SUCH was the state of affairs in Spain. In1
Italy the consul Marcellus, having regained possession of Salapia by betrayal, took Marmoreae and Meles2
from the Samnites by force. About three thousand of Hannibal's soldiers, who had been left as a garrison, were overpowered there.
The booty —and there was much of it —was turned over to the soldiers. In addition two hundred and forty thousand pecks of wheat and a hundred and ten thousand pecks of barley were found.
But the rejoicing in consequence by no means balanced the great loss suffered within a few days not far from the city of Herdonea.3
There Gnaeus Fulvius, the proconsul, was encamped, in the hope of regaining Herdonea, which had deserted the Romans after the disaster at Cannae;
but his camp was pitched in a position neither quite safe nor strongly held.
Carelessness, ingrained in the character of the general, was increased by that hope, inasmuch as he had learned that their loyalty was weakening and turning against the Carthaginian, ever since they had heard that, after the loss of Salapia, Hannibal had withdrawn from that region into the land of the Bruttii.
The report of all this to Hannibal from Herdonea by secret messengers made him concerned to retain an allied city and at the same time gave him the hope of attacking the enemy unawares. With an army unencumbered [p. 205]
by baggage he hastened by forced marches to4
Herdonea, so that he almost outstripped reports of his coming; and to strike more alarm into the enemy, he approached the city in battle-array.
The Roman, who was his equal in boldness but not in strategy and in forces, hastily led out his troops and engaged.
The fifth legion and the left ala5
went into battle with spirit. But Hannibal gave the order to his cavalry, that when the infantry lines should have concentrated the eyes and attention of the enemy upon the immediate conflict, they should turn the flanks and attack, some of them the enemy's camp, some the rear of the wavering troops.
And he himself, scornfully alluding to the similarity in the name of Gnaeus Fulvius, since he had defeated a praetor Gnaeus Fulvius two years before in the same region, asserted that the outcome of the battle would be similar.
Nor was that hope groundless. For when many of the Romans had fallen in the close contact of the lines during
the infantry battle, while the ranks and standards nevertheless held their ground, the wild charge of the cavalry was heard in the rear, and at the same time the shouts of the enemy from the camp. This routed first the sixth legion, which was posted in the second line and was the first to be thrown into disorder by the Numidians; and then it routed the fifth legion and the men who were with the front-line standards.
Some scattered in flight, some were slain in the centre of the battle, where Gnaeus Fulvius also fell together with eleven tribunes of the soldiers.
How many thousand Romans and allies were slain in that battle who could state with certainty, inasmuch as in one source I find thirteen thousand, in another not more [p. 207]
The camp and booty fell to the victor.6
As for Herdonea, in view of his information that it would have revolted to the Romans and would not remain loyal to him if he should withdraw, he removed the whole population to Metapontum and Thurii and set fire to the city. He put to death the leading men who, he was informed, had had secret conversations with Fulvius.
The Romans who had made their escape from so disastrous a battle, by different roads and half-armed sought refuge with the consul Marcellus in Samnium.7