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Cannae (216 BC)
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Finally aware of the true threat posed by Hannibal, the Romans assembled a truly large army, perhaps up to 80,000 strong, lead by two consuls and two pro-consuls. When both consuls were present, Roman tradition was for them to alternate overall command from one day to the next. Unfortunately, on the day of battle, the incompetent consul Varrus held command and determined to attack Hannibal, who had posted his army in a location that negated the Roman advantage in numbers - bluffs on one flank and the Aufidus river on the other. Undeterred, Varrus simply packed his legions one behind the other into the constricted area and launched the mass headlong at the Carthaginian center. They advanced into yet another trap. Hannibal had deployed his excellent cavalry and heavy infantry on the wings, leaving his medium infantry and Celt levies in the center. The Roman advance did indeed push the Carthaginian center back and inflicted losses, but in the meantime the Carthaginian cavalry had routed the Roman cavalry on both flanks and closed in on the rear of the Roman army while the heavy infantry advanced on both Roman flanks. Surrounded and unable to maneuver, the Roman soldiers were slaughtered by the thousands and the army was destroyed. Cannae was Rome's greatest military defeat and Hannibal's greatest victory.
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a key engagement of the Second Punic War between the Roman Republic and Carthage, fought on 2 August 216 BC near the ancient village of Cannae in Apulia, southeast Italy. The Carthaginians and their allies, led by Hannibal, surrounded and practically annihilated a larger Roman and Italian army under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and one of the worst defeats in Roman history.
Introduction to Wikipedia Article
Wikipedia: Battle of Cannae
Second Punic War