The Hannibalian War — Tarentum
It was in the wantonness of excessive prosperity that
the Tarentines invited Pyrrhus of Epirus
; for democratic
liberty that has enjoyed a long and unchecked career comes
naturally to experience a satiety of its blessings, and then it
looks out for a master; and when it has got one, it is not
long before it hates him, because it is seen that the change is
for the worse. This is just what happened to the Tarentines
on that occasion. . . .
On this news being brought to Tarentum
was great popular indignation. . . .
The conspirators left the town at first under the pretext
Hannibal marched south early in B.C. 212 to renew his attempt upon Tarentum,
on which he had wasted much of the previous summer (Livy, 25, 1) The severity
of the punishment of the Tarentine hostages who tried to escape from Rome caused a conspiracy of Tarentines
to betray the town to Hannibal. Livy, 25, 7-8.
a foray, and got near Hannibal's camp before
daybreak. Then, while the rest crouched down
on a certain wooded spot by the side of the
road, Philemenus and Nicon went up to the
camp. They were seized by the sentries and
taken off to Hannibal, without saying a word as
to where they came from or who they were, but
simply stating that they wished for an interview
with the general. Being taken without delay
to Hannibal they said that they wished to
speak with him privately. He assented with
the utmost readiness; whereupon they explained
to him their own position and that of their
native city, charging the Romans with many
various acts of oppression, that they might not
seem to be entering on their present undertaking without good reason. For the present
Hannibal dismissed them with thanks and a cordial acceptance
of their proposed movement, and charging them to come back
very soon and have another interview with him. "This time,"
he added, "when you get at a sufficient distance from the camp,
take possession of the first cattle you find being driven out to
pasture in the early morning, and go off boldly with them and
their herdsmen; for I will take care that you are unmolested."
His object in doing this was to give himself time to inquire
into the tale of the young men; and also to confirm their credit
with their fellow-citizens, by making it appear that their
expedition had really been for the purpose of foraging.
Nicon and his companions did as they were bidden, and left
Hannibal in great exultation at having at last got an opportunity of completing his enterprise: while they themselves
were made all the more eager to carry out their plot by having
been able to accomplish their interview with Hannibal without
danger, and by having found him warmly disposed to their
undertaking, and by having besides gained the confidence of
their own people by the considerable amount of booty which
they had brought home. This they partly sold and partly
used in splendid entertainments, and thus not only were
believed in by the Tarentines, but excited a considerable
number to emulate their exploit.