Battle of Ager Falernus ⚔️ Hannibal (Part 8) ⚔️ Second Punic War

It’s late in the year 217 BC. Destroyed towns and burned farmland stretch as far as the eye can see..

It’s late in the year 217 BC. Destroyed towns and burned farmland stretch
as far as the eye can see. Hannibal had plundered the Ager Falernus valley,
perhaps the richest region in all of Rome. But he is now surrounded and trapped by a
more numerous Roman army, led by a general who seems to know all about his old tricks. With cold weather approaching, the Carthaginian
general is running out of time… It’s summer, 217 BC. Having decided not to march on Rome, Hannibal
went back across the Apennine Mountains. He ordered that all military-aged Roman males
that were encountered on the march, were to be killed. But the Carthaginian general had reasons to
worry. His army fought in three battles without ever fully recovering from the crossing of the Alps. And by now, the men showed signs of scurvy and the horses of mange, both caused by vitamin deficiency. After ten days the Carthaginian army reached
the Adriatic Sea. Hannibal allowed the men to recover through
eating the plentiful produce gathered from this rich area. The horses were bathed in the sour wine, which had been captured in great quantities, to restore the condition of their coats. Meanwhile, Publius Cornelius Scipio was sent
as pro-consul to Iberia with reinforcements of some 30 new ships, 8000 troops and fresh
supplies. What persuaded the senate to divert such valuable
resources to Iberia at a time when Hannibal was on a path of destruction in Italy, was
their desire to prevent reinforcements from reaching Hannibal by land, but more importantly
it was the senate’s determination upon a long-term Roman involvement in Iberia, made
possible by Gnaeus’ success on the battlefield at Tarraco and Ebro, as well as his flexible
diplomatic methods through which he forged treaties of neutrality and alliances that
brought many Iberian tribes to the Roman side. It is Gnaeus’ ability to act autonomously
without waiting for directives from Rome that gave the senate a strategic advantage half-way
across the Mediterranean, where they could otherwise exert no direct control. The senate felt assured that by supporting
the Scipio brothers in Iberia, Rome would have good prospects for fighting the Carthaginians
in their own back yard. Back in Italy, with the army restored to health,
Hannibal continued advancing down the coast. He sent a message by sea to Carthage, reporting
on the situation in Italy. Carthaginian Senate expressed delight with
his progress and promised aid to support his campaign. Meanwhile, the appointed dictator Quintus
Fabius Maximus took command of Geminus’ remaining four legions and went after Hannibal. Replacement of the terrible losses at Lake
Trasimene required an emergency levy of two additional legions, which brought the dictator’s
army to around 40,000 including allies. It is possible that some of the new recruits
were very young and older men, originally intended for Rome’s city garrison, with
some in the process of being trained while on the march. Fabius was a man in his late 50’s, rather
old by the standards of Roman generals, but he was a proven commander. Having been awarded a triumph for his victory
over the Ligurians during his consulship in 233 BC, he also held the position of censor
in 230, and was elected consul again in 228. Now as dictator he was yet to reveal his plan
on how he will deal with Hannibal. So far he had been advancing cautiously, carefully
scouting ahead to give himself plenty of warning of the enemy’s presence. Meanwhile, Hannibal pillaged and burned his
way down the coast, accumulating vast quantities of grain, cattle and other produce. His plan was to reach southern Italy where
he expected to sway some of Rome’s allies to join him. The two commanders met for the first time
in northern Apulia, encamping just 10km apart. Hannibal immediately offered battle outside
the Roman camp. But no response came from Fabius. The Carthaginian general waited long enough
to impress his own men with the enemy’s timidity, before leading the army back into
camp. The following morning, Hannibal continued
the march, ravaging the countryside as he went, in an attempt to goad Fabius into battle. He provokingly went past the Roman army back
into the Appenine mountains… But the Roman dictator merely followed the
enemy and apparently had no intention of risking a battle under any circumstances. This was certainly wise, as nearly half of
his army was made up of raw recruits and some of the men were in awe of Hannibal who had defeated the Roman armies on three occasions that year. But Fabius’ strategy wasn’t too popular
in Rome. Notwithstanding the disasters at the Trebia
and Trasimene, powerful elements of the Roman senate still believed that Hannibal could
be defeated in a pitched battle. Although he was appointed dictator, the senate
restricted Fabius’ freedom of action by denying him the right to choose his own second
in command. Instead, they foisted upon him Marcus Minucius
Rufus, a former consul. Nevertheless, as Hannibal continued across
the Appenines, Fabius shadowed him. The hilly country favored the Romans, allowing
Fabius to stick to the high ground and only encamp in positions that Hannibal would never
risk attacking. The dictator’s plan was to deprive the enemy
of food supplies by launching small scale attacks on Carthaginian foraging parties,
not inflicting many casualties, but making it difficult for them to gather food and fodder. But he would never risk a direct confrontation. Fabius also instructed inhabitants of surrounding
villages to take with them all of the animals and food that they can, before destroying
and burning everything that’s left behind, and seek refuge in fortified towns. This tactic, which would later become known
as the “Fabian strategy”, served not only to deplete Hannibal’s forces, but also to
gradually rebuild Roman military confidence. Hannibal understood that he needed to force
an open battle in order to exploit the tactical superiority of his own army and prevent the
situation from developing into an exhausting war of attrition that he cannot sustain. He clearly appreciated the implications to
his war effort if Fabius would continue with this new strategy. But the cunning Carthaginian general had a
plan… Fabius showed great skill to keep close to
the enemy without giving him an opportunity to fight, but by the time Hannibal passed
the walled city of Beneventum, the Roman army had fallen two days’ march behind. The Carthaginian general planned to enter
Campania and devastate Ager Falernus, perhaps the richest area in Rome, famous for its’
exquisite wines and fertile land that made it the bread basket of the Republic. He felt that threatening such a prominent
area, inhabited by Roman citizens, would either provoke Fabius into giving battle or demonstrate
at last Rome’s weakness, which would hopefully Capua, Rome’s second largest city, along
with other cities, switch sides. Upon entering the valley, Hannibal unleashed
his troops, ordering them to strip the region of supplies and then burn all that remained. Immense amount of valuables were taken, as
well as vast quantities of supplies and cattle. While Fabius’ strategy was already unpopular,
now his political power began crumbling as quickly as the burning rich estates and villas. But even when urged to seek battle by an angry
Minucius, as well as other officers and displeased troops, the under-pressure Fabius would have
none of it. Even though the Ager Falernus was burning,
it was not enough to bring him down from the hills to challenge the Carthaginians. It seems that Hannibal was the only one who understood the implications of Fabius’ plan… Hannibal failed to provoke an open battle and despite
the vast plunder that was taken, it was clear that he could not winter in the valley, as
it couldn’t sustain his army until spring. He needed to establish a base where his army could winter and enjoy the spoils of its’ raiding. Several points led out from the valley. But Fabius had already strengthened the garrisons
on the river to the south and placed small contingents on the eastern and western ends
of the valley. Trying to force his way through any of these
fortified points would be dangerous for Hannibal and his plan was to come back the way he came,
where he already knew the lay of the land. But the Roman dictator stationed 4,000 legionaries
on higher ground that would block the pass through which Hannibal intended to exit, and
he encamped with the rest of the army on the hillside further west from where he could
attack the Carthaginian rear once they tried to march out of the valley. Hannibal knew he was hemmed in and that once
his supplies dwindled he would be forced to launch a direct attack against fortified Roman
positions on unfavorable terrain where his cavalry would be unusable. And the longer he waited, the worse his situation
would become. So he began making preparations. Finally, a few weeks into the stalemate Hannibal
ordered the troops to eat a hearty supper and go to bed early to get as much rest as
possible for the night ahead… As all activities in the three camps quieted
down, the guards remained on their posts, and the campfires lit up the night sky. It seemed like another uneventful day had
ended. But about an hour before daybreak a mass of
torches appeared, heading across a small ridge in front of the pass. It seemed that Hannibal decided to force his
way out after all. Thinking that they were being outflanked,
the 4,000 Roman troops holding the pass left their position to block the enemy’s movement. Little did they know that the column of torches
weren’t enemy soldiers, but thousands of captured oxen with burning branches tied to
their horns, guided by Carthaginian camp followers. Upon reaching the milling animals, the legionaries
halted in confusion. Then, out from the darkness came about 2000
Iberian javelinmen. Although outnumbered 2:1, they were more nimble
than the heavily armored Romans and much more accustomed to fighting in the rugged terrain. As the fighting raged on the ridge, Hannibal
was already moving with the rest of the army, in total silence… He planned to flank the Roman contingent through
a very narrow passage that was now left unguarded. Fabius saw the torchlight and heard the noise
of the fighting, but refused to move from his camp in the darkness, despite the urgings
of his officers and Minucius in particular. Given the problems of fighting a night battle
and the relative inexperience of his soldiers, Fabius probably made the correct decision. He had no way of knowing whether or not Hannibal
was setting up another trap and it is questionable whether the Romans would have been able to
locate and intercept the enemy in time. Hannibal was able to ascend the
pass and escape with his army and plunder intact. As daylight broke the Carthaginian general
reacted quicker than his opponent, sending a force of Iberian infantry from the rear
of the column, to support the embattled and outnumbered troops on the ridge. The lightly armed and agile infantry managed
to not only relieve the javelin-men, but inflicted heavy losses on the Roman contingent. The way in which Hannibal
extricated his army from a seemingly hopeless situation became a classic of ancient generalship,
finding its’ way into nearly every historical narrative of the war and being used by later
military manuals. Fabius had been humiliated for allowing his
enemy to escape. Even before Ager Falernus, many in Rome and within the army resented the dictator’s passive strategy. But while Fabius’ political reputation suffered,
his troops actually gained valuable experience under his leadership. More importantly, he prevented Hannibal from
potentially destroying another Roman army, which would’ve undoubtedly persuaded many
of Rome’s allies to defect. And now he was following Hannibal back across
the Apennines. The two commanders would meet again…

100 thoughts on “Battle of Ager Falernus ⚔️ Hannibal (Part 8) ⚔️ Second Punic War”

  1. If you want to begin learning how to make awesome maps, head to and look for "Fantasy Maps in Photoshop" – Skillshare is giving away a free 2-month, unlimited access trial to my subscribers who click the link, allowing you to access awesome classes about map making and animation, and after the trial is up it’s only around $10 a month.

  2. OMG! Hurray, I just watched the Second Punic War playlist yesterday and thought the private video at the end was Episode 8, but alas no! I love your videos so much thanks History Marche 😀

  3. You can use the same music like epic history does if you want to. I dont know the music but if you can find out and put it into your videos it would be great. Heres a link to a video of his:

  4. Hannibal is the greatest general of all time, its sad we didn't learn about him like we did about rome and their emperors in school

  5. Rome's guide for becoming a huge empire: Lose battles til breaking point, than appoint a clever general that wins the war for you.

  6. An interesting detail to this story: When Hannibal had his army plunder Rome's breadbasket, he instructed them to leave the lands of Fabius alone. This started the rumour in Rome that Fabius had been bribed by Hannibal to not attack him.

  7. What is the need to provoke when you want a battle? If you want a battle, why be passive aggressive about it? Just attack

  8. Like a Chess game between 2 masters … here was a stalemate , Hannibal propose a new game for Fabius ,he accepted despite he was not so happy ,was so close to a victory

  9. This is now getting way more interesting, would love to know what made Rome get the upper hand, other than the failure to commit to invading Rome that is.

  10. One reason I like this series more than any other on YouTube is how much it emphasises the difficulty and importance of logistics of an army. Whereas most other history battle based channels mainly cover how the individual battles played out due to the tactics and leadership, HM continuously references the significance of food, sickness and manpower of Hannibal’s army, which played a key role in his decision making.

  11. finally a Hannibal video was waiting for this for more then 8 months gave it a like before it even loaded. Great work as usual

  12. Amazing work, love this channel, great episode, sexy voice lol, BUT can you please tell me what the backround music is, the ''ahhh ahhh'' part is stuck in my mind!! 😛

  13. Another great video. Its great to see a nice detailed break down with clear, yet epic, narration. Its fascinating to see the two generals realizing when its more beneficial to avoid a major battle. I do look forward to seeing the next episodes. This series is what brought me to your channel in the first place!

  14. Yes it was well worth the wait. 😉 Great story – I never heard this one before, and still Cannae, Zama and Exile to go, very exciting.

  15. Just when I thought that Hannibal would be finished off at Ager Falernus, he pulls off another brilliant military strategy. He really is a genius. But I am also impressed by Fabius's patience. His approach to Hannibal was different from the other Roman generals and he nearly won.

  16. HistoryMarche, I have been looking for the music you've used at moments like 1:25 for months. Could you please cite the track? Keep up the great work, I'll recommend your videos to pupils who want to learn more than regular classes on ancient history have to offer.

  17. how do you find all this cool battle detail information ? I would like to read into them too but I don't know what to seek

  18. I really think you should consider turning some of these into podcasts. This is incredible content and I wish I could listen in the car on the way to work. Thank you for all the effort you put into these

  19. I have been enjoying these videos, although so far little of this is new to me but I love the way you tell it. Hannibal is probably my favorite general in history, not just for the extraordinary tactical ability but his understanding of human nature and spirit. The charisma and linguistics must have been superlative as well as his many diplomatic encounters shows. He is endlessly fascinating and I look forward to the rest of these

  20. Make a video on the Anglo – Mysore Wars between Britain (East India Company) and Mysore (A small Kingdom); during this time Britain had amassed much control of the Indian-Subcontinent with the only resistance coming from the small state of Mysore which held very well for a very long time inflicting major losses to Britain on numerous occasions despite being a small state. This was Britain's toughest opposition in the land by a Muslim ruler named Haider Ali and his son that succeeded him Tipu Sultan also known as the Tiger of Mysore, Son continuing the war his father began.

    Mysorean Kingdom was far ahead of its time, with Tipu Sultan adopting European front type armies with guns and uniform (which was unusual for other armies/ kingdoms of the time; that were still adopting medieval tactics) to counter resistance as well as implementing the first ever recorded artillery projectile (rockets) and some also say he was the founder/inventor of the modern rocket where he wrote a strategy manual of the use of rocket projectiles and formations.

    His kingdom was also very wealthy and advanced; in terms of taxation, economy, he also made contact with France (Napoleon) and the newly formed USA (very ahead of his time compared to his fellow rulers around him at the time) of the time in order to gather support against the British; when his father was in charge before him and defeated the British in one of the wars; the American armies even named one of their ships SS Haider Ally in order to antagonise the British due to the inflict he had caused them in one of their losses. He also was allowed to mint his coins under his name as a sultan after getting permission from the Turkish Sultan whom he also went to seek support from.

  21. Yes but what happend to that 4000 roman contingency fighting the javelin men? Were they defeated or Fabius reinforced them after Annibal left?

  22. I've been hooked on to this channel ever since you posted the Battle of Yarmouk.

    You teach more in a video than my history teacher would in an entire semester.

    Could you PLEASE do a video about the islamic general Tarik Ibn Ziyad. The islamic conquest of Spain.

    It is truly an amazing battle, where Tariq landed at Gibraltar (translated from Jibl Tariq, meaning Tarik's mountain).
    He landed with 7000 men and ordered for the ships to be burnt, leaving no way back to North Africa for his army.

    His famous speech "the sea is behind you and the enemy is in front of you".

    Truly a historic moment.

  23. Probably Caesar is the greatest if you compare him to Alexander or Hannibal. But man, when you watch such a video about Hannibal's resourcefulness you can't refrain from standing in awe.

  24. @HistoryMarche, once again, you cost me my fingernails and a not a small bit of nerves, reliving and refreshing my already good memory of Hannibal's antics, genius and brilliance.
    You do the man an honor, and you yourself make such a class act narrative and story-telling, that he himself would have probably listened to you like a little child at a campfire.
    Mesmerising work! And a lovely New Year present!

  25. Fabius did everything he could do, and did it correctly. Hannibal still managed a nigh-impossible maneuver.

    Truly, Hannibal is the master of going where you don't think he's going to go.

  26. I'm looking forward to the next episode more than the new Witcher series! You all do awesome work in animations, map design, research, audio, and narration. Very high quality and educational!

  27. Thank you so much for putting this quality series out.

    I watched all eight parts in one go. High school and college history classes pointed towards Hannibal's genius, but I never knew that Hannibal was magnitudes above in tactical thinking than what they taught in school (that he crossed the Alps).

    I'm a longtime subscriber of your channel. I always look forward to your quality content!

  28. @History Marche you can use this Music:

  29. why these hannibal videos take so much time i wanna see mooooooreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  30. If I will see a series about Magyars on this channel I can die in peace. I am absolutely delighted by the quality and detailed explanations and graphics of campaigns made here. Thank you for this great work!

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