To begin with, then, since Hannibal's victory had made his soldiers very bold and careless, Marcellus set upon them as they straggled from their camp and overran the country, cut them down, and thus slowly diminished their forces; secondly, he brought aid to Neapolis and Nola. In Neapolis he merely confirmed the minds of the citizens, who were of their own choice steadfast friends of Rome; but on entering Nola, he found a state of discord, the senate being unable to regulate and manage the people, which favoured Hannibal.
For there was a man in the city of the highest birth and of illustrious valour, whose name was Bantius. This man had fought with conspicuous bravery at Cannae, and had slain many of the Carthaginians, and when he was at last found among the dead with his body full of missiles, Hannibal was struck with admiration of him, and not only let him go without a ransom, but actually added gifts, and made him his friend and guest.
In return for this favour then, Bantius was one of those who eagerly favoured the cause of Hannibal, and was using his great influence to bring the people to a revolt. Marcellus thought it wrong to put to death a man so illustrious in his good fortune who had taken part with the Romans in their greatest conflicts, and, besides his natural kindliness, he had an address that was likely to win over a character whose ambition was for honour. One day, therefore, when Bantius saluted him, he asked him who he was, not that he had not known him for some time, but seeking occasion and excuse for conversation with him.
For when he said,
‘I am Lucius Bantius,’ Marcellus, as if astonished and delighted, said:
‘What! are you that Bantius who is more talked of in Rome than any of those who fought at Cannae, as the only man who did not abandon Paulus Aemilius the consul, but encountered and received in his own body most of the missiles aimed at him?’
And when Bantius assented and showed him some of his scars,
‘Why, then,’ said Marcellus,
‘when you bear such marks of your friendship towards us, did you not come to us at once? Can it be that you think us loath to requite valour in friends who are honoured even among our enemies?’ These kindly greetings he followed up by making him presents of a war horse and five hundred drachmas in silver.