But after he determined to proceed to Tarentum, selecting from his infantry and cavalry ten thousand men, whom, from activity of body, and lightness of arms, he judged best adapted for the expedition, he began his march in the fourth watch of the night;
and sending in advance about eighty Numidian horsemen, ordered them to scour the country on each side of the road, and narrowly examine every place, lest any of the rustics who might have observed his army at a distance should escape;
to bring back those who were got before, and kill those whom they met, that they might appear to the neighbouring inhabitants to be a plundering party, rather than a regular army.
Hannibal himself, marching at a rapid pace, pitched his camp about fifteen miles from Tarentum; and without telling his soldiers even there, what was their destination, he only called them together and admonished them to march all of them in the road, and not to suffer any one to turn aside or deviate from the line; and above all, that they would be on the watch, so as to catch the word of command, and not do any thing without the order of their leaders;
that in due time he would issue his commands as to what he wished to be done.
About the same hour a rumour reached Tarentum, that a few Numidian horsemen were devastating the fields, and had terrified the rustics through a wide extent of country; at which intelligence the Roman prefect took no further step than to order a division of his cavalry to go out the following day at sunrise to check the depredations of the enemy;
and so far was he from directing his attention to any thing else on this account, that on the contrary, this excursion of the Numidians was a proof to him that Hannibal and his army had not moved from his camp.
Early in the night Hannibal put his troops in motion, and Philemenus, with his customary burden of prey taken in hunting, was his guide.
The rest of the conspirators waited the accomplishment of what had been concerted; and the agreement was, that Philemenus, while bringing in his prey through the small gate by which
he was accustomed to pass, should introduce some armed men, while Hannibal in another quarter approached the gate called Temenis, which faced the east, in that quarter which was towards the continent, near the tombs which were within the walls. When he drew near to the gate, Hannibal raised a fire according to agreement, which made a blaze; the same signal was returned [p. 969]
by Nico, and the fires were extinguished on both sides.
Hannibal led his troops on in silence to the gate. Nico suddenly fell upon the guards while asleep, slew them in their beds, and opened the gate.
Hannibal then entered with his infantry, ordering his cavalry to stay behind, that they might be able to bring their assistance wherever it was required without obstruction.
Philemenus also in another quarter approached the small gate by which he was accustomed to pass and repass. His voice, which was well known, for he said he could scarcely bear the weight of the huge beast he had gotten, and his signal, which had now become familiar, having roused the guard, the small gate was opened.
Two youths carrying in a boar, Philemenus himself followed, with a huntsman, unencumbered, and while the attention of the guard was incautiously turned upon those who carried the boar, in consequence of its astonishing size, he transfixed him with a hunting spear.
About thirty armed men then entering, slew the rest of the guards, and broke open the adjoining gate, when a body of troops, in regular array, instantly rushed in. Being conducted thence in silence to the forum, they joined Hannibal.
The Carthaginian then sent the Tarentines, with two thousand Gauls formed into three divisions, in different directions through the city, with orders to occupy the most frequented streets.
A confusion arising, the Romans were put to the sword on all hands. The townsmen were spared; but in order to insure this, he instructed the Tarentine youths, when they saw any of their friends at a distance, to bid them be quiet and silent, and be of good courage.