In Italy, while the war was less active after the battle of Cannae, since the resources of one side had been broken and the spirit of the other sapped, the Campanians attempted without assistance to reduce the state of Cumae to subjection, at first tempting them to revolt from the Romans.
When that failed, they contrived a ruse to entrap them.
All the Campanians had a regular sacrifice at Hamae.1
To it they informed the men of Cumae that the Campanian senate would come, and requested that the senate of Cumae should come thither to deliberate together, so that both peoples might have the same allies and enemies. They said they would have an armed guard there, lest there be any danger from the Roman or the Carthaginian.
The Cumaeans, though they had suspected guile, made no objections, thinking that a ruse of their own2
to outwit them could thus be concealed.
Meanwhile Tiberius Sempronius, the Roman consul,3
after reviewing his army at Sinuessa, at which place he had announced a date for mobilization, crossed the river Volturnus and pitched camp near Liternum. There, since the permanent camp lacked occupation, he required the soldiers to manœuvre frequently, that the recruits —they
were most of the slave-volunteers —might learn to follow the standards and to recognize their own ranks in the battle-line.
In this it was the commander's greatest care, and he had instructed the lieutenants and tribunes to the same effect, that no reproach of any man's previous lot should sow strife between the different classes of soldiers; that the old soldier should allow himself to be rated with the recruit, the freeman with the slave-volunteer; that they should consider all to whom the Roman people had entrusted its arms and standards as sufficiently honoured and well-born.
He said that the same fortune which had compelled them to do so now compelled them to defend what had been done.
These injunctions were not given with greater care by the commanders than that with which they were followed by the soldiers. And soon they were all united in a harmony so great that it was almost forgotten from what status each man had been made a soldier.
While Gracchus was thus employed, legates from Cumae reported to him on what mission an embassy had come a few days before from the Campanians, and what answer they had themselves given them;
that the festival was to be three days later, and not only would the whole senate be there, but a camp also and a Campanian army.
Gracchus, having ordered the Cumaeans to bring everything from the [p. 125]
farms into the city and to remain inside the walls,4
moved his own camp to Cumae the day before the Campanians had their regular sacrifice. Hamae is three miles distant. Already the Campanians in large numbers had gathered there according to agreement.
And in concealment, not far from there, Marius Alfius, the medix tuticus,5
that is, the chief magistrate of the Campanians, had his camp, with fourteen thousand armed men, he being decidedly more intent upon preparing the sacrifice and contriving treachery during the same than upon fortifying his camp or upon any task of the soldier.
The sacrifice took place at night, but it was to be finished before midnight.
Gracchus, thinking he must be in waiting for that moment, placed guards at the gates, that no one might be able to carry away news of his undertaking.
And having assembled his soldiers as early as the tenth hour of the day, he ordered them to get themselves in condition and take care to sleep, so that, as soon as it was dark, they might come together at the signal; and at about the first watch he ordered that the standards be taken up.
And setting out with a silent column, he reached Hamae at midnight and entered the Campanian camp by all its gates at once; for, as was to be expected in view of the vigil, it was carelessly guarded.
Some they slew as they lay asleep, others as they were returning unarmed after the rite had been completed.
More than two thousand men were slain in that affray by night, including Marius Alfius, the commander himself. Captured were . . . thousand men6
and thirty-four military standards. [p. 127]