having pronounced these words, as prophetic as they were encouraging, he led his army out and encamped with all possible secrecy in the vicinity of Caudium.
thence he dispatched in the direction of Calatia, where he heard that the Roman consuls were already in camp, ten soldiers in the guise of shepherds, with orders to graze their flocks —dispersed one here another there —at no great distance from the Romans.
on encountering pillagers, they were all to tell one story; namely, that the Samnite levies were in Apulia, where they were laying siege with all their forces to Luceria, and were on the [p. 167]
point of taking it by assault.
this rumour, which1
had designedly been given out before, had already come to the ears of the Romans, but the prisoners strengthened their belief in it, especially since they all gave the same account.
The Romans did not hesitate about helping the Lucerini, their good and faithful allies, and preventing Apulia at the same time from a general defection in the face of instant peril: the only subject of deliberation was by what route they should march.
there were two roads to Luceria. one skirted the Adriatic, and though open and unobstructed, was long almost in proportion to its safety.
The other led through the Caudine Forks, and was shorter, but this is the nature of the place: two deep defiles, narrow and wooded, are connected by an unbroken range of mountains on either hand; shut in between them lies a rather extensive plain, grassy and well —watered, with the road running through the middle of it;
but before you come to it, you must enter the first defile, and afterwards either retrace the steps by which you made your way into the place, or else —should you go forward —pass out by another ravine, which is even narrower and more difficult.
into this plain the Romans debouched from the rocky gorge of one of the two passes; and advancing forthwith to the other pass, found it blocked with a barrier of felled trees and huge boulders. The enemy's stratagem now stood revealed, and indeed a body of troops was descried at the head of the defile.
The Romans thereupon hastened back to regain the road by which they had come, but found that this was likewise closed with its own [p. 169]
barricade and armed men. at this they came to a2
halt, without any command, and a stupor came over the minds of all, and a strange kind of numbness over their bodies; and looking at one another —for
every man supposed his neighbour more capable of thinking and planning than himself —they stood for a long time motionless and silent.
afterwards, when they saw the tents of the consuls going up and some of the men getting out entrenching tools, although they perceived that in their desperate plight, deprived of every hope, it would be ridiculous for them to entrench
themselves, nevertheless, that they might not add a fault to their misfortunes, they fell to digging —each for himself with no encouragement or command from anyone —and fortified a camp close to the water;
meanwhile not only did their enemies insolently scoff at them, but they jested themselves, with pathetic candour, at the futility of their works and the pains they took.
The dejected consuls did not even call a council, for the situation admitted neither of discussion nor of help, but the lieutenants and tribunes assembled of their own accord, and the soldiers, turning to the headquarters tent, called on their generals for help, which the immortal gods could scarce have given them.