SUCH was the state of affairs in Spain. In Italy, the consul Marcellus, after regaining Salapia, which was betrayed into his hands, took Maronea and Meles from the Samnites by force.
As many as three thousand of the soldiers of Hannibal, which were left as a garrison, were here surprised and overpowered. The booty, and there was a considerable quantity of it, was given up to the troops. Also, two hundred and forty thousand pecks of wheat, with a hundred and ten thousand peeks of barley, were found here.
The joy, however, thus occasioned, was by no means so great as a disaster sustained a few days afterwards, not far from the town Herdonea.
Cneius Fulvius, the consul, was lying encamped there, in the hope of regaining [p. 1090]
Herdonea, which had revolted from the Romans after the defeat at Cannae, his position being neither sufficiently secure, from the nature of the place, nor strengthened by guards.
The natural negligence of the general was now increased by the hope that their attachment to the Carthaginians was shaken, when they had heard that Hannibal, after the loss of Salapia, had retired from that neighbourhood into Bruttium.
Intelligence of all these circumstances being conveyed to Hannibal by secret messengers from Herdonea, at once excited an anxious desire to retain possession of a city in alliance with him, and inspired a hope of attacking the enemy when unprepared. With a lightly equipped force he hastened to Herdonea by forced marches, so as almost to anticipate the report of his approach; and in order to strike greater terror into the enemy, came up with his troops in battle-array.
The Roman, equal to him in courage, but inferior in strength, hastily drawing out his troops, engaged him.
The fifth legion and the left wing of the allied infantry commenced the battle with spirit. But Hannibal ordered his cavalry, on a signal given, to ride round, as soon as the foot forces had their eyes and thoughts occupied with the contest before
them, and one half of them to attack the camp of the enemy, the other half to fall upon their rear, while busily engaged in fighting.
He himself, sarcastically alluding to the similarity of the name Fulvius, as he had defeated Cneius Fulvius, the praetor, two years ago, in the same country, expressed his confidence that the issue of the battle would be similar.
Nor was this expectation vain; for after many of the Romans had fallen in the close contest, and in the engagement with the infantry, notwithstanding which they still preserved their ranks and stood their ground; the alarm occasioned by the cavalry on their rear, and the enemy's shout, which was heard at the same time from their camp, first put to flight the sixth legion, which being posted in the second line, was first thrown into confusion by the Numidians;
and then the fifth legion, and those who were posted in the van.
Some fled precipitately, others were slain in the middle space, where also Cneius Fulvius himself, with eleven military tribunes, fell. Who can state with certainty how many thousands of the Romans and their allies were slain in this battle, when I find in some accounts that thirteen, in others that not more than seven, thousand were slain?
The [p. 1091]
conquerors got possession of the camp and the spoil. Finding that Herdonea would have revolted to the Romans, and was not likely to continue faithful to him if he departed thence, he removed all its inhabitants to Metapontum and Thurium, and burnt it.
He put to death the chief men who were found to have held secret conferences with Fulvius. Such of the Romans as escaped this dreadful carnage, fled half-armed, by different roads, into Samnium, to the consul Marcellus.