While Hannibal was in the neighbourhood of Tarentum, and both the consuls in Samnium, though they seemed as if they were about to besiege Capua, the Campanians were experiencing famine, that calamity which is the usual attendant of a protracted siege.
It was occasioned by the Roman armies' having prevented the sowing of the lands. They therefore sent ambassadors to Hannibal, imploring him to give orders that corn should be conveyed to Capua from the neighbouring places, before both the consuls led their legions into their fields, and all the roads were blocked up by the troops of the enemy.
Hannibal ordered Hanno to pass with his army from Bruttium into Campania, and to take care that the Campanians were supplied with corn.
Hanno, setting out from Bruttium with his army, and carefully avoiding the camp of the enemy and the consuls who were in Samnium, when he drew near to Beneventum, pitched his camp on an eminence three [p. 975]
miles from the city.
He next ordered that the corn which- had been collected during the summer, should be brought from the neighbouring people in alliance with him, into his camp, assigning a guard to escort those supplies.
He then sent a messenger to the Capuans, fixing a day when they should attend at his camp to receive the corn, bringing with them vehicles and beasts of every description, collected from every part of their country.
The Campanians executed this business with their usual indolence and carelessness. Somewhat more than four hundred vehicles, with a few beasts of burden besides, were sent. After receiving a reproof from Hanno for this conduct, who told them, that not even hunger, which excited dumb animals to exertion, could stimulate them to diligence, another day was named when they were to fetch the corn after better preparation.
All these transactions being reported to the Beneventans, just as they occurred, they lost no time in sending ten ambassadors to the Roman consuls, who were encamped in the neighbourhood of Bovianum.
The consuls, hearing what was going on at Capua, arranged it so that one of them should lead an army into Campania; and Fulvius, to whose lot that province had fallen, setting out by night, entered the walls of Beneventum.
Being now near the enemy, he obtained information that Hanno had gone out to forage with a portion of his troops; that the Campanians were supplied with corn by a quaestor; that two thousand waggons had arrived together with an undisciplined and unarmed rabble; that every thing was done in a disorderly and hurried manner; and that the form of a camp, and all military subordination, were destroyed by the intermixture of rustics out of the neighbourhood.
This intelligence being sufficiently, authenticated, the consul ordered his soldiers to get ready only their standards and arms against the next night, as he must attack the Carthaginian camp.
They set out at the fourth watch of the night, leaving all their packages and baggage of every description at Beneventum; and arriving a little before daylight at the camp, they occasioned such a panic, that, had the camp been situated on level ground, it might doubtlessly have been taken on the first assault.
The height of its situation and the works defended it; for they could not be approached on any side except by a steep and difficult ascent.
At break of day a hot engagement commenced, when [p. 976]
the Carthaginians not only defended their rampart, but having more even ground, threw down the enemy as they attempted to ascend the steep.