At the close of this speech they fell at Marcellus' knees. Marcellus said the matter was neither within his competence nor his authority; he would write to the senate and do everything, according to the opinion of the fathers.
The letter was delivered to the new consuls and by them read in the senate. And after discussion of the letter the senate decreed [p. 365]
that to soldiers who had deserted their1
comrades in battle at Cannae the senate saw no reason why the welfare of the state should be entrusted.
If Marcus Claudius, the proconsul, should take a different view, he should do what he thought to accord with the interest of the state and his own conscience, provided that no one of them should be exempt from duties, or be decorated for valour, or be brought back to Italy, so long as the enemy should be in the land of Italy.
Elections were then held by the praetor urbanus in accordance with a decision of the senate and a plebiscite, and at these there were elected five commissioners for the restoration of the walls and towers, and two boards of three, one to recover sacred vessels and register temple gifts, the
other to rebuild the Temple of Fortune and that of Mater Matuta inside Porta Carmentalis, and that of Hope outside the gate —temples that had been destroyed by fire the preceding year.2
There were terrible storms; on the Alban Mount it rained stones steadily for two days. Many things were struck by lightning: two temples on the Capitol, the embankment of the camp above Suessula in many places, and two sentries were killed.
At Cumae the wall and certain towers were not merely struck by the bolts but even thrown down. At Reate a huge stone seemed to fly, the sun to be redder than usual and of a bloody colour.
On account of these prodigies there was a single day of prayer, and for several days the consuls devoted themselves to religious rites; and about the same time there was a nine days' observance.
While a revolt of the Tarentines had long been [p. 367]
hoped for by Hannibal and suspected by the Romans,3
a reason for expediting the same happened to come from without.
Phileas of Tarentum, a man of restless spirit and quite unable to endure the long inactivity in which he seemed to be losing his powers, had been at Rome for a long time, nominally as an ambassador. Thus he found means of access to the hostages from Tarentum and Thurii.
They were kept under guard in the Atrium Libertatis, with less watchfulness because it was to the interest neither of the hostages themselves nor of their states to outwit the Romans. Phileas worked upon them by frequent conferences, and after bribing two temple-wardens brought them out of confinement at nightfall.
Then he himself fled, sharing their secret journey.
At daybreak their flight was reported everywhere in the city, and the men sent to pursue them arrested and brought them all back from Tarracina. They were led into the Comitium, scourged with rods with the approval of the people, and thrown down from the Rock.4