The next day Hannibal, crossing the Anio, drew out [p. 1031]
all his forces in order of battle; nor did Flaccus and the consuls decline to fight.
When the troops on both sides were drawn up to try the issue of a battle, in which Rome was to be the prize of the victors, a violent shower of rain mingled with hail created such disorder in both the lines, that the troops, scarcely able to hold their arms, retired to their camps, less through fear of the enemy than of any thing else.
On the following day, likewise, a similar tempest separated the armies marshalled on the same ground; but after they had retired to their camps the weather became wonderfully serene and tranquil.
The Carthaginians considered this circumstance as a Divine interposition, and it is reported that Hannibal was heard to say, “That sometimes he wanted the will to make himself master of Rome, at other times the opportunity.”
Two other circumstances also, one inconsiderable, the other important, diminished his hopes. The important one was, that while he lay with his armed troops near the walls of the city, he was informed that troops had marched out of it with colours flying, as a reinforcement for Spain;
that of less importance was, that he was informed by one of his prisoners, that the very ground on which his camp stood was sold at this very time, without any diminution in its price.
Indeed, so great an insult and indignity did it appear to him that a purchaser should be found at Rome for the very soil which he held and possessed by right of conquest, that he immediately called a crier, and ordered that the silversmiths' shops, which at that time stood around the Roman forum, should be put up for sale.
Induced by these circumstances he retired to the river Tutia, six miles from the city, whence he proceeded to the grove of Feronia, where was a temple at that time celebrated for its riches.
The Capenatians and other states in the neighbourhood, by bringing here their first- fruits and other offerings according to their abilities, kept it decorated with abundance of gold and silver. Of all these offerings the temple was now despoiled. After the departure of Hannibal, vast heaps of brass were found there, as the soldiers, from a religious feeling, had thrown in pieces of uncoined brass.
The spoliation of this temple is undoubted by historians; but Caelius asserts, that Hannibal, in his progress to Rome, turned out of his way to it from Eretum. According to him his route commenced with Amiternum, Caetilii, [p. 1032]
He came from Campania into Samnium, and thence into Pelignia; then passing the town Sulmio, he entered the territory of the Marrucini; thence through the Alban territory he came to that of the Marsi, from which he came to Amiternum and the village of Foruli.
Nor is this diversity of opinion a proof that the traces of so great an army could be confounded in the lapse of so brief a period.
That he went that way is evident. The only question is, whether he took this route to the city, or returned by it from the city into Campania?