Consternation in Rome -- Senate refuses to ransom the Prisoners -- Siege and Capture of Petilia -- Dasius of Arpi
When the disaster was announced in the city, multitudes thronged the streets uttering lamentations for their relatives, calling on them by name, and bewailing their own fate as soon to fall into the enemy's hands. Women went to the temples with their children and prayed that there might sometime be an end to the calamities to the city. The magistrates besought the gods by sacrifices and prayers that if they had any cause of anger they would be satisfied with the punishment already visited. The Senate sent Quintus Fabius (the same who wrote a history of these events) to the temple of Delphi to seek an oracle concerning the present posture of affairs. They freed 8000 slaves with their masters' consent, and ordered everybody in the city to go to work making arms and projectiles. They also made a conscription, as was allowed, even among certain of the allies. They also changed the destination of Claudius Marcellus, who was about to sail to Sicily, and sent him to fight against Hannibal. Marcellus divided the fleet with his colleague Furius and sent a part of it to Sicily, while he himself took the manumitted slaves and as many others as he could collect of citizens and allies, amounting altogether to 10,000 foot and 2000 horse, and marched to Teanum in order to see what Hannibal would do next.
Hannibal allowed his captives to send messengers to Rome in their own behalf, to see if the citizens would ransom them with money. Three were chosen by them, of whom Gn. Sempronius was the leader, from whom Hannibal exacted an oath that they would return to him. The relatives of the prisoners, collecting around the senate-house, declared their readiness to redeem their friends severally with their own money and begged the Senate to allow them to do so, and the people joined them with their own prayers and tears. Some of the senators thought it was not wise, after such great calamities, to expose the city to the loss of so many more men, or to disdain free men while giving liberty to slaves. Others thought that it was not fitting to accustom men to flight by compassion, but rather to teach them to conquer or die, as would be the case if not even his relative should pity the runaway. Many precedents having been adduced on either side, the Senate finally decided that the prisoners should not be ransomed by their relatives, being of opinion that while so many dangers were still impending present clemency would tend to future harm, while severity, although painful, would be for the public advantage hereafter, and indeed at this very time would startle Hannibal by the very boldness of their action. Accordingly Sempronius and the two prisoners who accompanied him returned to Hannibal. The latter in his anger sold some of his prisoners, put others to death, and made a bridge of their bodies with which he passed over a stream. The senators and other distinguished prisoners in his hands he compelled to fight with each other, as a spectacle for the Africans, fathers against sons, and brothers against brothers. He omitted no act of disdainful cruelty.
Hannibal next turned his arms against the territory of the Roman allies and, having devastated it, laid siege to Petilia. The inhabitants, although few in number, made courageous sallies against him (their women joining in the fight) and performing many noble deeds of daring. They burned his siege engines unceasingly, and in these enterprises the women were in no wise inferior to the men. But their numbers were reduced by each assault, and they began to suffer the pangs of hunger. When Hannibal perceived this he drew a line of circumvallation around them and left Hanno to finish the siege. As their sufferings increased they first thrust outside the walls all those who were incapable of fighting and looked on without grieving while Hanno slew them, considering the dead better off than the living, for which reason the remainder, when reduced to the last extremity, made a sally against the enemy, and after performing many splendid acts of bravery, being nearly starved and completely exhausted, they were unable to return and were all slain by the Africans. Thus Hanno possessed himself of the town. But yet a few escaped, who had sufficient strength to run. These wanderers the Romans carefully collected, to the number of about 800, and replaced them in their own country after the war, being moved by kind feeling toward them and admiration for their exceptional fidelity.
As the Celtiberian horse, who were serving with 307 Hannibal as mercenaries, were seen to be splendid fighters, the Roman generals in Spain obtained an equal number from the towns under their charge and sent them to Italy to contend against the others. These when encamped near Hannibal mingled with their fellow-countrymen and won them over. Thus it came about that many of them went over to the Romans and others deserted or ran away, while the remainder were no longer trusted by Hannibal, as they were under suspicion by him and he by them. Hannibal's affairs began to decline from this circumstance.
There is a city called Arpi in Daunia which is said to have been founded by Diomedes, the Argive. Here a certain Dasius, said to have been a descendant of Diomedes, a very fickle-minded person, quite unworthy of such descent, after the terrible defeat of the Romans at Cann drew his people over to the Carthaginian side. But now when Hannibal's power began to wane he rode secretly to 309 Rome, and being introduced to the Senate, said that he could bring the city back to the Roman allegiance and thus atone for his error. The Romans very nearly killed him and drove him from the city forthwith. Then, being in equal fear of them and of Hannibal, he became a wanderer through the country. Hannibal burned his wife and children alive. Arpi was betrayed by a portion of the inhabitants to Fabius Maximus, who captured it by night, and having put to death all the Carthaginians he found there, he established a Roman garrison in the city.