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Cannae
Hannibal

After the Battle of Lake Trasimene, the Romans appointed Quintus Fabius Maximus as Consul. He used the tactic of avoiding direct battle with Hannibal, trying to win the war of attrition. This tactic was unpopular with the Roman people, and in 216 B.C. , Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus were appointed consul and wanted to defeat Hannibal in one decisive battle. They believed that superior numbers would prevail against Hannibal. They were wrong. Dead wrong. What followed was one of the bloodiest battles in history.

Carthaginian Forces
Roman Forces
30,000 Heavy Infantry
75,000 Heavy Infantry

6,000 Light Infantry

20,000 Light Infantry

8,000 Cavalry

5,000 Cavalry

Paullus and Varro marched on Hannibal's camp, fairly certain that they would win the battle based on sheer numbers alone. They had Hannibal's army outnumbered 2 to 1. The Romans placed their troops in the standard formation of the day. The had the infantry in the middle and cavalry on the wings. They placed their infantry to where the lines were the same size as the Carthaginian lines, but with extra depth, with the hopes of breaking through the lines. Hannibal put his weakest infantry in the middle and his strongest infantry on the wings with his cavalry. When the battle started, his wings quickly defeated the Roman wings and encircled the Roman center, all the while the Carthaginian center was in a cresent shaped line, making the Romans believe that they were about to break through the lines, but the Carthaginian wings enclosed and the battle was quickly finished. The Romans lost about 40,000 with about 10,000 captured, while Hannibal lost about only 10,000.

After the battle, when the results reached Rome, they panicked. They believed that Hannibal would come for the city next, but his army was too tired and weak to push ahead. Hannibals goal for the war was not just to take Rome, the city, but the total and complete destruction of the Roman empire. Rome lost some allies to Hannibal, but not the number Hannibal expected. The Romans went back to Fabius' tactics for the rest of the war.