This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
With the destruction of the armies it seemed as though Spain must be lost.  But one man restored the fallen fortunes of the State. There was in the army a Lucius Marcius, the son of Septimius, a Roman knight, an active and energetic youth whose character and abilities were somewhat superior to the position in which he had been born.  His many natural gifts had been developed by Scipio's training, under whom he had learnt all the arts of war.  Out of the fugitive soldiers whom he had rallied, and some whom he had drawn from the garrisons in Spain, he had formed quite a respectable army, and with it had joined Ti. Fonteius, Scipio's lieutenant.  After they had entrenched themselves in a camp on this side of the Ebrot his soldiers decided to hold a regular election for the purpose of choosing a general to command the united armies, and they relieved each other on sentinel and outpost duty so that every man might give his vote.  So far did the Roman knight surpass all others in the authority and respect which he possessed with the soldiers that the whole army unanimously conferred the supreme command on L. Marcius.  After this he spent the whole of the time-and short enough it was-in strengthening the defences of the camp and storing supplies in it, and the soldiers carried out all his commands with alacrity and in anything but a despondent mood.  But when the news arrived that Hasdrubal-Gisgo's son-had crossed the Ebro and was coming to stamp out the remains of the war and the soldiers saw the signal for battle put out by their new general they gave way completely.  The recollection of the men who had so lately commanded them, the proud confidence which they had always felt in their generals and their armies when they went into battle quite unnerved them; they all burst into tears and smote their heads; some raised their hands to heaven and reproached the gods; others lay on the ground and invoked the names of their old commanders.  Nothing could check these wild outbursts of grief, though the centurions tried to rouse their men, and Marcius himself went about calming them and at the same time reproaching them for their unmanly conduct. "Why," he asked them, "have you given way to womanish and idle tears instead of bracing yourselves up to defend yourselves and the republic and not allowing your commanders' death to go unavenged?"  Suddenly a shout was heard and the sound of trumpets, for the enemy was now close up to the rampart. In an instant their grief changed to fury, they rushed to arms, and racing to the gates like madmen they dashed upon the enemy who were coming on carelessly and in disorder. The sudden and unlooked for movement created a panic among the Carthaginians.  They wondered whence all these enemies had arisen, after their army had been all but annihilated, what gave such daring and self-confidence to men who had been vanquished and put to flight, who had come forward as their commander now that the two Scipios were killed, who was over the camp, who had given the signal for battle.  Bewildered and astounded at all these utterly unlooked-for surprises they at first slowly retired, then as the attack became heavier and more insistent they turned and fled.  There would have been either a frightful slaughter amongst the fugitives or a rash and dangerous attack on the part of the pursuers if Marcius had not hurriedly given the signal to retire and kept back the excited troops by throwing himself in front of the foremost and even holding some back with his hands. Then he marched them back to camp still thirsting for blood.  When the Carthaginians saw that none were pursuing them after the first repulse from the rampart they imagined that they had been afraid to go any further, their feelings of contempt returned, and they marched at a leisurely pace back to their camp.  They showed as much carelessness in guarding their own camp as they had shown in attacking the Roman, for although their enemy was near them they regarded them as only the wreckage of two armies which had been destroyed a few days before.  Whilst they were, in consequence of this, neglectful of everything, Marcius, who had become thoroughly aware of it, thought out a plan, at first glance hazardous rather than bold, which was to assume the aggressive and attack the enemy's camp.  He thought it would be easier to storm Hasdrubal's camp whilst he was alone than to defend his own, in case the three commanders united their forces once more.  Besides, if he succeeded he would have gone far to retrieve their late disasters; if he failed the enemy could no longer despise him, since he would have been the first to attack.
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.