Fabius, setting out from Suessula, first set about the siege of Arpi; and having pitched his camp about half a mile from it, he took a near view of the site and walls of the city, and resolved to attack it, in preference, in that quarter where it was most secured by works, and where the least care was taken in guarding it.
After getting all things together which could be of use in besieging a city, he selected the most efficient of the centurions out of the whole army, placing them under the command of tribunes of approved valour, and giving them six hundred soldiers, a number which was thought sufficient for the purpose. These he ordered to bring the scaling ladders to the place which he had marked out, as soon as the signal of the fourth watch had sounded.
In this part there was a low and narrow gate, opening into a street which was little frequented, and which led through a deserted part of the city. He ordered them, after scaling the wall, to proceed to this gate, and break down the bars on the inside by force; and when they were in possession of that part of the city, to give a signal with a cornet, that the rest of the troops might be brought up, observing, that he would have every thing prepared and ready.
These orders were executed promptly; and that which seemed likely to impede their operations, served more than any thing to conceal them. A shower of rain, which came on suddenly at midnight, compelled the guards and watches to slip away from their posts, [p. 952]
and take shelter in the houses;
and the noise of the shower, which was somewhat copious, at first prevented their hearing that which was made by the men in breaking open the gate. Afterwards, when it fell upon the ear more gently and uniformly, it lulled a great number of the men to sleep.
After they had secured possession of the gate, they placed cornet-players in the street at equal distances, and desired them to sound, in order to call the consul.
This being done according to the plan previously agreed upon, the consul ordered the troops to march, and a little before daylight entered the city through the broken gate.