Then he saw that he had been outwitted. The rear of the Carthaginian army was just entering the defile, and in a short time Fabius saw the Gauls and Spaniards scaling the heights to the assistance of their comrades, who were maintaining an unequal fight with the Romans. The latter were soon driven with slaughter into the plain, and the Carthaginian troops descended into the defile and followed their retreating army. Hannibal now came down into the fertile country of Apulia, and determined to winter there. He took by storm the town of Geronium, where he stored his supplies and placed his sick in shelter, while his army occupied an intrenched camp which he formed outside the town.
Fabius, after the escape of Hannibal from the trap in which he believed he had caught him, followed him into Apulia, and encamped on high ground in his neighbourhood intending to continue the same waiting tactics. He was, however, soon afterwards recalled to Rome to consult with the senate on matters connected with the army. He left Minucius in command, with strict orders that he should on no account suffer himself to be enticed into a battle. Minucius moved forward to within five miles of Geronium, and then encamped upon a spur of the hills.
Hannibal, aware that Fabius had left, hoped to be able to tempt the impatient Minucius to an action. He accordingly drew nearer to the Romans and encamped upon a hill three miles from their position.
Another hill lay about halfway between the two armies. Hannibal occupied this during the night with two thousand of his light troops, but next day Minucius attacked the position, drove off its defenders, and encamped there with his whole army. For some days Hannibal kept his force united in his intrenchments, feeling sure that Minucius would attack him. The latter, however, strictly obeyed the orders of Fabius and remained inactive.
It was all important to the Carthaginians to collect an ample supply of food before winter set in, and Hannibal, finding that the Romans would not attack him, was compelled to resume foraging expeditions. Two-thirds of the army were despatched in various directions in strong bodies, while the rest remained to guard the intrenchment.
This was the opportunity for which Minucius had been waiting. He at once despatched the whole of his cavalry to attack the foraging parties, and with his infantry he advanced to the attack of the weakly defended Carthaginian camp. For a time Hannibal had the greatest difficulty in resisting the assault of the Romans; but at last a body of four thousand of the foragers, who had beaten off the Roman cavalry and made their way into Geronium, came out to his support, and the Romans retired.
Hannibal, seeing the energy which Minucius had displayed, fell back to his old camp near Geronium, and Minucius at once occupied the position which he had vacated. The partial success of Minucius enabled the party in Rome who had long been discontented with the waiting tactics of Fabius to make a fresh attack upon his policy, and Minucius was now raised to an equal rank with Fabius.