« IndietroContinua »
doning, at such a perilous juncture, allies imploring protection from him and the Roman people, than from any great confidence in his troops. Neither could the other consul, Fabius, who had his camp at Cales, venture to cross the river Vulturnus, being engaged at first in taking new auspices, afterwards in attending to prodigies, which were reported one after another; beside, while expiating these, he was told by the aruspices, that it would not be easy to obtain favour of the gods.
XXXVII. While Fabius was prevented from stirring by these causes, Sempronius was held besieged, and now was even exposed to the attacks of machines. Against a huge wooden tower, which was brought up near to the town, the Roman consul raised another tower, much more elevated, by fixing strong piles contiguous to the wall, which in itself was very high. This the besieged formed into a platform, whence, throwing stones, jayelins, and other missile weapons, they maintained the defence of their works and city. At last, when the machine had approached close to the wall, and with blazing firebrands, they threw on it all at once an immense quantity of combustibles; while the soldiers within, terrified by the flames, cast themselves down headlong from the same. The garrison, sallying out from two gates at the very time, overthrew the enemy's advanced guards, and drove them back to their camp; so that the Carthaginian was, on that day, more like a person besieged than besieging. One thousand three hundred of the Carthaginians were slain, and fifty-nine taken prisoners, who, standing careless and negli. gently near the walls, and on the advanced posts, and fearing nothing less than a sally, were surprised unawares. Gracchus sounded a retreat before the enemy should recover from their sudden fright, and drew back his men within the walls. Next day Hannibal, supposing that the consul, elated with success, would be willing to try the issue of a regular engagement, drew up his forces in order of battle between his
camp and the city: but when he saw that not a man stirred, except in the customary guard of the town, and that nothing would be hazarded on inconsiderate hopes, he returned with disappointment to the Tifata. At the very time of the raising the siege of Cumæ, Tiberius Sempronius, surnamed Longus, fought with success against Hanno at Grumentum in Lucania, killed above two thousand of the enemy, and took fortyone military standards, losing two hundred and eighty of his own men. Hanno, expelled from the Lucanian territories, retreated backward into Bruttium. In another quarter, three towns of the Hirpinians, which had revolted from the Roman people, were attacked and retaken by the prætor, Marcus Valerius. Vercellius and Sicilius, the instigators of the revolt, were beheaded, and above one thousand of the prisoners exposed to sale: the rest of the booty was bestowed on the soldiers, and then the troops were led back to Luceria.
XXXVIII. While affairs proceeded thus in Lucania and Hirpinia, the five ships carrying the captive ambassadors of the Macedonians and Carthaginians to Rome, after making a circuit from the upper sea to the lower, round the greater part of the coast of Italy, were sailing by Cumæ, when they were observed by Gracchus, who, not knowing whether they belonged to friends or enemies, sent a part of his fleet to meet them. Here mutual inquiries discovering that the consul was at Cumæ, the ships put into that harbour, the prisoners were conducted to the consul, and the packet they had in charge delivered to him. Having read the letters of Philip and Hannibal, he inclosed, and sent them to the senate by land, ordering the ambassadors to be conveyed thither by sea. These, with the inclosures, arrived at Rome on the same day, or nearly; and the answers of the former on their examination being conformable to the contents of the letters, the senate were at first grievously perplexed at the prospect of such a formidable war impending from Macedonia, when they were scarcely able to support that with the Carthaginians. Yet, so far were they from suffering their courage to be depressed, that they instantly began to deliberate how they might, by offensive operations, divert the enemy from Italy. After ordering the prisoners to be kept in close confinement, and their attendants to be exposed to public sale, they decreed, that, besides the twenty ships, under the command of Publius Valerius Flaccus, twenty-five others should be got ready for sea. These being equipped and launched, and joined by the five which had brought the captive ambassadors, set sail from Ostia for Tarentum, and orders were sent to Publius Valerius to take on board them the soldiers, formerly commanded by Varro, and who were then at Tarentum under Lucius Apustius, lieutenant-general; and, with his feet, which would then consist of fifty ships, not only to protect the coast of Italy, but to procure intelligence concerning the hostile designs of the Macedonians. If Philip's intentions were found to correspond with the letters, and the informations of the ambassadors, he was then to forward intelligence of this to the prætor, Marcus Valerius, who, leaving the command of the army to his lieutenant-general, Lucius Apustius, and hastening to Tarentum to the fleet, was to cross over into Macedonia with all expedition, and use his best endeavours to detain Philip in his own dominions. For the maintenance of the fleet, and the support of the war with Macedonia, that money was ordered to be applied, which had been sent into Sicily to Appius Claudius to be returned to King Hiero, and this was conveyed to Tarentum by the lieutenant-general, Lucius Apustius. Together with it, were sent by Hiero two hundred thousand pecks of wheat, and one hundred thousand of barley.
XXXIX. While the Romans were employed in this manner, and making such preparations, the captured ship, which had been sent with the others to Rome, made its escape on the voyage, and returned to Philip; by which means he learned, that his ambassadors, with the letters, had fallen into the
hands of the Romans. Wherefore, as he knew not what terms of agreement had been settled between them and Hannibal, nor what accounts they would have brought him, he despatched another embassy with the same instructions. The persons employed in this commission to Hannibal were Heraclitus, surnamed Scotinus, Crito Berræus, and Sositheus Magnes: these effected the business with which they were charged, without meeting any obstruction, either in going or returning. But the summer had passed away before Philip could put himself in motion, or enter on any enterprise: so important were the consequences attending the capture of that single vessel with the ambassadors, as to defer the war with which the Romans were threatened. With regard to the campaign in the neighbourhood of Capua, Fabius, after expiating the prodigies, passed the Vulturnus, and then both the consuls entered on action. Fabius took by assault Combulteria, Trebula, and Saticula, (cities which had revolted to the Carthaginian,) and in them were made prisoners Hannibal's garrisons, and vast numbers of Campanians. At Nola, as was the case the year before, the senate being inclined to the side of the Romans, and the populace to that of the Carthaginians, the latter held secret cabals, in which schemes were formed for massacreing the nobility and delivering up the city: but to prevent their designs taking effect, Fabius, marching his army across between Capua and Hannibal's camp on the Tifata, took post over Suessula in the Claudian camp, and thence detached Marcus Marcellus, proconsul, with the troops under his command, to secure the possession of Nola.
XL. In Sardinia the business of the campaign, which had been suspended ever since the prætor Quintus Mucius had been seized with a severe disorder, began to be prosecuted by Titus Manlius, who, drawing the ships of war into dock at Carale, and arming the marines to act on land, made up, with the army which he received from Mucius, the number
of twenty-two thousand foot, and twelve hundred horse. With this force he marched into the enemy's country, and pitched his camp at a small distance from that of Hampsicora. It happened that at this time the latter had gone into the country of those Sardinians, called Pelliti, with design to procure a reinforcement to his army by enlisting their young men: his son, named Hiostus, commanded in the camp, and he, with the presumption of youth, inconsiderately hazarding an engagement, was defeated, and put to flight; three thousand of the Sardinians being slain in the battle, and about eight hundred taken. The rest of the troops, at first, ran straggling through the fields and woods; but, afterwards, all directed their flight to Cornus, the principal city in that country, into which they heard that their commander had fled. This battle would have put an end to the war in Sardinia, had not the Carthaginian fleet under Hasdrubal, which had been driven out of its course to the Balearick isles, arrived just in time to revive the hopes of the revolters. Manlius, on hearing of the arrival of the Carthaginian fleet, marched back to Carale; and this afforded an opportunity to Hampsicora of effecting a junction with the Carthaginian. Hasdrubal, when he had disembarked his troops, sent back the fleet to Carthage; and then, using Hampsicora as a guide, he marched, with fire and sword, into the lands belonging to the allies of the Roman people, and would have proceeded even to Carale, had not Manlius, by throwing his army in the way, checked the violence of his depredations. For some time, they lay encamped opposite to each other, at a small distance; then followed skirmishes and encounters between small parties, in which success was various. At last they marched out to battle, and, meeting in regular array, maintained a general engagement for the space of four hours. That the victory remained so long in suspense was owing to the Carthaginians, for the Sardinians had now been accustomed to yield an easy conquest. At last, when nothing was to be seen on any side of