The plunder of Cannae (El botín de Cannas)
The victory of Hannibal over the Romans at Cannae was the most important one. It took place on 2nd August, 216 BC, and it was close to being decisive for the Carthaginian victory in the Second Punic War, but the Romans managed to recover over time and ended up expelling Hannibal from Italy, who was finally defeated by Scipio Africanus in the battle of Zama, Tunisia.
Getting the rings
Hannibal crossed Italy from the north and, skipping Rome, he headed to the region of Apulia, were the battle of Cannae was waged next to the Aufidus river. The tapestry does not show the combat as such, but the moment when Carthaginians get hold of the belongings of the defeated, especially their rings, with their corpses piling up as Livy remarks: ‘there were so many thousand Romans lying.’ In the foreground, the victor is next to the plunder, made up of a large number of rings which have been placed in a sack and into another recipient, ready to be weighed. Two women come with rings, while Hannibal seems to ask one of his warriors to hand in the one he is ostentatiously displaying.
An unbeatable display of tactical knowledge
The battle of Cannae was a tactical achievement so important that it is still the subject of study in military academies. The Roman army had about 80,000 troops, more than their enemies, but they fell into Hannibal’s trap. He set the cavalry in the centre and made it advance. After crashing with the best-prepared Roman infantry, Hannibal commanded an orderly retreat which the opponents took for an escape, concentrating their thrust into the centre of the formation. However, the Carthaginian hosts completed an arc which became increasingly narrow, from which the Romans could not escape. At the same time, the Carthaginian cavalry led by Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, quickly defeated the enemy’s and placed itself in the rear. By closing the circle in, the Romans were attacked all around and, confused, fell quickly.
As in the other pieces in the series, the inscription matches perfectly the scene represented: HOS VBI IAM STRATOS DVRO CERTAMINE LINQVT / MVLTVM AVVRI TREPIDIS SVPPVTAT ARICVLIS (As many as were put down in the tough struggle had much gold from their trembling hands removed).
Series The History of Hannibal
Fourth tapestry of those preserved
MOdels Anonymous master of the Netherlands
Manufacture Brussels’ workshops, c. 1570
Fabric Wool and silk, 6,5/7 warps per cm
Size 340 x 336 cm
Location Cathedral of Zamora
Origin In the cathedral since the 17th century
On display Cathedral Museum