The history of the Battle of Beneventum
The Battle of Beneventum was a major combat that shaped the Roman history. The battle was fought at 214 BC near what is known today as Benevento. This was a time when the Second Punic War was also taking place. During the battle, Roman legions, under the command of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus got the victory, trouncing Hanno’s Carthaginian forces. This was part of a Roman campaign to extend its territory and influence. With the Beneventum victory, the mission to subdue the Southern Italian cities was on. These cities had supported Hannibal following the Battle of Cannae. With this strategy, the Romans were determined to cut off possible reinforcement for Hannibal.
Background of the Battle of Beneventum
Hannibal was ready to launch an assault on Nola, a city in Campania. However, to do this, he had to get weaponry and forces from Hanno, his lieutenant. These included 1,200 Numidian horsemen together with 17,000 Bruttians and Lucanians. Hanno was acting in response to a previous occasion order to unite the southern cities of Magna Graecia and form a rebellious alliance against as Rome. Besides this, he had already recruited fresh soldiers ready for the battle of Beneventum. Even though there were alternative routes for the lieutenant to use and join forces with Hannibal for reinforcement, he instructed him to march to Campania through Beneventum.
As Hannibal ordered more forces to converge at Beneventum, the enemies were also preparing for the war. Consul Fabius had called Gracchus from Lucercia, where he had spent the winter that year. The Q. Fabius Maximus, Fabius’ son replaced Gracchus at Lucercia as the commander of the force. Maximus was to serve as a consul the following year. Fabius wanted the support of Gracchus at Beneventum with the hope of ousting Hannibal in Campania, even though he had unsuccessfully tried this in 215 BC. In addition, the ploy was to ensure that no reinforcements reach him, though there was no evidence that reinforcements were coming.
Preliminaries of the battle
Even though Hanno and Gracchus arrived at the city almost at the same time, Gracchus was able to capture the city because of the absence of a Roman military camp within it. The two camped a few miles outside the city. During this period, the Senate informed Gracchus that the slaves in the battlefield would receive their freedom if they won the battle at Beneventum.
With these orders and thorough preparation, the armies were ready for the fight, lining up in fashion that matched the day. However, the Roman forces were many and formed a longer queue than the Carthaginians. The Roman cavalry and the allied cavalry positioned themselves for the battle, according to the orders of their commanders.
Events during the Battle of Beneventum
The stage was set for a bloody and fierce battle. Gracchus’ order turned out to be the downfall of the Romans. They beheaded the slain and dragged them around the battlefield. This hampered them down in the process. During this time, he gave a decree stating that no one would be freed unless they defeat the enemy completely. At this point, Gracchus ordered his men to attack Hanno’s flanks at the Numidian cavalry. Gracchus gave more orders, challenging the slaves to defeat the enemy as soon as possible or else forget forego their freedom. This was so motivating that the slave legions gave their all, forcing the Carthaginian army to pull back, before the legionnaires themselves followed them. However, on returning to the camp, they met some of their Roman prisoners armed. They later destroyed the Carthaginian reinforcements.
The aftermath of the Battle of Beneventum
The battle of Beneventum had huge impact, resulting into complete destruction of Hanno’s army. Besides, he lost the control of his camp to the enemies with less than 2,000 of his men surviving the onslaught. The Romans lost over 2,000 men in the battle. Despite Gracchus’ win, 4,000 of his men were not happy.
Following the victory at Beneventum, Gracchus proceeded to Lucania with the aim of preventing Hanno from raising an army and marching to Hannibal. He succeeded by pushing Hanno in Bruttium.
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