Those words at last so fired their courage that, as though they were suddenly different men, they raised a shout again and charged the enemy [p. 223]
with such force that they could no longer be1
At first the front line2
of the Carthaginians, then the second was in confusion; finally the whole line was forced back. Then it was unmistakeable flight, and fleeing they dashed into their camp in such fright and excitement that no one halted even at the gates or on the wall. And the Romans, pursuing in almost unbroken column, fought an entirely new battle while hemmed in by the enemies' wall.
There the battle was indeed more hampered in a confined space, but the slaughter was more savage. And they were aided by the captives, who, seizing weapons during the confusion and advancing in a mass, slashed the Carthaginians from the rear and also hindered their flight.
And so out of that great army less than two thousand men, mainly cavalry at that, escaped along with the general himself. All the rest were slain or captured. Captured were also thirty-eight standards. Of the victors about two thousand fell.
All the booty except the captives was given to the soldiers. Cattle also were excepted, if the owners should identify them within thirty days.
When they had returned to camp laden with booty, about four thousand of the slave-volunteers, who had fought with less spirit and had not dashed into the camp with the others, for fear of punishment occupied a hill not far from the camp. The next day they were brought down by military tribunes and arrived after an assembly of the soldiers had been called by Gracchus.
There the proconsul first presented military decorations to the old soldiers, to each according to his valour and his part in that battle;
and then he said that, so far as the slave-volunteers [p. 225]
were concerned, he preferred to have all of them, the3
. worthy and the unworthy, praised by himself, rather than to have any one of them punished that day;
that, with the prayer that it might be good and happy and fortunate for the state and for the men themselves, he ordered them all to be free.
At these words they raised a shout with great enthusiasm, and now embracing and congratulating each other, now raising their hands to heaven, they prayed for every blessing for the Roman people and for Gracchus himself.
Thereupon Gracchus said: “Before making you all equals by the right of freedom, I wished to stamp not one man of you with the mark of a brave or of a cowardly soldier.
But now, the promise made in the name of the state being already fulfilled, to prevent the loss of every distinction between valour and cowardice, I shall order the names of those who, remembering their refusal to fight, left us a while ago to be reported to me;
and summoning them one by one I shall make them swear that, excepting men who shall have illness as an excuse, they will take food and drink standing only, so long as they shall be in the service. This penalty you will bear with patience, if you will reflect that you could not have been marked with any slighter sign of cowardice.”
He then gave the signal to pack baggage, and the soldiers carrying and driving their booty returned with sport and mirth so gaily to Beneventum that they
seemed to be returning from a feast on a day of general festivity, not from a battle.
All the people of Beneventum, having come out en masse
to the gates to meet them, embraced the soldiers, congratulated them, invited them into their houses.
Feasts had been made ready by all in the atria4
of [p. 227]
their houses. To these they invited the soldiers and5
implored Gracchus to allow the soldiers to feast. And Gracchus did permit them, provided they all feasted in the open, each before the door of his house.
Everything was brought out. Wearing caps6
or white woollen headbands the volunteers feasted, some reclining, and some standing served and ate at the same time.
This seemed to deserve the order Gracchus gave on his return to Rome for a representation of that day of festivity to be painted in the Temple of Liberty which his father, with money yielded by fines, caused to be built on the Aventine and dedicated.7