For a long time nothing worth recording occurred among the Ligures; but at the end of this year on two occasions situations of grave peril arose, for in
the first place the consul's camp was assailed and with difficulty defended, and a little later, when the Roman column was being led through a narrow glade, the very exit was blocked by an army of [p. 31]
Since the way there was not open,1
the consul began to move to the rear and retrace his steps. In the rear too the exit of the pass was closed by part of the enemy, and visions of the Caudine disaster2
not only flitted through their minds but also appeared before their eyes.
He had about eight hundred Numidian cavalry among the auxiliaries. Their commander promised the consul that he and his men would break through wherever he wished, if only the consul would inform him on which side the towns were more numerous;
he would attack them and give his first attention to setting fire to the buildings, that the alarm might compel the Ligures to withdraw from the pass which they were holding and scatter to aid their friends.
The consul praised him and loaded him with hopes of reward. The Numidians mounted their horses and began to ride up to the outposts of the enemy, attacking no one.
At first nothing was more contemptible than their appearance: horses and men were tiny and gaunt; the riders unequipped and unarmed, except that they carried javelins with them; the horses without bridles, their very motion being the ugly gait of animals running with stiff necks and outstretched heads.
Purposely making themselves more contemptible, they would fall from their horses and make themselves a spectacle to be jeered.
So those who had been in the outposts, eager and ready if they should be attacked, now for the most part sat unarmed and watching the show.
The Numidians kept riding up to them, then retiring, but coming gradually closer to the pass, like men incapable of controlling their horses and carried by them against their will.
At last they applied their [p. 33]
spurs and burst through the midst of the enemy's3
outposts, and riding out into the more open country set fire to all the buildings along the road; then they hurled their torches upon the nearest village; with sword and fire they ravaged everything.
First the smoke was seen, then the shouts of frightened villagers were heard, and finally the fleeing elders and children caused panic in the camp.
And so without design, without orders, each for himself hurried to defend his own, and in a moment the camp was abandoned and the consul, freed from siege, arrived at his intended destination.