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whole remainder of our lives, from that day, has been doomed to shame.”
VII. At the conclusion of this speech they prostrated themselves at Marcellus's feet. Marcellus told them, that a business of that sort lay not within his authority, or his power; that he would write to the senate, and govern himself, in every particular, by the judgment of that body. His letter on the subject was brought to the new consuls, and read by them in the senate, when the matter being taken into consideration, a decree was passed to this purpose, that "the senate saw no reason why the interests of the commonwealth should be entrusted to men who had deserted their fellowsoldiers in battle at Cannæ. That if Marcus Claudius, the proconsul, was of a different opinion, he should act as he might judge consistent with the public good, and his own honour; provided that none of those persons should be excused from labour, or receive any military present in reward of courage, or be brought home to Italy while the enemy had any footing there.” After this, in pursuance of a decree of the senate, and an order of the people, an assembly of election was held by the city prætor, in which were created five commissioners for repairing the walls and towers, and two sets of triumvirs; one, to search for the effects belonging to the temples, and register the offerings; the other, to repair the temples of Fortune, and Mother Matuta, within the Carmental gate, and likewise that of Hope, on the outside of the gate, which had been consumed by fire the year before. i There were dreadful storms at this time: on the Alban mount, a shower of stones lasted, without intermission, for two days; many places were struck with lightning; two buildings in the Capitol, the rampart of the camp above Suessula, in many places, and two of the men on guard were killed. A wall and some towers at Cumæ were not only struck, but demolished by lightning. At Reate, a huge rock was seen to fly about, and the sun appeared more red than usual, and of a
colour like blood. On account of these prodigies there was a supplication for one day, the consuls employing themselves, for several others, in the performance of religious rites; at the same time solemn worship was performed, during nine days. The revolt of the Tarentines, after having been long hoped for by Hannibal, and apprehended by the Romans, happened to be accelerated by a cause which originated at a distance: a Tarentine, named Phileas, had been a long time at Rome under the pretext of political business. Being a man of a restless disposition, and conceiving that he was losing his active powers during his stay in that city, he contrived to gain access to the hostages from Tarentum, who were kept in the court of the Temple of Liberty, and guarded with the less care, because it was not the interest either of themselves or of their state to impose upon the Romans. Having, after frequent conversations, procured their concurrence in his scheme, and bribed two of their keepers, he brought them out of their confinement in the beginning of the night, and fied in company with them. As soon as day arrived, the news of their escape spread through the city, and a party, sent in pursuit of them, seized them all at Tarracina, and brought them back. They were led into the Comitium, and with the approbation of the people scourged with rods, and thrown down from the rock.
VIII. The cruelty of this punisment exasperated the inhabitants of the two most considerable Grecian cities in Italy, both as communities, and as individuals connected in relation, or friendship, with the persons thus put to death. A conspiracy was formed in consequence, by about thirteen of the young nobility at Tarentum, at the head of whom were Nico and Philemenus. Judging it necessary, before they took any step, to confer with Hannibal, they went out of the city by night, under pretence of hunting, and repaired to the place where he lay. When they came within a small distance of his camp, the rest concealed themselves in a wood near the road, while Nico and Philemenus, proceeding to the advanced guard, were taken into custody, and, at their own request, conducted into the presence of Hannibal. When they had laid before him the reasons for their undertaking, and what they intended to perform, they received high commendations, and a profusion of promises; and were desired, in order to make their countrymen believe that they came out of the city in search of plunder, to drive home before them some cattle belonging to the Carthaginians, which had been turned into pasture; at the same time, assurance was given them, that they might do it with safety, and without a dispute. Such a booty acquired by the young men was much noticed, and people wondered the less at their frequently repeating the same kind of enterprize. At another meeting with Hannibal, a covenant was solemnly ratified, that the Tarentines should, together with freedom, retain their own laws, and all their rights; that they should neither pay any kind of tribute to the Carthaginians, nor, without their own consent, receive a garrison from them; but that the present garrisons, when overpowered, should be put into the hands of the Carthaginians. After the terms were thus settled, Philemenus continued his practice of going out, and returning into the city, by night, with still greater frequency, attended by dogs and other requisites for hunting, of which he was remarkably fond; then, bringing home something, which he either took himself in the chase, or carried off from the enemy, who laid it purposely in his way, he generally presented it to the commander, or to the watchmen at the gates, who supposed that he chose to pass particularly by night, through fear of surprize. When this practice had now become so customary, that, at whatever time of night he gave the signal by a whistle, the gate would be opened, Hannibal thought it was time to put their design into execution. He lay at the distance of three days' journey, and, in order that his keeping his camp fixed in one and the same spot, for such a length of time, might create the less wonder,
feigned himself sick. Even the Romans in garrison at Tarentum had now ceased to look with suspicion on his remaining so long inactive.
IX. But when he determined to go on to Tarentum, choosing out of the infantry and cavalry ten thousand men, who, in activity of body, and lightness of their armour, seemed best qualified for expedition, he began his march at the fourth watch of the night; having first detached about eighty Numidian horsemen, with orders to scour the country on each side of the road, examining every place carefully, least any of the people who might observe his approach from a distance should escape: to bring back such as were before them on the way, and to kill all whom they met, in order that the neighbouring inhabitants might have reason to suppose it a plundering party, rather than an army. Hannibal, after marching with rapid speed, pitched his camp at the distance of about fifteen miles from Tarentum: nor did he, even there, discover to the soldiers their destination, only giving it in charge not to suffer any one to turn aside, or quit the line; and, above all, to keep their attention alert to receive orders, and to do nothing without the command of their officers; adding, that in due time he would let them know what he wished to be done. About the same hour, a report had reached Tarentum, that a small number of Numidian horsemen were ravaging the lands, and had spread terror among the inhabitants through a great part of the country: but the Roman commander paid no farther regard to this intelligence, than to order a party of cavalry to go out very early next morning, to stop these depredations; and, so far was he from increasing his vigilance in other respects, that, on the contrary, he considered this inroad of the Numidians as a proof, that Hannibal and his army had not stirred from their camp. Early in the night, the Carthaginian put his troops in motion, and Philemenus, with his usual burthen, taken in hunting, served him as a guide, while the rest of the conspirators waited for the concerted signals. It had been settled among them, that Philemenus, bringing in his game through the gate where he was accustomed to pass, should introduce some men in arms, while Hannibal should, on another side, approach the gate called Temenis, which, being about the middle of the land side, faced towards the east and near which, within the walls, stood some tombs, where Nico waited his arrival. On approaching the place, Hannibal, according to agreement, raised up a fire, and made it blaze. The same signal was returned by Nico, and then the fires were extinguished on both sides. Hannibal led on his men in silence to the gate. Nico, falling suddenly on the guards, who were fast asleep, slew them in their beds, and threw the gate open. Hannibal then entered with his infantry, but ordered the cavalry to halt without, in order that if occasion should require, they might have open ground to act in. At the same time, Philemenus, on the other side, drew nigh the postern through which he had usally passed, and his signal, which had now become familiar, with his well known voice, saying that he was hardly able to bear the weight of a huge beast he had killed, soon brought out a watchman, and the gate was opened. While two young men carried in a boar, he himself followed with a huntsman unincumbered, and while the watchman, astonished at the size of the animal, turned incautiously to those who carried it, he ran him through with a hunting spear. About thirty armed men then pushed in, slew the rest of the watchmen, and broke open the next gate, through which a band of soldiers in array immediately burst in. These were conducted . thence, in silence, to the Forum, and there joined Hannibal. The Carthaginian now sent the Tarentines of his party, with two thousand Gauls, formed in three divisions, through the several parts of the city with orders to take possession of the most frequented streets, and, on a tumult arising, to kill the Romans every where, and spare the townsmen. But to render this practicable, he gave direction to the young Tarentines, that