Hannibal, perceiving that the Romans had been indiscreetly prompted rather than rashly carried to a conclusion, returned to his camp without effecting any thing, as his stratagem was discovered.
He could not remain there many days, in consequence of the scarcity of corn; and, moreover, not only among the soldiers, who were mixed up of the off-scouring of various nations, but even with the general himself, day by day new designs arose:
for, first, when there had been murmuring of the soldiers, and then an open and clamorous demand of their arrears of pay, and a complaint first of the scarcity of provisions, and lastly of famine;
and there being a report that the mercenaries, particularly the Spanish, had formed a plan of passing over to the enemy, it is affirmed that Hannibal himself too sometimes entertained thoughts of flying into Gaul, so that, having left all his infantry, he might hurry away with his cavalry.
Such being the plans in agitation, and such the state of feeling in the camp, he resolved to depart thence into the regions of Apulia, which were warmer, and therefore earlier in the harvest. Thinking also, that the farther he retired from the enemy, the more difficult would desertion be to the wavering.
He set out by night, having, as before, kindled fires, and leaving a few tents to produce an appearance; that a fear of an ambuscade, similar to the former, might keep the Romans in their places.
But when intelligence was brought by the same Lucanian Statilius, who had reconnoitred every place on the other side the mountains, and beyond the camp, that the enemy was seen marching at a distance, then plans began to be deliberated on about pursuing him.
The consuls persisted in the same opinions they ever entertained; but nearly all acquiesced with Varro, and none with Paulus except Servilius, the consul of the former year.
In compliance with the opinion of the majority, they set out, under the impulse of destiny, to render Cannae celebrated by a Roman disaster.
Hannibal had pitched his camp near that village, with his back to the wind Vulturnus, which, in those plains which are parched with drought, carries with it clouds of dust.
This circumstance was not only very advantageous to the camp, but would be a great protection to them when they formed their line; as they, with the wind blowing only on their [p. 814]
backs, would combat with an enemy blinded with the thickly blown dust.