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17. While these things were going on about Beneventum, Hannibal, after ravaging the territory of Neapolis, removed his camp to Nola.  When the consul learned of his approach, summoning Pomponius, the propraetor, with the army which was in camp1 above Suessula, he prepared to advance to meet the enemy and to engage without delay.  He sent Gaius Claudius Nero with the best of the cavalry out by the gate farthest from the enemy in the silence of the night, and commanded him to ride around unseen and follow the enemy's column slowly, and when he saw that the battle had begun, to throw himself upon their rear.  Whether it was by losing the way that Nero was unable to carry this out, or from the shortness of the time, is uncertain. After the battle had begun in his absence, the Roman indeed unquestionably had the upper hand; but since the cavalry were not there at the right moment, the [p. 229]prearranged plan for the battle was ruined.  Marcellus,2 not venturing to pursue the retreating, gave his men, victorious though they were, the signal to retire.  More than two thousand of the enemy, however, are said to have been slain that day, of the Romans less than four hundred.  About sunset Nero, returning with his horses and men exhausted to no purpose by their efforts for a day and a night, without even seeing the enemy, was sternly rebuked by the consul, who went so far as to say that it was his fault that the disaster suffered at Cannae was not paid back to the enemy.3  On the next day the Roman went into line of battle, while the Carthaginian, beaten, as he tacitly admitted also, remained in camp. The third day, giving up hope of capturing Nola, an undertaking which had never prospered, he set out in the dead of night for Tarentum, led by a surer hope of its betrayal.
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