To this Herennius Bassus replied that for many years there had been friendship between the Roman people and that of Nola; that down to that time neither party regretted it, and for themselves, if with altered fortune they ought to have changed their loyalty, it was now too late to change.
If they were going to surrender to Hannibal, had they needed to send for a Roman garrison? With the men who had come to defend them they had allied themselves in everything, and it would be so to the end.
This conference deprived Hannibal of the hope of getting Nola by treachery. And so he completely invested the town, in order to attack the walls from all sides at once.
Marcellus, on seeing that Hannibal had approached the walls, drew up his line inside the gate and sallied out with a great uproar. Not a few were terrified by the first attack and slain. Then, when they had charged the attacking force and brought up equal numbers, the battle began to be a fierce one, and would have been among the most memorable, if a downpour of rain in heavy squalls had not separated the combatants.
That day, after beginning an engagement of no importance and merely inflaming their passions, they withdrew, the Romans into the city, the Carthaginians to the camp. For of [p. 153]
the Carthaginians not more than thirty,1
terrified by the first sally, fell, of the Romans fifty.
The rain continued incessantly throughout the night to the third hour of the next day. And so, although both sides were eager for the fray, they nevertheless kept within their fortifications that day.
On the third day Hannibal sent a part of his forces into the country about Nola to plunder.
On observing this Marcellus at once drew up his troops in line. And Hannibal did not refuse battle. There was about a mile between the city and the camp. In that space —and there is only a plain around Nola —they met each other.
A shout raised on both sides recalled to a battle already begun the nearest men of the cohorts which had gone out to the farms for booty.
And the men of Nola reinforced the Roman line. Marcellus praised them and ordered them to keep their place among the reserves and to carry off the wounded from the field; to refrain from fighting unless they should receive a signal from him.