Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/125

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BATTLE OF THE METAURUS. 119


to secure it. He placed his elephants in advance of his centre and right wing. He had caused the driver of each of them to be provided with a sharp iron spike and a mallet, and had given orders that every beast that became unmanageable, and ran back upon his own ranks, should be instantly killed, by driving the spike into the vertebra at the junction of the head and the spine. Hasdrubal's elephants were ten in number. We have no trust-worthy information as to the amount of his infantry, but it is quite clear that he was greatly outnumbered by the combined Roman forces.

The tactic of the Roman legions had not yet acquired that perfection which it received from the military genius of Marius,* and which we read of in the first chapter of Gibbon. We possess, in that great work, an account of the Roman legions at the end of the commonwealth, and during the early ages of the empire, which those alone can adequately admire who have attempted a similar description. We have also, in the sixth and seventeenth books of Polybius, an elaborate discussion on the military system of the Romans in his time, which was not far distant from the time of the battle of the Metaurus. But the subject is beset with difficulties; and instead of entering into minute but inconclusive details, I would refer to Gibbon's first chapter as serving for a general description of the Roman army in its period of perfection, and remark, that the training and armor which the whole legion received in the time of Augustus was, two centuries earlier, only partially introduced. Two divisions of troops, called Hastati and Principes, formed the bulk of each Roman legion in the second Punic war. Each of these divisions was twelve hundred strong. The Hastatus and the Princeps legionary bore a breast-plate or coat of mail, brazen greaves, and a brazen helmet, with a lofty upright crest of scarlet or black feathers. He had a large oblong shield; and, as weapons of offense, two javelins, one of which was light and slender, but the other was a strong and massive weapon, with a shaft about four feet long, and an iron head of equal length. The sword was carried on the right thigh, and was a short out-and-thrust weapon, like that which was used by the Spaniards. Thus armed, the Hastati formed

  • Most probably during the period of his prolonged consulship, from

B.C. 104 to B.C. 101, while he was training his army against the Cimbri and the Teutons.