But Hannibal, when he saw that the enemy could not be drawn into another engagement, nor a passage be forced through their camp into Capua, resolved to remove his camp from that
place and leave the attempt unaccomplished, fearful lest the new consuls might cut off his supplies of provision.
While anxiously deliberating on the point to which he should next direct his course, an impulse suddenly entered his mind to make an attack on Rome, the very source of the war. That the opportunity of accomplishing this ever coveted object, which occurred after the battle of Cannae, had been neglected, and was generally censured by others, he himself did not deny.
He thought that there was some hope that he might be able to get possession of some part of the city, in consequence of the panic and confusion which his unexpected approach would occasion, and that if Rome were in danger, either both the Roman generals, or at least one of them, would immediately leave Capua;
and if they divided their forces, both generals being thus rendered weaker, would afford a favourable opportunity either to himself or the Campanians of gaining some advantage. One consideration only disquieted him, and that was, lest on his departure the Campanians should immediately surrender.
By means of presents he induced a Numidian, who was ready to attempt any thing, however daring, to take charge of a letter; and, entering the Ro- [p. 1027]
man camp under the disguise of a deserter, to pass out privately on the other side and go to Capua.
As to the letter, it was full of encouragement. It stated, that “his departure, which would be beneficial to them, would have the effect of drawing off the Roman generals and armies from the siege of Capua to the defence of Rome.
That they must not allow their spirits to sink; that by a few days' patience they would rid themselves entirely of the siege.”
He then ordered the ships on the Vulturnus to be seized, and rowed up to the fort which he had before erected for his protection.
And when he was informed that there were as many as were necessary to convey his army across in one night, after providing a stock of provisions for ten days, he led his legions down to the river by night, and passed them over before daylight.