But Fabius, watching his own men no less carefully than the enemy, proved first that it was not in them
to overcome his resolution. Though he knew full well that his policy of waiting was in bad repute, not only in his camp but by this time in Rome as well, he held doggedly to the same line of conduct and dragged out the remainder of the summer;
so that Hannibal, disappointed in his hopes of the battle which he had made every effort to bring on, was now looking round for a place to winter in; for the country where he was, though a land of plenty for the time being, could not support him permanently, being taken up with orchards and vineyards, and planted everywhere with agreeable rather than necessary fruits.
Fabius was informed of this by his scouts. Feeling certain that Hannibal would leave the Falernian district, by the same passes through which he had entered it, he posted a fair-sized garrison on Mount Callicula and another in Casilinum.
(The river Volturnus runs through this town, which marks the boundary between the Falernian district and Campania). The main army he led back by the same ridges, after sending on Lucius Hostilius Mancinus with four hundred cavalry of the allies to reconnoitre.
Mancinus was one of the crowd of young officers1
who often listened to the blustering speeches of the master of the horse. He advanced at first as if making a reconnaissance, with the object of observing the enemy from a safe distance.
But when he saw the Numidians roaming about through the villages, and had even seized the opportunity to cut off a few of them, his heart was suddenly filled with the lust of combat, and he forgot the instructions
of the dictator, who had bade him proceed as far as was compatible with safety, and retire before the enemy should see him.
The Numidians, first one troop and then another, by charging and then retreating, drew him on almost to their very camp and wore out his horses and his men. Then Carthalo, the commander of all the enemy's cavalry, swooped down upon the Romans at a gallop, and routing them before he had got within a javelin-throw, pursued them as they fled for nearly five miles at one stretch.
As soon as Mancinus perceived that the enemy would not give over the pursuit, and that he could not hope
to get away, he rallied his men and led them back into the fight, though overmatched in every particular.
Accordingly, he himself and the best of his troopers were surrounded and slain, and the rest in a scattered flight made their way first to Cales, and thence, by well-nigh impassable trails, to the dictator.
It happened that on that day Minucius had joined Fabius. He had been sent to secure the pass which contracts above Tarracina into a narrow gorge close to the sea,2
to prevent the Phoenician from taking [p. 255]
the Appian Way from Sinuessa into Roman territory.3
Combining their forces, the dictator and the master of the horse camped on the road where Hannibal was going to march.