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The Battle of Cannae

Updated on January 29, 2010

The Battle of Cannae took place in 216 B.C., in which the Carthaginians led by Hannibal defeated the Romans. It is the most perfect example in the history of warfare, of the double envelopment of an opposing army.

The Second Punic War fought between Rome and Carthage for the mastery of the ancient world began in 218 B.C. Hannibal crossed the Alps, defeated the Romans at the Ticinus and the Trebia rivers, and in 217 B.C. destroyed a Roman army at Lake Trasimene. His greatest victory occurred in 216 B.C. at Cannae near the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Hannibal with 50,000 men was confronted by an army of over 80,000 led by the consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paulus who, according to custom, commanded on alternate days. Hannibal drew up his army, making the center thinner than usual, and moved it forward, inviting attack. With Varro in command, the Romans charged deep into Hannibal's lines.

This was exactly what Hannibal had planned. Both wings closed in, enveloping the Romans. Meanwhile, Hannibal's cavalry had routed the Roman cavalry and was attacking from the rear. The entire Roman army was almost annihilated; Hannibal lost 6,000 men. It took Rome nearly a decade to recover.


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      Mohkum Shabbir 7 years ago

      Cannae for centuries have fascinated general,a single day that made Hannibal immortal.The idea of double envelopment was proven for the first time.Even today almost 2220 years after Hannibal's masterpiece it keeps on inspiring military doctrines...only Battle of Walaja (May 633 AD)is the only comparison......operation Fall Gelb (Invasion of France May 1940)follows on the same principles.