John C. Yardley and Dexter Hoyos (eds), Oxford World's Classics: Livy: Hannibal's War: Books Twenty-One to Thirty

Find Location in text

Main Text


What vexed Hannibal above all was Capua which, blockaded by the Romans with greater resolve than he had shown in defending it, had lost him the support of many of the peoples of Italy. And all of these he could not hold in check with garrisons, unless he were prepared to split his army into many small sections, which was very much to his disadvantage at that time. He could not withdraw such garrisons as were in place, either, and leave the loyalty of his allies open to speculation or subject to intimidation. Temperamentally prone to greed and cruelty, Hannibal now leaned towards pillaging what he could not protect, so that his enemy would be left only devastated territory. That was a terrible plan initially, and had terrible results for him. For he alienated the sympathies of everybody, and not just of those subjected to the unwarranted destruction, since the example reached further than the actual danger. And the Roman consul lost no opportunity to probe the feelings of the cities wherever any hope was to be seen.

The two most prominent men in Salapia were Dasius and Blattius. Dasius sided with Hannibal; Blattius, as far as he safely could, espoused the cause of Rome, and he had, in clandestine messages, led Marcellus to hope that the town could be betrayed to him. In fact, however, that could not be achieved without the complicity of Dasius. Blattius waited a long time before approaching Dasius, and he did so then only because he lacked a better plan, not because he had hopes of success. Dasius, who opposed the idea, and also felt personal enmity towards his rival for power, revealed the matter to Hannibal. Hannibal had the two men summoned. He was, however, engaged in some business before his tribunal, and intended hearing the case of Blattius momentarily. As the two men stood there, accuser and accused, with the public removed, Blattius proceeded to bring up again with Dasius the matter of betraying the town. And indeed Dasius, thinking the truth was obvious, cried out that he was being propositioned to turn traitor right before Hannibal's eyes. To Hannibal and those present the very brazenness of such an act made pg 359the charge all the more implausible. It was simply a case of rivalry and personal hatred, they decided—and the charge was being brought because, inasmuch as there could be no witness, there was greater scope for fabrication.

The men were therefore dismissed. Blattius, however, did not abandon his bold design until, by continually drumming the idea into Dasius' ears, and explaining how it would benefit themselves and their homeland, he convinced him that the Punic garrison, comprising 500 Numidians, should be delivered to Marcellus, along with Salapia.

The delivery could not be brought off without great loss of life, for the Numidians were by far the bravest horsemen in the entire Punic army. Thus, although the move came as a surprise, and the Numidians could not make use of their horses within the city, they nevertheless took up their arms in the fracas and attempted a sortie. Then, unable to get out, they went down fighting to the bitter end, with no more than fifty of them falling into the hands of the enemy alive. Far more damaging to Hannibal than the loss of Salapia was the loss of this contingent of horsemen; never thereafter did the Carthaginian enjoy superiority in what was hitherto his greatest strength, his cavalry.

logo-footer Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.
Access is brought to you by Log out