On the approach of the Roman praetor, the Carthaginians retired from the territory of Nola and marched down to the sea close upon Naples, eager to get possession of a maritime town to which there would be a safe course for ships from Africa.
But hearing that Naples was held by a Roman prefect, Marcus Junius Silanus, who had been invited thither by the Neapolitans themselves, he left Naples as he had left Nola, and directed his course to
Nuceria, which he at length [p. 852]
starved into capitulation, after having besieged it for a considerable time, often by open force, and often by soliciting to no purpose sometimes the commons, at other times the nobles; agreeing that they should depart with single garments and without arms.
Then, as wishing to appear from the beginning to show lenity to all the inhabitants of Italy except the Romans, he proposed rewards and honours to those who might remain with him, and would be willing to serve with him.
He retained none, however, by the hopes he held out; they all dispersed in different directions throughout the cities of Campania, wherever either hospitable connexions or the casual impulse of the mind directed them, but principally to Nola and Naples.
About thirty senators, including as it happened all of the first rank, made for Capua; but being shut out thence, because they had closed their gates on Hannibal, they betook themselves to Cumae. The plunder of Nuceria was given to the soldiery, the city sacked and burned.
Marcellus continued to hold possession of Nola, relying not more from confidence in his own troops than from the favourable disposition of the leading inhabitants. Apprehensions were entertained of the commons, particularly Lucius Bantius, whose having been privy to an attempt at defection, and dread of the Roman praetor, stimulated sometimes to the betrayal of his country, at others, should fortune fail him in that undertaking, to desertion.
He was a young man of vigorous mind, and at that time enjoying the greatest renown of almost any of the allied cavalry. Found at Cannae half dead amid a heap of slain, Hannibal had sent him home, after having had him cured, with the kindest attention, and even with presents.
In gratitude for this favour, he had conceived a wish to put Nola under the power and dominion of the Carthaginian; but his anxiety and solicitude for effecting a change did not escape the notice of the praetor.
However, as it was necessary that he should be either restrained by penal inflictions or conciliated by favours, he preferred attaching to himself a brave and strenuous ally, to depriving the enemy of him;
and summoning him into his presence, in the kindest manner said, “that the fact that he had many among his countrymen who were jealous of him, might be easily collected from the circumstance that not one citizen of Nola had informed him how many were his splendid military exploits.
But that it [p. 853]
was impossible for the valour of one who served in the Roman camp to remain in obscurity; that many who had served with him had reported to him how brave a man he was, how often and what dangers he had encountered for the safety and honour of the Roman people;
and how in the battle of Cannae he had not given over fighting till, almost bloodless, he was buried under a heap of men, horses, and arms which fell upon him.
Go on then,” says he, “and prosper in your career of valour, with me you shall receive every honour and every reward, and the oftener you be with me, the more you shall find it will be to your honour and emolument.”
He presented the young man, delighted with these promises, with a horse of distinguished beauty, ordered the quaestor to give him five hundred denarii, and commanded the lictors to allow him to approach him whenever he might please.