Thus the Carthaginian troops were led back from the strait, while the Bruttians loudly complained that Locri and [p. 898]
Rhegium, cities which they had fixed in their minds that they should have the plundering of, they had left untouched.
Having therefore levied and armed fifteen thousand of their own youth, they set out by themselves to lay siege to Croto, which was also a Greek city, and on the coast;
believing that they would obtain a great accession to their power, if they could get possession of a city upon the sea-coast, which had a port and was strongly defended by walls.
This consideration annoyed them, that they neither could venture on the business without calling in the Carthaginians to their assistance, lest they should appear to have done any thing in a manner unbecoming allies; and on the other hand, lest, if the Carthaginian general should again show himself to have been rather an umpire of peace than an auxiliary in war, they should fight in vain against the liberty of Croto, as before in the affair of the Locrians.
The most advisable course, therefore, appeared to be, that ambassadors should be sent to Hannibal, and that a stipulation should be obtained from him that Croto, when reduced, should be in possession of the Bruttians.
Hannibal replied, that it was a question which should be determined by persons on the spot, and referred them to Hanno, from whom they could obtain no decisive answer.
For they were unwilling that so celebrated and opulent a city should be plundered, and were in hopes that if the Bruttians should attack it, while the Carthaginians did not ostensibly approve or assist in the attack, the inhabitants would the more readily come over to them. The Crotonians were not united either in their measures or wishes.
All the states of Italy were infected with one disease, as it were; the commons dissented from the nobles; the senate favouring the Romans, while the commons endeavoured to draw the states over to the Carthaginians.
A deserter announced to the Bruttii that such a dissension prevailed in the city; that Aristomachus was the leader of the commons, and the adviser of the surrender of the city; that the city was of wide extent and thinly inhabited, that the walls in every part were in ruins, that it was only here and there that the guards and watches were kept by senators, and that wherever the commons kept guard, there an entrance lay open.
Under the direction and guidance of the deserter, the Bruttians completely invested the city; and being received into it by the commons, got possession of every [p. 899]
part, except the citadel, on the first assault.
The nobles held the citadel, which they had taken care beforehand to have ready as a refuge against such an event. In the same place Aristomachus took refuge, as though he had advised the surrender of the city to the Carthaginians, and not to the Bruttians.