Upon the arrival of the Roman praetor the Carthaginian left the territory of Nola
and came down to the sea near Neapolis, desiring to gain possession of a coast town to which ships might have a safe passage from Africa.
But on learning that Neapolis was held by a Roman prefect —it was Marcus Junius Silanus, who had been called in by the Neapolitans themselves —he turned aside from Neapolis also, as he had from Nola
, and made for Nuceria.
He had besieged that city for some time, often attacking, often attempting in vain to win over the populace, and at another time the leading citizens, when at last by starving them he gained their surrender, stipulating that they leave unarmed and with one garment only.
And then, as from the beginning he had wished to be thought merciful to all Italians except the Romans, he promised rewards and honours to any who remained and would serve under [p. 49]
And yet he did not hold anyone by that hope.1
They all dispersed, wherever hospitality or impulse happened to carry them, among the cities of Campania, especially Nola
A group of some thirty senators, and as it chanced all the most prominent, came to Capua, and being refused admission because they had closed their gates to Hannibal, went to Cumae. At Nuceria the booty was given to the soldiers, the city sacked and burned.
As for Nola
, Marcellus held it not more by confidence in his force than by the good-will of the leading citizens.
He was apprehensive of the common people and above all of Lucius Bantius, who was impelled by the consciousness of an attempted revolt and by fear of the Roman praetor, now to betray his native city, now, if fortune should not favour him in that, to desert.
He was a young man of spirit and at that time almost the best-known horseman among the allies. He had been found half-dead at Cannae in a pile of the slain; and Hannibal, after nursing him kindly, had sent him home, even adding gifts.
Out of gratitude for that service Bantius had wished to put the state of Nola
under the authority and rule of the Carthaginian. And the praetor saw that he was troubled and tormented by his desire for a revolution. But since he had either to be restrained by punishment or else won over by kindness, Marcellus preferred rather to gain for himself a brave and energetic ally than merely to take such a man away from the enemy, and
summoning him addressed him kindly.
It was easy, he said, to judge that he had among his countrymen many who envied him, and this from the fact that no citizen of Nola
had told the speaker how many were his [p. 51]
brilliant feats of arms.
But to a man who had served2
in the Roman camp his bravery could not be unknown. Many who had been in the service with Bantius were telling the speaker what a man he was, and what dangers he had incurred for the safety and honour of the Roman people, and how often;
also how at the battle of Cannae he had not ceased fighting until, almost lifeless, he had been overwhelmed by the mass of men, horses and arms that fell upon him. “And so,” he said, “all honour to your courage!
Under me you will have every advancement and every reward, and the more constantly you are with me, the more you will feel that it is a distinction and an advantage to you.”
The youth was delighted with the promises, and Marcellus gave him a fine horse and ordered the quaestor to pay him five hundred denarii.3
The lictors were bidden to allow him access to the commander whenever he wished.