Book 23: Hannibal at Capua
[23.1]Immediately after the battle of Cannae and the capture and plunder of the Roman camp, Hannibal moved out of Apulia into Samnium, in consequence of an invitation he had received from a man named Statius Trebius, who promised to hand over Compsa to him if he would visit the territory of the Hirpini. Trebius was a native of Compsa, a man of note amongst his people, but his influence was less than that of the faction of the Mopsii, a family which owed its predominance to the favour and support of Rome. After the report of the battle of Cannae had reached the town, and Trebius was telling everybody that Hannibal was coming, the Mopsian party left the city. It was then peacefully handed over to the Carthaginian and a garrison placed in it. There Hannibal left all his booty and his baggage, and then forming his army into two divisions, gave Mago the command of one and retained the other himself. He gave Mago instructions to receive the submission of the cities in the district which were revolting from Rome and to compel those which were hanging back to revolt, whilst he himself marched through the Campanian district towards the Lower Sea with the view of attacking Neapolis so that he might have a city accessible from the sea. When he entered the confines of Neapolis he placed some of his Numidians wherever he conveniently could in ambuscade, for the roads are mostly deep, with many unseen windings. The others he ordered to ride up to the gates driving ostentatiously before them the plunder they had collected from the fields. As they appeared to be a small and disorganised force, a troop of cavalry came out against them, they were drawn on by the retreating Numidians into the ambuscade and surrounded. Not a man would have escaped had not the proximity of the sea, and some ships, mostly fishing vessels, which they saw not far from the shore, afforded a means of escape to those who were good swimmers. Several young nobles, however, were either taken or killed in the skirmish, amongst them Hegeas, the commandant of the cavalry, who fell whilst following the retreating foe too incautiously. The aspect of the walls deterred the Carthaginian from attacking the city; they by no means offered facilities for an assault.
[23.2]From there he directed his march towards Capua. This city had become demoralised by a long course of prosperity and the indulgence of Fortune, but most of all by the universal corruption produced by the wild excesses of a populace who exercised their liberty without any restraint. Pacuvius Calavius had got the senate of Capua entirely in his own power and that of the populace. He was a noble, and at the same time a favourite with the people, but he had gained his influence and power by resorting to base practices. He happened to be chief magistrate in the year in which the defeat at Trasumennus occurred, and knowing the hatred which the populace had long felt towards the senate, he thought it highly probable that they would seize their opportunity, create a violent revolution, and, if Hannibal with his victorious army should visit their neighbourhood, murder the senators and hand over Capua to him. Bad as the man was, he was not utterly abandoned, since he preferred to play the autocrat in a commonwealth which was constitutionally sound rather than in one that was ruined, and he knew that no political constitution could be sound where there was no council of state. He embarked on a plan by which he could save the senate and at the same time render it completely subservient to himself and to the populace. He summoned a meeting of the senate and commenced his speech by saying that any idea of a revolt from Rome would have been quite repugnant to him had it not been a necessity, seeing that he had children by the daughter of Appius Claudius and had given his own daughter in marriage to M. Livius in Rome. "But," he went on, "there is a much more serious and formidable danger impending, for the populace are not simply contemplating beginning their revolt from Rome by banishing the senate from the city, they mean to murder the senators and then hand over the city to Hannibal and the Carthaginians. It is in my power to save you from this peril if you will put yourselves in my hands, and, forgetting all our past quarrels, trust me." Overcome by their fears they all placed themselves in his hands. "I will," he then said, "shut you in your House, and whilst appearing myself to participate in their act by approving of designs which I should in vain attempt to oppose, I will discover a way of safety for you. Take any guarantee in this matter which you please." When he had given the guarantee he went out and ordered the doors to be fastened, and left a guard in the vestibule to prevent any one from entering or leaving without his orders.
[23.3]Next, he called an assembly of the people and addressed them thus: "You have often wished, citizens of Capua, that you had the power to execute summary justice on the unscrupulous and infamous senate. You can do so now safely, and none can call you to account. You need not risk your lives in desperate attempts to force the houses of individual senators guarded as they are by their clients and slaves; take them as they now are, locked up in the Senate-house, all by themselves, unarmed. Do not be in a hurry, do nothing rashly. I will put you in a position to pass sentence of life and death so that each of them in turn may pay the penalty he deserves. But whatever you do see that you do not go too far in satisfying your feelings of resentment, make the security and welfare of the State your first consideration. For, as I understand it, it is these particular senators that you hate, you do not want to go without a senate altogether; for you must either have a king which is an abomination, or a senate, which is the only consultative body that can exist in a free commonwealth. So you have to do two things at once, remove the old senate and choose a fresh one. I shall order the senators to be summoned one by one and I shall take your opinion as to their fate, and whatever decision you arrive at shall be carried out. But before punishment is inflicted on any one found guilty you must choose a strong and energetic man to take his place as senator." He then sat down, and after the names of the senators had been cast into the urn he ordered the man whose name was drawn first to be brought out of the Senate-house. As soon as they heard the name they all shouted that he was a worthless scoundrel and richly deserved to be punished. Then Pacuvius said: "I see clearly what you think of this man, in place of a worthless scoundrel you must choose a worthy and honest man as senator. For a few minutes there was silence as they were unable to suggest a better man. Then one of them, laying aside his diffidence, ventured to suggest a name, and a greater clamour than ever arose. Some said they had never heard of him, others imputed to him shameful vices and humble birth, sordid poverty, and a low class of occupation or trade. A still more violent demonstration awaited the second and third senators who were summoned, and it was obvious that while they intensely disliked the man, they had no one to put in his place. It was no use mentioning the same names again and again, for it only led to everything that was bad being said about them and the succeeding names were those of people much more low born and unknown than those which were first suggested. So the crowd dispersed saying to one another that the evils they were best acquainted with were the easiest to bear.
[23.4]The senate had to thank Pacuvius for its life, and it was much more under his control than under that of the populace. By common consent he now wielded supreme power and needed no armed support. Henceforth the senators, forgetting their rank and independence, flattered the populace, saluted them courteously, invited them as guests, received them at sumptuous banquets, undertook their cases, always appeared on their side, and when they were trying suits they always decided the actions in a way to secure the favour of the mob. In fact, the proceedings in the senate were exactly as though it had been a popular assembly. The city had always been disposed to luxury and extravagance, not only through the weakness of the character of its citizens, but also through the superabundance of the means of enjoyment and the incitements to every kind of pleasure which land or sea could furnish, and now, owing to the obsequiousness of the nobility and the licence of the populace, it was becoming so demoralised that the sensuality and extravagance which prevailed exceeded all bounds. They treated the laws, the magistrates, the senate with equal contempt, and now after the defeat of Cannae they began to feel contempt for the one thing which they had hitherto held in some respect - the power of Rome. The only circumstances which prevented them from immediately revolting were the old established right of intermarriage which had led to many of their illustrious and powerful families becoming connected with Rome and the fact that several citizens were serving with the Romans. The strongest tie of this nature was the presence of three hundred cavalry, from the noblest families in Capua, in Sicily, whither they had been specially sent by the Roman authorities to garrison the island. The parents and relatives of these troopers succeeded after much difficulty in getting envoys sent to the Roman consul.
[23.5]The consul had not yet started for Canusium; they found him and his scanty, insufficiently armed force still at Venusia, an object calculated to arouse the deepest compassion in trusty allies, and nothing but contempt amongst arrogant and treacherous ones like the Campanians. The consul made matters worse and increased the contempt felt for himself and his fortunes by revealing too plainly and openly the extent of the disaster. When the envoys assured him that the senate and people of Capua were much grieved that any mischance had happened to the Romans and expressed their readiness to supply all that was needed for the war, he replied: "In bidding us requisition from you what we need for the war you have preserved the tone in which we speak to allies instead of suiting your language to the actual state of our circumstances. For what was left us at Cannae that we should wish what is lacking - as though we still possessed something - to be made up by our allies? Are we to ask you to furnish infantry as though we still possessed any cavalry? Are we to say that we want money, as though that were the only thing we want? Fortune has not even left us anything which we can supplement. Legions, cavalry, arms, standards, men and horses, money, supplies - all have gone either on the battlefield or when the two camps were lost the following day. So then, men of Capua, you have not to help us in the war but almost to undertake the war for us. Call to mind how once when your forefathers were driven in hurried flight within their walls in dread of the Sidicine as well as the Samnite we took them under our protection at Saticula, and how the war which then commenced with the Samnites on your behalf was kept up by us with all its changeful fortunes for nearly a century. Besides all this you must remember that after you had surrendered we gave you a treaty on equal terms, we allowed you to retain your own laws, and - what was, before our defeat at Cannae at all events, the greatest privilege - we granted our citizenship to most of you and made you members of our commonwealth. Under these circumstances, men of Capua, you ought to realise that you have suffered this defeat as much as we have, and to feel that we have a common country to defend. It is not with the Samnites or the Etruscans that we have to do; if they deprived us of our power it would still be Italians who would hold it. But the Carthaginian is dragging after him an army that is not even made up of natives of Africa, he has collected a force from the furthest corners of the earth, from the ocean straits, and the Pillars of Hercules, men devoid of any sense of right, destitute of the condition, and almost of the speech of men. Savage and barbarous by nature and habit, their general has made them still more brutal by building up bridges and barriers with human bodies and - I shudder to say it - teaching them to feed on human flesh. What man, if he were merely a native of Italy, would not be horrified at the thought of looking upon men who feast upon what it is impious even to touch as his lords and masters, looking to Africa and above all to Carthage for his laws, and having to submit to Italy becoming a dependency of the Numidians and the Moors? It will be a splendid thing, men of Capua, if the dominion of Rome, which has collapsed in defeat, should be saved and restored by your loyalty, your strength. I think that in Campania you can raise 30,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry; you have already sufficient money and corn. If you show a loyalty corresponding to your means Hannibal will not feel that he has conquered or that the Romans are vanquished."
[23.6]After this speech of the consul's, the envoys were dismissed. As they were on their way home, one of their number, Vibius Virrius, told them that the time had come when the Campanians could not only recover the territory wrongfully taken from them by the Romans, but even achieve the dominion over Italy. They could make a treaty with Hannibal on any terms they chose, and there was no disputing the fact that when the war was over and Hannibal after his conquest returned with his army to Africa, the sovereignty over Italy would fall to the Campanians. They all agreed with what Virrius said, and they gave such an account of their interview with the consul as to make everybody think that the very name of Rome was blotted out. The populace and a majority of the senate began at once to prepare for a revolt; it was owing to the exertions of the senior members that the crisis was staved off for a few days. At last the majority carried their point, and the same envoys who had been to the Roman consul were now sent to Hannibal. I find it stated in some annalists that before they started or it was definitely decided to revolt, envoys were sent from Capua to Rome to demand as the condition of their rendering assistance that one consul should be a Campanian, and amidst the indignation which this demand aroused the envoys were ordered to be summarily ejected from the Senate-house, and a lictor told off to conduct them out of the City with orders not to remain a single day on Roman territory. As, however, this demand is too much like one made by the Latins in earlier times, and Caelius amongst others would not have omitted to mention it without good reason, I will not venture to vouch for the truth of the statement.
[23.7]The envoys came to Hannibal and negotiated a peace with him on the following terms: No Carthaginian commander or magistrate was to have any jurisdiction over the citizens of Capua nor was any Campanian citizen to be obliged to serve in any military or other capacity against his will; Capua was to retain its own magistrates and its own laws; and the Carthaginian was to allow them to choose three hundred Romans out of his prisoners of war whom they were to exchange for the Campanian troopers who were serving in Sicily. These were the terms agreed upon, but the Campanians went far beyond the stipulations in their criminal excesses. The populace seized officers in command of our allies and other Roman citizens, some whilst occupied with their military duties, others whilst engaged in their private business, and ordered them to be shut up in the baths on the presence of keeping them in safe custody; unable to breathe owing to the heat and fumes they died in great agony. Decius Magius was a man who, if his fellow-citizens had been rational, would have gained very great authority with them. He did his best to prevent these crimes and to stop the envoys from going to Hannibal. When he heard that troops were being sent by Hannibal to garrison the city, he protested most earnestly against their being admitted and referred, as warning examples, to the tyranny of Pyrrhus and the wretched servitude into which the Tarentines fell. After they were admitted he urged that they should be expelled, or what was better, if the Capuans wished to clear themselves by a deed which would be remembered from their guilt in revolting from ancient allies and blood-relations, let them put the Carthaginian garrison to death and be once more friends with Rome.
When this was reported to Hannibal - for there was no secrecy about Magius' action - he sent to summon him to his camp. Magius sent a spirited refusal; Hannibal, he said, had no legal authority over a citizen of Capua. The Carthaginian, furious at the rebuff, ordered the man to be thrown into chains and brought to him. Fearing, however, on second thoughts, that the use of force might create a tumult and feelings once aroused might lead to a sudden outbreak, he sent a message to Marius Blossius, the chief magistrate of Capua, that he would be there on the morrow, and started with a small escort for the city. Marius called the people together and gave public notice that they should assemble in a body with their wives and children and go to meet Hannibal. The whole population turned out, not because they were ordered, but because the mob were enthusiastic in favour of Hannibal, and were eager to see a commander famous for so many victories. Decius Magius did not go to meet him, nor did he shut himself up at home, as this might have implied a consciousness of guilt; he strolled leisurely about the Forum with his son and a few of his clients, whilst the whole city was in a state of wild excitement at seeing and welcoming Hannibal. When he had entered the city Hannibal asked that the senate should be convened at once. The leading Campanians, however, implored him not to transact any serious business then, but to give himself up to the joyous celebration of a day which had been made such a happy one by his arrival. Though he was naturally impulsive in his anger, he would not begin with a refusal, and spent most of the day in viewing the city.
[23.8]He stayed with two brothers, Sthenius and Pacuvius, men distinguished for their high birth and wealth. Pacuvius Calavius, whom we have already mentioned, the leader of the party which brought the city over to the Carthaginians, brought his young son to the house. The youth was closely attached to Decius Magius, and had stood up most resolutely with him for the alliance with Rome and against any terms with the Carthaginians, and neither the changing over of the city to the other side nor the authority of his father had been able to shake his resolution. Pacuvius dragged him away from Magius' side and now sought to obtain Hannibal's pardon for the youth by intercessions rather than by any attempts at exculpation. He was overcome by the father's prayers and tears and went so far as to order him to be invited to a banquet to which none were to be admitted but his hosts and Vibellius Taureas, a distinguished soldier. The banquet began early in the day, and was not at all in accordance with Carthaginian customs or military discipline, but as was natural in a city, still more in a house full of wealth and luxury, the table was furnished with every kind of dainty and delicacy. Young Calavius was the only one who could not be persuaded to drink, though his hosts and occasionally Hannibal invited him; he excused himself on the ground of health, and his father alleged as a further reason his not unnatural excitement under the circumstances. It was nearly sunset when the guests rose. Young Calavius accompanied his father out of the banquet chamber and when they had come to a retired spot in the garden behind the house, he stopped and said: "I have a plan to propose to you, father, by which we shall not only obtain pardon for the Romans for our offence in revolting to Hannibal, but also possess much more influence and prestige in Capua than we have ever done before." When his father asked him in great surprise what his plan was, he threw his toga back from his shoulder and showed him a sword belted on to his side. "Now," he said, "this very moment will I ratify our treaty with Rome in Hannibal's blood. I wanted you to know first, in case you would rather be away when the deed is done."
[23.9]The old man, beside himself with terror at what he saw and heard, as though he were actually witnessing the act his son had spoken of, exclaimed: "I pray and beseech you, my son, by all the sacred bonds which unite parents and children, not to insist upon doing and suffering everything that is horrible before your father's eyes. It is only a few hours ago that we pledged our faith, swearing by all the gods and joining hand to hand, and do you want us, when we have just separated after friendly talk, to arm those hands, consecrated by such a pledge, against him? Have you risen from the hospitable board to which you were invited by Hannibal with only two others out of all Capua that you may stain that board with your host's blood? I, your father, was able to make Hannibal friendly towards my son, am I powerless to make my son friendly towards Hannibal? But let nothing sacred hold you back, neither the plighted word, nor religious obligation, nor filial affection; dare infamous deeds, if they do not bring ruin as well as guilt upon us. But what then? Are you going to attack Hannibal single-handed? What of that throng of free men and slaves with all their eyes intent on him alone? What of all those right hands? Will they hang down listlessly during that act of madness? Armed hosts cannot bear even to gaze on the face of Hannibal, the Roman people dread it, and will yon endure it? Though other help be lacking, will you have the courage to strike me, me your father, when I interpose myself to protect Hannibal? And yet it is through my breast that you must pierce his. Suffer yourself to be deterred here rather than vanquished there. Let my prayers prevail with you as they have already to-day prevailed for you." By this time the youth was in tears, and seeing this, the father flung his arms round him, clung to him with kisses, and persisted in his entreaties until he made his son lay aside his sword and give his word that he would do nothing of the kind. Then the son spoke: "I must pay to my father the dutiful obedience which I owe to my country. I am indeed grieved on your account for you have to bear the guilt of a threefold betrayal of your country; first when you instigated the revolt from Rome, secondly when you urged peace with Hannibal, and now once more when you are the one let and hindrance in the way of restoring Capua to the Romans. Do you, my country, receive this sword with which I armed myself in your defence when I entered the stronghold of the enemy." With these words he flung the sword over the garden wall into the public road, and to allay all suspicions returned to the banqueting room.
[23.10]The following day there was a full meeting of the senate to hear Hannibal. At first his tone was very gracious and winning; he thanked the Capuans for preferring his friendship to alliance with Rome, and amongst other magnificent promises he assured them that Capua would soon be the head of all Italy and that Rome, in common with all the other nationalities, would have to look to her for their laws. Then his tone changed. There was one man, he thundered, who was outside the friendship of Carthage and the treaty they had made with him, a man that was not, and ought not to be called a Campanian - Decius Magius. He demanded his surrender and asked that this matter should be discussed and a decision arrived at before he left the House. They all voted for surrendering the man, though a great many thought that he did not deserve such a cruel fate and felt that a long step had been taken in the abridgment of their rights and liberties. On leaving the Senate-house Hannibal took his seat on the magistrates' tribunal and ordered Decius Magius to be arrested, brought before him, and put on his defence, alone and unbefriended. The high spirit of the man was still unquelled, he said that by the terms of the treaty this could not be insisted on, but he was at once placed in irons and ordered to be conducted to the camp, followed by a lictor. As long as his head was uncovered he was incessantly haranguing and shouting to the crowds round him: "You have got the liberty, you Campanians, that you asked for. In the middle of the Forum, in the broad daylight, with you looking on, I a man second to none in Capua am being hurried off in chains to death. Could any greater outrage have been committed if the city had been taken? Go and meet Hannibal, decorate your city, make the day of his arrival a public holiday that you may enjoy the spectacle of this triumph over a fellow-citizen! As the mob appeared to be moved by these outbursts, his head was muffled up and orders were given to hurry him more quickly outside the city gate. In this way he was brought into the camp and then at once put on board a ship and sent to Carthage. Hannibal's fear was that if any disturbance broke out in Capua in consequence of such scandalous treatment the senate might repent of having surrendered their foremost citizen, and if they sent to ask for his restoration he would either offend his new allies by refusing the first request they made, or, if he granted it, would have in Capua a fomenter of disorder and sedition. The vessel was driven by a storm to Cyrenae which was then under a monarchy. Here Magius fled for sanctuary to the statue of King Ptolemy, and his guards conveyed him to the King of Alexandria. After he had told him how he had been thrown into chains by Hannibal in defiance of all treaty rights, he was liberated from his fetters and permission accorded to him to go to Rome or Capua, whichever he preferred. Magius said that he would not be safe at Capua, and as there was at that time war between Rome and Capua, he would be living in Rome more like a deserter than a guest. There was no place where he would sooner live than under the rule of the man whom he had known as the champion and asserter of his freedom.
[23.11]During these occurrences Q. Fabius Pictor returned home from his mission to Delphi. He read the response of the oracle from a manuscript, in which were contained the names of the gods and goddesses to whom supplications were to be made, and the forms to be observed in making them. This was the closing paragraph: "If ye act thus, Romans, your estate will be better and less troubled, your republic will go forward as ye would have it, and the victory in the war will belong to the people of Rome. When your commonwealth is prosperous and safe send to Pythian Apollo a gift from the gains you have earned and honour him with your substance out of the plunder, the booty, and the spoils. Put away from you all wanton and godless living." He translated this from the Greek as he read it, and when he had finished reading he said that as soon as he left the oracle he offered sacrifice with wine and incense to all the deities who were named, and further that he was instructed by the priest to go on board wearing the same laurel garland in which he had visited the oracle and not to lay it aside till he got to Rome. He stated that he had carried out all his instructions most carefully and conscientiously, and had laid the garland on the altar of Apollo. The senate passed a decree that the sacrifices and intercessions which were enjoined should be carefully performed at the earliest opportunity.
During these occurrences in Rome and Italy, Mago, Hamilcar's son, had arrived at Carthage with the news of the victory of Cannae. He had not been sent by his brother immediately after the battle, but had been detained for some days in receiving into alliance Bruttian communities as they successively revolted. When he appeared before the senate he unfolded the story of his brother's successes in Italy, how he had fought pitched battles with six commanders-in-chief, four of whom were consuls and two a Dictator and his Master of Horse, and how he had killed about 200,000 of the enemy and taken more than 50,000 prisoners. Out of four consuls two had fallen, of the two survivors one was wounded and the other, after losing the whole of his army, had escaped with fifty men. The Master of the Horse, whose powers were those of a consul, had been routed and put to flight, and the Dictator, because he had never fought an action, was looked upon as a matchless general. The Bruttians and Apulians, with some of the Samnite and Lucanian communities, had gone over to the Carthaginians. Capua, which was not only the chief city of Campania, but now that the power of Rome had been shattered at Cannae was the head of Italy, had surrendered to Hannibal. For all these great victories he felt that they ought to be truly grateful and public thanksgivings ought to be offered to the immortal gods.
[23.12]As evidence that the joyful tidings he brought were true, he ordered a quantity of gold rings to be piled up in the vestibule of the Senate-house, and they formed such a great heap that, according to some authorities, they measured more than three modii; the more probable account, however, is that they did not amount to more than one modius. He added by way of explanation, to show how great the Roman losses had been, that none but knights, and amongst them only the highest in rank, wore that ornament. The main purport of his speech was that the nearer Hannibal's chances were of bringing the war to a speedy close the more need there was to render him every possible assistance; he was campaigning far from home, in the midst of a hostile country; vast quantities of corn were being consumed and much money expended, and all those battles, whilst they destroyed the armies of the enemy, at the same time wasted very appreciably the forces of the victor. Reinforcements, therefore, must be sent, money must be sent to pay the troops, and supplies of corn to the soldiers who had done such splendid service for Carthage. Amidst the general delight with which Mago's speech was received, Himilco, a member of the Barcine party, thought it a favourable moment for attacking Hanno. "Well, Hanno," he began, "do you still disapprove of our commencing a war against Rome? Give orders for Hannibal to be surrendered, put your veto upon all thanksgivings to the gods after we have received such blessings, let us hear the voice of a Roman senator in the Senate-house of Carthage?"
Then Hanno spoke to the following effect: "Senators, I would have kept silence on the present occasion, for I did not wish on a day of universal rejoicing to say anything which might damp your happiness. But as a senator has asked me whether I still disapprove of the war we have commenced against Rome, silence on my part would show either insolence or cowardice; the one implies forgetfulness of the respect due to others, the other of one's own self-respect. My reply to Himilco is this: I have never ceased to disapprove of the war, nor shall I ever cease to censure your invincible general until I see the war ended upon conditions that are tolerable. Nothing will banish my regret for the old peace that we have broken except the establishment of a new one. Those details which Mago has proudly enumerated make Himilco and the rest of Hannibal's caucus very happy; they might make me happy too, for a successful war, if we choose to make a wise use of our good fortune, will bring us a more favourable peace. If we let this opportunity slip, when we are in a position to offer rather than submit to terms of peace, I fear that our rejoicing will become extravagant and finally turn out to be groundless. But even now, what is it that you are rejoicing at? 'I have slain the armies of the enemy; send me troops.' What more could you ask for, if you had been defeated? 'I have captured two of the enemy's camps, filled, of course, with plunder and supplies; send me corn and money.' What more could you want if you had been despoiled, stripped of your own camp? And that I may not be the only one to be surprised at your delight - for as I have answered Himilco, I have a perfect right to ask questions in my turn - I should be glad if either Himilco or Mago would tell me, since, you say, the battle of Cannae has all but destroyed the power of Rome and the whole of Italy is admittedly in revolt, whether, in the first place, any single community of the Latin nation has come over to us, and, secondly, whether a single man out of the thirty-five Roman tribes has deserted to Hannibal." Mago answered both questions in the negative. "Then there are still," Hanno continued, "far too many of the enemy left. But I should like to know how much courage and confidence that vast multitude possess."
[23.13]Mago said he did not know. "Nothing," replied Hanno, "is easier to find out. Have the Romans sent any envoys to Hannibal to sue for peace? Has any rumour reached your ears of any one even mentioning the word 'peace' in Rome?" Again Mago replied in the negative. "Well, then," said Hanno, "we have as much work before us in this war as we had on the day when Hannibal first set foot in Italy. Many of us are still alive who can remember with what changeful fortunes the first Punic war was fought. Never did our cause appear to be prospering more by sea and land than immediately before the consulship of C. Lutatius and A. Postumius. But in their year of office we were utterly defeated off the Aegates. But if (which heaven forfend!) fortune should now turn to any extent, do you hope to obtain when you are defeated a peace which no one offers to give you now that you are victorious? If any one should ask my opinion about offering or accepting terms of peace I would say what I thought. But if the question before us is simply whether Mago's demands should be granted, I do not think that we are concerned with sending supplies to a victorious army, much less do I consider that they ought to be sent if we are being deluded with false and empty hopes." Very few were influenced by Hanno's speech. His well-known dislike of the Barcas deprived his words of weight and they were too much preoccupied with the delightful news they had just heard to listen to anything which would make them feel less cause for joy. They fancied that if they were willing to make a slight effort the war would soon be over. A resolution was accordingly passed with great enthusiasm to reinforce Hannibal with 4000 Numidians, 40 elephants, and 500 talents of silver. Bostar also was sent with Mago into Spain to raise 20,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry to make good the losses of the armies in Italy and Spain.
[23.14]As usual, however, in seasons of prosperity, these measures were executed with great remissness and dilatoriness. The Romans, on the other hand, were kept from being dilatory by their native energy and still more by the necessities of their position. The consul did not fail in any single duty which he had to perform, nor did the Dictator show less energy. The force now available comprised the two legions which had been enrolled by the consuls at the beginning of the year, a levy of slaves and the cohorts which had been raised in the country of Picenum and Cisalpine Gaul. The Dictator decided to still further increase his strength by adopting a measure to which only a country in an almost hopeless state could stoop, when honour must yield to necessity. After duly discharging his religious duties and obtaining the necessary permission to mount his horse, he published an edict that all who had been guilty of capital offences or who were in prison for debt and were willing to serve under him would by his orders be released from punishment and have their debts cancelled. 6000 men were raised in this way, and he armed them with the spoils taken from the Gauls and which had been carried in the triumphal procession of C. Flaminius. He then started from the City with 25,000 men. After taking over Capua, and making another fruitless appeal to the hopes and fears of Neapolis, Hannibal marched into the territory of Nola. He did not at once treat it in a hostile manner as he was not without hope that the citizens would make a voluntary surrender, but if they delayed, he intended to leave nothing undone which could cause them suffering or terror. The senate, especially its leading members, were faithful supporters of the Roman alliance, the populace as usual were all in favour of revolting to Hannibal; they conjured up the prospect of ravaged fields and a siege with all its hardships and indignities; nor were there wanting men who were actively instigating a revolt. The senate were afraid that if they openly opposed the agitation they would not be able to withstand the popular excitement, and they found a means of putting off the evil day by pretending to go with the mob. They represented that they were in favour of revolting to Hannibal, but nothing was settled as to the conditions on which they were to enter into a new treaty and alliance. Having thus gained time, they sent delegates in great haste to Marcellus Claudius the praetor, who was with his army at Casilinum, to inform him of the critical position of Nola, how their territory was in Hannibal's hand, and the city would be in the possession of the Carthaginians unless it received succour. and how the senate, by telling the populace that they might revolt when they pleased. had made them less in a hurry to do so. Marcellus thanked the delegates and told them to adhere to the same policy and postpone matters till he arrived. He then left Casilinum for Caiatia and from there he marched across the Vulturnus, through the districts of Saticula and Trebia, over the hills above Suessula, and so arrived at Nola.
[23.15]On the approach of the Roman praetor the Carthaginian evacuated the territory of Nola and marched down to the coast close to Neapolis, as he was anxious to secure a seaport town to which there might be a safe passage for ships coming from Africa. When, however, he learnt that Neapolis was held by a Roman officer, M. Junius Silanus, who had been invited by the Neapolitans, he left Naples, as he had left Nola, and went to Nuceria. He spent some time in investing the place, often attacking it, and often making tempting proposals to the chief men of the place and to the leaders of the populace, but all to no purpose. At last famine did its work, and he received the submission of the town, the inhabitants being allowed to depart without arms and with one garment apiece. Then, to keep up his character of being friendly to all the Italian nationalities except the Romans, he held out honours and rewards to those who consented to remain in his service. Not a single man was tempted by the prospect; they all dispersed, wherever they had friends, or wherever each man's fancy led him, amongst the cities of Campania, mainly Nola and Neapolis. About thirty of their senators, and, as it happened, their principal ones, endeavoured to enter Capua, but were refused admission because they had closed their gates against Hannibal. They accordingly went on to Cumae. The plunder of Nuceria was given to the soldiers, the city itself was burnt.
Marcellus retained his hold on Nola quite as much by the support of its leading men as by the confidence he felt in his troops. Fears were entertained as to the populace and especially L. Bantius. This enterprising young man was at that time almost the most distinguished among the allied cavalry, but the knowledge that he had attempted revolt and his fear of the Roman praetor were driving him on to betray his country or, if he found no means of doing that, to become a deserter. He had been discovered lying half-dead on a heap of bodies on the field of Cannae, and after being taken the utmost care of, Hannibal sent him home loaded with presents. His feelings of gratitude for such kindness made him wish to place the government of Nola in the hands of the Carthaginian, and his anxiety and eagerness for a revolution attracted the observation of the praetor. As it was necessary either to restrain the youth by punishment or to win him by kindness, the praetor chose the latter course, preferring to secure such a brave and enterprising youth as a friend rather than to lose him to the enemy. He invited him to come and see him and spoke to him most kindly. "You can easily understand," he told him, "that many of your countrymen are jealous of you, from the fact that not a single citizen of Nola has pointed out to me your many distinguished military services. But the bravery of a man who has served in a Roman camp cannot be hidden. Many of your fellow-soldiers tell me what a young hero you are, and how many perils and dangers you have undergone in defence of the safety and honour of Rome. I am told that you did not give up the struggle on the field of Cannae until you were buried almost lifeless, beneath a falling mass of men and horses and arms. May you long live to do still more gallant deeds! With me you will gain every honour and reward, and you will find that the more you are in my company the more will it lead to your profit and promotion." The young man was delighted with these promises. The praetor made him a present of a splendid charger and authorised the quaestor to pay him 500 silver coins; he also instructed his lictors to allow him to pass whenever he wished to see him.
[23.16]The high-spirited youth was so completely captivated by the attention Marcellus paid him that for the future none among the allies of Rome gave her more efficient or more loyal help. Hannibal once more moved his camp from Nuceria to Nola, and when he appeared before its gates the populace again began to look forward to revolting. As the enemy approached Marcellus retired within the walls, not because he feared for his camp, but because he would not give any opportunity to the large number of citizens who were bent on betraying their city. Both armies now began to prepare for battle; the Romans before the walls of Nola and the Carthaginians in front of their camp. Slight skirmishes took place between the city and the camp with varying success, as the generals would not prohibit their men from going forward in small parties to offer defiance to the enemy nor would they give the signal for a general action. Day after day the two armies took up their respective stations in this way, and during this time the leading citizens of Nola informed Marcellus that nocturnal interviews were taking place between the populace and the Carthaginians, and that it had been arranged that when the Roman army had passed out of the gates they should plunder their baggage and kits, then close the gates and man the walls so that having become masters of their city and government they might forthwith admit the Carthaginians instead of the Romans.
On receiving this information Marcellus warmly thanked the Nolan senators and made up his mind to try the fortune of a battle before any disturbances arose in the city. He formed his army into three divisions and stationed them at the three gates which faced the enemy, he ordered the baggage to follow close behind, and the camp-servants, sutlers, and disabled soldiers were to carry stakes. At the centre gate he posted the strongest part of the legions and the Roman cavalry, at the two on either side he stationed the recruits, the light infantry, and the cavalry of the allies. The Nolans were forbidden to approach the walls or gates and a special reserve was placed in charge of the baggage to prevent any attack upon it whilst the legions were engaged in the battle. In this formation they remained standing inside the gates. Hannibal had his troops drawn up for battle, as he had had for several days, and remained in this position till late in the day. At first it struck him with surprise that the Roman army did not move outside the gates and that not a single soldier appeared on the walls. Then, supposing that the secret interviews had been betrayed and that his friends were afraid to move, he sent back a portion of his troops to their camp with orders to bring all the appliances for attacking the town as soon as possible to the front of the line. He felt fairly confident that if he attacked them whilst thus hesitating the populace would raise some disturbance in the town. Whilst his men were hurrying up to the front ranks, each to his allotted task, and the whole line was approaching the walls, Marcellus ordered the gates to be suddenly flung open, the attack sounded, and the battle shout raised; the infantry, followed by the cavalry, were to attack with all the fury possible. They had already carried enough confusion and alarm into the enemies' centre when P. Valerius Flaccus and C. Aurelius, divisional commanders, burst out from the other two gates and charged. The sutlers and camp-servants and the rest of the troops who were guarding the baggage joined in the shouting, and this made the Carthaginians, who had been despising the fewness of their numbers, think that it was a large army. I would hardly venture to assert, as some authorities do, that 2800 of the enemy were killed, and that the Romans did not lose more than 500. But whether the victory was as great as that or not, I do not think that an action more important in its consequences was fought during the whole war, for it was more difficult for those who conquered to escape being defeated by Hannibal than it was afterwards to conquer him.
[23.17]As there was no hope of his getting possession of Nola, Hannibal withdrew to Acerrae. No sooner had he departed than Marcellus shut the gates and posted guards to prevent any one from leaving the city. He then opened a public inquiry in the forum into the conduct of those who had been holding secret interviews with the enemy. Above seventy were found guilty of treason and beheaded and their property confiscated. Then, after handing the government over to the senate, he left with his entire force and took up a position above Suessula, where he encamped. At first the Carthaginian tried to persuade the men of Acerrae to make a voluntary surrender, but when he found that their loyalty remained unshaken he made preparations for a siege and an assault. The Acerrans possessed more courage than strength, and when they saw that the blockade was being carried round their walls and that it was hopeless to attempt any further defence, they decided to escape before the enemies' line of circumvallation was closed, and stealing away in the dead of night through any unguarded gaps in the earthworks they fled, regardless of roads or paths, as chance or design led them. They escaped to those cities of Campania which they had every reason to believe had not changed their allegiance. After plundering and burning Acerrae Hannibal marched to Casilinum in consequence of information he received of the Dictator's march on Capua with his legions. He was apprehensive that the proximity of the Roman army might create a counter-revolution in Capua. At that time Casilinum was held by 500 Praenestines with a few Roman and Latin troops, who had gone there when they heard of the disaster at Cannae. The levy at Praeneste had not been completed by the appointed day, and these men started from home too late to be of use at Cannae. They reached Casilinum before news of the disaster arrived, and, joined by Romans and allies, they advanced in great force. Whilst on the march they heard of the battle and its result and returned to Casilinum. Here, suspected by the Campanians and fearing for their own safety, they passed some days in forming and evading plots. When they were satisfied that Capua was in revolt and that Hannibal would be admitted, they massacred the townsmen of Casilinum at night and took possession of the part of the city on this side of the Vulturnus - the river divides the city in two - and held it as a Roman garrison. They were joined also by a cohort of Perusians numbering 460 men who were driven to Casilinum by the same intelligence that sent the Praenestines there a few days previously. The force was quite adequate for the small circuit of walls, protected, too, as they were on one side by the river, but the scarcity of corn made even that number appear too large.
[23.18]When Hannibal was now not far from the place he sent on in advance a troop of Gaetulians under an officer named Isalca, to try and get a parley with the inhabitants and persuade them by fair words to open their gates and admit a Carthaginian detachment to hold the town. If they refused, they were to use force and make an attack, wherever it seemed feasible, on the place. When they approached the walls the town was so silent that they thought it was deserted, and taking it for granted that the inhabitants had fled through fear they began to force the gates and break down the bars. Suddenly the gates were thrown open and two cohorts which had been standing inside ready for action dashed out and made a furious charge, utterly discomfiting the enemy. Maharbal was sent with a stronger force to their assistance, but even he was unable to withstand the impetuosity of the cohorts. At last Hannibal pitched his camp before the walls, and made preparations for assaulting the little town and its small garrison with the combined strength of his entire army. After completing the circle of his investing lines he began to harass and annoy the garrison, and in this way lost some of his most daring soldiers who were hit with missiles from the wall and turrets. On one occasion when the defenders were taking the aggressive in a sortie he nearly cut them off with his elephants and drove them in hasty flight into the city; the loss, considering their numbers, was quite severe enough, and more would have fallen had not night intervened. The next day there was a general desire to begin the assault. The enthusiasm of the men had been kindled by the offer of a "mural crown" of gold and also by the way in which the general himself remonstrated with the men who had taken Saguntum for their slackness in attacking a little fortress situated in open country, and also reminded them one and all of Cannae, Trasumennus, and the Trebia. The vineae were brought up and mines commenced, but the various attempts of the enemy were opposed with equal strength and skill by the defenders, the allies of Rome; they created defences against the vineae, intercepted their mines with counter-mines, and met all their attacks above ground or below with steady resistance until at last Hannibal for very shame gave up his project. He contented himself with fortifying his camp and leaving a small force to defend it, so that it might not be supposed that the siege was entirely abandoned; after which he settled in Capua as his winter quarters.
There he kept his army under shelter for the greater part of the winter. A long and varied experience had inured that army to every form of human suffering, but it had not been habituated to or had any experience of ease and comfort. So it came about that the men whom no pressure of calamity had been able to subdue fell victims to a prosperity too great and pleasures too attractive for them to withstand, and fell all the more utterly the more greedily they plunged into new and untried delights. Sloth, wine, feasting, women, baths, and idle lounging, which became every day more seductive as they became more habituated to them, so enervated their minds and bodies that they were saved more by the memory of past victories than by any fighting strength they possessed now. Authorities in military matters have regarded the wintering at Capua as a greater mistake on the part of Hannibal than his not marching straight to Rome after his victory at Cannae. For his delay at that time might be looked upon as only postponing his final victory but this may be considered as having deprived him of the strength to win victory. And it certainly did look as if he left Capua with another army altogether; it did not retain a shred of its former discipline. A large number who had become entangled with women went back there, and as soon as they took to tents again and the fatigue of marching and other military toils had to be endured their strength and spirits alike gave way just as though they were raw recruits. From that time all through the summer campaign a large number left the standards without leave, and Capua was the only place where the deserters sought to hide themselves.
[23.19]However, when the mild weather came, Hannibal led his army out of their winter quarters and marched back to Casilinum. Although the assault had been suspended, the uninterrupted investment had reduced the townsfolk and the garrison to the extremity of want. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was in command of the Roman camp, as the Dictator had to leave for Rome to take the auspices afresh. Marcellus was equally anxious to assist the besieged garrison, but he was detained by the Vulturnus being in flood, and also by the entreaties of the people of Nola and Acerrae who feared the Campanians in case the Romans withdrew their protection. Gracchus simply watched Casilinum, for the Dictator had given strict orders that no active operations should be undertaken in his absence. He therefore kept quiet, though the reports from Casilinum might easily have been too much for any man's patience. It was stated as a fact that some, unable to endure starvation any longer, had flung themselves from the walls, others had stood there unarmed and exposed their defenceless bodies to the missiles of the enemy. These tidings sorely tried his patience, for he durst not fight against the Dictator's orders, and he saw that he would have to fight if he were seen getting corn into the place, and there was no chance of getting it in without being seen. He gathered in a supply of corn from all the fields round and filled a number of casks with it, and then sent a messenger to the chief magistrate at Casilinum asking him to pick up the casks which the river carried down. The next night, while all were intently watching the river, after their hopes had been raised by the Roman messenger, the casks floated down in the middle of the stream; and the corn was divided in equal shares amongst them all. The same thing happened on the two following days; they were sent off by night and reached their destination; so far they had escaped the notice of the enemy. Then, owing to the perpetual rain, the river became more rapid than usual and the cross currents carried the casks to the bank which the enemy were guarding. They caught sight of them as they stuck amongst the osier beds which grew on the bank and a report was made to Hannibal in consequence of which greater caution was observed and a closer watch was kept, so that nothing could be sent by the Vulturnus to the city without being detected. Nuts, however, were scattered on the river from the Roman camp; these floated down the mid-stream and were caught in baskets. At last things came to such a pitch that the inhabitants tried to chew the leather straps and hides which they tore from their shields, after softening them in boiling water, nor did they refuse mice and other animals; they even dug up from the bottom of their walls grass and roots of all sorts. When the enemy had ploughed up all the grass outside the walls they sowed it with rape, which made Hannibal exclaim: "Am I to sit here before Casilinum until these seeds have grown?" and whereas he had never allowed any terms of surrender to be mentioned in his hearing, he now consented to proposals for the ransom of all the freeborn citizens. The price agreed upon was seven ounces of gold for each person. When their liberty was guaranteed they surrendered, but were kept in custody till all the gold was paid, then in strict observance of the terms they were released. This is much more likely to be true than that after they had left cavalry were sent after them and put them all to death. The great majority were Praenestines. Out of the 570 who formed the garrison not less than half had perished by sword and famine, the rest returned in safety to Praeneste with their commanding officer, M. Anicius, who had formerly been a notary. To commemorate the event his statue was set up in the forum of Praeneste, wearing a coat of mail with a toga over it and having the head veiled. A bronze plate was affixed with this inscription: "Marcus Anicius has discharged the vow he made for the safety of the garrison of Casilinum." The same inscription was affixed to the three images standing in the temple of Fortune.
[23.20]The town of Casilinum was given back to the Campanians, and a garrison of 700 men from Hannibal's army was placed in it in case the Romans should attack it after Hannibal's departure. The senate decreed that double pay and an exemption for five years from further service should be granted to the Praenestine troops. They were also offered the full Roman citizenship, but they preferred not to change their status as citizens of Praeneste. There is more obscurity as to what happened to the Perusians, as there is no light thrown upon it by any monument of their own or any decree of the senate. The people of Petelia, who alone of all the Bruttii had remained friendly to Rome, were now attacked not only by the Carthaginians, who were overrunning that district, but also by the rest of the Bruttii who had adopted the opposite policy. Finding themselves helpless in the presence of all these dangers, they sent envoys to Rome to ask for support. The senate told them that they must look after themselves, and on hearing this they broke into tears and entreaties and flung themselves on the floor of the vestibule. Their distress excited the deep sympathy of both senate and people, and the praetor, M. Aemilius asked the senators to reconsider their decision. After making a careful survey of the resources of the empire, they were compelled to admit that they were powerless to protect their distant allies. They advised the envoys to return home and now that they had proved their loyalty to the utmost they must adopt such measures as their present circumstances demanded. When the result of their mission was reported to the Petelians, their senate was so overcome by grief and fear that some were in favour of deserting the city and seeking refuge wherever they could, others thought that as they had been abandoned by their old allies they had better join the rest of the Bruttii and surrender to Hannibal. The majority, however, decided that no rash action should be taken, and that the question should be further debated. When the matter came up the next day a calmer tone prevailed and their leading statesmen persuaded them to collect all their produce and possessions from the fields and put the city and the walls into a state of defence.
[23.21]About this time despatches arrived from Sicily and Sardinia. The one sent from T. Otacilius, the propraetor commanding in Sicily, was read in the senate. It stated in effect that P. Furius had reached Lilybaeum with his fleet; that he himself was seriously wounded and his life in great danger; that the soldiers and sailors had no pay or corn given them from day to day, nor was there any means of procuring any, and he strongly urged that both should be sent as soon as possible, and that, if the senate agreed, one of the new praetors should be sent to succeed him. The despatch from A. Cornelius Mammula dealt with the same difficulty as to pay and corn. The same reply was sent to both; there was no possibility of sending either, and they were instructed to make the best arrangements they could for their fleets and armies. T. Otacilius sent envoys to Hiero, the one man whom Rome could fall back upon, and received in reply as much money as he needed and a six months' supply of corn. In Sicily the allied cities sent generous contributions. Even in Rome, too, the scarcity of money was felt and a measure was carried by M. Minucius, one of the tribunes of the plebs, for the appointment of three finance commissioners. The men appointed were: L. Aemilius Papus, who had been consul and censor; M. Atilius Regulus, who had been twice consul, and L. Scribonius Libo, one of the tribunes of the plebs. Marcus and Caius Atilius, two brothers, were appointed to dedicate the temple of Concord which L. Manlius had vowed during his praetorship. Three new pontiffs were also chosen - Q. Caecilius Metellus, Q. Fabius Maximus, and Q. Fulvius Flaccus - in the place of P. Scantinius who had died, and of L. Aemilius Paulus, the consul, and Q. Aelius Paetus, both of whom fell at Cannae.
[23.22]When the senate had done their best - so far as human wisdom could do so - to make good the losses which Fortune had inflicted in such an uninterrupted series of disasters, they at last turned their attention to the emptiness of the Senate-house and the small number of those who attended the national council. There had been no revision of the roll of the senate since L. Aemilius and C. Flaminius were censors, though there had been such heavy losses amongst the senators during the last five years on the field of battle, as well as from the fatalities and accidents to which all are liable. In compliance with the unanimous wish, the subject was brought forward by the praetor, M. Aemilius, in the absence of the Dictator, who after the loss of Casilinum had rejoined the army. Sp. Carvilius spoke at considerable length about the dearth of senators, and also the very small number of citizens from whom senators could be chosen. He went on to say that for the purpose of filling up the vacancies, and also of strengthening the union between the Latins and Rome, he should strongly urge that the full citizenship be granted to two senators out of each Latin city, to be approved by the senate, and that these men should be chosen into the senate in the place of those who had died. The senate listened to these proposals with quite as much impatience as they had previously felt at the demand of the Latins. A murmur of indignation went through the House. T. Manlius in particular was heard asserting that there was even still one man of the stock to which that consul belonged who once in the Capitol threatened that he would kill with his own hand any Latin whom he saw sitting in the senate. Q. Fabius Maximus declared that no proposal had ever been mooted in the senate at a more inopportune time than this; it had been thrown out at a moment when the sympathies of their allies were wavering and their loyalty doubtful, and it would make them more restless than ever; those rash inconsiderate words uttered by one man ought to be stifled by the silence of all men. Whatever secret or sacred matter had at any time imposed silence on that House, this most of all must be concealed, buried, forgotten, considered as never having been uttered. All further allusion to the subject was accordingly suppressed. It was ultimately decided to nominate as Dictator a man who had been censor before, and was the oldest man living who had held that office, in order that the roll of senators might be revised. C. Terentius was recalled to nominate the Dictator. Leaving a garrison in Apulia he returned to Rome by forced marches, and the night after his arrival nominated, in accordance with ancient custom M. Fabius Buteo to act as Dictator for six months without any Master of the Horse.
[23.23]Accompanied by his lictors, Fabius mounted the rostra and made the following speech: "I do not approve of there being two Dictators at the same time, a thing wholly unprecedented, nor of there being a Dictator without a Master of the Horse, nor of the censorial powers being entrusted to one individual and that for the second time, nor of the supreme authority being placed in the hands of a Dictator for six months unless he has been created to wield executive powers. These irregularities may perhaps be necessary at this juncture, but I shall fix a limit to them. I shall not remove from the roll any of those whom C. Flaminius and L. Aemilius, the last censors, placed on it, I shall simply order their names to be transcribed and read out, as I do not choose to allow the power of judging and deciding upon the reputation or character of a senator to rest with any single individual. I shall fill up the places of those who are dead in such a way as to make it clear that preference is given to rank and not to persons." After the names of the old senate had been read out, Fabius began his selection. The first chosen were men who, subsequent to the censorship of L. Aemilius and C. Flaminius, had filled a curule office, but were not yet in the senate, and they were taken according to the order of their previous appointments. They were followed by those who had been aediles, tribunes of the plebs, or quaestors. Last of all came those who had not held office, but had the spoils of an enemy set up in their houses or had received a "civic crown." In this way names were added to the senatorial roll, amidst general approbation. Having completed his task he at once laid down his Dictatorship and descended from the rostra as a private citizen. He ordered the lictors to cease their attendance and mingled with the throng of citizens who were transacting their private business, deliberately idling his time away in order that he might not take the people out of the Forum to escort him home. The public interest in him, however, did not slacken through their having to wait, and a large crowd escorted him to his house. The following night the consul made his way back to the army, without letting the senate know, as he did not want to be detained in the City for the elections.
[23.24]The next day the senate, on being consulted by M. Pomponius, the praetor, passed a decree to write to the Dictator, asking him, if the interests of the State permitted, to come to Rome to conduct the election of fresh consuls. He was to bring with him his Master of the Horse and M. Marcellus, the praetor, so that the senate might learn from them on the spot in what condition the affairs of the Republic were, and form their plans accordingly. On receiving the summons they all came, after leaving officers in command of the legions. The Dictator spoke briefly and modestly about himself; he gave most of the credit to Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, his Master of the Horse, and then gave notice of the elections. The consuls elected were L. Postumius for the third time - he was elected in his absence, as he was then administering the province of Gaul - and Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, Master of the Horse, and at that time curule aedile also. Then the praetors were elected. They were M. Valerius Laevinus, for the second time, Appius Claudius Pulcher, Q. Fulvius Flaccus, and Q. Mucius Scaevola. After the various magistrates had been elected the Dictator returned to his army in winter quarters at Teanum. The Master of the Horse was left in Rome; as he would be entering upon office in a few days, it was desirable for him to consult the senate about the enrolment and equipment of the armies for the year.
While these matters were engrossing attention a fresh disaster was announced, for Fortune was heaping one disaster upon another this year. It was reported that L. Postumius, the consul elect, and his army had been annihilated in Gaul. There was a wild forest called by the Gauls Litana, and through this the consul was to conduct his army. The Gauls cut through the trees on both sides of the road in such a way that they remained standing as long as they were undisturbed, but a slight pressure would make them fall. Postumius had two Roman legions, and he had also levied a force from the country bordering on the Upper Sea, sufficiently large to bring the force with which he entered the hostile territory up to 2s,000 men. The Gauls had posted themselves round the outskirts of the forest, and as soon as the Roman army entered they pushed the sawn trees on the outside, these fell upon those next to them, which were tottering and hardly able to stand upright, until the whole mass fell in on both sides and buried in one common ruin arms and men and horses. Hardly ten men escaped, for when most of them hail been crushed to death by the trunks or broken branches of the trees, the remainder, panic-struck at the unexpected disaster, were killed by the Gauls who surrounded the forest. Out of the whole number only very few were made prisoners, and these, whilst trying to reach a bridge over the river, were intercepted by the Gauls who had already seized it. It was there that Postumius fell whilst fighting most desperately to avoid capture. The Boii stripped the body of its spoils and cut off the head, and bore them in triumph to the most sacred of their temples. According to their custom they cleaned out the skull and covered the scalp with beaten gold; it was then used as a vessel for libations and also as a drinking cup for the priest and ministers of the temple. The plunder, too, which the Gauls secured was as great as their victory, for although most of the animals had been buried beneath the fallen trees, the rest of the booty, not having been scattered in flight, was found strewn along the whole line where the army lay.
[23.25]When the news of this disaster arrived the whole community was in such a state of alarm that the shops were shut up and a solitude like that of night pervaded the City. Under these circumstances the senate instructed the aediles to make a round of the City and order the citizens to re-open their shops and lay aside the aspect of public mourning. Ti. Sempronius then convened the senate, and addressed them in a consolatory and encouraging tone. "We," he said, "who were not crushed by the overthrow at Cannae must not lose heart at smaller calamities. If we are successful, as I trust we shall be, in our operations against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, we can safely leave the war with the Gauls out of account for the present; the gods and the Roman people will have it in their power to avenge that act of treachery. It is with regard to the Carthaginians and the armies with which the war is to be carried on that we have now to deliberate and decide." He first gave details as to the strength of infantry and cavalry, and the proportion in each of Roman and allied troops, which made up the Dictator's army; Marcellus followed with similar details as to his own force. Then inquiry was made of those who were acquainted with the facts as to the strength of the force with C. Terentius Varro in Apulia. No practical method suggested itself for bringing up the two consular armies to sufficient strength for such an important war. So in spite of the justifiable resentment which was generally felt they decided to discontinue the campaign in Gaul for that year. The Dictator's army was assigned to the consul. It was decided that those of Marcellus' troops who were involved in the flight from Cannae should be transported to Sicily to serve there as long as the war continued in Italy. All the least efficient in the Dictator's army were also to be removed there, no period of service being fixed in their case, except that they must each serve out their time. The two legions raised in the City were allocated to the other consul who should succeed L. Postumius; and it was arranged that he should be elected as soon as favourable auspices could be obtained. The two legions in Sicily were to be recalled at the earliest possible moment, and the consul to whom the legions from the City had been assigned was to take out of those what men he required. C. Terentius had his command extended for another year, and no reduction was to be made in the army with which he was protecting Apulia.
[23.26]Whilst these preparations were going on in Italy, the war in Spain was being carried on with as much energy as ever and, so far, in favour of the Romans. The two Scipios, Publius and Cnaeus, had divided their forces between them, Cnaeus was to operate on land and Publius by sea. Hasdrubal, the Carthaginian commander, did not feel himself strong enough in either arm, and kept himself safe by taking up strong positions at a distance from the enemy; until, in response to his many earnest appeals for reinforcements, 4000 infantry and 1000 cavalry were sent to him from Africa. Then, recovering his confidence, he moved nearer the enemy, and gave orders for the fleet to be put into readiness to protect the islands and the coast. In the very middle of his preparations for a fresh campaign he was dismayed by news of the desertion of the naval captains. After they had been heavily censured for their cowardice in abandoning the fleet at the Ebro they had never been very loyal either to their general or to the cause of Carthage. These deserters had started an agitation amongst the tribe of the Tartesii and had induced several cities to revolt, and one they had actually taken by storm. The war was now diverted from the Romans to this tribe, and Hasdrubal entered their territories with an invading army. Chalbus, a distinguished general amongst them, was encamped with a strong force before the walls of a city which he had captured a few days before, and Hasdrubal determined to attack him. He sent forward skirmishers to draw the enemy into an engagement and told off a part of his cavalry to lay waste the surrounding country and pick up stragglers. There was confusion in the camp and panic and bloodshed in the fields, but when they had regained the camp from all directions their fears so suddenly left them that they became emboldened, not only to defend their camp, but even to take the aggressive against the enemy. They burst in a body out of their camp, executing war dances after their manner, and this unexpected daring on their part carried terror into the hearts of the enemy, who had shortly before been challenging them. Hasdrubal thereupon withdrew his force to a fairly lofty hill, which was also protected by a river which served as a barrier. He retired his skirmishers and his scattered cavalry also to this same position. Not, however, feeling sufficiently protected by either hill or river he strongly entrenched himself. Several skirmishes took place between the two sides who were alternately frightening and fearing each other, and the Numidian trooper proved to be no match for the Spaniard, nor were the darts of the Moor very effective against the ox-hide shields of the natives, who were quite as rapid in their movements and possessed more strength and courage.
[23.27]When they found that though they rode up to the Carthaginian lines they could not entice the enemy into action, whilst an attack upon the camp was a far from easy matter, they successfully assaulted the town of Ascua, where Hasdrubal had stored his corn and other supplies on entering their territories, and became masters of all the country round. Now there was no longer any discipline amongst them, whether on the march or in camp. Hasdrubal soon became aware of this, and seeing that success had made them careless, he urged his men to attack them whilst they were scattered away from their standards; he himself meanwhile descended from the hill and marched with his men in attack formation straight to their camp. News of his approach was brought by men rushing in from the look-out stations and outposts and there was a general call to arms. As each man seized his weapons he hurried with the others into battle, without order or formation, or word of command or standards. The foremost of them were already engaged, whilst others were still running up in small groups and some had not yet left the camp. Their reckless daring, however, at first checked the enemy, but soon, finding that whilst loose and scattered themselves, they were charging an enemy in close formation, and that their scanty numbers imperilled their safety, they looked round at one another, and as they were being repulsed in every direction they formed a square. Standing close together with their shields touching they were gradually driven into such a close mass that they had hardly room to use their weapons, and for a great part of the day were simply cut down by the enemy who completely surrounded them. A very few cut their way out and made for the woods and hills. The camp was abandoned in the same panic and the whole tribe made their surrender the following day. But they did not remain quiet long, for just after this battle an order was received from Carthage for Hasdrubal to lead his army as soon as he could into Italy. This became generally known throughout Spain and the result was that there was a universal feeling in favour of Rome. Hasdrubal at once sent a despatch to Carthage pointing out what mischief the mere rumour of his departure had caused, and also that if he did really leave Spain it would pass into the hands of the Romans before he crossed the Ebro. He went on to say that not only had he neither a force nor a general to leave in his place, but the Roman generals were men whom he found it difficult to oppose even when his strength was equal to theirs. If, therefore, they were at all anxious to retain Spain they should send a man with a powerful army to succeed him, and even though all went well with his successor he would not find it an easy province to govern.
[23.28]Although this despatch made a great impression on the senate, they decided that as Italy demanded their first and closest attention, the arrangements about Hannibal and his forces must not be altered. Himilco was sent with a large and well-appointed army and an augmented fleet to hold and defend Spain by sea and land. As soon as he had brought his military and naval forces across he formed an entrenched camp, hauled his ships up on the beach and surrounded them with a rampart. After providing for the safety of his force he started with a picked body of cavalry, and marching as rapidly as possible, and being equally on the alert whether passing through doubtful or through hostile tribes, succeeded in reaching Hasdrubal. After laying before him the resolutions and instructions of the senate and being in his turn shown in what way the war was to be managed in Spain, he returned to his camp. He owed his safety most of all to the speed at which he travelled, for he had got clear of each tribe before they had time for any united action. Before Hasdrubal commenced his march, he levied contributions on all the tribes under his rule, for he was quite aware that Hannibal had secured a passage through some tribes by paying for it, and had obtained his Gaulish auxiliaries simply by hiring them. To commence such a march without money would hardly bring him to the Alps. The contributions were therefore hurriedly called in and after receiving them he marched down to the Ebro. When the resolutions of the Carthaginians and Hasdrubal's march were reported to the Roman generals, the two Scipios at once put aside all other matters and made preparations to meet him at the outset with their joint forces and stop his further progress. They believed that if Hannibal, who single-handed was almost too much for Italy, were joined by such a general as Hasdrubal and his Spanish army it would mean the end of the Roman empire. With so much to make them anxious they concentrated their forces at the Ebro and crossed the river. They deliberated for some considerable time as to whether they should meet him, army against army, or whether it would be enough for them to hinder his proposed march by attacking the tribes in alliance with the Carthaginians. The latter plan seemed the best, and they made preparations for attacking a city which from its proximity to the river was called Hibera, the wealthiest city in that country. As soon as Hasdrubal became aware of this, instead of going to the assistance of his allies he proceeded to attack a city which had recently put itself under the protection of Rome. On this the Romans abandoned the siege which they had begun and turned their arms against Hasdrubal himself.
[23.29]For some days they remained encamped at a distance of about five miles from each other, and though frequent skirmishes took place there was no general action. At last on the same day, as though by previous agreement, the signal was given on both sides and they descended with their entire forces on to the plain. The Roman line was in three divisions. Some of the light infantry were posted between the leading ranks of the legions, the rest amongst those behind; the cavalry closed the wings. Hasdrubal strengthened his centre with his Spaniards, on the right wing he posted the Carthaginians, on the left the Africans and the mercenaries, the Numidian horse he stationed in front of the Carthaginian infantry, and the rest of the cavalry in front of the Africans. Not all the Numidian horse, however, were on the right wing, but only those who were trained to manage two horses at the same time like circus-riders and, when the battle was at the hottest, were in the habit of jumping off the wearied horse on to the fresh one, such were the agility of the riders and the docility of the horses.
These were the dispositions on each side, and whilst the two armies were standing ready to engage, their commanders felt almost equally confident of victory, for neither side was much superior to the other either in the numbers or the quality of the troops. With the men themselves it was far otherwise. Though the Romans were fighting far away from their homes their generals had no difficulty in making them realise that they were fighting for Italy and for Rome. They knew that it hung upon the issue of that fight whether they were to see their homes again or not, and they resolutely determined either to conquer or to die. The other army possessed nothing like the same determination, for they were most of them natives of Spain and would rather be defeated in Spain than win the victory and be dragged to Italy. At the first onset, almost before they had hurled their javelins, the centre gave ground, and when the Romans came on in a tremendous charge they turned and fled. The brunt of the fighting now fell upon the wings; the Carthaginians pressed forward on the right, the Africans on the left, and slowly wheeling round attacked the advancing Roman infantry on both flanks. But the whole force had now concentrated on the centre, and forming front in both directions beat back the attack on their flanks. So two separate actions were going on. The Romans, having already repulsed Hasdrubal's centre, and having the advantage as regarded both the numbers and the strength of their men, proved themselves undoubtedly superior on both fronts. A very large number of the enemy fell in these two attacks, and had not their centre taken to hasty flight almost before the battle began, very few would have survived out of their whole army. The cavalry took no part whatever in the fighting, for no sooner did the Moors and Numidians see the centre of the line giving way than they fled precipitately, leaving the wings exposed, and even driving the elephants before them. Hasdrubal waited to see the final issue of the battle and then escaped out of the slaughter with a few followers. The camp was seized and plundered by the Romans. This battle secured for Rome all the tribes who were wavering and deprived Hasdrubal of all hopes of taking his army to Italy or even of remaining with anything like safety in Spain. When the contents of the despatch from the Scipios was made known in Rome, the gratification felt was not so much on account of the victory as that Hasdrubal's march into Italy was at an end.
[23.30]During these incidents in Spain, Petelia in Bruttium was taken by Himilco, one of Hannibal's lieutenants, after a siege which lasted several months. That victory cost the Carthaginians heavy losses in both killed and wounded, for the defenders only yielded after they had been starved out. They had consumed all their corn and eaten every kind of animal whether ordinarily used as food or not, and at last kept themselves alive by eating leather and grass and roots and the soft bark of trees and leaves picked from shrubs. It was not until they had no longer strength to stand on the walls or to bear the weight of their armour that they were subdued. After the capture of Petelia the Carthaginian marched his army to Consentia. The defence here was less obstinate and the place surrendered in a few days. About the same time an army of Bruttians invested the Greek city of Croton. At one time this city had been a military power, but it had been overtaken by so many and such serious reverses that its whole population was now reduced to less than 2000 souls. The enemy found no difficulty in gaining possession of a city so denuded of defenders; the citadel alone was held, after some had sought refuge there from the massacre and confusion which followed the capture of the city. Locri also went over to the Bruttians and Carthaginians after the aristocracy of the city had betrayed the populace. The people of Rhegium alone in all that country remained loyal to the Romans and kept their independence to the end.
The same change of feeling extended to Sicily and even the house of Hiero did not altogether shrink from deserting Rome. Gelo, the eldest son of the family, treating with equal contempt his aged father and the alliance with Rome, after the defeat of Cannae, went over to the Carthaginians. He was arming the natives and making friendly overtures to the cities in alliance with Rome and would have brought about a revolution in Sicily had he not been removed by the hand of death, a death so opportune that it cast suspicion even on his father. Such were the serious occurrences in Italy, Africa, Sicily, and Spain during the year (216 B.C.). Towards the close of the year Q. Fabius Maximus asked the senate to allow him to dedicate the temple of Venus Erycina which he had vowed when Dictator. The senate passed a decree that Tiberius Sempronius the consul-elect should immediately upon his entering office propose a resolution to the people that Q. Fabius be one of the two commissioners appointed to dedicate the temple. After the death of M. Aemilius Lepidus, who had been augur and twice consul, his three sons, Lucius, Marcus, and Quintus, celebrated funeral games in his honour for three days and exhibited twenty-two pairs of gladiators in the Forum. The curule aediles, C. Laetorius and Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, consul elect, who during his aedileship had been Master of the Horse, celebrated the Roman Games; the celebration lasted three days. The Plebeian Games given by the aediles Marcus Aurelius Cotta and Marcus Claudius Marcellus were solemnised three times. The third year of the Punic war had run its course when Ti. Sempronius entered on his consulship on March 15. The praetors were Q. Fulvius Flaccus, who had been previously censor and twice consul, and M. Valerius Laevinus; the former exercised jurisdiction over citizens, the latter over foreigners. App. Claudius Pulcher had the province of Sicily allotted to him, Q. Mucius Scaevola that of Sardinia. The people made an order investing M. Marcellus with the powers of a proconsul, because he was the only one out of the Roman commanders who had gained any successes in Italy since the disaster at Cannae.
[23.31]The first day the senate met for business at the Capitol they passed a decree that the war-tax for that year should be doubled, and that half the whole amount should be collected at once to furnish pay for all the soldiers, except those who had been present at Cannae. As regarded the armies they decreed that Ti. Sempronius should fix a day on which the two City legions were to muster at Cales, and that they should march from there to Claudius' camp above Suessula. The legions there, mostly made up from the army which fought at Cannae, were to be transferred by App. Claudius Pulcher to Sicily and the legions in Sicily were to be brought to Rome. M. Claudius Marcellus was sent to take command of the army which had been ordered to assemble at Cales and he received orders to conduct it to Claudius' camp. Ti. Maecilius Croto was sent by App. Claudius to take over the old army and conduct it to Sicily. At first people waited in silent expectation for the consul to hold an Assembly for the election of a colleague, but when they saw that M. Marcellus, whom they particularly wished to have as consul this year after his brilliant success as praetor, was kept out of the way, murmurs began to be heard in the Senate-house. When the consul became aware of this he said, "It is to the interest of the State, senators, that M. Claudius has gone into Campania to effect the exchange of armies, and it is equally to the interest of the State that notice of election should not be given until he has discharged the commission entrusted to him and returned home, so that you may have for your consul the man whom the circumstances of the republic call for and whom you most of all wish for." After this nothing more was said about the election till Marcellus returned.
Meanwhile the two commissioners were appointed for the dedication of temples: T. Otacilius Crassus dedicated the temple to Mens, Q. Fabius Maximus the one to Venus Erycina. Both are on the Capitol, separated only by a water channel. In the case of the three hundred Campanian knights, who after loyally serving their time in Sicily had now come to Rome, a proposal was made to the people that they should receive the full rights of Roman citizenship and should be entered on the roll of the burghers of Cumae, reckoning from the day previous to the revolt of the Campanians from Rome. The main reason for this proposal was their declaration that they did not know to what people they belonged, as they had abandoned their old country and had not yet been admitted as citizens into that to which they had returned. On Marcellus' return from the army notice was given of the election of a consul in the place of L. Postumius. Marcellus was elected by a quite unanimous vote in order that he might take up his magistracy at once. Whilst he was assuming the duties of the consulship thunder was heard; the augurs were summoned and gave it as their opinion that there was some informality in his election. The patricians spread a report that as that was the first time that two plebeian consuls were elected together, the gods were showing their displeasure. Marcellus resigned his office and Q. Fabius Maximus was appointed in his place; this was his third consulship. This year the sea appeared to be on fire; at Sinuessa a cow brought forth a colt; the statues in the temple of Juno Sospita at Lanuvium sweated blood and a shower of stones fell round the temple. For this portent there were the usual nine days' religious observances; the other portents were duly expiated.
[23.32]The consuls divided the armies between them; the army at Teanum which M. Junius the Dictator had been commanding passed to Fabius, Sempronius took command of the volunteer slaves there and 25,000 troops furnished by the allies; the legions which had returned from Sicily were assigned to M. Valerius the praetor; M. Claudius was sent to the army which was in camp above Suessa to protect Nola; the praetors went to their respective provinces in Sicily and Sardinia. The consuls issued a notice that whenever the senate was summoned the senators and all who had the right of speaking in the senate should meet at the Capena gate. The praetors whose duty it was to hear cases set up their tribunals near the public bathing place and ordered all litigants to answer to their recognisances at that place, and there they administered justice during the year. In the meanwhile the news was brought to Carthage that things had gone badly in Spain and that almost all the communities in that country had gone over to Rome. Mago, Hannibal's brother, was preparing to transport to Italy a force of 12,000 infantry, 1500 cavalry, and 20 elephants, escorted by a fleet of 60 warships. On the receipt of this news, however, some were in favour of Mago, with such a fleet and army as he had, going to Spain instead of Italy, but whilst they were deliberating there was a sudden gleam of hope that Sardinia might be recovered. They were told that "there was only a small Roman army there, the old praetor, A. Cornelius, who knew the province well, was leaving and a fresh one was expected; the Sardinians, too, were tired of their long subjection, and during the last twelve months the government had been harsh and rapacious and had crushed them with a heavy tax and an unfair exaction of corn. Nothing was wanting but a leader to head their revolt. "This report was brought by some secret agents from their leaders, the prime mover in the matter being Hampsicora, the most influential and wealthy man amongst them at that time. Perturbed by the news from Spain, and at the same time elated by the Sardinian report, they sent Mago with his fleet and army to Spain and selected Hasdrubal to conduct the operations in Sardinia, assigning to him a force about as large as the one they had furnished to Mago.
After they had transacted all the necessary business in Rome the consuls began to prepare for war. Ti. Sempronius gave his soldiers notice of the date when they were to assemble at Sinuessa, and Q. Fabius, after previously consulting the senate, issued a proclamation warning every one to convey the corn from their fields into the fortified cities by the first day of the following June, all those who failed to do so would have their land laid waste, their farms burnt, and they themselves would be sold into slavery. Even the praetors who had been appointed to administer the law were not exempted from military duties. It was decided that Valerius should be sent to Apulia to take over the army from Terentius: when the legions came from Sicily he was to employ them mainly for the defence of that district and send the army of Terentius under one of his lieutenants to Tarentum. A fleet of twenty-five vessels was also supplied him for the protection of the coast between Brundisium and Tarentum. A fleet of equal strength was assigned to Q. Fulvius, the praetor in charge of the City, for the defence of the coast near Rome. C. Terentius, as proconsul, was commissioned to raise a force in the territory of Picenum to defend that part of the country. Lastly, T. Otacilius Crassus was despatched to Sicily, after he had dedicated the temple of Mens, with full powers as propraetor to take command of the fleet.
[23.33]This struggle between the most powerful nations in the world was attracting the attention of all men, kings and peoples alike, and especially of Philip, the King of Macedon, as he was comparatively near to Italy, separated from it only by the Ionian Sea. When he first heard the rumour of Hannibal's passage of the Alps, delighted as he was at the outbreak of war between Rome and Carthage, he was still undecided, till their relative strength had been tested, which of the two he would prefer to have the victory. But after the third battle had been fought and the victory rested with the Carthaginians for the third time, he inclined to the side which Fortune favoured and sent ambassadors to Hannibal. Avoiding the ports of Brundisium and Tarentum which were guarded by Roman ships, they landed near the temple of Juno Lacinia. Whilst traversing Apulia on their way to Capua they fell into the midst of the Roman troops who were defending the district, and were conducted to Valerius Laevinus, the praetor, who was encamped near Luceria. Xenophanes, the head of the legation, explained, without the slightest fear or hesitation, that he had been sent by the king to form a league of friendship with Rome, and that he was conveying his instructions to the consuls and senate and people. Amidst the defection of so many old allies, the praetor was delighted beyond measure at the prospect of a new alliance with so illustrious a monarch, and gave his enemies a most hospitable reception. He assigned them an escort, and pointed out carefully what route they should take, what places and passes were held by the Romans and what by the enemy. Xenophanes passed through the Roman troops into Campania and thence by the nearest route reached Hannibal's camp. He made a treaty of friendship with him on these terms: King Philip was to sail to Italy with as large a fleet as possible - he was, it appears, intending to fit out two hundred ships - and ravage the coast, and carry on war by land and sea to the utmost of his power; when the war was over the whole of Italy, including Rome itself, was to be the possession of the Carthaginians and Hannibal, and all the plunder was to go to Hannibal; when the Carthaginians had thoroughly subdued Italy they were to sail to Greece and make war upon such nations as the king wished; the cities on the mainland and the islands lying off Macedonia were to form part of Philip's kingdom.
[23.34]These were, in effect, the terms on which the treaty was concluded between the Carthaginian general and the King of Macedon. On their return the envoys were accompanied by commissioners sent by Hannibal to obtain the king's ratification of the treaty: they were Gisgo, Bostar, and Mago. They reached the spot near the temple of Juno Lacinia, where they had left their ship moored in a hidden creek, and set sail for Greece. When they were out to sea they were descried by the Roman fleet which was guarding the Calabrian coast. Valerius Flaccus sent some light boats to chase and bring back the strange vessel. At first the king's men attempted flight, but finding that they were being overhauled they surrendered to the Romans. When they were brought before the admiral of the fleet he questioned them as to who they were, where they had come from, and whither they were sailing. Xenophanes, who had so far been very lucky, began to make up a tale; he said that he had been sent by Philip to Rome and had succeeded in reaching M. Valerius, as he was the only person he could get to safely; he had not been able to go through Campania as it was beset by the enemy's troops. Then the Carthaginian dress and manner of Hannibal's agents aroused suspicion, and on being questioned their speech betrayed them. Their comrades were at once taken aside and terrified by threats, a letter from Hannibal to Philip was discovered, and also the articles of agreement between the King of Macedon and the Carthaginian general. When the investigation was completed, it seemed best to carry the prisoners and their companions as soon as possible to the senate at Rome or to the consuls, wherever they were. Five of the swiftest ships were selected for the purpose and L. Valerius Antias was placed in charge of the expedition with instructions to distribute the envoys amongst the ships under guard and to be careful that no conversation was allowed amongst them or any communication of plans.
During this time A. Cornelius Mammula on leaving his province made a report on the condition of Sardinia. All, he said, were contemplating war and revolt; Q. Mucius, who had succeeded him, had been affected by the unhealthy climate and impure water and had fallen into an illness which was tedious rather than dangerous, and would make him for some considerable time unfit to bear the responsibilities of war. The army, too, which was quartered there, though strong enough for the occupation of a peaceable province, was quite inadequate for the war which seemed likely to break out. The senate made a decree that Q. Fulvius Flaccus should raise a force of 5000 infantry and 400 cavalry and arrange for its immediate transport to Sardinia, and further that he should send whom he considered the most suitable man, invested with full powers, to conduct operations until Mucius recovered his health. He selected T. Manlius Torquatus, who had been twice consul as well as censor, and during his consulship had subdued the Sardinians. About the same time a Carthaginian fleet which had been despatched to Sardinia under the command of Hasdrubul, surnamed "the Bald," was caught in a storm and driven on the Balearic Isles. So much damage was caused, not only to the rigging but also to the hulls, that the vessels were hauled ashore and a considerable time was spent in repairing them.
[23.35]In Italy the war had been less vigorously conducted since the battle of Cannae; for the strength of the one side was broken and the temper of the other enervated. Under these circumstances the Campanians made an attempt by themselves to become masters of Cumae. They first tried persuasion, but as they could not succeed in inducing them to revolt from Rome, they decided to employ stratagem. All the Campanians held a sacrificial service at stated intervals at Hamae. They informed the Cumans that the Campanian senate was going there, and they asked the Cuman senate also to be present in order to come to a common understanding, so that both peoples might have the same allies and the same enemies. They also promised that they would have an armed force there, to guard against any danger from either Romans or Carthaginians. Although the Cumans suspected a plot, they made no difficulty about going, for they thought that by thus consenting they would be able to conceal a maneuver of their own. The consul Tiberius Sempronius had in the meanwhile purified his army at Sinuessa, the appointed rendezvous, and after crossing the Vulturnus pitched his camp near Liternum. As there was nothing for them to do in camp, he put his men through frequent war maneuvers to accustom the recruits, most of whom were volunteer slaves, to follow the standards and know their places in the ranks when in action. In carrying out these exercises, the general's main object - and he had given similar instructions to the officers - was that there should be no class-feeling in the ranks, through the slaves being twitted with their former condition; the old soldiers were to regard themselves as on a perfect equality with the recruits, the free men with the slaves; all to whom Rome had entrusted her standards and her arms were to be regarded as equally honourable, equally well-born; Fortune had compelled them to adopt this state of things, and now that it was adopted she compelled them to acquiesce to it. The soldiers were quite as anxious to obey these instructions as the officers were to enforce them, and in a short time the men had become so fused together that it was almost forgotten what condition of life each man had been in before he became a soldier.
While Gracchus was thus occupied messengers from Cumae informed him of the proposals made by the Campanians a few days previously and of their reply, and that the festival was to be held in three days' time, when not only the whole senate would be there but also the Campanian army in camp. Gracchus gave the Cumans orders to remove everything from their fields into the city and to remain within their walls, whilst he himself moved his camp to Cumae the day before the Campanians were to perform their sacrifice. Hamae was about three miles distant. The Campanians had already, as arranged, assembled there in large numbers and not far away Marius Alfius, the "Medixtuticus" (the chief magistrate of the Campanians), was secretly encamped with 14,000 troops, but he was more intent on making preparations for the sacrifice and the stratagem he was to execute during its performance than on fortifying his camp or any other military duty. The ceremonial took place at night and was over by midnight. Gracchus thought this the best time for his purpose, and after stationing guards at the camp gate to prevent any one from conveying information of his design, he ordered his men to refresh themselves and get what sleep they could at four o'clock in the afternoon so that they might be ready to assemble round the standards as soon as it was dark. About the first watch he ordered the advance to be made and the army marched in silence to Hamae, which they reached at midnight. The Campanian camp, as might be expected during a nocturnal festival, was negligently guarded, and he made a simultaneous attack on all sides of it. Some were slain whilst stretched in slumber, others whilst returning unarmed after the ceremony. In the confusion and terror of the night more than 2000 men were killed, including their general, Marius Alfius, and 34 standards seized.
[23.36]After getting possession of the enemies' camp with a loss of less than 100 men, Gracchus speedily retired, fearing an attack from Hannibal, who had his camp at Tifata, overlooking Capua. Nor were his anticipations groundless. No sooner had the news of the disaster reached Capua than Hannibal, expecting to find at Hamae an army, composed mostly of raw recruits and slaves, wildly delighted at their victory, despoiling their vanquished foes and carrying off the plunder, hurried on with all speed past Capua, and ordered all the Campanian fugitives he met to be escorted to Capua and the wounded to be carried there in wagons. But when he got to Hamae he found the camp abandoned, nothing was to be seen but the traces of the recent slaughter and the bodies of his allies lying about everywhere. Some advised him to march straight to Cumae and attack the place. Nothing would have suited his wishes better for, after his failure to secure Neapolis, he was very anxious to get possession of Cumae that he might have one maritime city at all events. As, however, his soldiers in their hurried march had brought nothing with them beyond their arms he returned to his camp on Tifata. The next day, yielding to the importunities of the Campanians, he marched back to Cumae with all the necessary appliances for attacking the city, and after effectually devastating the neighbourhood, fixed his camp at the distance of one mile from the place. Gracchus still remained in occupation of Cumae, more because he was ashamed to desert the allies who were imploring his protection and that of the Roman people than because he felt sufficiently assured as to his army. The other consul, Fabius, who was encamped at Cales, did not venture to cross the Vulturnus; his attention was occupied first with taking fresh auspices and then with the portents which were being announced one after another, and which the soothsayers assured him would be very difficult to avert.
[23.37]Whilst these causes kept Fabius from moving, Sempronius was invested, and the siege works were now actually in operation. A huge wooden tower on wheels had been brought up against the walls and the Roman consul constructed another still higher upon the wall itself, which was fairly high and which served as a platform, after he had placed stout beams across. The besieged garrison protected the walls of the city by hurling stones and sharpened stakes and other missiles from their tower; at last when they saw the other tower brought up to the walls they flung blazing brands over it and caused a large fire. Terrified by the conflagration the crowd of soldiers in it flung themselves down and at the same moment a sortie was made from two of the gates, the outposts of the enemy were overpowered and driven in flight to their camp, so that for that day the Carthaginians were more like a besieged than a besieging force. As many as 1300 Carthaginians were killed and 59 taken prisoners who had been surprised while standing careless and unconcerned round the walls or at the outposts, and least of all fearing a sortie. Before the enemy had time to recover from their panic Gracchus gave the signal to retire and withdrew with his men inside the walls. The following day, Hannibal, expecting that the consul, elated with his success, would be prepared to fight a regular battle, formed his line on the ground between his camp and the city; when, however, he saw that not a single man moved from his usual post of defence and that no risks were being taken through rash confidence, he returned to Tifata without accomplishing anything. Just at the time when the siege of Cumae was raised Ti. Sempronius, surnamed "Longus," fought a successful action with the Carthaginian Hanno at Grumentum in Lucania. Over 2000 were killed, 280 men and 41 military standards were captured. Driven out of Lucania, Hanno retreated to Bruttium. Amongst the Hirpini, also, three towns which had revolted from Rome, Vercellium, Vescellium, and Sicilinum, were retaken by the praetor M. Valerius, and the authors of the revolt beheaded. Over 5000 prisoners were sold, the rest of the booty was presented to the soldiers, and the army marched back to Luceria.
[23.38]During these incidents amongst the Lucanians and Hirpini, the five ships which were carrying the Macedonian and Carthaginian agents to Rome, after sailing almost round the whole of Italy in their passage from the upper to the lower sea were off Cumae, when Gracchus, uncertain whether they belonged to friends or foes, sent vessels from his own fleet to intercept them. After mutual questionings those on board learnt that the consul was at Cumae. The vessels accordingly were brought into the harbour and the prisoners were brought before the consul and the letters placed in his hands. He read the letters of Philip and Hannibal through and sent everything under seal by land to the senate, the agents he ordered to be taken by sea. The letters and the agents both reached Rome the same day, and when it was ascertained that what the agents said in their examination agreed with the letters, the senate were filled with very gloomy apprehensions. They recognised what a heavy burden a war with Macedon would impose upon them at a time when it was all they could do to bear the weight of the Punic war. They did not, however, so far give way to despondency as not to enter at once upon a discussion as to how they could divert the enemy from Italy by themselves commencing hostilities against him. Orders were given for the agents to be kept in chains and their companions to be sold as slaves; they also decided to equip twenty vessels in addition to the twenty-five which P. Valerius Flaccus already had under his command. After these had been fitted out and launched, the five ships which had carried the agents were added and thirty vessels left Ostia for Tarentum. Publius Valerius was instructed to place on board the soldiers which had belonged to Varro's army and which were now at Tarentum under the command of L. Apustius, and with his combined fleet of fifty-five vessels he was not only to protect the coast of Italy but try to obtain information about the hostile attitude of Macedon. If Philip's designs should prove to correspond to the captured despatches and the statements of the agents, he was to write to Marcus Valerius, the praetor, to that effect and then, after placing his army under the command of L. Apustius, go to the fleet at Tarentum and sail across to Macedonia at the first opportunity and do his utmost to confine Philip within his own dominions. A decree was made that the money which had been sent to Appius Claudius in Sicily to be returned to King Hiero should now be devoted to the maintenance of the fleet and the expenses of the Macedonian war, and it was conveyed to Tarentum through L. Antistius. Two hundred thousand modii of wheat and barley were sent at the same time by King Hiero.
[23.39]While these various steps were being taken, one of the captured ships which were on their way to Rome escaped during the voyage to Philip, and he then learnt that his agents had been captured together with his despatches. As he did not know what understanding they had come to with Hannibal, or what proposals Hannibal's agents were bringing to him, he despatched a second embassy with the same instructions. Their names were Heraclitus, surnamed Scotinus, Crito of Boeotia, and Sositheus the Magnesian. They accomplished their mission successfully, but the summer passed away before the king could attempt any active measures. So important was the seizure of that one ship with the king's agents on board in delaying the outbreak of the war which now threatened Rome! Fabius at last succeeded in expiating the portents and crossed the Vulturnus; both consuls now resumed the campaign round Capua. Combulteria, Trebula, and Austicula, all of which had revolted to Hannibal, were successfully attacked by Fabius, and the garrisons which Hannibal had placed in them as well as a large number of Campanians were made prisoners. At Nola, the senate were on the side of the Romans, as they had been the year before, and the populace, who were on the side of Hannibal, were hatching secret plots for the murder of the aristocrats and the betrayal of the city. To prevent them from carrying out their intentions Fabius marched between Capua and Hannibal's camp on Tifata and established himself in Claudius' camp overlooking Suessula. From there he sent M. Marcellus, who was propraetor, with the force under his command to occupy Nola.
[23.40]The active operations in Sardinia which had been dropped owing to the serious illness of Q. Mucius were resumed under the direction of T. Manlius. He hauled ashore his war-ships and furnished the seamen and rowers with arms, so that they might be available for service on land; with these and the army he had taken over from the praetor he made up a force of 22,000 infantry and 1200 cavalry. With this combined force he invaded the hostile territory and fixed his camp at no great distance from Hampsicora's lines. Hampsicora himself happened to be absent; he had paid a visit to the Pelliti-Sardinians in order to arm the younger men amongst them so as to increase his own strength. His son Hostus was in command and in the impetuosity of youth he rashly offered battle, with the result that he was defeated and put to flight. 3000 Sardinians were killed in that battle and 800 taken alive; the rest of the army after wandering in their flight through fields and woods heard that their general had fled to a place called Cornus, the chief town of the district, and thither they directed their flight. That battle would have finished the war had not the Carthaginian fleet under Hasdrubal, which had been driven by a storm down to the Balearic Isles, arrived in time to revive their hopes of renewing the war. When Manlius heard of its arrival he retired upon Carales, and this gave Hampsicora an opportunity of forming a junction with the Carthaginian. Hasdrubal disembarked his force and sent the ships back to Carthage, and then, under Hampsicora's guidance, proceeded to harry and waste the land belonging to the allies of Rome. He would have gone as far as Carales if Manlius had not met him with his army and checked his widespread ravages. At first the two camps faced each other, with only a small space between; then small sorties and skirmishes took place with varying results; at last it came to a battle, a regular action, which lasted for four hours. For a long time the Carthaginians made the issue doubtful, the Sardinians, who were accustomed to defeat, being easily beaten, but at last when they saw the whole field covered with dead and flying Sardinians they too gave way, but when they turned to flee the Roman wing which had routed the Sardinians wheeled round and hemmed them in. Then it was more of a massacre than a battle. 12,000 of the enemy, Sardinians and Carthaginians, were slain, about 3700 were made prisoners, and 27 military standards were captured.
[23.41]What more than anything else made the battle glorious and memorable was the capture of the commander-in-chief, Hasdrubal, and also of Hanno and Mago, two Carthaginian nobles. Mago was a member of the house of Barca, a near relative of Hannibal; Hanno had taken the lead in the Sardinian revolt and was unquestionably the chief instigator of the war. The battle was no less famous for the fate which overtook the Sardinian generals; Hampsicora's son, Hostus, fell on the field, and when Hampsicora, who was fleeing from the carnage with a few horsemen, heard of his son's death, he was so crushed by the tidings, coming as it did on the top of all the other disasters, that in the dead of night, when none could hinder his purpose, he slew himself with his own hand. The rest of the fugitives found shelter as they had done before in Cornus, but Manlius leading his victorious troops against it effected its capture in a few days. On this the other cities which had espoused the cause of Hampsicora and the Carthaginians gave hostages and surrendered to him. He imposed upon each of them a tribute of money and corn; the amount was proportioned to their resources and also to the share they had taken in the revolt. After this he returned to Carales. There the ships which had been hauled ashore were launched, the troops he had brought with him were re-embarked, and he sailed for Rome. On his arrival he reported to the senate the complete subjugation of Sardinia, and made over the money to the quaestors, the corn to the aediles, and the prisoners to Q. Fulvius, the praetor.
During this time T. Otacilius had crossed with his fleet from Lilybaeum to the coast of Africa and was ravaging the territory of Carthage, when rumours came to him that Hasdrubal had recently sailed from the Balearic Isles to Sardinia. He set sail for that island and fell in with the Carthaginian fleet returning to Africa. A brief action followed on the high seas in which Otacilius took seven ships with their crews. The rest dispersed in a panic far and wide, as though they had been scattered by a storm. It so happened at this time that Bomilcar arrived at Locri with reinforcements of men and elephants and also with supplies. Appius Claudius intended to surprise him, and with this view he led his army hurriedly to Messana as though he were going to make a circuit of the province, and finding the wind and tide favourable, crossed over to Locri. Bomilcar had already left to join Hanno in Bruttium and the Locrians shut their gates against the Romans; Appius after all his efforts achieved no results and returned to Messana. This same summer Marcellus made frequent excursions from Nola, which he was holding with a garrison, into the territory of the Hirpini and in the neighbourhood of Samnite Caudium. Such utter devastation did he spread everywhere with fire and sword that he revived throughout Samnium the memory of her ancient disasters.
[23.42]Both nations sent envoys simultaneously to Hannibal, who addressed him thus: "We have been the enemies of Rome, Hannibal, from very early times. At first we fought her in our own might as long as our arms, our strength, sufficed to protect us. When we could trust them no more we took our place by the side of King Pyrrhus; when we were abandoned by him we were compelled to accept terms of peace and by those terms we stood for almost fifty years, down to the time of your arrival in Italy. It was your conspicuous courtesy and kindness towards our fellow-countrymen who were your prisoners and whom you sent back to us, quite as much as your courage and success, which have so won our hearts that as long as you, our friend, are safe and prosperous we should not fear - I do not say the Romans, but - even the wrath of heaven, if I may say so without irreverence. But, good heavens! while you are not only safe and victorious but actually here amongst us, when you could almost hear the shrieks of our wives and children and see our blazing houses, we have suffered such repeated devastations this summer that it would seem as if M. Marcellus and not Hannibal had been the victor at Cannae, and as if the Romans had good cause to boast that you have only strength enough for one blow, and that like a bee that has left its sting you are now inert and powerless. For a hundred years we have been at war with Rome and no general, no army from without, has come to our aid save for the two years when Pyrrhus used our soldiers to increase his strength rather than use his strength to defend us. I will not boast of our successes - the two consuls with their armies whom we sent under the yoke, and all the other fortunate or glorious events which we can recall. The trials and sufferings we then went through can be recounted with less bitter feelings than those which are happening today. Then great Dictators with their Masters of the Horse would invade our borders, two consuls and two consular armies found it necessary to act together against us, and they took every precaution, careful scouting, reserves duly posted, their army in order of battle, when they ravaged our country; now we are the prey of a solitary propraetor and a small garrison at Nola! They do not even march in military detachments, but they scour the whole of our country like brigands and more carelessly than if they were roaming about on Roman ground. The reason is simply this: you do not defend us, and our soldiery who could protect us if they were at home are all serving under your standards. I should be utterly ignorant of you and your army if I did not think it an easy task for the man, by whom to my knowledge so many Roman armies have been routed and laid low, to crush these plunderers of our country while they are roving about in disorder and wandering wherever any one is led by hopes of plunder, however futile such hopes may be. They will be the prey of a few Numidians, and you will relieve both us and Nola of its garrison if only you count the men whom you thought worthy of your alliance still worthy of your protection."
[23.43]To all this Hannibal replied: "You Samnites and Hirpini are doing everything at once; you point out your sufferings and ask for protection and complain of being unprotected and neglected. But you ought to have first made your representations, then asked for protection, and if you did not obtain it then only should you have complained that you had sought help in vain. I shall not lead my army into the country of the Hirpini and Samnites because I do not want to be a burden to you, but I shall march into those districts belonging to the allies of Rome which are nearest to me. By plundering these I shall satisfy and enrich my soldiers and shall frighten the enemy sufficiently to make him leave you alone. As to the war with Rome, if Trasumennus was a more famous battle than the Trebia, if Cannae was more famous than Trasumennus, I shall make even the memory of Cannae fade in the light of a greater and more brilliant victory." With this reply and with munificent presents he dismissed the envoys, and then leaving a somewhat small detachment on Tifata marched with the rest of his army to Nola, whither Hanno also came with the reinforcements he had brought from Carthage and the elephants. Encamping at no great distance, he found out, on inquiry, that everything was very different from the impression he had received from the envoys. No one who watched Marcellus' proceedings could ever say that he trusted to Fortune or gave the enemy a chance through his rashness. Hitherto his plundering expeditions had been made after careful reconnoitring, with strong supports for the marauding parties and a secure retreat. Now when he became aware of the enemy's approach, he kept his force within the fortifications and ordered the senators of Nola to patrol the ramparts and keep a sharp lookout all round and find out what the enemy were doing.
Hanno had come close up to the walls, and, seeing amongst the senators Herennius Bassus and Herius Pettius, asked for an interview with them. Having obtained permission from Marcellus they went out to him. He addressed them through an interpreter. After magnifying the merits and good fortune of Hannibal and dwelling upon the decaying strength and greatness of Rome, he went on to urge that even if Rome were what she once had been, still men who knew by experience how burdensome the Roman government was to their allies and with what indulgence Hannibal had treated all those of his prisoners who belonged to any Italian nation must surely prefer the alliance and friendship of Carthage to those of Rome. If both the consuls and their two armies had been at Nola, they would still be no more a match for Hannibal than they were at Cannae, how then could one praetor with a few raw soldiers defend the place? It was of more importance to them whether the town were taken or surrendered than it was to Hannibal; he would get possession of it in any case as he had got possession of Capua and Nuceria. But what a difference there was between the fate of Capua and that of Nola, they knew best, situated as they were midway between the two places. He did not want to prophesy what would happen to the city if it were captured; he preferred to pledge his word that if they would give up Marcellus and his garrison and the city of Nola no one but themselves should dictate the terms on which they would become allies and friends of Hannibal.
[23.44]Herennius Bassus briefly replied that the friendship between Rome and Nola had now lasted many years, and up to that day neither party had had any reason to regret it. If they had wished to change their allegiance when the change came in their fortunes, it was too late to do so now. If they had thought of surrendering to Hannibal would they have asked for a Roman garrison? They were in perfect accord with those who had come to protect them, and they would continue to be so to the last. This interview destroyed any expectations Hannibal might have formed of securing Nola by treachery. He therefore drew his lines completely round the town so that a simultaneous attack might be made on all sides. When Marcellus saw that he was close up to the ramparts, he drew up his men inside one of the gates and then burst out in a fierce tumultuous charge. A few were overthrown and killed in the first shock, but as men ran up into the fighting line and the two sides became more equalised, the contest was beginning to be a severe one, and few battles would have been more memorable had not a very heavy storm of rain and wind separated the combatants. They retired for that day after only a brief encounter but in a state of great exasperation, the Romans to the city, the Carthaginians to their camp. Of the latter not more than thirty fell in the first attack; the Romans lost fifty. The rain fell without any intermission all through the night and continued till the third hour of the following day, so, though both sides were eager for battle, they remained that day within their lines. The following day Hannibal sent part of his force on a plundering expedition in the Nolan territory. No sooner was Marcellus aware of it than he formed his line of battle, nor did Hannibal decline the challenge. There was about a mile between his camp and the city, and within that space - it is all level ground round Nola - the armies met. The battle shout raised on both sides brought back the nearest amongst the cohorts who had been sent off to plunder; the Nolans, too, on the other side, took their place in the Roman line. Marcellus addressed a few words of encouragement and thanks to them, and told them to take their station amongst the reserve and help to carry the wounded from the field, they were to keep out of the fighting unless they received the signal from him.
[23.45]The battle was obstinately contested; the generals encouraged the men, and the men fought to the utmost of their strength. Marcellus urged his men to press vigorously on those whom they had vanquished only three days ago, who had been driven in flight from Cumae, and whom he had himself, with another army, defeated the year before. "All his forces," he said, "are not in the field, some are roving through the land bent on plunder, whilst those who are fighting are enervated by the luxury of Capua and have worn themselves out through a whole winter's indulgence in wine and women and every kind of debauchery. They have lost their force and vigour, they have dissipated that strength of mind and body in which they surmounted the Alpine peaks. The men who did that are mere wrecks now; they can hardly bear the weight of their armour on their limbs while they fight. Capua has proved to be Hannibal's Cannae. All soldierly courage; all military discipline, all glory won in the past, all hopes for the future have been extinguished there." By showing his contempt for the enemy, Marcellus raised the spirits of his men. Hannibal, on the other hand, reproached his own men in much more severe terms. "I recognise," he said, "the same arms and standards here which I saw and used at the Trebia, at Trasumennus, and finally at Cannae, but not the same soldiers. It is quite certain that I led one army into winter quarters at Capua and marched out with quite a different one. Are you, whom two consular armies never withstood, hardly able now to hold your own against a subordinate officer, with his one legion and its contingent of allies? Is Marcellus to challenge us with impunity a second time with his raw recruits and Nolan supports? Where is that soldier of mine who dragged the consul, C. Flaminius, from his horse and struck off his head? Where is the one who slew L. Paulus at Cannae? Has the sword lost its edge; have your right hands lost their power? Or has any other miracle happened? Though but few yourselves, you have been wont to vanquish an enemy that far outnumbered you; now you can hardly stand up against a force far smaller than your own. You used to boast, tongue-valiant as you are, that you would take Rome by storm if any one would lead you. Well, I want you to try your courage and your strength in a smaller task. Carry Nola; it is a city in a plain, with no protection from river or from sea. When ye have loaded yourselves with the plunder of such a wealthy city as this, I will lead you or follow you wherever you wish."
[23.46]Neither his censures nor his promises had any effect in strengthening the morale of his men. When they began to fall back in all directions the spirits of the Romans rose, not only because of their general's cheering words, but also because the Nolans raised encouraging shouts and fired them with the glow of battle, until the Carthaginians fairly turned to flee and were driven to their camp. The Romans were anxious to storm the camp, but Marcellus marched them back to Nola amid the joyous congratulations even of the populace who had before been more inclined to the Carthaginians. More than 5000 of the enemy were killed that day and 600 made prisoners, 18 military standards were taken and two elephants; four had been killed in the battle. The Romans had less than a thousand killed. The next day was spent by both sides in burying those killed in battle, under an informal truce. Marcellus burnt the spoils taken from the enemy in fulfilment of a vow to Vulcan. Three days later, owing, I fancy, to some disagreement or in hope of more liberal pay, 272 troopers, Numidians and Spaniards, deserted to Marcellus. The Romans often availed themselves of their brave and loyal help in the war. At its close a gift of land was made in Spain to the Spaniards and in Africa to the Numidians as a reward for their valour.
Hanno was sent back into Bruttium with the force he had brought, and Hannibal went into winter quarters in Apulia and encamped in the neighbourhood of Arpi. As soon as Q. Fabius heard that Hannibal had left for Apulia, he had a quantity of corn from Nola and Neapolis conveyed into the camp above Suessula, and after strengthening its defences and leaving a force sufficient to hold the position through the winter months, he moved his own camp nearer to Capua and laid waste its territory with fire and sword. The Campanians had no confidence whatever in their strength, but they were at last compelled to come out of their gates into the open and form an entrenched camp in front of the city. They had 6000 men under arms, the infantry were absolutely useless, but the mounted men were more efficient, so they kept harassing the enemy by cavalry skirmishes. There were several Campanian nobles serving as troopers, amongst them Cerrinus Vibellius, surnamed Taurea. He was a citizen of Capua and by far the finest soldier in the Campanian horse, so much so indeed that when he was serving with the Romans there was only one Roman horseman that enjoyed an equal reputation, and that was Claudius Asellus. Taurea had for a long time been riding up to the enemy's squadrons to see if he could find this man, and at last when there was a moment's silence he asked where Claudius Asellus was. "He has often," he said, "argued with me about our respective merits, let him settle the matter with the sword, and if he is vanquished yield me the spolia opima, or if he is the victor take them from me."
[23.47]When this was reported to Asellus in the camp, he only waited till he could ask the consul whether he would be allowed, against the regulations, to fight his challenger. Permission being granted he at once armed himself and, riding in front of the outposts, called Taurea by name and told him to meet him wherever he pleased. The Romans had already gone out in crowds to watch the duel, and the Campanians had not only lined the rampart of their camp, but had gathered in large numbers on the fortifications of the city. After a great flourish of words and expressions of mutual defiance they levelled their spears and spurred their horses. As there was plenty of space they kept evading each other's thrusts and the fight went on without either being wounded. Then the Campanian said to the Roman: "This will be a trial of skill between the horses and not their riders unless we leave the open and go down into this hollow lane. There will be no room for swerving aside there, we shall fight at close quarters." Almost before the words were out of his mouth, Claudius leaped his horse into the lane, and Taurea, bolder in words than deeds, shouted, "Never be an ass in a ditch," and this expression became a rustic proverb. After riding some distance along the lane and finding no opponent, Claudius got into the open and returned to camp, saying strong things about the cowardice of his adversary. He was welcomed as victor with cheers and congratulations by his comrades. In the accounts of this duel on horseback some annalists record an additional circumstance - how far there is any truth in it each must judge for himself, but it is at least remarkable. They say that Claudius went in pursuit of Taurea who fled to the city, and galloped in through one open gate and out through another unhurt, the enemy standing dumbfounded at the extraordinary sight.
[23.48]After this incident the Roman camp was undisturbed; the consul even shifted his camp further away that the Campanians might complete their sowing, and he did not inflict any injury on their land until the corn was high enough in the blade to yield fodder. Then he carried it off to Claudius' camp above Suessula and built huts for his men to winter in there. M. Claudius, the proconsul, received orders to keep a force at Nola sufficient to protect the place and send the rest of his troops to Rome to prevent their being a burden to the allies and an expense to the republic. And Ti. Gracchus, having marched his legions from Cumae to Luceria in Apulia, sent the praetor, M. Valerius, to Brundisium with the army he had had at Luceria, and gave him orders to protect the coast of the Sallentine territory and to make such provision as might be necessary with regard to Philip and the Macedonian war. Towards the end of the summer in which the events we have been describing occurred, despatches from P. and Cn. Scipio arrived, giving an account of the great successes they had achieved, but also stating that money to pay the troops was needed, as also clothing and corn for the army, whilst the seamen were destitute of everything. As regarded the pay, if the treasury were low they (the Scipios) would devise some means by which they could obtain it from the Spaniards, but all the other things must in any case be sent from Rome, otherwise they could neither keep their army nor the province. When the despatches had been read there was no one present who did not admit that the statements were true and the demands fair and just. But other considerations were present to their minds - the enormous land and sea forces they had to keep up; the large fleet that would have to be fitted out if the war with Macedon went forward; the condition of Sicily and Sardinia, which before the war had helped to fill the treasury and were now hardly able to support the armies which were protecting those islands; and, above all, the shrinkage in the revenue. For the war-tax from which the national expenditure was met had diminished with the number of those who paid it after the destruction of the armies at Trasumennus and at Cannae, and if the few survivors had to pay at a very much higher rate, they too, would perish, though not in battle. If, therefore, the State could not be upheld by credit it could not stand by its own resources. After thus reviewing the position of affairs the senate decided that Fulvius, one of the praetors, should appear before the Assembly and point out to the people the pressing needs of the State and ask those who had augmented their patrimonies by making contracts with the government to extend the date of payment for the State, out of which they had made their money, and contract to supply what was needed for the army in Spain on condition that as soon as there was money in the treasury they should be the first to be paid. After making this proposal, the praetor fixed a date for making the contracts for the supply of clothing and corn to the army in Spain, and for furnishing all that was required for the seamen.
[23.49]On the appointed day three syndicates appeared, consisting each of nineteen members, prepared to tender for the contracts. They insisted on two conditions - one was that they should be exempt from military service whilst they were employed on this public business, and the other that the cargoes they shipped should be insured by the government against storm or capture. Both demands were conceded, and the administration of the State was carried on with private money. Such were the moral tone and lofty patriotism which pervaded all ranks of society! As the contracts had been entered into from a generous and noble spirit, so they were executed with the utmost conscientiousness; the soldiers received as ample supplies as though they had been furnished, as they once were, from a rich treasury. When these supplies reached Spain, the town of Iliturgi, which had gone over to the Romans, was being attacked by three Carthaginian armies under Hasdrubal, Mago, and Hannibal, the son of Bomilcar. Between these three camps the Scipios forced their way into the town after hard fighting and heavy losses. They brought with them a quantity of corn, of which there was a great scarcity, and encouraged the townsfolk to defend their walls with the same courage that they saw the Roman army display when fighting on their behalf. Then they advanced to attack the largest of the three camps, of which Hasdrubal was in command. The other two commanders and their armies saw that the decisive struggle would be fought there and they hastened to its support. As soon as they had emerged from their camps the fighting began. There were 60,000 of the enemy engaged that day and about 16,000 Romans. And yet the victory was such a crushing one that the Romans slew more than their own number of the enemy, made prisoners of more than 3000, captured somewhat less than 1000 horses, 59 military standards, 7 elephants, 5 having been killed in the battle, and got possession of the three camps - all in that one day. After the siege of Iliturgi was thus raised, the Carthaginian armies marched to attack Intibili. They had repaired their losses out of that province which, above all others, was eager for fighting, if only plunder and money were to be got out of it, and which, too, abounded in young men. A pitched battle was again fought with the same result for both sides. Over 13,000 of the enemy were killed, more than 2000 made prisoners, 42 standards and 9 elephants were also taken. And now nearly all the tribes of Spain went over to Rome, and the successes gained in Spain that summer were far greater than those in Italy.
End of Book 23
Copyright (c) 1996 by Bruce J. Butterfield.
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