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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 15: Tarentum recovered by treason[209 BC]
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About this time the Hirpini, the Lucani and the Volcentes surrendered to the consul Quintus Fulvius, and delivered up the garrisons which Hannibal had placed in their cities. He accepted their submission graciously, and only reproached them for the mistake they had made in the past. This led the Bruttians to hope that similar indulgence might be shown to them, and they sent the two men who were of highest rank amongst them, Vibius and his brother Pactius, to ask for favourable terms of surrender. The consul Quintus Fabius carried by storm the town of Manduria, in the country of the Sallentines. 3000 prisoners were secured and a considerable amount of plunder. From there he marched to Tarentum, and fixed his camp at the very mouth of the harbour. Some of the ships which Laevinus had had for the purpose of keeping the sea open for supplies he loaded with the engines and apparatus necessary for battering the walls; others he made use of for carrying artillery and stores and projectiles of every kind. Only the transports which were propelled by oars were there made use of so that whilst some of the troops could bring up their engines and scaling ladders close to the walls, others could beat off the defenders from the walls by attacking them at a distance from the ships. These vessels were so fitted up that they could attack the city from the open sea without any interference from the enemy, as the Carthaginian fleet had sailed across to Corcyra to assist Philip in his campaign against the Aetolians. The force besieging Caulo, hearing of Hannibal's approach and fearing a surprise, withdrew to a position on the hills which was safe from any immediate attack. While Fabius was besieging Tarentum an incident, of slight importance in itself, helped him to achieve a great success. The Tarentines had been furnished by Hannibal with a garrison of Bruttian troops. One of their officers was deeply in love with a young woman who had a brother in Fabius' army. She had written to tell him of the intimacy that had sprung up between her and a stranger who was rich and held a high position amongst his countrymen. The brother was led to hope that through his sister's means her lover might be led on to any lengths, and he communicated his anticipations to the consul. The idea did not seem at all an unreasonable one, and he received instructions to cross the lines and enter Tarentum as a deserter. After being introduced to the officer by his sister and getting on friendly terms with him, he cautiously sounded his disposition without betraying his real object. When he had satisfied himself as to the weakness of his character he called in his sister's aid, and through her coaxing and blandishments the man was persuaded to betray the position which he was in charge of When the time and method of carrying out the project were arranged, a soldier was despatched from the city at night to make his way through the outposts and report to the consul what had been done and what arrangements had been made. At the first watch Fabius gave the signal for action to the troops in the citadel and those who were guarding the harbour, and then marched right round the harbour and took up his position without being observed on the east side of the town. Then he ordered the trumpets to sound at the same moment from the citadel, the harbour and the ships which had been brought up from the open sea. The greatest shouting and uproar was designedly raised in just those parts where there was least danger of an attack. The consul meanwhile kept his men perfectly quiet. Democrates, who had formerly commanded the fleet, happened to be in charge of that part of the defences. Finding all quiet round him whilst elsewhere there was shouting and tumult as though the city had been taken, he feared to remain where he was in case the consul should storm the place and break in somewhere else. So he led his men up to the citadel from which the most alarming noise proceeded. From the time that had elapsed and the silence which followed the excited shouts and calls to arms, Fabius judged that the garrison had withdrawn from that part of the fortifications. He at once ordered the scaling ladders to be carried to that part of the walls where he understood from the traitor that the Bruttii were mounting guard. With their aid and connivance that section of the fortifications was carried, and the Romans made their way into the town after breaking down the nearest gate to allow the main body of their comrades to march in. Raising their battle shout they went on to the forum; which they reached about sunrise without meeting a single armed enemy. All the defenders who had been engaged at the citadel and the harbour now combined to attack them. |
Actions in Italy in 209 BC. Tarentum.