But, as usual in prosperous times, these measures were carried out without spirit and in leisurely fashion, while the Romans, in addition to their inborn activity, were prevented by misfortune also from delaying.
That is, the consul was not found wanting in anything which it was his to do, and the dictator, Marcus Junius Pera, after performing the religious rites, proposed to the people according to custom a bill allowing him to be mounted.1
And then, in addition to the two city legions which had been enrolled by the consuls at the beginning of the year, and the levy of slaves, also the cohorts raised from the Picene and Gallic districts, he stooped [p. 45]
to that last defence of a state almost despaired of,2
when honour yields to necessity: namely, he issued an edict that, if any men who had committed a capital offence, or were in chains as judgment debtors, should become soldiers under him, he would order their release from punishment or debt.
Six thousand such men he armed with Gallic spoils which had been carried in the triumph of Gaius Flaminius,3
and thus set out from the city with twenty-five thousand armed men.
Hannibal, after gaining possession of Capua and vainly trying, partly by hope, partly by fear, to work for the second time upon the feelings of the Neapolitans, led his army over into the territory of Nola.
Though this was not at first with hostile intent, since he did not despair of a voluntary surrender, still he was ready, if they baulked his hope, to omit none of the things which they might suffer or fear to suffer. The senate and especially its leading members stood loyally by the alliance with Rome.
But the common people, as usual, were all for a change of government and for Hannibal; and they called to mind the fear of devastation of their lands and the many hardships and indignities they must suffer in case of a siege. And men were not lacking to propose revolt.
Accordingly the senators, now obsessed by the fear that, if they should move openly, there could be no resisting the excited crowd, found a way to postpone the evil by pretending agreement.
For they pretend that they favour revolt to Hannibal, but that there is no agreement as to the terms on which they may go over to a new alliance and friendship.
Thus gaining time, they send emissaries in haste to the Roman praetor, Marcellus Claudius, who [p. 47]
was at Casilinum4
with his army, and inform him in5
what danger the Nolan state is placed; that its territory is in the hands of Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and that the city will be so at once, if help be not given;
that the senate, by conceding to the common people that they would revolt whenever the people wished, had prevented their making haste to revolt.
Marcellus, after warmly praising the men of Nola, bade them postpone matters by the same pretence until his arrival; in the meantime to conceal the dealings they had had with him and all hope of Roman aid.
He himself went from Casilinum to Caiatia, and thence, after crossing the river Volturnus, made his way to Nola through the territory of Saticula and that of Trebia, above Suessula and through the mountains.6