The Roman army was at that time in the territory of Larinum. Minucius, the master of the horse, had the command of it; the dictator, as was before mentioned, having gone to the city.
But the camp, which had been pitched in an elevated and secure situation, was now brought down into the plain; plans of a bolder character, agreeably with the temper of the general, were in agitation; and either an attack was to be made upon the scattered foragers, or upon the camp now left with an inconsiderable guard.
Nor did it escape the observation of Hannibal, that the plan of the war had been changed with the general, and that the enemy would act with more boldness than counsel.
Hannibal himself too, which one would scarcely credit, though the enemy was near, despatched a third part of his troops to forage, retaining the remaining two-thirds in the camp.
After that he advanced his camp itself nearer to the enemy, to a hill within the enemy's view, nearly two miles from Geronium; that they might be aware that he was on the alert to protect his foragers if any attack should be made upon them.
Then he discovered an eminence nearer to, and commanding the very camp of the Romans: and because if he marched openly in the day-time to occupy it, the enemy would doubtless anticipate him by a [p. 793]
shorter way, the Numidians having been sent privately in the night, took possession of it.
These, occupying this position, the Romans, the next day, despising the smallness of their numbers, dislodge, and transfer their camp thither themselves.
There was now, therefore, but a very small space between rampart and rampart, and that the Roman line had almost entirely filled; at the same time the cavalry, with the light infantry sent out against the foragers through the opposite part of the camp, effected a slaughter and flight of the scattered enemy far and wide.
Nor dared Hannibal hazard a regular battle; because with so few troops, that he would scarcely be able to protect his camp if attacked. And now he carried on the war (for part of his army was away) according to the plans of Fabius, by sitting still and creating delays.
He had also withdrawn his troops to their former camp, which was before the walls of Geronium.
Some authors affirm that they fought in regular line, and with encountering standards; that in the first encounter the Carthaginian was driven in disorder quite to his camp; but that, a sally thence having been suddenly made all at once, the Romans in their turn became alarmed; that after that the battle was restored by the arrival of Numerius Decimius the Samnite;
that this man, the first in family and fortune, not only in Bovianum, whence he came, but in all Samnium, when conducting by command of the dictator to the camp eight thousand infantry and five hundred horse, having shown himself on the rear of Hannibal, seemed to both parties to be a fresh reinforcement coming with Quintus Fabius from Rome;
that Hannibal, fearing also some ambuscade, withdrew his troops; and that the Roman, aided by the Samnite, pursuing him, took by storm two forts on that day;
that six thousand of the enemy were slain, and about five thousand of the Romans; but that though the loss was so nearly equal, intelligence was conveyed to Rome of a signal victory; and a letter from the master of the horse still more presumptuous.