"Soldiers, if I were leading into battle the army that I had under me in Gaul, I should have [p. 117]
deemed it unnecessary to address you.
point would there have been in exhorting either those horsemen who at the river Rhone had signally defeated the horsemen of the enemy, or those legions with which I pursued this very enemy in his flight, and by the confession implied in his withdrawal and avoidance of a battle, gained a virtual victory?
As it is, since that army, enrolled for service in Spain, is campaigning there under my auspices with my brother Gnaeus Scipio, where the senate and the Roman People desired that it should serve, and I myself, that you might
have a consul for your leader against Hannibal and the Phoenicians, have of my own choice undertaken the present conflict, it is right that your new commander should say a word or two to his new soldiers.
"That you may not be ignorant what manner of war it is, or what your enemies are, you are to fight, my men, with those whom you defeated in the former war, on land and sea; with those from whom you exacted tribute for twenty years; with those from whom you wrested Sicily and Sardinia, which you now hold as the spoils of war.
You and they will therefore enter the present struggle with such spirits as usually attend the victors and the vanquished. Nor are they now going to fight because they dare, but because they must;
unless you think that those who avoided battle when their strength was unimpaired would, now that they have lost two-thirds of their infantry and cavalry in the passage of the Alps, have become more hopeful!
But, you will say, their numbers indeed are small, but their courage and vigour are so great that scarce any force could withstand their might and power. Nay, not so!
They [p. 119]
are but the semblance, the shadows of men, wasted2
away with hunger and cold, with filth and squalor; bruised and crippled amongst the rocks and cliffs; moreover, their limbs are frost-bitten, their muscles stiffened by the snow, their bodies numb with cold, their arms shattered and broken, their horses lame and feeble.
That is the cavalry, that the infantry with which you are to fight; you have no enemy —only the last relics of an enemy! And I fear nothing more than this, that when you have fought, it may seem to have been the Alps that conquered Hannibal.
But perhaps it was right that the gods themselves, without any human aid, should begin and decide a war with a general and a people who break their treaties; and that we, whose injury was second to that of the gods, should add the finishing stroke to a war already so begun and so decided.