To this Herennius Bassus replied, that, “a friendship had subsisted now for many years between the Romans and [p. 889]
the Nolans, which neither party up to that day regretted; and even had they been disposed to change their friends upon a change of fortune, it was now too late to change;
had they intended to surrender themselves to Hannibal, they should not have called a Roman garrison to their aid: that all fortunes both were now and should to the last be shared with those who had come to their protection.”
This conference deprived Hannibal of the hope of gaining Nola by treachery; he therefore completely invested the city, in order that he might attack the walls in every part at once.
Marcellus, when he perceived that he had come near to the walls, having drawn up his troops within the gate, sallied forth with great impetuosity; several were knocked down and slain on the first charge: afterwards the troops running up 'to those who were engaged, and their forces being thus placed on an equality, the battle began to be fierce; nor would there have been many actions equally memorable, had not the combatants been separated by a shower of rain attended with a tremendous storm.
On that day, after having engaged in a slight contest, and with inflamed minds, they retired, the Romans to the city, the Carthaginians to their camp. Of the Carthaginians, however, there fell from the shock of the first sally not more than thirty, of the Romans not one.
The rain continued without intermission through the whole night, until the third hour of the following day, and therefore, though both parties were eager for the contest, they nevertheless kept themselves within their works for that day. On the third day Hannibal sent a portion of his troops into the lands of the Nolans to plunder.
Marcellus perceiving this, immediately led out his troops and formed for battle, nor did Hannibal decline fighting. The interval between the city and the camp was about a mile. In that space, and all the country round Nola consists of level ground, the armies met.
The shout which was raised on both sides, called back to the battle, which had now commenced, the nearest of those cohorts which had gone out into the fields to plunder.
The Nolans too joined the Roman line. Marcellus having highly commended them, desired them to station themselves in reserve, and to carry the wounded out of the field, but not take part in the battle, unless they should receive a signal from him.