But these resolutions, as generally happens in the season of prosperity, were executed in a leisurely and slothful manner.
The Romans, in addition to their inborn activity of mind, were prevented from delaying by the posture of their affairs. For the consul was not wanting in any business which was to be done by him; and the dictator, Marcus Junius Pera, after the sacred ceremonies were concluded, and after having, as is usual, proposed to the people that he might be allowed to mount his horse;
besides the two legions which had been enlisted by the consuls in the beginning of the year, and besides the cohorts collected out of the Picenian and Gallic territories, descended to that last resort of the state when almost despaired of, and when propriety gives place to utility, and made proclamation, that of such persons as had been guilty of capital crimes or were in prison on judgment for debt, those who would serve as soldiers with him, he would order to be released from their liability to punishment and their debts.
These six thousand he armed with the Gallic spoils which were carried in the procession at the triumph of Caius Flaminius. Thus he marched from the city at the head of twenty-five thousand men.
Hannibal, after gaining Capua, made a second fruitless attempt upon the minds of the Neapolitans, partly by fear and partly by hope; and then marched his troops across into the territory of Nola:
not immediately in a hostile attitude, for he did not despair of a voluntary surrender, yet intending to omit nothing which they could suffer or fear, if they delayed the completion of his hopes.
The senate, and especially the principal members of it, persevered faithfully in keeping up the alliance with the Romans; the commons, as usual, were all inclined to a change in the government and to espouse the cause of Hannibal, placing before their minds the fear lest their fields should be devastated; and the many hardships and indignities which must be endured in a siege; nor were there wanting persons who advised a revolt.
In this state of things, when a fear took possession of the senate, that it would be impossible to resist the excited multitude if they went openly to work, devised a delay of the evil by secret simulation.
They pretended that they were agreeable to the revolt to Hannibal; but that it was not settled on what terms they should enter into the new alliance and friendship.
Thus having gained time, they promptly sent ambassadors to the Roman praetor, Marcellus Claudius, who was at Casilinum with his army, and informed him what a critical situation Nola was in; that the fields were already in the possession of Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and that the city soon would be, unless succour were sent;
that the senate, by conceding to the commons that they would revolt when they pleased, had caused them not to hasten too much to revolt.
Marcellus, after bestowing high commendations on the Nolans, urged them to protract the business till his arrival by means of the same pretences; in the mean time, to conceal what had passed between them, as well as all hope of succour from the Romans.
He himself marched from Casilinum to Calatia, and thence crossing the Vulturnus, and passing through the territories of Saticula and Trebula, pursuing his course along the mountains above Suessula, he arrived at Nola.