And the Campanians, hearing of what was a disaster as much to themselves as to their allies, sent legates to [p. 397]
Hannibal to report that the two consuls were at1
Beneventum, a day's march from Capua; that the war was all but at their gates and walls; and that, if he did not come to their aid in haste, Capua would fall into the power of the enemy more promptly than Arpi.2
They said that not even Tarentum, to say nothing of its citadel, ought to be of such importance that he should hand over to the Roman people the deserted and undefended Capua, which he had usually compared with Carthage.
Hannibal, promising that the Campanian cause would be his concern, for the present sent two thousand horsemen with his lieutenants, that with this force they might be able to protect their farms from devastation.
The Romans meantime were concerned among other things for the citadel of Tarentum and the garrison there besieged. Gaius Servilius, who as lieutenant had been sent by Publius Cornelius, the praetor, into Etruria by authority of the senate to purchase grain, made his way through the enemy's blockade into the harbour of Tarentum with a number of shiploads.
Thanks to his coming, the men who until then in their faint hope had often been invited by the enemy in parleys to change sides were actually inviting and urging the enemy to change sides. And the garrison was in fact strong enough, now that soldiers who were at Metapontum had been transferred to defend the citadel of Tarentum.
Accordingly the Metapontines were at once relieved of the fear by which they were restrained, and went over to Hannibal.
The Thurians also, on the same coast, did the same.
What impelled them was not more the [p. 399]
revolt of the Tarentines and that of the3
Metapontines, with whom they were linked by blood as well, being sprung from the same Achaia than anger against the Romans on account of the recent execution of the hostages.
Friends and relatives of these sent a letter and messengers to Hanno and Mago,4
who were not far away in the land of the Bruttii, saying that, if they should bring up an army to their walls, they would themselves deliver the city into their power.
Marcus Atinius was in command at Thurii with a garrison of moderate size, and they thought that he could easily be tempted to dash rashly into battle, from his confidence not so much in his soldiers, of whom he had very few, as in the young men of Thurii. He had purposely organized them in centuries5
and armed them with a view to such emergencies.
The Carthaginian generals divided their forces between them and, on entering the territory of Thurii, Hanno, with the infantry column ready to attack, proceeded to the city. Mago with the cavalry halted under cover of hills conveniently interposed to conceal an ambuscade.
Atinius, informed of the infantry column alone by scouts, led his troops out into line, he being unaware both of the conspiracy within and of the enemy's ambuscade.
The infantry battle was very lacking in spirit, for only a few Romans were fighting in the front line, and the men of Thurii were awaiting the outcome, rather than contributing to it. And the Carthaginian line purposely retreated, in order to draw the heedless enemy to the other side of the hill occupied by their own cavalry.
When they reached the place, the cavalry, suddenly attacking with a shout, at once put to flight the mass of the Thurians, which was 399 [p. 401]
almost undisciplined and not entirely loyal to the side6
on which they were fighting. The Romans, though surrounded and hard pressed on one side by the infantry, on the other by the cavalry, nevertheless kept on fighting for some time.
Finally they also faced about and fled to the city.
There the traitors massed together and admitted the column of their citizens through wide-open gates; but when they saw the routed Romans moving toward the city, they shouted that the Carthaginian was upon them, and unless they hastily closed the gates the enemy also, mingling with them, would make their way into the city.
Thus they shut out the Romans and left them to be slain by the enemy. Atinius, however, with a few men was admitted. Then for a short time dissension continued, the other party7
being of the opinion that they must yield to destiny and surrender the city to the victors.
But, as usual, chance and bad advice prevailed. Atinius and his men were brought down to the sea and ships, more because they wished his personal safety, on account of his mild and just rule over them, than out of regard for the Romans, and then they admitted the Carthaginians to the city.
The consuls led their legions from Beneventum into the Campanian territory, not merely to ruin the grain, which was by now green, but also to besiege Capua.
They thought to make theirs a notable consulship by the destruction of so rich a city, and at the same time to remove a great disgrace from the empire, in that the revolt of a city so near had been unpunished for three years.8
But, not to leave Beneventum without a garrison, and, with a view to [p. 403]
emergencies, if Hannibal should come to Capua, as9
they had no doubt he would do, to lend aid to his allies, in order that they might be able to withstand the attack of his cavalry, they ordered Tiberius Gracchus to come from Lucania with his cavalry and light-armed troops to Beneventum. He was to put some one in command of the legions and permanent camps, in order to control the situation in Lucania.