At Rome there was no less panic and confusion than there had been four years before,1
when [p. 385]
a Carthaginian camp had been pitched before the2
Roman walls and gates. Nor was it quite clear to men's minds whether they should praise or blame so bold a march on the part of the consul.
It was plain that it would be praised or blamed according to the outcome, than which nothing is more unjust. They said that the camp had been left near an enemy who was Hannibal, without a general, with an army from which had been detached all its strength, all its flower.
And the consul had indicated a march into Lucania, whereas he was heading for Picenum and Gaul, leaving a camp that was defended by nothing more than the deception of the enemy, who was unaware that the general and a part of his army were not there.
What was to happen, if that became known and Hannibal should wish either with his whole army to pursue Nero, who had set out with only six thousand armed men, or else to attack the camp, abandoned to plunder, without proper forces, without its high command, without the auspices?3
The earlier disasters in that war, the death of two consuls in the preceding year, were still terrifying. And they said that all those misfortunes had befallen them when the enemy had but a single general, a single army, in Italy.
At present it had become two Punic wars, two mighty armies, two Hannibals, so to speak, in Italy. For Hasdrubal also was a son of the same father, Hamilcar, and an equally strenuous commander, trained for so many years in Spain by a war with Romans, famous too for a double victory, the destruction of two armies and generals of great distinction.
Certainly of the swiftness of his march from Spain, and of having aroused the Gallic tribes to war he could boast far more than Hannibal [p. 387]
For he had gathered an army in the very4
region in which Hannibal had lost the larger part of his forces by hunger and cold, the most pitiable forms of death.
Furthermore, men acquainted with events in Spain repeatedly added that he would encounter in Gaius Nero no unknown general, but one whom he, when himself surprised, as it happened, in a difficult pass, had baulked and baffled like a child by the pretence of drawing up terms of peace.5
They reckoned all the enemy's forces even larger, their own less, than they were, since fear is an interpreter always inclined to the worse side.