marched towards the Insula. When Hannibal's army made contact with the Insula, he arrived in a Gallic chiefdom that was in the midst of a civil conflict. From this tribe he received supplies that were required for the expedition across the Alps. In addition, he received Brancus' diplomatic protection. Up until the Alps proper, he did not have to fend off any tribes. Du Chat towards the village of Aquste [74] and from there to Chevelu, [75] to the pass by Mt.

There he found that the passes were fortified by the Allobroges. He sent out spies to ascertain if there was any weakness in their disposition. These spies found that the barbarians only maintained their position at the camp during the day, and left their fortified position at night. In order to make the Allobroges believe that he did not deem a night assault prudent, he ordered that as many camp-fires be lit as possible, in order to induce them into believing that he was settling down before their encampment along the mountains.

However, once they left their fortifications, he led his best troops up to their fortifications and seized control of the pass. This overhang was an excellent place from which to attack an enemy while it was marching in column through the pass. More baggage animals were lost in the confusion of the Barbarian attack, and they rolled off of the precipices to their deaths. However, Hannibal, at the head of the same elite corps that he led to take the overhang, led them against these determined barbarians. Virtually all of these barbarians died in the ensuing combat, as they were fighting with their backs to a steep precipice, trying to throw their arrows and darts uphill at the advancing Carthaginians.

Hannibal marched his army to modern Chambery and took their city easily, stripping it of all its horses, captives, beasts of burden and corn. In addition, there were enough supplies for three days' rations for the army. This must have been welcome considering that no small portion of their supplies had been lost when the pack animals had fallen over the precipice in the course of the previous action. He then ordered this town to be destroyed, in order to demonstrate to the Barbarians of this country what would happen if they opposed him in the same fashion as this tribe had.

He encamped there to give his men time to rest after their exhausting work, and to collect further rations. Hannibal then addressed his army, and we are informed that they were made to appreciate the extent of the effort they were about to undergo and were raised to good spirits in spite of the difficult nature of their undertaking. The Carthaginians continued their march and at modern Albertville they encountered the Centrones , who brought gifts and cattle for the troops. In addition, they brought hostages in order to convince Hannibal of their commitment to his cause.

Some military critics, notably Napoleon , [81] challenge that this was actually the place where the ambush took place, but the valley through which the Carthaginians were marching was the only one that could sustain a population that was capable of attacking the Carthaginian army and simultaneously sustaining the Carthaginians on their march. The Centrones waited to attack, first allowing half of the army to move through the pass.

Centrones forces had positioned themselves on the slopes parallel to Hannibal's army and used this higher ground to roll boulders and rain rocks down at the Carthaginian army, killing many more pack animals. Confusion reigned in the ranks caught in the pass. However, Hannibal's heavily armed rearguard held back from entering the pass, [82] forcing the Barbarians to descend to fight. The rearguard was thus able to hold off the attackers, before Hannibal and the half of his army not separated from him were forced to spend the night near a large white rock, which Polybius writes "afforded them protection" [83] and is described by William Brockedon , who investigated Hannibal's route through the Alps, as being a "vast mass of gypsum The army rested here for two days.

It was the end of October and snowy weather, the length of the campaign, ferocity of the fighting, and the loss of animals sapped morale in the army's ranks; [85] From their outset in Iberia, the Hannibal's troops had been marching for over five months and the army had greatly reduced in size. The majority of Hannibal's fighters were unaccustomed to extreme cold of the high Alps, being mostly from Africa and Iberia.

In this account he is said to have gestured to the view Italy, showing his soldiers the Po Valley and the plains near it, and to have reminded them of Magilus, who had assured him of Gallic friendship and aid. However, the Po Valley is not visible from Little St Bernard Pass [88] and it is more likely that Hannibal pointed in the direction of the Po Valley but it was not in sight. After the two days of rest, Hannibal ordered the descent from the Alps to begin. Historians are not certain which pass Hannibal took over the Alps. Proposals have been made for the following passes: The snow on the Southern side of the Alps melts and thaws to a greater or lesser extent during the course of the day, and then refreezes at night.

At an early point in their descent, the army came upon a section of the path that had been blocked by a landslide. They made some headway, at the cost of no small portion of the baggage animals that were left, before Hannibal came to appreciate that this route was impossible for an army. Hannibal marched his men back to the point in their path prior to their detour, near the broken stretch of the path and set up camp.

From here, Hannibal ordered his men to set about fixing the mule path. Working in relays, the army set about this labour-intensive task under the eyes of Hannibal, who was constantly encouraging them. Both the sick and the healthy were put to this.


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However, Hannibal's remaining elephants, which were completely famished, were still unable to proceed along the path. Hannibal's Numidian cavalry carried on working on the road, taking three more days to fix it sufficiently to allow the elephants to cross.

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Hannibal then focused on, according to Polybius, "[the] best means of reviving the spirits of his troops and restoring the men and horses to their former vigour and condition" [96] Hannibal ordered his men to encamp, at a point which is near modern Ivrea. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Battle of Rhone Crossing. History of the art of war. The rise of the Roman Empire Reprint. The history of Rome Digitally printed version ed.

Hannibal's crossing of the Alps

Illustrations of the passes of the Alps, by which Italy Communicates, Volume 1. Retrieved April 5, Retrieved 17 October Military history of ancient Rome. Retrieved from " https: False God of Rome. As Dust to the Wind. Sacrifice 5 in the Invader Novella Series. Marching With Caesar-Final Campaign. The Eagle Has Fallen.

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