Marcus Atilius, the lieutenant-general, also caused the standard of the first company of principes of the same legion to be borne against a cohort of the Spaniards. Lucius Portius Licinus and Titus Popilius, the lieutenant-generals, who had the command of the camp, fought valiantly in defence of the rampart, and slew the elephants while in the very act of crossing it.
The carcasses of these filling up the ditch, afforded a passage for the enemy as effectually as if earth had been thrown in, or a bridge erected over it; and a horrid carnage took place amid the carcasses of the elephants which lay prostrate.
On the other side of the camp, the Campanians, with the Carthaginian garrison, had by this time been repulsed, [p. 1025]
and the battle was carried on immediately under the gate of Capua leading to Vulturnus.
Nor did the armed men contribute so much in resisting the Romans, who endeavoured to force their way in, as the gate itself, which, being furnished with balistas and scorpions, kept the enemy at bay by the missiles discharged from it.
The ardour of the Romans was also damped by the general, Appius Claudius, receiving a wound; he was struck by a javelin in the upper part of his breast, beneath the left shoulder, while encouraging his men before the front line.
A great number, however, of the enemy were slain before the gate, and the rest were driven in disorder into the city. When Hannibal saw the destruction of the cohort of Spaniards, and that the camp of the enemy was defended with the utmost vigour, giving up the assault, he began to withdraw his standards, making his infantry face about, but throwing out his cavalry in the rear lest the enemy should pursue them closely.
The ardour of the legions to pursue the enemy was excessive, but Flaccus ordered a retreat to be sounded, considering that enough had been achieved to convince the Campanians, and Hannibal himself, how unable he was to afford them protection.
Some who have undertaken to give accounts of this battle, record that eight thousand of the army of Hannibal, and three thousand Campanians, were slain; that fifteen military standards were taken from the Carthaginians, and eighteen from the Campanians.
In other authors I find the battle to have been by no means so important, and that there was more of panic than fighting;
that a party of Numidians and Spaniards suddenly bursting into the Roman camp with some elephants, the elephants, as they made their way through the midst of the camp, threw down their tents with a great noise, and caused the beasts of burden to break their halters and run away.
That in addition to the confusion occasioned, a stratagem was employed; Hannibal having sent in some persons acquainted with the Latin language, for he had some such with him, who might command the soldiers, in the name of
the consuls, to escape every one as fast as he could to the neighbouring mountains, since the camp was lost; but that the imposture was soon discovered, and frustrated with a great slaughter of the enemy; that the elephants were driven out of the camp by fire.
However commenced, and however terminated, this was the last battle which [p. 1026]
was fought before the surrender of Capua. Seppius Lesius was Medixtuticus, or chief magistrate of Capua, that year, a man of obscure origin and slender fortune.
It is reported that his mother, when formerly expiating a prodigy which had occurred in the family in behalf of this boy, who was an orphan, received an answer from the aruspex, stating, that “the highest office would come to him;”
and that not recognising, at Capua, any ground for such a hope, exclaimed, “the state of the Campanians must be desperate indeed, when the highest office shall come to my son.”
But even this expression, in which the response was turned into ridicule, turned to be true, for those persons whose birth allowed them to aspire to high offices, refusing to accept them when the city was oppressed by sword and famine, and when all hope was lost, Lesius, who complained that Capua
was deserted and betrayed by its nobles, accepted the office of chief magistrate, being the last Campanian who held it.