BATTLE OF THE METAURUS. 115
swords would decisively turn the scale. The very rumor that a fresh consul and a fresh army had come up, when heard on the battle-field (and he would take care that they should not be heard of before they were seen and felt), would settle the business. They would have all the credit of the victory, and of having dealt the final decisive blow. He appealed to the enthusiastic reception which they already met with on their line of march as a proof and an omen of their good fortune.* And, indeed, their whole path was amid the vows, and prayers, and praises of their countrymen. The entire population of the districts through which they passed flocked to the road-side to see and bless the deliverers of their country. Food, drink, and refreshments of every kind were eagerly pressed on their acceptance. Each peasant thought a favor was conferred on him if one of Nero's chosen band would accept aught at his hands. The soldiers caught the full spirit of their leader. Night and day they marched forward) taking their hurried meals in the ranks, and resting by relays in the wagons which the zeal of the country people provided, and which followed in the rear of the column.
Meanwhile, at Rome, the news of Nero's expedition had caused the greatest excitement and alarm. All men felt the full audacity of the enterprise, but hesitated what epithet to apply to it. It was evident that Nero's conduct would be judged of by the event, that most unfair criterion, as the Roman historian truly terms it.† People reasoned on the perilous state in which Nero had left the rest of his army, without a general, and deprived of the core of its strength, in the vicinity of the terrible Hannibal. They speculated on how long it would take Hannibal to pursue and overtake Nero himself, and his expeditionary force. They talked over the former disasters of the war, and the fall of both the consuls of the last year. All these calamities had come on them while they had only one Carthaginian general and army to deal with in Italy. Now they had two Punic wars at a time. They had two Carthaginian armies, they had almost two Hannibals in Italy. Hasdrubal was sprung from the same father; trained up in the same hostility to Rome; equally practiced in battle against their legions; and, if the comparative
- Livy, lib. xxvii., c. 45.
† "Adparebat (quo nihil iniquius est) ex eventu famam habiturun."— Livy, lib. xxvii., c. 44.