Postumius attempted to make himself master of Mili- onia, at first by storm and an assault; but these not succeeding, he carried his approaches to the walls, and thus gained an entrance into the place.
The fight was continued in all parts of the city from the fourth hour until near the eighth, the result being a long time uncertain: the Romans at last gained possession of the town.
Three thousand two hundred of the Samnites were killed, four thousand seven hundred taken, besides the other booty. From thence the legions were conducted to Ferentinum, out of which
the inhabitants had, during the night, retired in silence through the opposite gate, with all their effects which could be either carried or driven.
The consul, on his arrival, approached the walls with the same order and circumspection, as if he were to meet an opposition here equal to what he had experienced at Milionia.
Then, perceiving a dead silence in the city, and neither arms nor men on the towers and ramparts, he restrains the soldiers, who were eager to mount the deserted fortifications, lest they might fall into a snare. He ordered two divisions of the confederate Latin horse to ride round the walls, and explore every particular.
These horsemen observed one gate, and, at a little distance, another on the same side, standing wide open, and on the roads leading from these every mark of the enemy having fled by night. They then rode up leisurely to the gates, from whence, with perfect safety, they took a clear view through straight streets quite across the city.
They report to the consul, that the city was abandoned by the enemy, as was plain from the solitude, the recent tracks on their retreat, and the things which, in the confusion of the night, they had left scattered up and down.
On hearing this, the consul led round the army to that side of the city which had been examined, and making the troops halt at a little distance from the gate, gave orders that five horsemen should ride into the city; and when they should have advanced a good way into it, then, if they saw all things safe, three should remain there, and the other two return to him with intelligence.
These returned and said, that they had proceeded to a part of the town from which they had a view on every side, and that nothing but silence and solitude reigned through the whole extent of it. The consul immediately led some light-armed cohorts into the city; ordering the rest to fortify a camp in the mean [p. 674]
The soldiers who entered the town, breaking open the doors, found only a few persons, disabled by age or sickness;
and such effects left behind as could not, without difficulty, be removed.
These were seized as plunder: and it was discovered from the prisoners, that several cities in that quarter had, in pursuance of a concerted plan, resolved on flight; that their towns-people had gone off at the first watch, and they believed that the same solitude they should find in the other places.
The accounts of the prisoners proved well-founded, and the consul took possession of the forsaken towns.