The following day the Carthaginians filled the whole [p. 784]
road between the two camps with his troops in marching order;
and though the Romans had taken their stand immediately under their rampart, having a decidedly superior position, yet the Carthaginian came up with his light horse, and, with a view to provoke the enemy, carried on a kind of desultory attack, first charging and then retreating. The Roman line remained in its position.
The battle was slow, and more conformable to the wish of the dictator than of Hannibal. On the part of the Romans there fell two hundred, on the part of the enemy eight hundred.
It now began to appear that Hannibal was hemmed in, the road to Casilinum being blockaded; and that while Capua, and Samnium, and so many wealthy allies in the rear of the Romans might supply them with provisions, the Carthaginian, on the other hand, must winter amid the rocks of Formiae and the sands and hideous swamps of Liternum.
Nor did it escape Hannibal that he was assailed by his own arts; wherefore, since he could not escape by way of Casilinum, and since it was necessary to make for the mountains, and pass the summit of Callicula, lest in any place the Romans should attack his troops while enclosed in valleys;
having hit upon a stratagem calculated to deceive the sight, and excite terror from its appearance, by means of which he might baffle the enemy, he resolved to come up by stealth to the mountains at the commencement of night.
The preparation of his wily stratagem was of this description. Torches, collected from every part of the country, and bundles of rods and dry cuttings, are fastened before the horns of oxen, of which, wild and tame, he had driven away a great number among other plunder of the country: the number of oxen was made up to nearly two thousand.
To Hasdrubal was assigned the task of driving to the mountains that herd, after having set fire to their horns, as soon as ever it was dark; particularly, if he could, over the passes beset by the enemy.