But such eagerness to fight with Hannibal possessed the consul Marcellus that he said the camps were never close enough together.
At this time also, as he came out from the earthwork, he gave the command that the soldiers should be ready and in place, so that, in case the hill which they were on their way to reconnoitre proved satisfactory, they might gather up their baggage and follow.
There was only a small level space before the camps; then a road open and visible from every side led up the hill. As for the Numidians, a scout who had been posted not at all in the hope of so important a result, but in case they might be able to capture any men who, in wandering about in search of fodder or firewood, had gone too far from camp, gave the signal to spring up, all of them at the same time, from their different hiding-places.
Those who, facing the enemy, had to rise up from the hillside itself, did not show themselves before those who were to cut off the road in the rear turned the enemy's flanks.
Then they all sprang up from every side and, raising a [p. 321]
shout, they attacked. Although the consuls were in1
such a depression that they neither could make their way up on to the ridge occupied by the enemy, nor had any retreat open, being enclosed in the rear, still the combat might possibly have been prolonged, had not flight begun by the Etruscans inspired alarm in the others.
Nevertheless the men of Fregellae, deserted by the Etruscans, did not give up the battle, so long as the unwounded consuls withstood the attack, encouraging their men and themselves taking part in the fight.
But after they saw both consuls wounded, Marcellus even pierced by a lance and slipping from his horse, a dying man, then they likewise —now only a very few were left —fled with Crispinus, the consul, who had been struck by two javelins, and Marcellus the younger, also wounded.
Aulus Manlius, tribune of the soldiers, was slain, and of the two prefects of the allies Manius Aulius was killed, Lucius Arrenius captured. And five of the consuls' lictors came alive into the hands of the enemy; the rest were either slain or they escaped with the consul.
Of the horse forty-three fell either in battle or in flight, eighteen were captured alive.
In the camps there had been an uproar, a clamour that they should go to the relief of the consuls, when now they saw the consul and the son of the other consul both wounded, and the little remnant of the unlucky enterprise coming towards the camps.
Marcellus' death was pitiable both for other reasons and also because it was neither consistent with his age —for he was now more than sixty years old —nor with his foresight as a veteran commander, that with such imprudence he had carried himself and his colleague and almost the entire state over the brink.2
I should be very discursive in regard to a single3
event, if I should aim to rehearse all the statements in which authorities differ concerning the death of Marcellus.
Not to mention others, Coelius furnishes successively a threefold relation of what happened: one the traditional account, a second set down in the eulogy pronounced by the son, who was present, Coelius says, when it happened, a third which he himself contributes as investigated and established by him.
But the divergent reports fall within this range, that most authorities relate that he left the camp to reconnoitre a position, while all say that he was overwhelmed by an ambush.