Hannibal marched straight on through Umbria as far as Spoletium.
But when, after systematically ravaging the country, he attempted to storm the town, he was repulsed with heavy losses; and conjecturing from the strength of a single colony which he had unsuccessfully attacked how vast an undertaking the City of Rome would be, he turned aside into the Picentine territory, a land
not only abounding in all kinds of produce, but filled with livestock, which his greedy and impoverished men gathered in from far and wide.
He remained in camp there for some days, while his soldiers recovered from the marches they had made in wintry weather and through swamps, and from the battle, which, however successful its outcome, had been no light or easy adventure.
After allowing sufficient rest to his soldiers, who delighted more in booty and rapine than in quiet and repose, he resumed his march and laid waste the Praetutian and Hadrian fields, and after these the lands of the Marsi, Marrucini and Paeligni, and the nearest part of Apulia, in the vicinity of Arpi and Luceria.
Gnaeus Servilius, the consul, had engaged in skirmishes with the Gauls and had taken one insignificant town by assault, when he learned of the destruction of his colleague and the army, and being now alarmed for the safety of the capital, lest he should be absent in the very crisis of its peril, set out for Rome.1
Quintus Fabius Maximus, dictator now for the [p. 231]
convened the senate on the day he3
entered upon his office. Taking up first the question of religion, he convinced the Fathers that the consul Flaminius had erred more through his neglect of the ceremonies and the auspices than through his recklessness and ignorance;
and asserting that they ought to enquire of the gods themselves how the displeasure of the gods might be appeased, prevailed with them to do what is rarely done except when dreadful prodigies have been announced, and order the decemvirs to consult the Sibylline books.
When the decemvirs had inspected the Books of Fate, they reported to the Fathers that the vow which had been made to Mars on account of this war4
had not been duly performed, and must be performed afresh and on an ampler scale;
that great games must be vowed to Jupiter, and temples to Venus Erycina and to Mens5
; and finally that a supplication and lectisternium
must be celebrated in honour of the gods, and a Sacred Spring be vowed, if they proved victorious and the state remained as it had been before the outbreak of hostilities.
The senate, seeing that Fabius would be occupied with the conduct of the war, commanded Marcus Aemilius the praetor, as the college of pontifices had recommended, to see that all these measures were promptly put into effect.