Hannibal breaks into the Camp of Fulvius, but is driven out -- Capua surrenders to the Romans -- A Town of Bruttium lost and regained -- The Story of Dasius and Blatius
Hannibal, on a certain moonless night, having observed that Fulvius, at the close of the day, had neglected to throw up a wall in front of his camp (but had merely dug a ditch with certain spaces in lieu of gates, and the earth thrown outward instead of a wall), quietly sent a body of cavalry to a fortified hill overlooking Fulvius' camp, and ordered them to keep silence until the Romans should believe the hill unoccupied. Then he ordered his Indians to mount their elephants and break into the camp of Fulvius through the open spaces, and over the piles of earth, in any way they could. He also directed a number of trumpeters and horn-blowers to follow at a short distance. When they should be inside the entrenchments some of them were ordered to run around and raise a great tumult so that they might seem to be very numerous, while others, speaking Latin, should call out that Fulvius, the Roman general, ordered the evacuation of the camp and the seizure of the neighboring hill. Such was Hannibal's stratagem, and at first all went according to his intention. The elephants broke into the camp, trampling down the guards, and the trumpeters did as they were ordered. The unexpected clamor striking the ears of the Romans as they started out of bed in the darkness of the night was some-thing fearful. Hearing orders given in Latin directing them to take refuge on the hill, they hurried in that direction.
Fulvius, who was always looking out for some stratagem and suspecting one in everything that Hannibal did, being guided either by his own intelligence or by divine inspiration, or having learned the facts from some prisoner, quickly stationed his military tribunes in the roads leading to the hill to stop those who were rushing that way, and to tell them that it was not the Roman general but Hannibal who had given the command in order to lead them into an ambush. Then he stationed strong guards at the ramparts to repel any new attack from without, and with others passed rapidly through the camp exclaiming that there was no danger and that those who had broken in with the elephants were but few. Torches were lighted and fires kindled on all sides. Then the smallness of the attacking force was so manifest that the Romans utterly despised them, and, turning from fear to wrath, slew them the more easily since they were few in number and light-armed. The elephants not having room to turn around, and being entangled among the tents and huts, furnished an excellent mark for darts by reason of the narrowness of the place and the size of their bodies. Enraged with pain and unable to reach their enemies, they shook off their riders and trampled them under foot with fury and savage outcries, and broke out of the camp. Thus did Fulvius Flaccus by his constancy and skill bring to naught this unexpected ambush, frustrate Hannibal, and save his army, which had always been in terror of Hannibal's stratagems.
When his scheme had failed, Hannibal moved his army to Lucania and went into winter quarters, and here this fierce warrior gave himself up to unaccustomed luxury and the delights of love. From this time, little by little, his fortune changed. Fulvius returned to his colleague at Capua and both of them pressed the siege vigorously, hastening to take the city during the winter while Hannibal remained quiet. The Capuans, their supplies being exhausted and no more being obtainable from any quarter, surrendered themselves to the Roman generals, together with the Carthaginian garrison and their two commanders, another Hanno and Bostar. The Romans stationed a garrison in the city and cut off the hands of all the deserters they found there. They sent the Carthaginian nobles to Rome and the rest they sold as slaves. Of the Capuans themselves they put to death those who had been chiefly responsible for the defection of the city. From the others they only took away their land. All the country round about Capua is very fertile, being a plain. When Capua was once more restored to the Romans the principal advantage possessed by the Carthaginians in Italy was taken from them.
In Bruttium, which is a part of Italy, there was a man of the town of Tisia (which was garrisoned by the Carthaginians) who was in the habit of plundering and sharing his booty with the commander of the garrison, and who had by this means so ingratiated himself with the latter that he almost shared the command with him. This man was incensed at the arrogant behavior of the garrison toward his country. Accordingly, by an arrangement with the Roman general, with whom he exchanged pledges, he brought in a few soldiers each day as prisoners and lodged them in the citadel, to which place he took their arms also as spoils. When he had introduced a sufficient number he released and armed them, and overpowered the Carthaginian garrison, after which he brought in another garrison from 319 the Roman forces. But as Hannibal passed that way not long afterwards, the guards fled in terror to Rhegium, and the inhabitants of Tisia delivered themselves up to Hannibal, who burned those who had been guilty of the defection and placed another garrison in the town.
In Salapia, subject to Carthage in Apulia, were two men preeminent by birth, wealth, and power, but for a long time enemies to each other. One of these, named Dasius, sided with the Carthaginians, the other, Blatius, with the Romans. While Hannibal's affairs were flourishing Blatius remained quiet, but when the Romans began to recover their former supremacy he endeavored to come to an understanding with his enemy, simply for the sake of their country, lest, if the Romans should take it by force, some irreparable harm should befall it. Dasius, pretending to agree with him, communicated the matter to Hannibal. Hannibal took the part of a judge between them, Dasius accusing and Blatius defending himself, and saying that he was slandered by reason of his accuser's personal enmity. He was emboldened to use such language in the presence of his enemy, because he foresaw that such a foe would be likely to be distrusted on account of his private grudge. Hannibal thought that it was not wise to reject the accusation altogether, or to put too much faith in an accuser who was a personal enemy; so he dismissed them as though he would consider of the matter by himself. As they were going out by a very narrow passage Blatius said to Dasius in a low tone, "Are you not willing to save your country, good sir?" The latter immediately repeated the words in a loud voice, thus letting Hannibal know.
Then in a piteous tone Blatius cried out with much appearance of credibility, that his cunning enemy had made a plot against him. "This present scheme," he said, "will relieve me from all suspicion, if there was any, as to the former one. For who would have made a confidant of an enemy in such matters in the first place, or, if he had been so thoughtless before, would now, while still in danger and under trial and denying the charge against him, dare to say the same things a second time to one who had been his false accuser concerning these very matters, and especially in the judgment hall where many can hear his words and where his accuser stands ready to renew the charge against him. Even supposing the accuser had suddenly become friendly and well disposed, how would he be able to cooperate with me in saving the country after what has happened? Why should I ask the aid of one who is not able to give any?" I think that Blatius again designedly whispered those things to Dasius because he foresaw the event, in order to discredit him still more, and thus induce Hannibal to disbelieve his former accusations. Nor did Blatius, after he had been acquitted, desist from persuading his enemy to change sides, for he despised him now as a person utterly discredited. So Dasius again pretended to agree with him and sought to learn the plan of the revolt. Blatius replied without hesitation: "I will ride to one of the Roman camps (indicating one that was very far distant) the commander of which is my particular friend, and obtain a force which I will bring hither. You will remain here and keep watch upon affairs in the city."
Having spoken thus he immediately rode away, without the knowledge of Dasius, not to the camp he had named but to Rome by a shorter journey, and having given his son as a hostage to the Senate, he asked for a thousand horse, with which he hastened back with all speed, anticipating what would be the result. Dasius not seeing his enemy during the next few days thought that he had taken in hand the business they had agreed upon, as now having confidence in him. Supposing that Blatius had in fact gone to the more distant camp he rode to Hannibal, not doubting that he should get back before Blatius. "And now," said he to Hannibal, "I will deliver Blatius to you in the very act of bringing a hostile force into the city." Having exposed the affair and having received a military force, he hastened back to the town, not imagining that Blatius was yet anywhere near. But the latter was already inside, having slain the Carthaginian garrison, which was small, and taken care to prevent anybody from going out. He had also closed all the gates except that by which Dasius was expected to return. On that side he removed the guards from the wall to avoid suspicion, but the ground inside was intersected by ditches so that an attacking force should not be able to make its way through the whole town. Dasius was delighted when he saw the gates open, thinking that he had anticipated his enemy, and he entered the town rejoicing. Then Blatius shut the gate and slew him and his companions, who were squeezed together in a narrow place and had no way of passage through the ditches. A few of them escaped by leaping from the walls. Thus did Blatius overcome Dasius at the third encounter of their wits.