Battle of the Trebia

Battle of the Trebia
Part of the Second Punic War
2018 05 11 Rivalta Trebbia, mémorial bataille de la Trebbia.jpg
Modern battle memorial southwest of Piacenza
Date22 or 23 December 218 BC
Location
West bank of the lower Trebia River, in modern north Italy
45°3′0″N 9°36′0″E / 45.05000°N 9.60000°E / 45.05000; 9.60000Coordinates: 45°3′0″N 9°36′0″E / 45.05000°N 9.60000°E / 45.05000; 9.60000
Result Carthaginian victory
Belligerents
Roman Republic Carthage
Commanders and leaders
Ti. Sempronius Longus Hannibal
Strength
40,000 men
• 16,000 Roman infantry
• 20,000 Italian allied infantry
• 4,000 cavalry
40,000 men
• 21,000 African or Iberian infantry
• 8,000 Gallic infantry
• 11,000 cavalry
Up to 37 war elephants
Casualties and losses
Heavy; see Casualties • Several thousand infantry
• Small number of cavalry
• Most elephants
Battle of the Trebia is located in Northern Italy
Battle of the Trebia
Approximate location of the battle, shown on a map on modern north Italy

The Battle of the Trebia (or Trebbia) was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and a Roman army under Sempronius Longus on 22 or 23 December 218 BC. It took place on the flood plain of the west bank of the lower Trebia River, not far from the settlement of Placentia (modern Piacenza), and resulted in a heavy defeat for the Romans.

War broke out between Carthage and Rome in 218 BC. The leading Carthaginian general, Hannibal, responded by leading a large army out of Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal), through Gaul, across the Alps and into Cisalpine Gaul (modern northern Italy). The Romans went on the attack against the reduced force which had survived the rigours of the march and Publius Scipio personally led the cavalry and light infantry of the army he commanded against the Carthaginian cavalry at the Battle of Ticinus. He was soundly beaten and personally wounded. The Romans retreated to near Placentia, fortified their camp and awaited reinforcement. The Roman army in Sicily under Sempronius was redeployed to the north and joined with Scipio's force. After a day of heavy skirmishing in which the Romans gained the upper hand, Sempronius was eager for a battle.

Numidian cavalry lured Sempronius out of his camp and onto ground of Hannibal's choosing. Fresh Carthaginian cavalry routed the outnumbered Roman cavalry, and Carthaginian light infantry outflanked the Roman infantry. A previously hidden Carthaginian force attacked the Roman infantry in the rear. Most of the Roman units then collapsed and most Romans were killed or captured by the Carthaginians, but 10,000 under Sempronius maintained formation and fought their way out to the safety of Placentia. Recognising the Carthaginians as the dominant force in Cisalpine Gaul, Gallic recruits flocked to them and their army grew to 60,000. The following spring it moved south into Roman Italy and gained another victory at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. In 216 BC Hannibal moved to southern Italy and inflicted the disastrous defeat of the Battle of Cannae on the Romans, the last of what the modern historian Toni Ñaco del Hoyo describes as the three "great military calamities" suffered by the Romans in the first three years of the war.