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Battle of Beneventum
Part of the Second Punic War
Date 214 BC
Location Beneventum; modern Benevento
Result Decisive Roman victory
Belligerents
Roman Republic Carthage
Commanders
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (consul 215 and 213 BC) Hanno
Strength
18,000 slave volunteers 17,000 infantry,
1,200 cavalry
Casualties and losses
4,000 killed 16,500 killed

The Battle of Beneventum (214 BC) was fought in 214 BC near modern Benevento during the Second Punic War. Roman legions under Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (consul 215 and 213 BC) defeated Hanno's Carthaginian forces, denying Hannibal reinforcements. Livy 24.14-16 describes the battle in brief. This battle is notable for Gracchus' use of slaves (as infantry) who spent much of the battle gathering enemy heads, as it had been promised them that this 'currency' would buy their freedom that day. Following the disastrous defeat at Cannae the Romans under Fabius adopted a policy of fighting Carthage wherever Hannibal was not. Spain, Sardinia, and Italy provided them with plenty of scope for campaigning. This battle was part of the Roman campaign to subdue the southern Italian states that had revolted after Cannae. It was fought near Beneventum in Samnium between a Punic army composed mainly of Italians and a Roman army of slave volunteers.

Hannibal was preparing to assault the city of Nola in Campania. He was waiting for his lieutenant Hanno who was bringing 1,200 African horsemen and 17,000 Bruttians and Lucanians up the Via Appia from Bruttium. Gracchus was at Beneventum with a similar sized army consisting of slaves who had volunteered for service against Hannibal in return for their eventual freedom. When he heard that Hanno was camped on the river Calor about three miles from the city he marched out to meet them. He deployed his army about a mile from the Punic camp. To encourage his men Gracchus offered freedom to any man that brought him an enemy head.

The ensuing battle was a bloody slogging match. Gracchus¹ proclamation almost proved to be the Roman¹s undoing as his men stopped to decapitate the slain. Realizing what was happening he declared no man would be freed unless the enemy were completely defeated. The ensuing onslaught led to the total destruction of Hanno¹s army and the capture of his camp. Less than 2,000 of his men escaped with their lives. Gracchus proclaimed his men¹s liberty. Hannibal withdrew from Campania and several of his allies there and in Samnium were crushed by the Romans.

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