Cannjt, a town of ancient Apulia, in Italy, on the S. bank of the river Aufidus (Ofanto), about 6 m. from its mouth in the Adriatic, and about 8 m. N. E. of the ancient Canusium. Near it, and probably on the N. bank of the river (though this is a point much disputed among historians), the Romans experienced on Aug. 2, 216 B. C, the most disastrous of all their defeats at the hands of Hannibal. The Carthaginian leader had spent the preceding winter and spring at Geronium; but the scarcity of provisions induced him to move further south to Cannae, where he surprised the guard, captured the Roman magazines of supplies, and established his headquarters for the harvest season. The Romans had employed the spring in raising a new and very large army, and the consuls for the year, L. AEmilius Paulus and C. Terentius Varro, now advanced against the Carthaginians with nearly 90,000 men, a force greatly superior to that of Hannibal. AEmilius, pursuing the policy of Fabius Maximus, was unwilling, in spite of this advantage, to risk an open conflict; but he and Varro commanded on alternate days, and the latter insisted on engaging the enemy. The armies accordingly joined battle in the plains near the town.
The superiority of Hannibal's cavalry and the skill of his light-armed foot soldiers turned the advantage at once against the Romans, and their troops, forced by Hannibal to take up a position with their faces toward the sun, and toward a fierce wind which blew the dust against them, were thrown into confusion, almost surrounded, and completely cut to pieces. Hannibal's loss was insignificant. Varro in part atoned for his rashness by skilfully conducting the retreat of the remnant of the army to Canusium. AEmilius fell in the battle. - The ancient name is represented by the modern Canne, a small town on its site, where a few Roman remains still exist;