The enemy was two miles away. Next day the Phoenicians were on the march, filling the road which lay between the two camps.
The Romans had formed up just under their rampart and had clearly the advantage of position.1
None the less did Hannibal advance with his light infantry and cavalry, to provoke them into fighting. At one point after another the Phoenicians attacked, dashing up and then retreating. The Roman line stood firm.
The battle was long drawn out and was more to the liking of the dictator than of Hannibal. Two hundred fell on the Roman side, and eight hundred of the enemy.
Hannibal now seemed to be hemmed in, the road to Casilinum being blocked. The Romans had Capua and Samnium at their backs and all their wealthy allies to furnish them with provisions; but the Phoenicians faced the prospect of passing the winter between the cliffs of Formiae and the sands and marshes of Liternum, and amid tangled forests.2
Hannibal did not fail to perceive that his own strategy was being turned against him. Accordingly, since he could not get out by way of Casilinum, but must take to the mountains and cross the ridge of Callicula, fearing lest the Romans should assail his troops as they were marching through the gorges, he
resolved to approach the mountains under cover of darkness in the forepart of the night, after first contriving a terrifying exhibition, to cheat the enemy's eyes.
Preparations [p. 257]
for the ruse were made as follows. Pine-knots,3
collected from all the country round, and bundles of twigs and dry branches were tied to the horns of cattle, of which —counting those that were broken in and those that were not —they possessed, among their other rustic spoils, a considerable number.
Of these, they got together about two thousand head, and Hasdrubal was commissioned to drive this herd in the night, with their horns ablaze, on to the mountains, and particularly —if it should be feasible —above the pass held by the enemy.