From this Hannibal derived a twofold joy; for nothing which was going on among the enemy escaped him; the deserters revealing many things, and he himself examining by his own scouts.
For he considered that he should be able to entrap the unrestrained temerity of Minucius by his usual arts, and that half the force of the sagacity of Fabius had vanished.
There was an eminence between the camps of Minucius and the Carthaginians; whoever occupied it would evidently render the position of his enemy less advantageous.
Hannibal was not so desirous of gaining it without a contest, though that were worth his while, as to bring on a quarrel with Minucius, who, he well knew, would at all times throw himself in his way to oppose him.
All the intervening ground was at first sight unavailable to one who wished to plant an ambuscade, because it not only had not any part that was woody, but none even covered with brambles, but in reality formed by nature to cover an ambush; so much the more, because no such deception could be apprehended in a naked valley: and there were in its curvatures hollow rocks, such that some of them were capable of containing two hundred armed men.
Within these recesses, five thousand infantry and cavalry are secreted, as many as could conveniently occupy each.
Lest, however, in any part, either the motion of any one of them thoughtlessly coming out, or the glittering of
their arms, should discover the stratagem in so open a valley, by sending out a few troops at break of day to occupy the before-mentioned eminence, he diverts the attention of the enemy.
Immediately, on the first view of them, the smallness of their number was treated with contempt, and each man began to request for himself the task of dislodging the enemy. The general himself, among the most headstrong and absurd, calls to arms to go and seize the place, and inveighs against the enemy with vain presumption and menaces First, he despatches his light-armed;
after that his cavalry, in a close body; lastly, perceiving that succours were also being sent to the enemy, he marches with his legions drawn up in order of battle.
Hannibal also, sending band after band, as the contest increased, as aids to his men when dis- [p. 798]
tressed, had now completed a regular army, and a battle was fought with the entire strength of both sides.
First, the light infantry of the Romans, approaching the eminence, which was preoccupied, from the lower ground, being repulsed and pushed down, spread a terror among the cavalry, which was marching up also and fled back to the standards of the legions: the line of infantry alone stood fearless amidst the panic-struck;
and it appeared that they would by no means have been inferior to the enemy, had it been a regular and open battle, so much confidence did the successful battle a few days before inspire.
But the troops in ambush created such confusion and alarm, by charging them on both flanks and on their rear, that no one had spirit enough left to fight, or hope enough to try to escape.