Popilius, before he brought his troops up to the walls, sent to recommend to the magistrates and principal men, rather to try the honour and clemency of the Romans than their power;
but this advice produced no effect, the fires in the king's camp on the Enipeus being now within their sight The attack was then commenced by assaults, and with works and machines, as well on the side facing the sea, (for the ships had been brought up close to the shore,) as on land.
A party of Roman youths actually gained possession of the lowest part of the wall, by turning to the purposes of war a kind of sport which they were accustomed to practise in the circus.
In those times, when the present extravagant fashion of filling the area with beasts of every kind was yet unknown, it was customary to contrive various kinds of amusements; for when one chariot race and one equestrian performer were exhibited, both the performances scarcely filled up the space of an hour.
Among other diversions, in the more elaborate games, about sixty young men in arms, sometimes more, used to be introduced, whose performances were partly a representation of troops going through the military exercise, and partly a display of more accurate skill than appeared in the practice of [p. 2067]
soldiers, and which approached nearer to the mode of fighting used by gladiators.
After performing various evolutions, they formed in a square body with their shields raised over their heads, and closed together, the foremost standing upright, the next stooping a little, the third and fourth lines more and more, and so on, until the hindmost rested on their knees, thus composing a covering in the shape of a tortoise-shell, and sloping, like the roof of a house.
Then two armed men, who stood at the distance of about fifty feet, ran forward, and after some menacing flourishes of their arms, mounted over the closed shields, from the bottom to the top of this roof; and, treading as steadily as if on solid ground, sometimes paraded along the extreme edges of it, as if repelling an enemy, and sometimes encountered each other on the middle of it.
A body similar to this was brought up against the lowest part of the wall, and the soldiers, standing thereon, mounted until they were as high as the defendants on the battlements; and these having been beaten off, the soldiers of two companies climbed over into the town.
The only difference was, that here the outside men in the front and in the two flanks alone did not raise their shields over their heads, lest they should expose their bodies, but held them before them, as in battle; so that the weapons thrown at them from the walls, as they advanced, did them no injury, while those that were poured like a shower on the roof glided down the smooth slope to the bottom, without doing any mischief.
When Heracleum was taken, the consul removed his quarters thither, as if he intended to besiege Dium; and, after driving the king thence, to advance to Pieria. But as he was now preparing his quarters for the winter, he ordered roads to be made for the conveyance of provisions from Thessaly, and proper places to be chosen for store-houses;
also huts to be built, where the people employed in bringing the provisions might lodge.