When these disastrous defeats, happening one upon another, were reported at Rome, great grief and consternation seized the city. But still, as the consuls had been hitherto successful when it was most important, they were the less affected by these disasters.
Caius Laetorius and Marcus Metilius were sent as ambassadors to the consuls, with directions carefully to collect the remains of the two armies, and use every endeavour to prevent their surrendering themselves to the enemy, through fear or despair, (which was the case after the battle of Cannae,) and to search for the deserters from the army of volunteer slaves.
Publius Cornelius was charged with the same business; to him also the levy was intrusted.
He caused an order to be issued throughout the market and smaller towns, that search should be made for the volunteer slaves, and that they should be brought back to their standards. All these things were executed with the most vigilant care.
The consul, Appius Claudius, having placed Decius Junius in command at the mouth of the Vulturnus, and Marcus Aurelius Cotta at Puteoli, with directions to send off the corn immediately to the camp, as each of the ships from Etruria and Sardinia arrived with it, returned himself to Capua, and found his colleague
Quintus Fulvius at Casilinum, conveying every requisite thence, and making every preparation for the siege of Capua.
Both of them then joined in besieging the city, summoning Claudius Nero, the praetor, from the Claudian camp at Suessula; who, leaving a small garrison there, marched down to Capua with all the rest of his forces.
Thus there were three generals' tents erected round Capua; and three armies, applying themselves to the work in different parts, proceeded to surround the city with a ditch and rampart, erecting forts at moderate intervals.
The Campanians attempting to obstruct the work, a battle was fought in several places at once; the consequence of which was, that at length the Campanians confined themselves within their gates and walls.
Before, however, these works were carried quite [p. 989]
round, ambassadors were sent to Hannibal to complain that Capua was abandoned, and almost given up to the Romans; and to implore him, that he would now, at least, bring them assistance, when they were not only besieged, but surrounded by a rampart.
A letter was sent to the consuls from Publius Cornelius, the praetor, directing that before they completely enclosed Capua with their works, they should grant permission to such of the Campanians as chose to quit Capua, and take their property with them.
That those should retain their liberty, and all their possessions, who quitted it before the ides of March; but that those who quitted it after that day, as well as those who continued there, would be considered as enemies.
Proclamation was made to the Campanians to this effect; but it was received with such scorn, that they spontaneously used insulting language and menaces. Hannibal had marched his legions from Herdonea to Tarentum, with the hope of getting possession of the citadel of that place, by force or stratagem.
But not succeeding there, he turned his course to Brundusium, thinking that town would be betrayed to him; but, while fruitlessly spending time there also, the Campanian ambassadors came to him with complaints and entreaties.
Hannibal answered them in a proud manner, that he had before raised the siege of Capua, and that now the consuls would not sustain his approach.
The ambassadors, dismissed with these hopes, with difficulty effected their return to Capua, which was by this time surrounded by a double trench and rampart.