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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor

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LIVIUS AND CLAUDIUS ENJOY A TRIUMPH

[213] HANNIBAL had not discovered that the Consul had left Venusia before he had returned.

As soon as the battle of Metaurus was over, Claudius had marched back to his camp, carrying with him the head of Hasdrubal. This, with cruelty unworthy of a conqueror, he ordered to be thrown into Hannibal's camp.

Two prisoners he also set free, that they might go to the Carthaginian camp and tell how their comrades had been slain.

In this terrible way Hannibal first knew what had befallen his brother and the army he had brought from Spain.

Claudius, before he marched to the camp of Livius had sent to Rome to tell the Senate what he hoped to do. As the news of his hasty march became known, the greatest anxiety was felt.

No one was able to work. The Forum, indeed, was crowded with people; but they assembled, not to do business, but to talk of the desperate action of the Consul, of the hopes and fears that clustered around his deed.

After a time the women betook themselves to the temple, and spent the hours in prayers to their gods, that now at length they would send victory to Roman arms.

As hope was changing into fear, a messenger was seen spurring his horse toward the city. When he rode in at the gates the people crowded round him to try to gather his tidings.


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A messenger was seen spurring his horse toward the city.

Good! It seemed that the news was good. The face, the whole bearing of the messenger proclaimed it so, yet [214] the people were afraid to believe. They had grown used to such evil tidings. How could they believe all at once that the gods had at length sent them victory! Yet so it was.

The messenger made his way through the crowds to the Senate-house, and then for a little while the people were left to their vague hopes and fears.

At length the door of the Senate-house was opened, and down the steps into the Forum stepped one of the senators, to tell the breathless multitude that the tidings were good indeed. Hasdrubal was slain and his army was destroyed.

Then at last the people believed, and a great shout rent the air, a shout of triumph.

Public thanksgivings were at once ordained, to last for three days. The people in their joy never stayed to think that Hannibal was still alive, and in their land unconquered.

Hannibal, indeed, stayed in Italy four years longer, yet he fought no more great battles there. The towns, too, that he had won were, one after another, gradually reconquered by Rome.

After the defeat of Hasdrubal, Hannibal withdrew to Lacinium with his troops. They remained loyal to their great leader in his misfortune as in his prosperity.

Claudius and Livius, to whom the great victory was due, were both given a triumph.

But as the battle had been fought in the province of which Livius had charge, and as it was he who had commanded on the battlefield, he entered the city on a triumphal car drawn by four horses, his army marching in the procession, while Claudius rode on horseback by the side of the car, and his army, being needed on the field, was not with him.

But it was the Consul who rode on horseback at whom the people for the most part gazed, and it was for him that the crowd cheered its loudest. For the people knew that it was Claudius whose decision had made the battle so complete a triumph.


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