Such was the famous battle of Trasumennus, [p. 223]
a disaster memorable as few others have been in1
Fifteen thousand Romans were killed on the field; ten thousand, scattered in flight over all Etruria, made their way by different roads to the City.
Two thousand five hundred of the enemy fell in the battle and many perished subsequently of their wounds. Some writers multiply the losses on both sides: I myself, besides that I would not idly exaggerate anything —a
vice to which historians are in general all too prone —have taken Fabius,2
who lived at the time of this war, as my authority, in preference to any other.
Hannibal dismissed scot-free the prisoners of the Latin name and gave the Romans into captivity. Having issued orders that the bodies of his own dead should be sorted out from the heaps of their enemies and buried, he would have given the body of Flaminius burial also, but though he-caused it to be searched for with great diligence, he could not find it.
At Rome the first tidings of this defeat brought the citizens into the Forum in a frightened and tumultuous throng, while the matrons wandered about the streets and demanded of all they met what sudden disaster had been reported and how it was going with the army.
And when the crowd, like some vast public assembly, turned to the Comitium and the senate-house and called for the magistrates, at last, as the sun was almost going down, Marcus Pomponius, the praetor, said, “A
great battle has been fought, and we were beaten.”
And although they learned nothing more definite from him, still they picked up a rumour here and a rumour there, and returning to their homes brought word that the [p. 225]
consul and a great part of his soldiers had been3
that only a few survived, either dispersed as fugitives throughout Etruria or taken prisoners by the enemy.
The vicissitudes of the defeated army were no more various than the apprehensions which preyed upon the minds of those whose relatives had served under Gaius Flaminius, the consul. They were ignorant of how those dear to each of them were faring, nor did anyone really know what to hope or fear.
On the next and on several succeeding days the City gates were thronged with a crowd in which the women almost outnumbered the men, waiting for some kinsman, or for news of him. Surrounding anybody who came along, they plied him with questions, nor could they tear themselves away —especially from those they were acquainted with —until they had enquired into every detail.
Very different were the expressions you would have noted in their countenances, according as the tidings they received were glad or sorrowful, when they moved away from their informants and returned to their homes, surrounded by friends, congratulating or consoling them.
The women especially exhibited extremes of joy and grief; one, on suddenly meeting her son safe and sound at the very gate, expired, they say, in his embrace; another, whose son had been falsely reported dead, sat sorrowing at home, and no sooner beheld him entering the house, than she died of excessive joy.
For some days the praetors kept the senate in session in the Curia, from sunrise until sunset, deliberating with what possible commander or what forces they could withstand the victorious Phoenicians. [p. 227]