While the Romans thus prepare and deliberate, Saguntum was already besieged with the utmost vigour.
That city, situated about a mile from the sea, was by far the most opulent beyond the Iberus. Its inhabitants are said to have been sprung from the island Zacynthus, and some of the Rutulian race from Ardea to have been also mixed with them;
but they had risen in a short time to great wealth, either by their gains from the sea or the land, or by the increase of their numbers, or the integrity of their principles, by which they maintained
their faith with their allies, even to their own destruction. Hannibal having entered their territory with a hostile army, and laid waste the country in every direction, attacks the city in three different quarters.
There was an angle of the wall sloping down into a more level and open valley than the other space around;
against this he resolved to move the vineae, by means of which the battering-ram might be brought up to the wall.
But though the ground at a distance from the wall was sufficiently level for working the vineae, yet their undertakings by no means favourably succeeded, when they came to effect their object. Both a huge tower overlooked it, and the wall, as in a suspected place, was raised higher than in any other part; and a chosen band of youths presented a more vigorous resistance, where the greatest danger and labour were indicated.
At first they repelled the enemy with missile weapons, and suffered no place to be sufficiently secure for those engaged in the works;
afterwards, not only did they brandish their weapons in defence of the walls [p. 707]
and tower, but they had courage to make sallies on the posts and works of the enemy; in which tumultuary engagements, scarcely more Saguntines than Carthaginians were slain.
But when Hannibal himself, while he too incautiously approached the wall, fell severely wounded in the thigh by a javelin, such flight and dismay spread around, that the works and vineae had nearly been abandoned.