In view of such a complete success, Hannibal's friends urged him to follow up his good fortune and dash into their city on the heels of the flying enemy, assuring him in that case that on the fifth day after his victory he would sup on the Capitol. It is not easy to say what consideration turned him from this course, nay, it would rather seem that his evil genius, or some divinity, interposed to inspire him with the hesitation and timidity which he now showed. Wherefore, as they say, Barca, the Carthaginian, said to him angrily:
‘Thou canst win a victory, but thy victory thou canst not use.’
And yet his victory wrought a great change in his circumstances. Before the battle, he had not a city, not a trading-place, not a sea-port in Italy, and could with difficulty barely supply his army with provisions by foraging, since he had no secure base of supplies for the war, but wandered hither and thither with his army as if it were a great horde of robbers. After the battle, however, he brought almost all Italy under his sway.
Most of its peoples, and the largest of them too, came over to him of their own accord, and Capua, which is the most considerable city after Rome, attached herself firmly to his cause.
Not only, then, does it work great mischief, as Euripides says, to put friends to the test, but also prudent generals. For that which was called cowardice and sluggishness in Fabius before the battle, immediately after the battle was thought to be no mere human calculation, nay, rather, a divine and marvellous intelligence, since it looked so far into the future and foretold a disaster which could hardly be believed by those who experienced it.
In him, therefore, Rome at once placed her last hopes; to his wisdom she fled for refuge as to temple and altar, believing that it was first and chiefly due to his prudence that he still remained a city, and was not utterly broken up, as in the troublous times of the Gallic invasion.
For he who, in times of apparent security, appeared cautious and irresolute, then, when all were plunged in boundless grief and helpless confusion, was the only man to walk the city with calm step, composed countenance, and gracious address, checking effeminate lamentation, and preventing those from assembling together who were eager to make public their common complaints. He persuaded the senate to convene, heartened up the magistrates, and was himself the strength and power of every magistracy, since all looked to him for guidance.