Battle of Lake Trasimene


The Battle of Trasimeno was one of the major war clashes of the Second Punic War, and was fought on the morning of June 21, 217 B.C. near the northwestern shores of Lake Trasimeno between the Roman army, led by Consul Gaius Flaminius Nepote, and the Carthaginian army under whose command was Hannibal Barca.

Hannibal wanted to decimate the two legions led by Flaminius, who were following him along his march into Etruria, before they rejoined those of the other consul Gnaeus Servilius Geminus. As he descended the Val di Chiana in the direction of Rome, the Carthaginian leader made his troops quicken their pace and arrived a few hours early near Lake Trasimeno: he then decided to deviate his route eastward, in the direction of Perugia, since he had identified, in a valley between the extreme slopes of the mountains of Cortona and the lake, suitable places to ambush the Roman legions. Hannibal here camped with the heavy infantry on a hill and arranged the other units on the slopes of the surrounding hills, hidden so as to surprise the Roman army on the flanks and surround it.

The Roman consul arrived near the lakeshore when the sun was about to set and was forced to set up camp and wait until the next day to resume the pursuit, unaware that the enemy camp was nearby, being separated only by the low hills of Cortona that jut out into the lake.

The next day Hannibal”s units were ready to ambush, when the Romans at dawn began to leave the camp and, having passed a narrow passage between a rocky spur and the waters of the lake, entered the fog-drenched valley, unaware of the impending danger, having sent no scouts ahead.

The Carthaginian army achieved a full victory in the field having caught most of the Roman troops still in marching order in the valley floor.

Sources report the death in battle of Consul Flaminius and considerable Roman losses, while Carthaginian losses were between 1,500 and 2,500 soldiers, including mostly in the Celtic ranks.

The rout, the death of Flaminius, and the distance from Rome of the other consul Servilius, prompted the centuriate committees to appoint Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus as dictator and master of cavalry Marcus Minucius Rufus.

In the first phase of the Second Punic War, Hannibal and his army composed of Libyans, Numids, Maures, Iberians, Celtiberians, and Balearics succeeded in the autumn of 218 B.C. in reaching the Po Valley after a long march that started from the Carthaginian possessions in Iberia. After crossing the Alps, the forces under Barcide”s command consisted of 20,000 infantrymen and 6,000 cavalry. Hannibal quickly succeeded in winning his first major battles against the Romans: first at the Ticino, then at the Trebbia. He then established his winter camps in the Po Valley. The Celtic tribes that had meanwhile allied themselves to him (Boi and Insubri being the most important) enabled him to increase his numbers by ca 20,000.

The remaining Roman armed forces, having escaped the two disastrous defeats, were moved to Cremona and Piacenza, to winter in safe havens. Meanwhile, in Rome, the councils were held that elected as consuls for the year 217 BC. Gaius Flaminius Nepote, a plebeian, and Gnaeus Servilius Geminus, a patrician. The Senate decided that the defense should move within the borders of the Republic. Deeming the Po Valley undefensible and the newly founded colonies of Piacenza and Cremona safe from Carthaginian sieges, the Senate divided the forces and assigned each of the consuls an area of action: Flaminius was to control the passes and crossings into Etruria, while Servilius was to control the Rimini area and access to the Via Flaminia. To carry out his task, each consul was to have at his disposal two “reinforced” legions (with a larger number of personnel than usual), flanked by contingents of socii, totaling ca 25,000. Seven other legions were active: two in Rome, two in Spain, two in Sicily, and one in Sardinia. Other forces had been sent to Tarentum, and set up an additional 60 quinquerems. Additional reinforcements were sent by Hieron, king of Syracuse, a historical ally of Rome, and consisted of five hundred Cretan archers and 1,000 peltasts.

Hannibal, on the other hand, intended to move the war within the borders of the Republic of Rome. The strategy Hannibal had in mind for winning the war was to detach the federated Italic populations from Rome and ally them to himself, thus increasing troops and resources at his own disposal, while decreasing those of Rome, bringing it to collapse and forcing it to surrender. Propaganda and battles won would be the tools to achieve the economic-political capitulation of the federation, destroyed internally by centrifugal forces catalyzed by Carthaginian intervention.

In the spring of 217 BC. Flaminius took over in Lucca the troops that had wintered in Piacenza under Sempronius, supplemented the ranks by enlisting new troops, and then crossed into Etruria, eventually setting up camp in Arezzo. Hannibal, seeing the growing discontent of the Celts fearful of the continuation of the war in their lands, and wanting to take the Romans by surprise, moved quickly from his winter camp located in Emilia and entered Etruria by the shortest, and at the same time inconvenient, route. Along the Bologna-Pistoia route he crossed the Apennines, probably near Passo Collina, and then reached the Arno Valley flooded by heavy rains. It took the Carthaginian army 4 days and 3 nights to cross it, leaving many animals and provisions in place. Hannibal himself lost sight in one eye due to an untreated ophthalmic infection. Hannibal”s plan had succeeded, however: he had crossed the Apennines and arrived on Etruscan soil without finding opposition. After resting his soldiers near Fiesole and inquiring about the characteristics of the region, the Roman forces, and their commander, the Barcide decided to push the Roman consul into battle before the latter could join his colleague and his armies.

Carthaginian forces therefore began to put Etruria to the sword, plundering it, to highlight Roman weaknesses, create political embarrassment for them with federated allies, and provoke the sanguine Flaminius. Hannibal tried to move him to battle by openly challenging him as he paraded with his army right at Arezzo, where the consul was camped with his troops. The latter refused the challenge, sent messengers to Servilius to warn him of the situation, and decided, against the advice of the general staff, to appease the spirits of the allies by following the Punic army at a distance. He was to avoid losing contact with the enemy army by ensuring that the Carthaginian leader could not march freely toward Rome or toward Servilius” troops, putting him in serious difficulty. The goal to be pursued was therefore to reunite the legions of the two consuls and only then give battle.

Hannibal seized the opportunity: as he proceeded through the Val di Chiana, having Cortona on his left and Lake Trasimeno on his right, he decided not to continue on the road that led to Chiusi-and thus to Rome (the future Via Cassia)-but changed direction by turning eastward, toward the Via Flaminia, and crossing a defile, a narrow passage, he entered a valley located along the northwestern shores of the lake. He considered it a suitable place for an ambush, so here he had his troops encamp and deployed them along the hills that bordered the valley, awaiting the arrival of the Roman army.Flaminius with his 2 legions reached Lake Trasimeno only in the evening and had to camp for the night in its vicinity, in an area not far from the defile.

The road through the valley initially passed through a narrow passage, ca 400 m long, caused by the proximity of the last rocky slopes of the Cortona mountains to the lake shores. Hannibal wanted to exploit to his advantage the features of these places, and of his own soldiers, as well as the enemy”s weaknesses.

Facing the road, which ran from west to east not far from the lake, Hannibal had a camp erected, open and visible, on the hill that lay across the road, and there he placed the Ibero-Libyan heavy infantry (ca 15

The next day, at first light, the Romans began to leave the camp and, through the narrows, entered elongated into the valley whose bottom was occupied by thick fog, while from the hills there was a clear view. Their march had not been anticipated by any reconnaissance of the places by scouts, and so the legionaries moved on unaware of the threats that loomed over them. The fog was a factor, however unforeseen, that played in favor of Hannibal”s plans.The Roman army, having passed the bottleneck, entered a wider valley surrounded by high, steep hills, having the lake behind them. When the Roman vanguards reached the vicinity of the hill on which the enemy heavy infantry were encamped, they became aware only of the visible threat, and began to organize, while those following were still on the march. When Hannibal believed that most of the Roman army was inside the valley he gave the signal for a simultaneous general attack.

Before long Flaminius and his soldiers realized they were surrounded, hearing the clamor coming from all sides. The Celtic infantrymen attacked the left flank of the Roman column marching along the defile, and pushed the soldiers toward the lakeshore and into it. The charging cavalry overwhelmed the Roman left flank that had passed the Malpasso, while the light infantry, bypassing the hill behind which they were concealed, closed the escape route to the Romans in the direction of the march and, making a conversion to the north, fell back on the right flank of the marching column.The legionaries were at this time mostly unprepared for battle, still in marching trim, and not ordered according to the usual hastati-princeps-triarii arrangement. The usual automatisms and organization were lacking: it was impossible to give and receive commands in total confusion, in the midst of fog. Each had to fight on his own account.

The Romans managed, despite the difficulties, to hold out for three hours until the consul, constantly attacked by enemies, while fighting valiantly trying to bring aid to his own soldiers in distress, was killed by a Celtic horseman, of the Insubri tribe, named Ducarius, who wanted to avenge the deaths and pains caused to his people by Flaminius during his first consulship.

At this point the Roman army disbanded and desperately threw themselves in every direction, seeking safety: toward the mountains and toward the lake. Many soldiers perished within the waters of Lake Trasimeno: trying to find an escape route they either found death from the cavalry posted there, or drowned dragged by the weight of their armor as they tried to swim. Some Roman soldiers killed each other so as not to fall prisoner.

Not all of the trapped Romans perished in the fray. About 6,000 of them, who made up the vanguard, managed to break through the enemy lines and climb the hills, thinking they would find more enemies, in vain. Once the fog had cleared, they saw from their high position that their comrades in the sub valley had been wiped out. The 6,000 then headed, as fast as they could, for an Etruscan village that was nearby and reached it. The next day they were attacked by Carthaginian light infantry led by Maarbale and surrendered, given the difficulties they were in, on a promise that their lives would be saved. Hannibal decided to confirm the promise made by his subordinate to the Italics, in order to gain the trust of these populations, and held the Roman citizens as prisoners.

According to Livy on the battlefield there were 15,000 Roman soldiers killed and taken prisoners, while 10,000 survivors returned to Rome in a hurry. The Carthaginians had 2,500 fallen, to which were added further losses among the wounded. Hannibal had Flaminius” body searched for but was not found. According to Polybius 15,000 Roman soldiers were taken prisoner and as many were killed. The number of Carthaginian soldiers who fell stood at 1,500 men, mostly among the Celtic ranks.

Hannibal is the undisputed protagonist of the Battle of Trasimeno, as of the entire Second Punic War. He is considered by modern historiography to be one of the greatest generals of antiquity, if not the best. A man well versed in all things military, both practical and theoretical, he is charismatic, intelligent, astute, and polyglot. His, broad, culture is both Carthaginian and Greek.

Always informed of what is going on in the enemy camp and of his plans, he always holds the war initiative in his own hand, especially in the first phase, and succeeds in striking the enemy with actions that are as sudden as they are conducted quickly and effectively. When he enters Etruria he knows that the Romans have divided their forces, so he has a great numerical advantage against the individual consular armies, which it suits him to fight separately. Hannibal also knows that he has considerably superior qualities as a military commander, compared to Roman commanders, usually consuls, or other “cum imperio” magistrates with military power.

These are mainly politicians temporarily elected to the post, and although they have had previous war experience, none possess the strategic and tactical qualities of Barcide and are extremely sensitive to public opinion and the temptations of personal glory. Hannibal, on the other hand, has great military experience, starting from his childhood when he followed his father Hamilcar on his military campaign in Iberia, spanning nearly two decades in which he served in subordinate roles under his father and, upon his father”s death, under Hasdrubal until at the age of 24 he was appointed commander of Carthaginian troops in Iberia. Hannibal combines a knowledge of the military tactics and strategy treaties of the time with a great deal of field experience, which unites him with his soldiers, largely professional mercenaries, who appreciate him since he shares their hardships of daily life.

Flaminius was an important politician of Rome at the time, a great example of an administrator distinguished from all coeval politicians by his popular and anti-senatorial initiatives. His career as a military commander dates back to his first consulship, when he fought the Insubri Gauls, winning a battle along the banks of the Adda River, at the end of which he was deposed from the consulship.

Flaminius, while diverging in political views from most coeval politicians, is nevertheless perfectly attuned to the Roman military mentality of his time, which faces a war against a iustus hostis by following fides and disdaining fraus.

Given the characteristics of the two commanders, Flaminius responds predictably to Hannibal”s initiatives: he cannot allow him to arrive in Rome unmolested, or his colleague to be attacked while he remains encamped in Arezzo. He refuses to fight when he would have favorable conditions: such is the case after the Punic army has crossed the marshes of the Arno or at Arezzo. Flaminius is driven by the urgency not to lose contact with the enemy and falls into the trap devised by Hannibal on the shores of Trasimeno.However, the sources on his behavior in battle differ. Livy describes him as a commander who keeps his cool, tries to incite the soldiers, and brings his help to the points where the Romans seem to give way; by his presence and valor he sets an example; he is followed by his best soldiers. Polybius, on the other hand, writes in brief, scathing words that the consul is overwhelmed by events, is distressed and desperate, and is killed by a group of Celtic horsemen.

Ancient historians saw Flaminius as an enemy, since they largely belonged to the aristocratic faction opposed to him. Modern critics have greatly limned these negative judgments by pointing out the substantial correctness of his actions, carried out within the limits imposed by the task given him by the Senate and by his own abilities. They all find a serious fault in his failure to have the valley inspected before his troops entered it, which, however, is to be charged, not so much to his negligence, but to the chivalrous way of fighting of the armies of Rome, which did not yet conceive and therefore did not fear the cunning, ambush, and deception that instead came to Hannibal from Greek military culture.

Given the relative proximity of the battlefield and the dramatic outcome, the defeat was not minimized in Rome, as it had been after the Battle of the Trebbia. When praetor Marcus Pomponius announced in the forum, “We have been defeated in a great battle,” the population fell into despair.

The Senate was trying to find a solution when, after three days, it was informed that the 4,000 horsemen sent by Servilius to help his colleague and his troops had been partly killed and partly captured, perhaps near Assisi or Spello, by the horsemen and light foot soldiers commanded by Maarbale.

The position of the Hannibal troops cut off the surviving consul and his ranks from Rome, so it was decided to take an extreme decision not taken for a long time: appoint a dictator. In the absence of the consul, holder of the power of appointment, the centuriate committees were charged with the task on an exceptional basis, and they appointed Quintus Fabius Maximus, the Verrucose, later called “Cunctator,” the Temporiator, as dictator, and placed alongside him as master of the cavalry the plebeian Marcus Minucius Rufus: thus the dictatorship was immediately undermined, since Rufus was not subordinate to Fabius Maximus, and a diarchy was soon born.

Quintus Fabius Maximus provided expiatory rites to appease the gods and to organize and consolidate defenses in central Italy. The dictator took over the two legions under Servilius and enlisted two more, exceptionally composed also of freedmen. He also dictated the course of action that was kept for almost the entire duration of the war: lead the populations within fortified positions, make scorched earth to avoid the Carthaginian troops” provisioning, and avoid open-face battles against Hannibal.

The Romans adopted several military measures, which had profound repercussions in their later history: they prolonged the offices of magistrates, to ensure continuity of command and strategy; they lengthened the duration of military service; the number of active legions was increased; the minimum census to be enlisted was lowered; indeed, freedmen, freed slaves, were also enlisted. These were the first steps that later led to the creation of the professional Roman soldier.

Hannibal, despite the victory achieved, did not obtain the hoped-for alliance proposals from the Italic populations of central Italy. The federates clung to Rome, with the exception of a few scattered groups, and a Carthaginian attempt to conquer the Latin colony of Spoleto ended in a deadlock. Given the situation, the Carthaginian leader judged it unprofitable to head toward Rome, but crossed Umbria and Picenum until he reached the Adriatic Sea, where he rested and cared for his men and animals. Along the way the Carthaginian army made great plunder, ravaged the countryside, and many men of arms age were killed. Hannibal then headed for Apulia, to continue his plans in places more favorable to him.

Militarily, Hannibal decided to have his heavy infantry adopt the Roman armaments collected in the battlefields after the Trebbia and the Trasimeno. Carthaginian heavy infantry, therefore, switched from the shock lance to the sword, common in the western Mediterranean. The necessary transition from a phalanx formation to a manipular one was thus determined.

The evidence from historical sources has left doubts in scholars of later periods, which is why various theories concerning the site of the battle, identified over the centuries by scholars in different places as far apart as 20 km, have been developing. The difficulties encountered by scholars stemmed mainly from the complex description of the locations made by Polybius and the paucity of data on the location at the time of the shores of Lake Trasimeno.

Battle theory in the valley between Mount Gualandro and Montigeto

Philipp Clüver, in his posthumous work Italia antiqua, identified as locus pugnae ad Thrasymenum lacum the valley between Monte Gualandro and Montigeto. Giuliano de” Ricci had already arrived at the same conclusion in a letter to Pier Vettori dated August 17, 1569, published, however, two centuries later. Clüver was joined by other scholars (Ciatti,), until, between the second half of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, many modern historians considered giving systematicity to this reconstruction: the main ones are Nissen, De Sanctis.

Nissen is the first to systematize this theory (1867), temporally speaking, and is most distinguished from the others by his assumptions about the location of the Hannibalic camp (on Tuoro Hill) and cavalry, outside the valley, toward the Roman camp, to create a pushback of the marching enemy column.

The other three envision Punic deployment and location of their encampment (on the hill of Montigeto) almost identical, except for the escape route of the 6,000 Romans who broke through the enemy lines. Specifically, the three scholars hypothesize the Carthaginian troops arranged on the two lobes that make up the valley: to the west the Celtic infantry and cavalry (the former starting from the defile), to the east the light infantry and the rather sparse Balearics. Hannibal”s camp was placed in their view on the slopes of Montigeto, and in front of it, at the foot of the hill, the heavy infantry had to oppose the enemy troops frontally, who marched on a route that skirted the lake ca 6 km long as the crow flies.

Battle theory in the valley between Passignano and Montecolognola

In the early twentieth century, Johannes Kromaye developed his theory, systematizing what other scholars, such as Arnold, had already hypothesized. According to the German scholar, the battle took place in the narrow strip of land between the lake and the hills between Passignano and Montecolognola, along the northeastern shore of the lake. After surveying the sites and studying some maps of ancient roadways (especially from the Renaissance period), Kromayer speculated that the level of the Trasimeno at the time of the battle was higher than it was in his day, which prevented the passage to the water-flooded Malpasso, and that the communication road between Val di Chiana and Perugia passed over the saddle of Monte Gualandro. He believed that he found at Passignano the defile through which both armies marched. Hannibal, according to him, had set up camp on the hills of Montecolognola, arranged the heavy infantry to garrison these hills, while he had stationed the Celtic cavalry and infantry on the 9 km route along the lake and the light infantry, with the Balearic slingers, to close the southern passage (now Monte del Lago).

Believing that the Roman army had been completely surprised on the march, the German scholar hypothesized that the Roman army was deployed along the narrow (no more than a few hundred meters today) valley between Passignano and Torricella, and that the 6,000 Romans who had succeeded in breaking through the enemy lines had done so at the Carthaginian light infantry. Kromayer, following the logical conclusions of his own starting hypotheses, criticized the theories that referred to the valley of Tuoro, since he did not believe that the Malpasso di Borghetto existed and, if it did, that the distance between it and Montigeto (or the hill of Tuoro) was too short, which did not allow the full deployment of the Roman legions in marching trim.

Kromayer”s theory had good success even though it was criticized by various coeval scholars mainly because of the initial assumptions about the ancient road system and lake level that prompted him to find a different defile of passage for the armies and a different valley for the conduct of the events of arms. It was also pointed out that there was little agreement with the sources” description of the locations and the difficulties of managing an ambush with men deployed on impassable hills for 9 km.

Battle theory in the Sanguineto valley

Some scholars found that the place that best fit the historical descriptions was the valley of Sanguineto, included within the arc of hills starting from Malpasso and ending with the spur of Tuoro.

We find this reconstruction in the second half of the sixteenth century in the writings and maps of the military architect Cipriano Piccolpasso (1559-1579), who first named the defile after Malpasso. This reconstruction is very well illustrated in 1582 by the Perugian geographer and mathematician Egnazio Danti in the fresco entitled Perusinus ac Tifernus present in the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums in Rome.

Further evidence of this theory can be found in the works of Abbot Bartolomeo Borghi, a geographer and mathematician (1750-1821) who argued his own thought in his writings and represented it in some maps, coming very close to the conclusions reached by Brizzi and Gambini (2008). Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries on this line of reading were expressed by Grundy (and Reuss (1906), who placed the Punic camp at Tuoro.

This theory was challenged mainly because of its size, which was considered limited to allow the deployment of a large number of soldiers.

Susini Theory (1960)

Giancarlo Susini in 1960-64 revived the debate on the battle site by repeatedly publishing the results of his own research, refuting the two theses then most widely accepted (Kromayer, Fuchs

From his study of learned and popular traditions Susini found that:

As for archaeological contributions, Susini surveys:

On the basis of all these contributions, Susini elaborated his theory: Hannibal had set up camp on the spur of Tuoro, there deploying the heavy infantry; the Celtic infantry and cavalry, in mixed ranks, on the arc of hills that started from the defile to the hill of Tuoro; the Balearics and light troops were behind the crest of the spur of Tuoro, from where they would descend on the valley. The Romans, having crossed the Malpasso, marching along the coast, would reach the foot of the Tuoro spur and, having sighted the Carthaginian heavy infantry, would begin to deploy in battle gear. When Hannibal saw that most of the enemy troops had entered the valley, he gave the signal for a general attack, trapping and easily defeating them.

Susini”s theory was criticized mainly with regard to the limited space available for the deployment of Roman and Carthaginian lurking troops (Walbank): to this criticism Susini replied that not all Roman troops were inside the valley at the time of the attack; that some of them were deployed, and that on the Carthaginian front the Balearics started from behind the hill of Tuoro, thus from above the camp and heavy infantry lines.

The lake level and shoreline of Roman times assumed by Susini were later found to be incorrect. He did not know the data that emerged from the recent geographical-historical and geo-physical investigations carried out at Trasimeno.

Brizzi-Gambini Theory (2008)

In the first decade of the 2000s there have been several contributions that have made it possible to determine, conclusively, the size and level of Lake Trasimeno at the time of the battle. The discovery of finds from the Etruscan-Roman period and of deposits of waste materials within Lake Trasimeno and the results of a series of geological survey campaigns carried out by the CNR in Bologna have shown that the lake at that time had, on average, a slightly smaller surface area than at present, net of periods of flood

Combining the work of previous scholars, especially Susini”s, with this crucial new information, Giovanni Brizzi and Ermanno Gambini then published in 2008 a new theory, compatible with the scientific and archaeological findings acquired, as well as with major historical sources. This article was later expanded and enriched in a volume published in 2018. They were able to use in their reconstruction some passages never considered by previous scholars: the fact that the Romans were attacked from both sides and surrounded, the disposition of the Carthaginian light troops “post montes” (Livy in Ab Urbe Condita, XXII, 3 writes “…Baliares ceteramque levem armaturam post montes circumducit…”) or “led behind the right heights posted them on a broad front” (Polybius in Histories, III, 83, 2 writes “… τούς δέ Βαλιαρεῖς καί λογχοφόρους κατὰ πρωτοπορεῖίαν ἐκπεριάγων ὑπὸ τούς ἐν δεξιᾷ βουνούς τῶν παρά τόν αὐλῶνα κειμένων…”) are now well understood and assessed.

The two scholars fix the battlefield mainly in the Sanguineto valley and partly in the Tuoro valley. Hannibal places the camp in a visible position on the hill of Tuoro, and there he places the Libyan and Iberian heavy infantry. He then lays out the Celtic infantry along the hills flanking the defile, while the cavalry departs from the Sanguineto area, taking advantage of the directions of the Macerone creek and the Cerrete ditch; the Balearic slingers and light-weight, are concealed in the valley of the Navaccia creek, behind the spur of Tuoro, ready to close the space between the hill and the lake shores, covering the only escape route. The next day the Romans leave the camp at Borghetto at first light. They first parade through the narrows of Malpasso and then, having entered the fog-shrouded valley, probably assume an enlarged march formation, continuing along a route at first parallel to the lake. When the vanguards sight the fires of the Carthaginian camp, but not the concealed troops, they try to open into the plain, while the army continues to parade in the defile. Hannibal believes it is time to give the signal for a general attack, and the Romans soon find themselves surrounded by enemy troops. Surprised and at a numerical and positional disadvantage, the legionaries fight ardently for three hours, trying to find an opening in every direction. The officers and Flaminius try to reorganize the ranks and bring their own help, where it is needed.

After the death of their commander, the Roman soldiers in the final rout sought an escape route to the hills, leaving the trail of ustrina in the foothills of the Sanguineto valley, and to Lake Trasimeno, finding death at the hands of the Numidian horsemen, or drowning due to the weight of their armor.

Brizzi and Gambini finally describe the escape route of the 6,000: assuming as their destination the Etruscan village near M.te Castelluccio, already described by Susini, they believe that the route should pass on the W flank of the Tuoro spur and continue over the hills.According to Brizzi and Gambini, their theory is faithful to the historical sources, as well as to the eventualities that have come to light in recent decades, and also allows them to overcome the objections that were raised to Susini, regarding the limited space available for the armies.

By disposing the Balearics and light-weights in the valley of the Navaccia creek, beyond the hill of Tuoro, and keeping the heavy infantry pinned down at the hill, there is sufficient space for an attack that does not involve the entire Punic and Roman armies, which only partially entered the valley of Sanguineto.

Brizzi and Gambini challenge the validity of the Fuchs theory

Of Kromayer”s theory they point out the lack of basis, given the established lack of scientific and historical evidence to confirm his starting hypotheses: indeed, there is a lack of confirmation at the high lacustrine levels that the German scholar misjudges, and there are dissonances with the sources (distance from the mountains of Cortona, narrowness of the valley of the battle, failure to encircle).Assuming that Livy wrote the truth by stating that 10. 000 returned to the Urbe, that the figure of 25,000 men is a reasonable approximation on the size of the consular army, and that many socii, either escaped from the battle or freed by Hannibal at its end to create sympathy around him returned to their homes, Brizzi and Gambini believe that the numbers of Roman casualties, 9 or 10,000 men in all, should be slightly decreased.

Chiana Valley Theory

In the 16th century the theory began to spread that the battle was fought in the basin southeast of Cortona. Susini reconstructed the genesis of this theory, which was essentially linked to toponymic considerations, spread in the 18th century by the Cortona cultural circle of Donna Maddalena Pancrazi, and demonstrated its insubstantiality.

In 1982 Don Bruno Frescucci published a volume in which he claimed that the site of the battle was in the Val di Chiana, in the vicinity of Cortona, along the course of the Esse stream. This theory was later taken up by R. Sabatini and G. Pellicci, with contestation of Susini”s theory and the value of the archaeological evidence he adduced (the ustrina).Brizzi and Gambini (2008) refute what these scholars hypothesized, as it ill accords with historical sources and toponymic data and with current knowledge regarding the non-presence under Cortona of lake-like bodies of water in Roman times.


  1. Battaglia del lago Trasimeno
  2. Battle of Lake Trasimene