WHILE these things were being done in Africa1
and Spain, Hannibal spent the summer in the Sallentine region,2
in the hope of getting possession of the city of Tarentum through treachery. Meantime, however, Sallentine cities of no importance went over to his side.
At the same time among the Bruttians, out of twelve states which in the previous year had revolted to the Carthaginians, Consentia and Taurianum returned to their allegiance to the Roman people;
and more would have returned if a prefect of the allies, Titus Pomponius Veientanus, who by successfully ravaging Bruttian territory a number of times gained the appearance of a regularly appointed general, had not gathered a hastily mustered army and engaged Hanno.
A great many men were slain or captured there, an ill-organized mass, however, of rustics and slaves. It was the smallest part of the loss that, along with the rest, the prefect was captured, who was responsible at that time for a reckless battle, and had previously been a tax-farmer possessed of all the dishonest devices, faithless and ruinous both to the state and to the companies.
Sempronius, the consul, fought many small engagements in Lucania, not one worthy of record, and took by storm a number of unimportant Lucanian towns.
The longer the war dragged on and success and3
failure altered the situation, and quite as much so the attitude of men, superstitious fears, in large part foreign at that, invaded the state to such a degree that either men or else gods suddenly seemed changed.
And now not only in secret and within the walls of houses were Roman rites abandoned, but in public places also and in the Forum and on the Capitol there was a crowd of women who were following the custom of the fathers neither in their sacrifices nor in prayers to the gods.4
Petty priests and also prophets had taken hold on men's minds. And the number of these was increased by the mass of rustics forced by want and fear into the city from their farms neglected and endangered because of the long war, and by easy profit from the delusion of others-a trade which they plied as though it were sanctioned.
At first good men's indignation was voiced in private; then the matter reached the senate and now even official complaints.
The aediles and the three police magistrates were roundly censured by the senate because they did not stop it; and after they had attempted to drive that crowd out of the Forum and to scatter the properties required for the rites, they narrowly escaped violence.
Now that the disorder appeared to be too strong to be quelled by the lower magistrates, the senate assigned to Marcus Aemilius,5
the city praetor, the task of freeing the people from such superstitions.
He read the decree of the senate in an assembly, and also issued an edict that whoever had books of prophecies or prayers or a ritual of sacrifice set down in writing should bring all such [p. 345]
books and writings6
to him before the first of April,7
and that no one should sacrifice in a public or consecrated place according to a strange or foreign rite.