But, though Hannibal conquered the Alps, the Apennines conquered him. A very violent storm arose just as he reached the most exposed place among the mountains. It was intensely cold, and the wind blew the hail and snow directly into the faces of the troops, so that it was impossible for them to proceed. They halted and turned their backs to the storm, but the wind increased more and more, and was attended with terrific thunder and lightning, which filled the soldiers with alarm, as they were at such an altitude as to be themselves enveloped in the clouds from which the peals and flashes were emitted. Unwilling retreat, Hannibal ordered the army to encamp on the spot, in the best shelter they could find. They attempted, accordingly, to pitch their tents, but it was impossible to secure them. The wind increased to a hurricane. The tent poles were unmanageable, and the canvas was carried away from its fastenings, and sometimes split or blown into rags by its flapping in the wind. The poor elephants, that is, all that were left of them from previous battles and exposures, sank down under this intense cold and died. One only remained alive.
Hannibal ordered a retreat, and the army went back into the valley of the Po. But Hannibal was ill at ease here. The natives of the country were very weary of his presence. His army consumed their food ravaged their country, and destroyed all their peace and happiness. Hannibal suspected them of a design to poison him or assassinate him in some other way. He was continually watching and taking precautions against these attempts. He had a great many different dresses made to be used as disguises, and false hair of different colors and fashion, so that he could alter his appearance at pleasure. This was to prevent any spy or assassin who might come into his camp from identifying him by any description of his dress and appearance. Still, notwithstanding these precautions, he was ill at ease, and at the very earliest practicable period in the spring he made a new attempt to cross the mountains, and was now successful.
On descending the southern declivities of the Apennines he learned that a new Roman army, under a new consul, was advancing toward him from the south. He was eager to meet this force, and was preparing to press forward at once by the nearest way. He found, however, that this would lead him across the lower part of the valley of the Arno, which was here very broad, and, though usually passable, was now overflowed in consequence of the swelling of the waters of the river by the melting of the snows upon the mountains. The whole country was now, in fact, a vast expanse of marshes and fens.
Still, Hannibal concluded to cross it, and, in the attempt, he involved his army in difficulties and dangers as great, almost, as he had encountered upon the Alps. The waters were rising continually; they filled all the channels and spread over extended plains. They were so turbid, too, that every thing beneath the surface was concealed, and the soldiers wading in them were continually sinking into deep and sudden channels and into bogs of mire, where many were lost. They were all exhausted and worn out by the wet and cold, and the long continuance of their exposure to it. They were four days and three nights in this situation, as their progress was, of course, extremely slow. The men, during all this time, had scarcely any sleep, and in some places the only way by which they could get any repose was to lay their arms and their baggage in the standing water, so as to build, by this means, a sort of couch or platform on which they could lie. Hannibal himself was sick too. He was attacked with a violent inflammation of the eyes, and the sight of one of them was in the end destroyed. He was not, however, so much exposed as the other officers; for there was one elephant left of all those that had commenced the march In Spain, and Hannibal rode this elephant during the four days march through the water. There were guides and attendants to precede him, for the purpose of finding a safe and practicable road, and by their aid, with the help of the animal’s sagacity, he got safely through.