Calavius, a contemporary of Hannibal, and a man of great popularity and influence, who, according to the Roman accounts, acquired his power by evil arts, and sacrificed everything to gratify his ambition and love of dominion. In B. C. 217, when Hannibal had gained his victory on lake Trasimenus, Pacuvius Calavius happened to be invested with the chief magistracy at Capua.
He had good reasons for believing that the people of Capua, who were hostile towards the senate, intended on the approach of Hannibal to murder all the senators, and surrender the town to the Carthaginians.
In order to prevent this and to secure his ascendancy over both parties, he had recourse to the following stratagem.
He assembled the senate and declared against a revolt from Rome; first, because he was connected with the Romans by marriage, his own wife being a daughter of Appius Claudius, and one of his daughters married to a Roman.
He then revealed to the senate the intentions of the people, and declared that he would save the senators if they would entrust themselves to him. Fear induced the senators to do as he desired.
He then shut all the senators up in the senate-house, and had the doors well guarded, so that no one could leave or enter the edifice. Upon this he assembled the people, told them that all the senators were his prisoners, and advised them to subject each senator to a trial, but before executing one, to elect a better and juster one in his stead.
The sentence of death was easily pronounced upon the first senator that was brought to trial, but it was not so easy, to elect a better one.
The disputes about a successer grew fierce, and the people at last grew tired and were disgusted with their own proceedings, which led to no results. They accordingly ordered that the old senators should retain their dignity and be liberated. Calavius, who by this stratagem had laid the senators under great obligations to himself and the popular party, not only brought about a reconciliation between the people and the senate, but secured to himself the greatest influence in the republic, which he employed to induce his fellowcitizens to espouse the cause of Hannibal.
After the battle of Cannae, in B. C. 216, Hannibal took up his winter-quarters at Capua. Perolla, the son of Calavius, had been the strongest opponent of the Carthaginians, and had sided with Decius Magius, but his father obtained his pardon from Hannibal, who even invited father and son to a great entertainment which he gave to the most distinguished Campanians. But Perolla could not conquer his hatred of the Carthaginians, and went to the repast armed with a sword, intending to murder Hannibal. When Pacuvius Calavius left the banquet-room, his son followed him and told him of his plan; but the father worked upon the young man's feelings, and induced him to abandon his bloody design. (Liv. 23.2