While affairs were in this state at Capua, Hannibal was perplexed between two objects, the gaining possession of [p. 1023]
the citadel of Tarentum, and the retaining of Capua.
His concern for Capua, however, prevailed, on which he saw that the attention of every body, allies and enemies, was fixed; and whose fate would be regarded as a proof of the consequences resulting from defection from the Romans.
Leaving, therefore, a great part of his baggage among the Bruttians, and all his heavier armed troops, he took with him a body of infantry and cavalry, the best he could select for marching expeditiously, and bent his course into Campania. Rapidly as he marched he was followed by thirty-three elephants.
He took up his position in a retired valley behind Mount Tifata, which overhung Capua. Having at his coming taken possession of fort Galatia, the garrison of which he dislodged by force, he then directed his efforts against those who were besieging Capua.
Having sent forward messengers to Capua stating the time at which he would attack the Roman camp, in order that they also, having gotten themselves in readiness for a sally, might at the same time pour forth from all their gates, he occasioned the greatest possible terror;
for on one side he himself attacked them suddenly, and on the other side all the Campanians sallied forth, both foot and horse, joined by the Carthaginian garrison under the command of Bostar and Hanno.
The Romans, lest in so perilous an affair they should leave any part unprotected, by running together to any one place, thus divided their forces:
Appius Claudius was opposed to the Campanians; Fulvius to Hannibal; Caius Nero, the propraetor, with the cavalry of the sixth legion, placed himself in the road leading to Suessula; and Caius Fulvius Flaccus, the lieutenant-general, with the allied cavalry, on the side opposite the river Vulturnus.
The battle commenced not only with the usual clamour and tumult, but in addition to the din of men, horses, and arms, a multitude of Campanians, unable to bear arms, being distributed along the walls, raised such a shout together with the clangour of brazen vessels, similar to that which is usually made in the dead of night when the moon is eclipsed, that it diverted the attention even of the combatants.
Appius easily repulsed the Campanians from the rampart. On the other side Hannibal and the Carthaginians, forming a larger force, pressed hard on Fulvius.
There the sixth legion gave way; which being repulsed, a cohort of Spaniards with three ele- [p. 1024]
phants made their way up to the rampart. They had broken through the centre of the Roman line, and were in a state of anxious and perilous suspense, whether to force their way into the camp, or be cut off from their own army.
When Fulvius saw the disorder of the legion, and the danger the camp was in, he exhorted Quintus Navius, and the other principal centurions, to charge the cohort of the enemy which was fighting under the rampart; he said, “that the state of things was most critical;
that either they must retire before them, in which case they would burst into the camp with less difficulty than they had experienced in breaking through a dense line of troops, or they must cut them to pieces under the rampart:
nor would it require a great effort; for they were few, and cut off from their own troops, and if the line which appeared broken, now while the Romans were dispirited, should turn upon the enemy on both sides, they would become enclosed in the midst; and exposed to a twofold attack.”
Navius, on hearing these words of the general, snatched the standard of the second company of spearmen from the standard-bearer, and advanced with it against the enemy, threatening that he would throw it into the midst of them unless the soldiers promptly followed him and took part in the fight.
He was of gigantic stature, and his arms set him off; the standard also, raised aloft, attracted the gaze both of his countrymen and the enemy.
When, however, he had reached the standards of the Spaniards, javelins were poured upon him from all sides, and almost the whole line was turned against him; but neither the number of his enemies nor the force of the weapons could repel the onset of this hero.