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This Week In History

The Battle of Trebia. December 18, 218 BC.

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The Battle of Trebia was the first important battle of the Second Punic War between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Roman Republic, fought around the winter solstice. It was a huge defeat for the Roman Republic, and in spite the heavy losses, around 10.000 soldiers, over two legions, survived on the field and retreated to Placentia.

Hannibal´s opposing general, the consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus acted too impetuously and allowed himself to be provoked into frontal assault and failed to see that he was being led to a trap, named Mago´s ambush, after Hannibal´s brother, Mago, that commanded a detachment of 1,100 infantry and 1,100 cavalry concealed in the underbrush of the Trebia River under the cover of night.

Theodore Ayrault Dodge, a military historian, wrote of the battle:

The day was raw; snow was falling; the troops had not yet eaten their morning meal; yet, though they had been under arms for several hours, he pushed them across the fords of the Trebia, with the water breast-high and icy-cold. Arrived on the farther side, the Roman soldiers were so chilled that they could scarcely hold their weapons. Hannibal was ready to receive them. His men had eaten, rubbed themselves with oil before their camp-fires, and prepared their weapons. He might have attacked the Roman army when half of it was across, with even greater chances of success. But when he saw his ruse succeeding, he bethought him that he could produce a vastly greater moral effect on the new Gallic allies, as well as win a more decisive victory, by engaging the whole army on his own terms.

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