Such was the battle of Cannae, a calamity as memorable as that suffered at the Allia, and though less grave in its results —because
the enemy failed to follow up his victory —yet for the slaughter of the army even more grievous and disgraceful.
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the flight at the Allia, though it betrayed the City,1
saved the army: at Cannae the consul who fled was accompanied by a scant fifty men; the other, dying, had well-nigh the entire army with him.
In the two Roman camps the crowd was half-armed and destitute of leaders. The men in the larger camp sent a messenger bidding those in the smaller one come over to them in the night, while the enemy, exhausted by the fighting and by the feasting that had followed on
their triumph, were sunk in sleep: they would then set out in one body for Canusium.
This plan some were for totally rejecting. Why, they asked, did not those who summoned them come themselves to the smaller camp, where they could just as well effect a junction? Clearly because the ground between was covered with enemies and they preferred to expose to such danger the persons of others rather than their own. Some were not so much displeased with the plan as wanting in resolution.
Then said the military tribune Publius Sempronius Tuditanus: "So you had rather be captured by the greediest and most cruel of foes, and be appraised at so much a head by those who ask, 'Are you a Roman citizen or a Latin ally?' in order that from the insults and misery you suffer, the other may win distinction?2
'Not so!' each man will answer, if you are indeed fellow citizens of Lucius Aemilius the consul, who preferred an honourable death to life with ignominy, and of all those heroes who lie in heaps around him!
But before daylight surprises us and the enemy blocks our way in greater force, let us break out through these men that are clamouring in disorder and confusion at our gates.
With a [p. 367]
sword and a stout heart a man may pass through3
enemies, be they never so thick. In close formation4
you may scatter this loose and unorganized force as though there were nothing in your way. Follow me, then, as many of you as desire safety for yourselves and for the commonwealth!
"Uttering these words he grasped his sword, and, forming a column, strode away through the midst of the enemy;5
and when the Numidians hurled missiles at their right sides, which were unprotected, they shifted their shields to the right6
and so got through, about six hundred7
of them, to the larger camp; and thence, after being joined by the other great body of men, they made their way at once without loss to Canusium.
These things the conquered did rather from the urge of such courage as each derived from his own nature or from chance than in consequence of their own deliberation or any man's authority.