“I am not afraid that anyone may suppose that I am using these brave words to encourage you, but that in my heart I think otherwise.
It was open to me to proceed with my army to my own province, Spain, for which I had already started; I might there have had a brother to share my counsels and my dangers, and Hasdrubal instead of Hannibal for my enemy, and a war undoubtedly less difficult to conduct;
nevertheless, when rumours of this enemy reached me, as I sailed along by the coast of Gaul, I landed, and sending my cavalry ahead, moved my camp up to the Rhone.
In a cavalry engagement —for this was the arm with which I was given the opportunity of fighting —I put the enemy to rout: his infantry column, marching hastily off as if in flight, I could not overtake by land; returning therefore to my ships I accomplished with all [p. 121]
possible expedition so circuitous a voyage and march,1
and am come to confront this redoubtable enemy almost at the very foot of the Alps. Does it look as though I were avoiding battle and had blundered upon him unawares?
or, rather, as though I were in hot haste to encounter him and to provoke and bait him into fighting?
I would willingly make trial whether the earth has suddenly produced in the last twenty years2
another breed of Carthaginians, or whether they are the same who fought at the Aegatian islands and whom you suffered to depart from Eryx at a rating of eighteen denarii a head;
and whether our friend Hannibal is a rival, as he himself would have it, of the wandering Hercules,3
or has been left to the Roman People by his father to be their tributary, tax-payer, and slave.
Were he not maddened by the crime he committed at Saguntum, he would surely have regard, if not for his conquered country, yet at least for his house and his father and the treaties written by the hand of Hamilcar, who, under the orders of our consul, withdrew his garrison from Eryx;
who submitted with rage and anguish to the heavy terms imposed upon the beaten Carthaginians; who agreed, on withdrawing from Sicily, to pay tribute to the Roman People.
And so I could wish you, soldiers, to fight not only with that courage with which you are wont to fight against other enemies, but with a kind of resentful rage, as if you saw your slaves all at once take up arms against you.
When we had shut them up at Eryx, we might have killed them by starvation, the worst torment that man can know; we might have dispatched our victorious fleet to Africa, and in a few days' time, without [p. 123]
the slightest struggle, have annihilated Carthage.4
But we gave them the quarter they besought of us; we lifted the siege and let them go; we made peace with them when we had conquered them; and thereafter, when they were hard pressed by the war in Africa, we regarded them as under our protection.
In requital of these benefits they are coming in the train of a crazy youth to assail our country!
And I would that your honour only and not your very existence were in jeopardy: you have got to fight not for the ownership of Sicily and Sardinia, which were formerly in dispute, but for Italy.
There is no second army at our back to stop the enemy, in case we fail to beat him, nor are there other Alps to obstruct his advance while we make ready new defences. Here, soldiers, is the spot where we must make our stand, as though we were fighting before the walls of Rome.
Let each and every one of you consider that his arms protect, not his own person, but his wife and little children; nor let him be concerned for his family alone, but remember that ours are the hands to which the senate and the Roman People are now looking, and that even as our might and valour shall prove to be,
such henceforward will be the fortune of that City and the Roman empire.” So spoke the consul to the Romans.