It was a doubtful battle; the generals exerting them- [p. 890]
selves to the utmost in exhorting, and the soldiers in fighting. Marcellus urged his troops to press vigorously on men who had been vanquished but three days before, who had been put to flight at Cumae only a few days ago, and who had been driven from Nola the preceding year by himself, as general, though with different troops.
He said, “that all the forces of the enemy were not in the field; that they were rambling about the country in plundering parties, and that even those who were engaged, were enfeebled with Campanian luxury, and worn out with drunkenness, lust, and every kind of debauchery, which they had been indulging in through the whole winter.
That the energy and vigour had left them, that the strength of mind and body had vanished, by which the Pyrenees and the tops of the Alps had been passed.
That those now engaged were the remains of those men, with scarcely strength to support their arms and limbs.
That Capua had been a Cannae to Hannibal; that there his courage in battle, his military discipline, the fame he had already acquired, and his hopes of future glory, were extinguished.”
While Marcellus was raising the spirits of his troops by thus inveighing against the enemy, Hannibal assailed them with still heavier reproaches. He said, “he recognised the arms and standards which he had seen and employed at Trebia and Trasimenus, and lastly at Cannae; but that he had indeed led one sort of troops into winter quarters at Capua, and brought another out.
Do you, whom two consular armies could never withstand, with difficulty maintain your ground against a Roman lieutenant-general, and a single legion with a body of auxiliaries?
Does Marcellus now a second time with impunity assail us with a band of raw recruits and Nolan auxiliaries? Where is that soldier of mine, who took off the head of Caius Flaminius, the consul, after dragging him from his horse? Where is the man who slew Lucius Paulus at Cannae? Is it that the steel hath lost its edge?
or that your right hands are benumbed? or what other miracle is it? You who, when few, have been accustomed to conquer numbers, now scarce maintain your ground, the many against the few. Brave in speech only, you were wont to boast that you would take Rome by storm if you could find a general to lead you.
Lo! here is a task of less difficulty. I would have you try your strength and courage here. Take Nola, a town situated [p. 891]
on a plain, protected neither by river nor sea; after that, when you have enriched yourselves with the plunder and spoils of that wealthy town, I will either lead or follow you whithersoever you have a mind.”