The battle was doubtful. The generals were doing their utmost in cheering on their men, the soldiers in fighting. Marcellus bids them attack men defeated two days before, driven from Cumae in flight a few days earlier, beaten back from Nola the previous year by himself, the same commander, and other soldiers.
Not all of the enemy, he said, were in the line of battle; the booty-hunters were roaming about the country, and those who were fighting were weakened by Campanian luxury, exhausted by wine and harlots and every kind of dissipation the whole winter through.
Gone was that force and energy, lost the strength of body and spirit with which they had crossed the ranges of the Pyrenees and the Alps. [p. 155]
Remnants only of those men were fighting, scarcely1
able to hold up their weapons and their limbs.
Capua had been Hannibal's Cannae. It was there that warlike courage had been extinguished, there the discipline of the soldier, there the past reputation, there the hope for the future.
While by thus reviling the enemy Marcellus was raising the spirits of his soldiers, Hannibal was uttering much more serious reproaches;
he recognized the same arms and standards which he had seen and had at the Trebia and Trasumennus, finally at Cannae; but as for the soldier, he had certainly led one man into winter quarters at Capua, and out of them a different man.
“Are you,” he said, “hardly able with great effort to hold out against a mere Roman lieutenant,2
and an engagement with a single legion and its auxiliaries —you, whom two consular armies combined have never withstood?
Marcellus with recruits and with reserves from Nola is now attacking us for the second time with impunity! Where is that soldier of mine who pulled Gaius Flaminius, the consul, down from his horse and carried away his head?3
Where the man who slew Lucius Paulus at Cannae?4
Is the sword now blunted? Or are your right hands benumbed?
Or is it some other portent? You who, though few, were wont to defeat larger numbers, now in larger numbers with difficulty resist the few? You used to boast, brave men in speech, that if some one led you, you would take Rome by storm.
Look you, in a less difficult situation, here and now I wish to test your might and courage. Take Nola by storm, a city of the plain, not fenced by a river nor by the sea. From this place, a city of such wealth, I will either lead you, laden with booty and [p. 157]
spoils, or I will follow you whithersoever you shall5