Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/551

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CANTO IV.]
507
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

all the different corps in ambush looked towards the hill of Torre for the order of attack. Hannibal gave the signal, and moved down from his post on the height. At the same moment all his troops on the eminences behind and in the flank of Flaminius rushed forwards as it were with one accord into the plain. The Romans, who were forming their array in the mist, suddenly heard the shouts of the enemy amongst them on every side, and before they could fall into their ranks, or draw their swords, or see by whom they were attacked, felt at once that they were surrounded and lost.

There are two little rivulets which run from the Gualandra into the lake. The traveller crosses the first of these at about a mile after he comes into the plain, and this divides the Tuscan from the Papal territories. The second, about a quarter of a mile further on, is called "the bloody rivulet;" and the peasants point out an open spot to the left between the "Sanguinetto" and the hills, which, they say, was the principal scene of slaughter. The other part of the plain is covered with thick-set olive-trees in corn grounds, and is nowhere quite level, except near the edge of the lake. It is, indeed, most probable that the battle was fought near this end of the valley, for the six thousand Romans, who, at the beginning of the action, broke through the enemy, escaped to the summit of an eminence which must have been in this quarter, otherwise they would have had to traverse the whole plain, and to pierce through the main army of Hannibal.

The Romans fought desperately for three hours; but the death of Flaminius was the signal for a general dispersion. The Carthaginian horse then burst in upon the fugitives, and the lake, the marsh about Borghetto, but chiefly the plain of the Sanguinetto and the passes of the Gualandra, were strewed with dead. Near some old walls on a bleak ridge to the left above the rivulet, many human bones have been repeatedly found, and this has confirmed the pretensions and the name of the "stream of blood."

Every district of Italy has its hero. In the north some painter is the usual genius of the place, and the foreign Julio Romano more than divides Mantua with her native Virgil.[1] To the south we hear of Roman names. Near Thrasimene tradition is still faithful to the fame of an enemy, and Hannibal

  1. About the middle of the twelfth century the coins of Mantua bore on one side the image and figure of Virgil. Zecca d' Italia, iii. pl. xvii. i. 6. Voyage dans le Milanais, etc., par A. L. Millin, ii. 294. Paris, 1817.