nuntios delata Hannibali simul curam sociae retinendae urbis et spem fecere incautum hostem adgrediendi.
Exercitu expedito ita ut famam prope praeveniret magnis itineribus ad Herdoneam contendit, et quo plus terroris hosti obiceret acie instructa accessit. 7par audacia Romanus, consilio et viribus impar, copiis raptim eductis conflixit. quinta legio et sinistra ala acriter pugnam inierunt. 8ceterum Hannibal signo equitibus dato ut, cum pedestres acies occupassent praesenti certamine oculos animosque, circumvecti pars castra hostium pars terga pugnantium1 invaderent, 9ipse Cn. Fulvi similitudinem nominis—quia Cn. Fulvium praetorem biennio ante in iisdem devicerat locis—increpans, similem eventum pugnae fore adfirmabat.
10Neque ea spes vana fuit. nam cum comminus acie et peditum certamine multi cecidissent Romanorum, 11starent tamen ordines signaque, equestris tumultus a tergo, simul a castris clamor hostilis auditus sextam ante legionem quae in secunda acie posita prior ab Numidis turbata est, quintam deinde atque eos qui ad prima signa erant avertit. 12pars in fugam effusi, pars in medio caesi, ubi et ipse Cn. Fulvius cum undecim tribunis militum cecidit. 13Romanorum sociorumque quot caesa in eo proelio milia sint quis pro certo adfirmet, cum tredecim milia alibi, alibi haud plus quam septem inveniam?
to Hannibal by messengers sent covertly from Herdonea, making him anxious to hold on to an allied city and also giving him hope of catching his enemy off guard.
With a light-armed force he headed toward Herdonea by forced marches, so swiftly that he almost outran word of his coming; and in order to strike greater terror in his enemy he approached the town with a line deployed for battle. Hannibal’s equal in daring but unequal in strategy and strength, the Roman swiftly led out his troops and engaged, and the fifth legion and allied left wing vigorously entered battle. Hannibal, however, had given a signal for his cavalry to ride around the field when the infantry lines had their eyes and attention focused on the immediate struggle, and for some to attack the enemy camp and others their rear; and because he had two years earlier defeated the praetor Gnaeus Fulvius in that same area5 he would caustically repeat that Gnaeus Fulvius had the same name and the outcome of the battle would also be the same.
Nor was that a vain hope. For when many Romans had fallen in hand-to-hand fighting and in the clash of the infantry, but the ranks still held their ground with their standards, an uproar raised from the cavalry could be heard to their rear, and at the same time shouts of the enemy from their camp; and that first made the sixth legion retreat (stationed in the second line, it was the first thrown into disarray by the Numidians) and after it the fifth and those at the very front. Some were scattered in flight, and others were killed in the thick of the action, where Gnaeus Fulvius himself fell, together with eleven military tribunes. How many thousand Romans and allies were killed in that battle who could say for certain, when I find thirteen thousand in one author and no more than seven thousand in another?