However, when the rigour of winter began to abate, marching his troops out of their winter quarters he returned to Casilinum;
where, although there had been an intermission of the assault, the continuance of the siege had reduced the inhabitants and the garrison to the extremity of want.
Titus Sempronius commanded the Roman camp, the dictator having gone to Rome to renew the auspices.
The swollen state of the Vulturnus and the entreaties of the people of Nola and Acerrae, who feared the Campanians if the Roman troops should leave them, kept Marcellus in his place; although desirous himself also to bring assistance to the besieged.
Gracchus, only maintaining his post near Casilinum, because he had been enjoined by the dictator not to take any active steps during his absence, did not stir; although intelligence was brought from Casilinum which might easily overcome every degree of patience.
For it appeared that some had precipitated themselves from the walls through famine, and that they were standing unarmed upon the walls, exposing their undefended bodies to the blows of the missile weapons.
Gracchus, grieved at the intelligence, but not daring to fight contrary to the injunctions of the dictator, and yet aware that he must fight if he openly attempted to convey in provisions, and having no hope of introducing them clandestinely, collected corn from all parts of the surrounding country, and filling several casks sent a message to the magistrate to Casilinum, directing that they might catch the casks which the river would bring down.
The following night, while all were intent upon the river, and the hopes excited by the message from the Romans, the casks sent came floating down the centre of the stream, and the corn was equally distributed among them all.
This was repeated the second and third day;
they were sent off and arrived during the same night; and hence they escaped the notice of the enemy's guards.
But afterwards, the river, rendered more than ordinarily rapid by continual rains, drove the casks by a cross current to the bank which the enemy were guarding; there they were discovered sticking among the osiers which grew along the banks; and, it being reported to Hannibal, from that time the watches were kept more strictly, that nothing [p. 859]
sent to the city by the Vulturnus might escape notice.
However, nuts poured out at the Roman camp floated down the centre of the river to Casilinum, and were caught with hurdles.
At length they were reduced to such a degree of want, that they endeavoured to chew the thongs and skins which they tore from their shields, after softening them in warm water; nor did they abstain from mice or any other kind of animals.
They even dug up every kind of herb and root from the lowest mounds of their wall; and when the enemy had ploughed over all the ground producing herbage which was without the wall, they threw in turnip seed, so that Hannibal exclaimed, Must I sit here at Casilinum even till these spring up?
and he, who up to that time had not lent an ear to any terms, then at length allowed himself to be treated with respecting the ransom of the free persons. Seven ounces of gold for each person were agreed upon as the price; and then, under a promise of protection, they surrendered themselves.
They were kept in chains till the whole of the gold was paid, after which they were sent back to Cumae, in fulfilment of the promise.
This account is more credible than that they were slain by a body of cavalry, which was sent to attack them as they were going away. They were for the most part Prae- nestines. Out of the five hundred and seventy who formed the garrison, almost one half were destroyed by sword or famine; the rest returned safe to Praeneste with their praetor Manicius, who had formerly been a scribe.
His statue placed in the forum at Praeneste, clad in a coat of mail, with a gown on, and with the head covered, formed an evidence of this account; as did also three images with this legend inscribed on a brazen plate, “Manicius vowed these in behalf of the soldiers who were in the garrison at Casilinum.” The same legend was inscribed under three images placed in the temple of Fortune.