While these things were taking place in Lucania and [p. 882]
Hirpinia, the five ships, which were conveying to Rome the captured ambassadors of the Macedonians and Carthaginians, after passing round the whole coast of Italy from the upper to the lower sea, were sailing by Cumae, when,
it not being known whether they belonged to enemies or allies, Gracchus despatched some ships from his fleet to meet them.
When it was ascertained, in the course of their mutual inquiries, that the consul was at Cumae, the ships put in there, the captives were brought before the consul, and their letters placed in his hands.
The consul, after he had read the letters of Philip and Hannibal, sent them all, sealed up, to the senate by land, ordering that the ambassadors should be conveyed thither by sea.
The ambassadors and the letters arriving at Rome nearly on the same day, and on examination the answers of the ambassadors corresponding with the contents of the letters, at first intense anxiety oppressed the fathers, on seeing what a formidable war with Macedonia threatened them, when with difficulty bearing up against the Punic war;
yet so far were they from sinking under their calamities, that they immediately began to consider how they might divert the enemy from Italy, by commencing hostilities themselves.
After ordering the prisoners to be confined in chains, and selling their attendants by public auction, they decreed, that twenty more ships should be got ready, in addition to the twenty-five ships which Publius Valerius Flaccus had been appointed to command.
These being provided and launched, and augmented by the five ships which had conveyed the captive ambassadors to Rome, a fleet of fifty ships set sail from Ostia to Tarentum.
Publius Valerius was ordered to put on board the soldiers of Varro, which Lucius Apustius, lieutenant-general, commanded at Tarentum; and, with this fleet of fifty ships, not only to protect the coast of Italy, but also to make inquiry respecting the Macedonian war.
If the plans of Philip corresponded with his letter, and the discoveries made by his ambassadors, he was directed to acquaint the praetor,
Marcus Valerius, with it, who, leaving Lucius Apustius, lieutenant-general, in command of the army, and going to Tarentum to the fleet, was to cross over to Macedonia with all speed, and endeavour to detain Philip in his own dominions.
The money which had been sent into Sicily to Appius Claudius, to be repaid to Hiero, was assigned for the support of the fleet and the main- [p. 883]
tenance of the Macedonian war.
This money was conveyed to Tarentum, by Lucius Apustius, lieutenant-general, and with it Hiero sent two hundred thousand pecks of wheat, and a hundred thousand of barley.