Hippias had been sent by the king, a short time before, to maintain that pass; and having employed himself, since he first saw the Roman camp on the hill, in preparing his men's minds for a battle, he now went forth to meet the consul's army as it advanced.
The Romans came out to battle with light armour, as did the enemy; light troops being the fittest to commence the engagement.
As soon as they met, therefore, they instantly discharged their javelins, and many wounds were given and received on both sides in a disorderly kind of conflict; but few of either party were killed.
This only roused their courage for the following day, when they would have engaged with more numerous forces, and with greater animosity, had there been room to form a line; but the summit of the mountain was contracted into a ridge so [p. 2061]
narrow, as scarcely to allow space for three files in front;
so that, while but few were fighting, the greater part, especially such as carried heavy arms, stood mere spectators of the fight. The light troops even ran through the hollows of the hill, and attacked the flanks of the light-armed troops of the enemy; and alike through even and uneven places, sought to come to action.
That day, greater numbers were wounded than killed, and night put a stop to the dispute.
The Roman general was greatly at a loss how to proceed on the third day; for to remain on that naked hill was impossible, and he could not return without disgrace, and even danger, if the enemy with the advantage of the ground, should press on his troops in their retreat:
he had therefore no other plan left than to improve his bold attempt, by persevering resolution, which sometimes, in the issue, proves the wiser course.
He had, in fact, brought himself into such a situation, that if he had had to deal with an enemy like the ancient kings of Macedon, he might have suffered a severe defeat. But while the king, with his horsemen, ran up and down the shore at Dium; and though at a distance of twelve miles, he was almost within hearing of the shout and noise of his forces who were engaged, neither strengthened his forces by sending up fresh men to relieve the weary, nor, what was most material, appeared himself in the action;
the Roman general, notwithstanding that he was above sixty years old, and unwieldy through corpulency, performed actively every duty of a commander.
He persisted with extraordinary resolution in his bold undertaking; and, leaving Popilius to guard the summit, marched across, through trackless places, having sent forward a party to open a road. Attalus and Misagenes, with the auxiliary troops of their own nations, were ordered to protect them, while clearing the way through the forests.
He himself, keeping the cavalry and baggage before him, closed the rear with the legions.