But to no one did the victory seem greater or more unequivocal than to Sempronius the consul; he was beside himself with joy that with that arm of the service with which the other consul had been beaten, he himself had been successful.
He declared that the spirits of the men were restored and renewed, and that no one but his colleague desired [p. 157]
to put off the struggle; Cornelius, he said, was sick1
in spirit rather than in body, and the recollection of his wound made him dread a battle and its missiles.
But they must not droop and languish along with a sick man. Why indeed should they further postpone the conflict, or waste time? What third consul, what other army were they waiting for?
The Carthaginians were encamped in Italy and almost within sight of Rome. Their object was, not to get back Sicily and Sardinia, taken from them after their defeat, nor to cross the Ebro and occupy northern Spain, but to expel the Romans from the land of their fathers and from their native soil.
“How would our fathers groan,” he cried, “that were wont to wage war about the walls of Carthage, could they see us, their offspring, two consuls and two consular armies, cowering within our camp in the heart of Italy; and the Phoenician in full sway over all the territory between the Alps and the Apennines!” Thus he ran on, as he sat by the bed of his sick colleague; thus he argued in the praetorium,2
almost as if haranguing the troops.
His impatience was increased, too, by the near approach of the elections, lest the war go over to the term of the new consuls and he lose the opportunity of gaining all the glory for himself, while his colleague was laid up.
Accordingly, despite the unavailing protests of Cornelius, he commanded the soldiers to make ready for an early battle.
Hannibal, since he saw what was best for the enemy, hardly dared to hope that the consuls would take any rash or ill-considered step; but knowing, as he did —by hearsay first and afterwards by experience —that
one of them was of a fiery and [p. 159]
reckless disposition, and believing that the late successful3
brush with the Carthaginian raiders would have made him still more headstrong, he was fairly confident that the good fortune of a general engagement was at hand.
It was therefore his one concern to let slip no opportunity for bringing this about, while the soldiers of the enemy still lacked experience, while the abler of their generals was incapacitated by his wound, while the courage of the Gauls was up —since
he knew that their vast multitude would follow the less willingly, the farther they were drawn from home.
For these and similar reasons he hoped that a battle would soon be fought, and was eager, should there be any hesitation, to force it on. And so, when his Gallic scouts —who were safer for gathering the information that he wanted because there were men of that nation in both camps —had reported that the Romans were prepared to fight, the Phoenician began to look about for a place in which to lay an ambush.