This is the celebrated battle at the Trasimenus, and recorded among the few disasters of the Roman people.
Fifteen thousand Romans were slain in the battle. Ten thousand, who had been scattered in the flight through all Etruria, returned to the city by different roads.
One thousand five hundred of the enemy perished in the battle; many on both sides died afterwards of their wounds. The carnage on both sides is related, by some authors, to have been many times greater.
I, besides that I would relate nothing drawn from a worthless source, to which the minds of historians generally incline too much, have as my chief authority Fabius, who was contemporary with the events of this war.
Such of the captives as belonged to the Latin confederacy being dismissed without ransom, and the Romans thrown into chains, Hannibal ordered the bodies of his own men to be gathered from the heaps of the enemy, and buried: the body of Flaminius too, which was searched for with great diligence for burial, he could not find.
On the first intelligence of this defeat at Rome, a concourse of the people, dismayed and terrified, took place in the forum.
The matrons, wandering through the streets, ask all they meet, what sudden disaster was reported? what was the fate of the army?
And when the multitude, like a full assembly, having directed their course to the comitium and senate-house, were calling upon the magistrates, at length, a little before sunset, Marcus Pomponius, the praetor, declares, “We have been defeated in a great battle;” and [p. 774]
though nothing more definite was heard from him, yet, full of the rumours which they had caught one from another, they carry back to their homes intelligence, that the consul, with a great part of his troops, was slain;
that a few only survived, and these either widely dispersed in flight through Etruria, or else captured by the enemy.
As many as had been the calamities of the vanquished army, into so many anxieties were the minds of those distracted whose relations had served under Flaminius, and who were uninformed of what had been the fate of their friends, nor does any one know certainly what he should either hope or fear.
During the next and several successive days, a greater number of women almost than men stood at the gates, waiting either for some one of their friends, or for intelligence of them, surrounding and earnestly interrogating those they met: nor could they be torn away from those they knew especially, until they had regularly inquired into every thing.
Then as they retired from the informants, you might discern their various expressions of countenance, according as intelligence, pleasing or sad, was announced to each; and those who congratulated or condoled on their return home.
The joy and grief of the women were especially manifested. They report that one, suddenly meeting her son, who had returned safe, expired at the very door before his face —that another, who sat grieving at her house at the falsely reported death of her son, became a corpse, from excessive joy, at the first sight of him on his return.
The praetors detained the senators in the house for several days, from sunrise to sunset, deliberating under whose conduct, and by what forces, the victorious Carthaginians could be opposed.