About Trebbia Battlefield

Trebbia Battlefield marks the location of the Battle of Trebbia, the first significant clash of the Second Punic War. Fought in 218 BC, it was a resounding defeat for the Roman armies under the consuls Scipio and Longus and a major victory for the great Carthaginian general Hannibal.

A resounding defeat for Rome, the Battle of Trebbia was the first real example of Hannibal’s ingenuity. Hannibal took advantage of the impetuous nature of the Roman consul Longus and drew him into a battle he had little chance to win. At first light, the Carthaginian general sent his Numidian cavalry in to action to harass the Roman camp and lure them out. Longus eagerly complied and sent his men across the swollen and freezing river towards the Carthaginian army. The Romans were now cold, wet and hungry (they hadn’t even had breakfast) and for these reasons they were perhaps beaten before they had even started to fight. They were so cold in fact, that they had trouble drawing their weapons when they reached the other side of the river after wading through its freezing rapids.

Waiting for the Romans on the other bank the Carthaginians were fresh, had breakfasted and had kept warm around their campfires. They had already gained the upper hand in the early engagements before Hannibal’s brother, Mago, sprung from his hiding spot - “a manouevre which threw the whole Roman army into confusion and dismay” (Polyibus III.74) and all was lost for the Romans.

The river is little more than a stream now, but the area is very atmospheric. A lovely green valley extends upriver - it so captivated Ernst Hemingway when he was here during World War II that the local sparkling water quotes him as describing it as ‘the most beautiful valley in the world.’

The exact location of Trebbia Battlefield on the river is not known, however it is thought to be somewhere north of Rivergaro. There are however numerous references to Hannibal and his passing including a Hannibal winery! A war elephant also stands as monument to the battle at the co-ordinates marked.

Contributed by Sam Wood, Ride and Seek Historical Bike Tours

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