But when winter was now growing mild, Hannibal led his troops out of winter quarters and returned to Casilinum.
There, although they had been making no more attacks, an uninterrupted [p. 65]
blockade had nevertheless brought townspeople1
and garrison to extreme want.
The Roman camp was commanded by Tiberius Sempronius, since the dictator had gone to Rome to take new auspices.2
Marcellus, who was likewise eager to bring aid to the besieged, was held back both by a flood of the river Volturnus and by entreaties of the men of Nola and Acerrae,3
who feared the Campanians if the Roman garrison should withdraw.
Gracchus, merely remaining near Casilinum, because it was the dictator's order that he take no action in his absence, made no move, although facts which would easily pass all endurance were being reported from Casilinum.
For it was established that some, unable to endure hunger, had thrown themselves from the wall, and that men stood unarmed on the walls exposing unprotected bodies to wounds from missile weapons.
Gracchus, though indignant at this, did not dare to engage the enemy without the dictator's order, and saw that, if he should try openly to carry in grain, he must fight.
As there was also no hope of carrying it in secretly, he filled many huge jars with spelt brought from the farms all around, and sent word to the magistrate at Casilinum that they should catch up the jars which the river was bringing down.
In the following night, while all were intent upon the river and the hope aroused by the Roman messenger, the jars set adrift in midstream floated down, and the grain was evenly divided among them all. This was done the next day also and the third day.
It was night when they were set adrift and when they arrived.
In that way they escaped the notice of the enemy's guards. After that the stream, now swifter than usual because of incessant rains, forced [p. 67]
the jars by a cross current to the bank guarded by4
the enemy. There, caught among the willows growing on the banks, they were seen and it was reported to Hannibal. And thereafter by a closer watch they saw to it that nothing sent down the Volturnus to the city should escape notice.5
However nuts which were poured out from the Roman camp, as they floated down the middle of the river to Casilinum, were caught by wattled hurdles.
Finally they reached such a pitch of distress that they tried, after softening them by hot water, to chew thongs and the hides stripped off of shields; and they did not abstain from rats and other animals, and dug out every kind of plant and root from the bank beneath the wall.
And when the enemy had ploughed up all the grassy ground outside the wall, the garrison sowed turnips,6
so that Hannibal exclaimed “Am I to sit before Casilinum until those seeds come up?”
And the man who had never before listened to any terms now at last allowed them to treat with him in regard to ransoming the free men. Seven-twelfths of a pound of gold was agreed upon as the price per man.7
On receiving his promise they surrendered. They were kept in chains until all the gold was paid, then with strict regard for his promise they were released.
This is the more correct version than that they were slain by a charge of cavalry as they departed. The majority were Praenestines. Of the five hundred and seventy who were in the garrison sword and starvation carried off less than half. The rest returned safe to Praeneste with their commander Marcus Anicius, who had [p. 69]
formerly been a clerk.
As evidence there formerly8
stood in the forum of Praeneste a statue of the man, wearing a cuirass and draped in a toga, with his head covered. It had an inscription on a bronze plate, stating that Marcus Anicius had paid his vow on behalf of the soldiers who were in the garrison at Casilinum. The same inscription was placed beneath three images of gods set up in the Temple of Fortune.