|Do not fly Iberia
Display Latin text
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVI Chapter 12: Capua in great trouble.[211 BC]
Return to index
|With regard to Capua, Hannibal did not evince such obstinate perseverance in raising the siege of it as the Romans did in pressing it; for quitting Lucania, he came into the Bruttian territory, and marched to the strait and Rhegium with such rapidity, that he was very near taking the place by surprise, in consequence of the suddenness of his arrival. Though the siege had been urged with undiminished vigour during his absence, yet Capua felt the return of Flaccus; and astonishment was excited that Hannibal had not returned with him. Afterwards they learnt, by conversations, that they were abandoned and deserted, and that the Carthaginians had given up all hopes of retaining Capua. In addition to this a proclamation was made by the proconsul, agreeably to a decree of the senate, and published among the enemy, that any Campanian citizen who came over before a stated day should be indemnified. No one, however, came over, as they were held together by fear more than fidelity; for the crimes they had committed during their revolt were too great to admit of pardon. As none of them passed over to the enemy, consulting their own individual interest, so no measure of safety was taken with regard to the general body. The nobility had deserted the state, nor could they be induced to meet in the senate, while the office of chief magistrate was filled by a man who had not derived honour to himself from his office, but stripped the office of its influence and authority by his own unworthiness. Now none of the nobles made their appearance even in the forum, or any public place, but shut themselves up in their houses, in daily expectation of the downfall of their city, and their own destruction together. The chief responsibility in everything devolved upon Bostar and Hanno, the praefects of the Punic garrison, who were anxious on account of their own danger, and not that of their allies. They addressed a letter to Hannibal, in terms, not only of freedom, but severity, charging him with "delivering, not only Capua into the hands of the enemy, but with treacherously abandoning themselves also, and their troops, to every species of torture;" they told him "he had gone off to the Bruttians, in order to get out of the way, as it were, lest Capua should be taken before his eyes; while, by Hercules, the Romans, on the contrary, could not be drawn off from the siege of Capua, even by an attack upon their city. So much more constant were the Romans in their enmity than the Carthaginians in their friendship. If he would return to Capua and direct the whole operations of the war to that point, that both themselves and the Campanians would be prepared for a sally. That they had crossed the Alps not to carry on a war with the people of Rhegium nor Tarentum. That where the Roman legions were, there the armies of the Carthaginians ought to be. Thus it was that victories had been gained at Cannae and Trasimenus; by uniting, by pitching their camp close to that of the enemy, by trying their fortune." A letter to this effect was given to some Numidians who had already engaged to render their services for a stated reward. These men came into the camp to Flaccus under pretence of being deserters, with the intention of quitting it by seizing an opportunity, and the famine, which had so long existed at Capua, afforded a pretext for desertion which no one could suspect. But a Campanian woman, the paramour of one of the deserters, unexpectedly entered the camp, and informed the Roman general that the Numidians had come over according to a preconcerted plan of treachery, and were the bearers of letters to Hannibal; that she was prepared to convict one of the party of that fact, as he had discovered it to her. On being brought forward, he at first pretended, with considerable pertinacity, that he did not know the woman; but afterwards, gradually succumbing to the force of truth, when he saw the instruments of torture called for and preparing, he confessed that it was so. The letters were produced, and a discovery was made of an additional fact, before concealed, that other Numidians were strolling about in the Roman camp, under pretence of being deserters. Above seventy of these were arrested, and, with the late deserters, scourged with rods; and after their hands had been cut off, were driven back to Capua. The sight of so severe a punishment broke the spirit of the Campanians.