Not far from this place was Uscana, a town generally deemed part of the dominions of Perseus. It contained ten thousand inhabitants, and a small party of Cretans, who served as a garrison.
From this place messengers came, secretly, to Claudius, telling him that “if he brought his army nearer, there would be people ready to put the town into his hands; and that it would be well worth his while; for he would satiate with plunder not only his friends, but also his soldiers.”
The hopes presented to his avarice blinded his understanding to that degree, that he neither detained any of those who came, nor required hostages as a pledge for his security, in a business which was to be transacted clandestinely and treacherously; neither did he send scouts to examine matters, nor require an oath from the messengers; but, on the day appointed, he left Lychnidus, and pitched his camp twelve miles from the city, which was the object of his design.
At the fourth watch he set out, leaving about one thousand men to guard the camp. His forces, in disorder, extending themselves in a long irregular train, and few in number, as they were separated by a mistake in the night, arrived in this state at the city.
Their carelessness increased when they saw not a soldier on the walls. But as soon as they approached within a weapon's cast, a sally was made from two gates at once. Besides the shout raised by the sallying party, a tremendous noise was heard on the walls, composed of the yells of women and the sound of brazen instruments, while the rabble of the place, mixed with a multitude of slaves, made the air resound with various cries.
Such a number of terrific circumstances, presented to them on all sides, had such an effect, that the Romans were unable to support the first onset of the sallying party; so that a greater number of them were killed in the flight than in the battle, and scarcely two thousand, with the lieutenant-general himself, effected their [p. 2043]
The enemy had the greater opportunity of overtaking the weary Romans, in proportion to their distance from the camp.
Appius, without even halting in the camp to collect his scattered troops, which would have been the means of saving many stragglers, led back, directly, to Lychnidus, the remains of his unfortunate army.