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Marcus Cato   


enough to divert the war; and the Romans, indeed, seemed wholly to
despair of forcing the passage; but Cato, calling to mind the
compass and circuit which the Persians had formerly made to come at
this place, went forth in the night, taking along with him part of the
army. Whilst they were climbing up, the guide, who was a prisoner,
missed the way, and wandering up and down by impracticable and
precipitous paths, filled the soldiers with fear and despondency.
Cato, perceiving the danger, commanded all the rest to halt, and
stay where they were, whilst he himself, taking along with him one
Lucius Manlius, a most expert man at climbing mountains, went
forward with a great deal of labour and danger, in the dark night, and
without the least moonshine, among the wild olive-trees and steep
craggy rocks, there being nothing but precipices and darkness before
their eyes, till they struck into a little pass which they thought
might lead down into the enemy's camp. There they put up marks upon
some conspicuous peaks which surmount the hill called Callidromon,
and, returning again, they led the army along with them to the said
marks, till they got into their little path again, and there once made
a halt; but when they began to go further, the path deserted them at a
precipice, where they were in another strait and fear; nor did they
perceive that they were all this while near the enemy. And now the day
began to give some light, when they seemed to hear a noise, and
presently after to see the Greek trenches and the guard at the foot of
the rock. Here, therefore, Cato halted his forces, and commanded the
troops from Firmum only, without the rest, to stick by him, as he
had always found them faithful and ready. And when they came up and
formed around him in close order, he thus spoke to them: "I desire,"
he said, "to take one of the enemy alive, that so I may understand
what men these are who guard the passage; their number; and with
what discipline, order, and preparation they expect us; but this
feat," continued he, "must be an act of a great deal of quickness
and boldness, such as that of lions, when they dart upon some timorous
animal." Cato had no sooner thus expressed himself, but the Firmans
forthwith rushed down the mountain, just as they were, upon the guard,
and, falling unexpectedly upon them, affrighted and dispersed them
all. One armed man they took, and brought to Cato, who quickly learned
from him that the rest of the forces lay in the narrow passage about
the king; that those who kept the tops of the rocks were six hundred
choice Aetolians. Cato, therefore, despising the smallness of their
number and carelessness, forthwith drawing his sword, fell upon them
with a great noise of trumpets and shouting. The enemy, perceiving
them thus tumbling, as it were, upon them from the precipices, flew to
the main body, and put all things into disorder there.
In the meantime, whilst Manius was forcing the works below, and
pouring the thickest of his forces into the narrow passages, Antiochus
was hit in the mouth with a stone, so that his teeth being beaten
out by it, he felt such excessive pain, that he was fain to turn
away with his horse; nor did any part of his army stand the shock of
the Romans. Yet, though there seemed no reasonable hope of flight,
where all paths were so difficult, and where there were deep marshes
and steep rocks, which looked as if they were ready to receive those
who should stumble, the fugitives, nevertheless, crowding and pressing
together in the narrow passages, destroyed even one another in their
terror of the swords and blows of the enemy. Cato (as it plainly
appears) was never oversparing of his own praises, and seldom
shunned boasting of any exploit; which quality, indeed, he seems to
have thought the natural accompaniment of great actions; and with
these particular exploits he was highly puffed up; he says that
those who saw him that day pursuing and slaying the enemies were ready
to assert that Cato owed not so much to the public as the public did
to Cato; nay, he adds, that Manius the consul, coming hot from the
fight, embraced him for a great while, when both were all in a
sweat; and then cried out with joy that neither he himself, no, nor
all the people together, could make him a recompense equal to his

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