The setting out of the consuls from the city in opposite directions, as though for two wars at the same time, had drawn men's anxious thoughts both ways, while they not only remembered what disasters the first coming of Hannibal had brought into Italy, but also were tormented by this anxiety: what gods were to be so kindly disposed to the city and the empire that the state should meet with success at the same time in both quarters?
It was with a balancing of defeats so far by victories, they thought, that matters had dragged on up to that time.
When in Italy at Trasumennus and Cannae the Roman state had gone down to defeat, victorious campaigns in Spain had saved her from falling.
Later, when in Spain one disaster after another had [p. 371]
partially destroyed two armies with the loss of two1
extraordinary generals, many successes in Italy and Sicily had supported the tottering state.
And the very distance, they said, in that one of the wars was fought in the remotest part of the world, had given time to recover breath.
But now two wars had been admitted into Italy, two generals of the greatest celebrity were encircling the city of Rome, and upon one spot the whole mass, the entire weight of the danger had settled. Whichever of them was the first to win a victory would within a few days unite his camp with the other's. Alarm was caused also by the preceding year, saddened by the death of two consuls.
Troubled by such anxieties men escorted the consuls as they parted, leaving for their provinces.
It is related that when Marcus Livius, still filled with resentment toward his fellow-citizens, was setting out for the war, and Quintus Fabius warned him not to engage the enemy rashly, before he had come to know their character, he replied that he would fight when he first caught sight of the enemy's column.
When the question was asked what reason he had for haste, he said, “I shall win either great fame from the enemy, or from my defeated fellow-citizens a joy that surely is earned, even if not to my credit.”
Before Claudius, the consul, reached his province, as Hannibal was leading his army along the very border of the territory of ...2
into the country of the Sallentini, Gaius Hostilius Tubulus with cohorts unencumbered by baggage attacked him and caused [p. 373]
terrible confusion in the straggling column.
slew about four thousand men and captured nine military standards. On hearing of the approach of the enemy, Quintus Claudius, who had his camps4
established near the various cities of the Sallentine territory, had left his winter quarters.
Accordingly, not to engage two armies at the same time, Hannibal moved his camp out of the region of Tarentum by night and retired into the country of the Bruttii.5
Claudius turned his column into the territory of the Sallentini, while Hostilius on his way to Capua met the consul Claudius near Venusia.
There forty thousand infantry and twenty-five hundred horsemen were selected from both their armies, that with them the consul might campaign against Hannibal, As for the rest of the forces, Hostilius was ordered to lead them to Capua, to be handed over to Quintus Fulvius, the proconsul.