previous next

CHAPTER VIII

Defeat and Death of the Consul Fulvius -- The Romans recover Tarentum -- Death of Marcellus -- Hannibal foiled at Salapia -- Battle of the Metaurus -- Hannibal retires to Bruttium


[48] While Fulvius, the Roman consul, was besieging Herdonia, Hannibal approached him quietly one evening, having given orders that no fires should be lighted and that strict silence should be observed. Early in the morning, which happened to be foggy, he sent a body of horse to attack the Roman camp. The latter repelled them with some confusion as they hurried from their beds, but with boldness, for they believed their foe to be some few men from somewhere or other. As Hannibal was passing around to the other side of the town with a body of infantry in order to reconnoitre, and at the same time to encourage the people inside, he fell in with the Romans in the course of his circuit, either by chance or by design, and surrounded them. Being attacked on both sides they fell confusedly and in heaps. About 8000 of them were killed, including the consul Fulvius himself. The remainder took refuge inside a fortification in front of their camp, and by fighting bravely preserved it and prevented Hannibal from taking the camp.

[49] After this, the Romans ravaged the country of the revolted Apulians, and Hannibal that of the Campanians, all of whom had returned to the Roman allegiance except the Atell├Ži. The latter he settled in Thurii in order that they might not suffer by the war that was raging in Bruttium, Lucania, and Apulia. The Romans settled the exiles of Nuceria in Atella and then, continuing their attacks on

Y.R. 545
Hannibal's allies, they took Aulonia and overran the territory
B.C. 209
of the Bruttians. They also laid siege by land and sea to Tarentum, which was under the command of Carthalo. The latter, as he had few Carthaginian soldiers present, had taken Bruttians into his service. The captain of these Bruttians was in love with a woman whose brother was serving with the Romans, and the latter managed, by means of his sister, that this captain should surrender that part of the wall which he commanded to the Romans, who were directing their engines against it. In this way the Romans again got possession of Tarentum, a place admirably situated for the purposes of war both by land and by sea.

[50] Hannibal was hastening to its relief when he learned of its capture. He turned aside to Thurii greatly disappointed, and proceeded thence to Venusia. There Claudius Marcellus, who had conquered Sicily and was now consul for the fifth time, and Titus Crispinus took the field

B.C. 208
against him, not venturing, however, to fight a pitched battle. But Marcellus happening to see a party of Numidians carrying off plunder, and thinking that they were only a few, attacked them confidently with three hundred horse. He led the attack in person, being a man of daring courage in battle and ever despising danger. Suddenly, a large body of Africans started up and attacked him on all sides. Those Romans who were in the rear early took to flight, but Marcellus, who thought that they were following him, fought valiantly until he was thrust through with a dart and killed. When Hannibal stood over his body and saw the wounds all on his breast, he praised him as a soldier but criticised him as a general. He took off his ring, burned his body with distinguished honors, and sent his bones to his son in the Roman camp.

[51] Being angry with the Salapians, Hannibal sent a Roman deserter to them with a letter stamped with the signet ring of Marcellus, before the latter's death had become generally known, saying that the army of Marcellus was on the way thither and that Marcellus gave orders that the gates should be opened to receive them. But the citizens had received letters a little before from Crispinus, who had sent word to all the surrounding towns that Hannibal had got possession of Marcellus' ring. So they sent

Y.R. 546
Hannibal's messenger back in order that he might not know by remaining there what was going on, and they promised to do as they had been ordered. Then they armed them-selves and having taken their station on the walls awaited the result of the stratagem. When Hannibal came with his Numidians, whom he had armed with Roman weapons, they drew up the portcullis as though they were gladly welcoming Marcellus. When they had admitted as many as they thought they could easily master, they dropped the portcullis and slew all those who had gained entrance. Upon those who were still standing around outside the walls they hurled missiles from above and covered them with wounds. Hannibal, having failed in his second attempt against the city, now withdrew.
Y.R. 547

[52] In the meantime his brother Hasdrubal, with the

B.C. 207
army he had enlisted in Celtiberia, marched to Italy. Being received in a friendly way by the Gauls he had passed over the Alps by the road that Hannibal had opened, accomplishing in two months the journey which had previously taken Hannibal six. He debouched in Etruria with 48,000 foot, 8000 horse, and fifteen elephants. He sent letters to his brother announcing his arrival. These letters were intercepted by the Romans so that the consuls, Salinator and Nero, learned the number of his forces. They combined their own forces in one body, moved against him, and encamped opposite him near the town of Sena. He did not intend to fight yet, but hastening to join his brother, moved off, marching by night among swamps and pools and along an unfordable river, where he lost his way. At daybreak the Romans came up with them, while they were scattered about and wearied with toil and want of sleep, and slew most of them with their officers, while they were still assembling and getting themselves in order of battle. Hasdrubal himself was slain with them. Many of them were taken prisoners. Thus was Italy delivered from a great fear, since Hannibal could never have been conquered if he had received this addition to his forces.

[53] It seems to me that a god gave this victory to the Romans as a compensation for the disaster of Canna, as it came not long afterward and was about equal to it in other respects. In both cases the commanding generals lost their lives, and the number of soldiers killed and the number of prisoners taken were very nearly the same in each case. Each side also captured the other's camp and a vast quantity of baggage. Thus did Rome taste good and bad fortune alternately. Of the Celtiberians who escaped the slaughter, some made their way to their own country and some to Hannibal.

[54] Hannibal was greatly depressed by the loss of his brother and of so great an army, destroyed suddenly through ignorance of the roads. Deprived of all that he had gained by the untiring labors of fourteen years, during which he had fought with the Romans in Italy, he with-drew to Bruttium, whose people were the only ones that remained in alliance with him. Here he remained quiet, awaiting new forces from Carthage. They sent him 100 merchant ships laden with supplies, soldiers, and money, but as they had not a sufficient force of rowers they were driven by the wind to Sardinia. The praetor of Sardinia attacked them with his war-ships, sunk twenty and captured sixty of them. The remainder escaped to Carthage. Thus was Hannibal still further straitened and he despaired of assistance from the Carthaginians. Nor did Mago, who was collecting mercenaries in Gaul and Liguria, send him any aid, but waited to see what turn affairs would take. Perceiving that he could not stay there long, Hannibal now began to despise the Bruttians themselves as men who would soon be strangers to him, and he loaded them with taxes. He transferred the strongholds of their towns to the plains as though they were planning a revolt. He despoiled many of their men, bringing accusations against them in order that he might confiscate their property. Such was his situation.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (L. Mendelssohn, 1879)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
209 BC (1)
208 BC (1)
207 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: