Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/128

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

122 BATTLE OF THE METAURUS.


gallant host which he had led, and to gratify, as a captive, Roman cruelty and pride, spurred his horse into the midst of a Roman cohort, and, sword in hand, met the death that was worthy of the son of Hamilcar and the brother of Hannibal.

Success the most complete had crowned Nero's enterprise. Returning as rapidly as he had advanced, he was again facing the inactive enemies in the south before they even knew of his march. But he brought with him a ghastly trophy of what he had done. In the true spirit of that savage brutality which deformed the Roman national character, Nero ordered Hasdrubal's head to be flung into his brother's camp. Ten years had passed since Hannibal had last gazed on those features. The sons of Hamilcar had then planned their system of warfare against Rome, which they had so nearly brought to successful accomplishment. Year after year had Hannibal been struggling in Italy, in the hope of one day hailing the arrival of him whom he had left in Spain, and of seeing his brother's eye flash with affection and pride at the junction of their irresistible hosts. He now saw that eye glazed in death, and in the agony of his heart the great Carthaginian groaned aloud that he recognised his country's destiny.

Meanwhile, at the tidings of the great battle, Rome at once rose from the thrill of anxiety and terror to the full confidence of triumph. Hannibal might retain his hold on Southern Italy for a few years longer, but the imperial city and her allies were no longer in danger from his arms; and, after Hannibal's downfall, the great military republic of the ancient world met in her career of conquest no other worthy competitor. Byron has termed Nero's march "unequaled," and, in the magnitude of its consequences, it is so. Viewed only as a military exploit, it remains unparalleled save by Marlborough's bold march from Flanders to the Danube in the campaign of Blenheim, and perhaps also by the Archduke Charles's lateral march in 1796, by which he overwhelmed the French under Jourdain, and then, driving Moreau through the Black Forest and across the Rhine, for a while freed Germany from her invaders.