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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 16: Tarentum plundered; Fabius is not trapped.[209 BC]
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The fighting in the forum commenced with an impetuosity which was not sustained. The Tarentine was no match for the Roman either in courage or weapons or military training or bodily strength and vigour. They hurled their javelins, and that was all; almost before they came to close quarters they turned and fled through the streets, seeking shelter in their own homes and in their friends' houses. Two of their leaders, Nico and Democrates, fell fighting bravely; Philemenus, who had been the prime agent in delivering the city up to Hannibal, rode at full speed out of the battle, but though his riderless horse was recognised soon afterwards whilst straying about the city, his body was nowhere found. It was commonly believed that he had been pitched headlong from his horse down an unprotected well. Carthalo the commander of the garrison, had laid down his arms and was going to the consul to remind him of the old tie of hospitality between their fathers when he was killed by a soldier who met him. Those found with arms and those who had none were massacred indiscriminately, Carthaginians and Tarentines met the same fate. Many even of the Bruttians were killed in different parts of the town, either by mistake or to satisfy an old-standing hate, or to suppress any rumour of its capture through treachery, by making it appear as though it had been taken by storm. After the carnage followed the sack of the city. It is said that 30,000 slaves were captured together with an enormous quantity of silver plate and bullion, 83 pounds' weight of gold and a collection of statues and pictures almost equal to that which had adorned Syracuse. Fabius, however, showed a nobler spirit than Marcellus had exhibited in Sicily; he kept his hands off that kind of spoil. When his secretary asked him what he wished to have done with some colossal statues they were deities, each represented in his appropriate dress and in a fighting attitude he ordered them to be left to the Tarentines who had felt their wrath. The wall which separated the city from the citadel was completely demolished. Hannibal had in the meanwhile received the surrender of the force which was investing Caulo. As soon as he heard that Tarentum was being attacked he hurried to its relief, marching night and day. On receiving the news of its capture, he remarked, The Romans too have their Hannibal, we have lost Tarentum by the same practices by which we gained it." To prevent his retirement from appearing like a flight he encamped at a distance of about five miles from the city, and after staying there for a few days he fell back on Metapontum. From this place he sent two of the townsmen with a letter to Fabius at Tarentum. It was written by the civic authorities, and stated that they were prepared to surrender Metapontum and its Carthaginian garrison if the consul would pledge his word that they should not suffer for their conduct in the past. Fabius believed the letter to be genuine and handed the bearers a reply addressed to their chiefs, fixing the date of his arrival at Metapontum. This was taken to Hannibal. Naturally delighted to find that even Fabius was not proof against his stratagems, he disposed his force in ambuscade not far from Metapontum. Before leaving Tarentum Fabius consulted the sacred chickens, and on two occasions they gave an unfavourable omen. He also consulted the gods of sacrifice, and after they had inspected the victim the augurs warned him to be on his guard against plots and ambuscades on the part of the enemy. As he did not come at the appointed time, the Metapontines were again sent to him to hasten his movements, and were promptly arrested. Terrified at the prospect of examination under torture, they disclosed the plot. |
Actions in Italy in 209 BC. Tarentum.