After the speech of Manlius, though most of the senators, too, had relatives amongst the prisoners, yet, besides the example of a state which had shown from of old the scantiest consideration for
prisoners of war, they were also moved by the greatness of the sum required, not wishing either to exhaust the treasury, on which they had already made a heavy draft to purchase slaves and arm them for service, or to furnish Hannibal with money1
—the one thing of which he was rumoured to stand most in need.
When the stern reply, that the prisoners would not be ransomed, had gone forth, [p. 407]
and fresh sorrow had been added to the old, at the2
loss of so many of their fellow-citizens, the crowd attended the envoys to the gate with many tears and lamentations.
One of them departed to his home, pretending to have freed himself from his oath when he deceitfully returned to the enemy's camp. As soon as this became known and was reported to the senators, they voted unanimously to arrest him and appointed guards to conduct him back to Hannibal.
There is also another accounts3
of the prisoners of war: that ten envoys came at first, and that the senate, after hesitating whether or no to admit them to the City, admitted them, with the proviso that they should have no hearing.
Later, on their delaying longer than anybody had anticipated, three additional envoys came, namely Lucius Scribonius and Gaius Calpurnius and Lucius Manlius; then at last a motion was made in the senate by a kinsman of Scribonius, who was tribune of plebs,4
that the prisoners be ransomed, but the motion was defeated;
the three new envoys now returned to Hannibal, but the original ten remained in Rome, alleging that they had freed themselves of their obligation by going back to Hannibal's camp, after starting on their journey, under the pretext of reviewing the prisoners' names.
A proposal to surrender them was hotly debated in the senate and was lost by only a few votes.
However, under the next censors the ten were so overwhelmed with every species of reprobation and disgrace that some of them killed themselves forthwith, and the rest [p. 409]
during all the remainder of their lives avoided not5
only the Forum, but, one might almost say, the light of day and the public streets.
It is more amazing that the authorities should be so divergent than easy to make out the truth.
For the rest, how greatly this disaster exceeded those that had gone before is plain from this: the loyalty of the allies, which had held firm until the day of Cannae, now began to waver, assuredly for no other reason than because they had lost all hope of the empire.
Now these are the peoples that revolted: the Campanians, the Atellani, the Calatini, the Hirpini, a part of the Apulians, all the
Samnites but the Pentri, all the Bruttii, the Lucanians, and besides these the Uzentini and almost all the Greeks on the coast, the Tarentines, the Metapontines, the Crotoniates and the Locri, together with all the Cisalpine Gauls.6
Yet these disasters and the falling away of the allies could not induce the Romans anywhere to mention peace, either before the consul came to Rome or after his coming had turned men's thoughts anew to the calamity which they had suffered.
In that very hour there was such courage in the hearts of the citizens that when the consul was returning from that defeat for which he himself had been chiefly responsible, a crowd of all sorts and conditions went out to meet him on the way, and gave him thanks because he had not despaired of the state;
whereas, had he been the commander of the Carthaginians, there was no punishment he would not have been compelled to suffer.7 [p. 411]