Fabius heard the din, but believing it to be an ambush, and disliking, in any case, to fight at night, kept his men within their works. At break of day there was a battle under the ridge.
The- Romans had cut off the light-armed troops of the enemy from the others, and possessing some superiority in numbers, would easily have overpowered them, had it not been for the arrival of a cohort of Spaniards, which Hannibal had sent back expressly to forestall them.
These troops were more used to mountains, and better suited to skirmishing amid rocks and crags, and being more agile and more lightly armed, they had no difficulty —thanks to the nature of the fighting —in getting the better of an enemy whose heavy armour and stationary tactics were adapted to level ground.
Thus the struggle had been far from equal, when they parted and made off for their respective camps.
Hardly any [p. 261]
of the Spaniards had been hurt, but the Romans had1
lost a considerable number of their men.
Fabius, too, broke camp, and marching through the pass established himself in a lofty and naturally strong position above Allifae.
Hannibal now feigned a movement upon Rome by way of Samnium, and marched back right to the land of the Paeligni, pillaging as he went. Fabius led his troops along the ridges between the enemy's army and the City, neither shunning his foe nor coming to grips with him.
From the Paelignian country the Phoenician turned, and marched back towards Apulia till he came to Gereonium, a town which its own inhabitants had abandoned in their alarm at the collapse of a part of its walls.2
The dictator encamped in the country about Larinum, and being summoned thence to Rome on religious business, commanded, counselled, and all but entreated the master of the horse to put more trust in prudence than in fortune, and rather to imitate his strategy than that of Sempronius and Flaminius.
He was not to suppose, said Fabius, that nothing had been accomplished, because almost the whole summer had been tediously spent in baffling the enemy;. physicians too sometimes found rest more efficacious than motion and activity;,
it was no small matter to have ceased to be defeated by an enemy who had so often been victorious, and to have breathed again after a series of disasters. When he had thus fore-warned the master of the horse —but all in vain —he set out for Rome.