To this Hannibal replied, “that the Hirpini and Samnites did every thing at once: that they both represented their sufferings, solicited succours, and complained that they were undefended and neglected.
Whereas, they ought first to have represented their sufferings, then to have solicited succours; and lastly, if those succours were not obtained, then, at length, to make complaint that assistance had been implored without effect.
That he would lead his troops not into the fields of the Hirpini and Samnites, lest he too should be a burthen to them, but into the parts immediately contiguous, and belonging to the allies of the Roman people, by plundering which, he would enrich his own soldiers, and cause the enemy to retire from them through fear.
With regard to the Roman war, if the battle of Trasimenus was more glorious than that at Trebia, and the battle of Cannae than that of Trasimenus, that he would eclipse the fame of the battle of Cannae by a greater and more brilliant victory.”
With this answer, and with munificent presents, he dismissed the ambassadors. Having left a pretty large garrison in Tifata, he set out with the rest of his troops to go to Nola. Thither came Hanno from the Bruttii with recruits and elephants brought from Carthage.
Having encamped not far from the place, every thing, upon examination, was found to be widely different from what he had heard from the am- [p. 888]
bassadors of the allies. For Marcellus was doing nothing, in such a way that he could be said to have committed himself rashly either to fortune or to the enemy.
He had gone out on plundering expeditions, having previously reconnoitred, planted strong guards, and secured a retreat; the same caution was observed and the same provisions made, as if Hannibal were present.
At this time, when he perceived the enemy on the approach, he kept his forces within the walls, ordered the senators of Nola to patrole the walls, and explore on all hands what was doing among the enemy.
Of these Herennius Bassus and Herius Petrius, having been invited by Hanno, who had come up to the wall, to a conference, and gone out with the permission of Marcellus, were thus addressed by him, through an interpreter.
After extolling the valour and good fortune of Hannibal, and vilifying the majesty of the Roman people, which he represented as sinking into decrepitude with their strength; he said, "but though they were on an equality in
these respects, as once perhaps they were, yet they who had experienced how oppressive the government of Rome was towards its allies, and how great the clemency of Hannibal, even towards all his prisoners of the Italian name, were bound to prefer the friendship and alliance of the Carthaginians to those of the Romans.
If both the consuls with their armies were at Nola, still they would no more be a match for Hannibal than they had been at Cannae, much less would one praetor with a few raw soldiers be able to defend it.
It was a question which concerned themselves more than Hannibal, whether he should take possession of Nola as captured or surrendered, for that he would certainly make himself master of it, as he had done with regard to Capua and Nuceria, and what difference there was between the fate of Capua and Nuceria, the Nolans themselves, situated as they were nearly midway between them, were well aware.
He said he was unwilling to presage the evils which would result to the city if taken by force, but would in preference pledge himself that if they would deliver up Nola, together with Marcellus and his garrison, no other person than themselves should dictate the conditions on which they should come into the friendship and alliance of Hannibal.