Ambassadors were therefore despatched from both nations at the same time to Hannibal, who thus addressed the Carthaginian:
“Hannibal, we carried on hostilities with the Roman people, by ourselves and from our own resources, as long as our own arms and our own strength could protect us. Our confidence in these failing, we attached ourselves to king Pyrrhus.
Abandoned by him, we accepted of a peace, dictated by necessity, which we continued to observe up to the period when you arrived in Italy, through a period of almost fifty years.
Your valour and good fortune, not more than your unexampled humanity and kindness displayed towards our countrymen, whom, when made prisoners, you restored to us, so attached us to you, that while you our friend were in health and safety, we not only feared not the Romans, but not even the anger of the gods, if it were lawful so to express ourselves.
And yet, by Hercules, you not only being in safety and victorious, but on the spot, (when you could almost hear the shrieks of our wives and children, and see our buildings in flames,) we have suffered, during this summer, such repeated devastations, that Marcellus, and not Hannibal, would appear to have been the conqueror at Cannae; while the Romans boast that you had strength only to inflict a single blow; and having as it were left your sting, now lie torpid.
For near a century we waged war with the Romans, unaided by any foreign general or army; except that for two years Pyrrhus rather augmented his own strength by the addition of our troops, than defended us by his.
I will not boast of our successes, that two consuls and two consular armies were sent under the yoke by us, nor of any other joyful and glorious events which have happened to us.
We can tell of the difficulties and distresses we then experienced, with less indignation than those which are now occurring. Dictators, those officers of high authority, with their
masters of horse, two consuls with two consular armies, entered our borders, and, after having reconnoitred and posted reserves, led on their troops in regular array to devastate our country. Now we [p. 887]
are the prey of a single proprietor, and of one little garrison, for the defence of Nola.
Now they do not even confine themselves to plundering in companies, but, like marauders, range through our country from one end to the other, more unconcernedly than if they were rambling through the Roman territory.
And the reason is this, you do not protect us yourself, and the whole of our youth, which, if at home, would keep us in safety, is serving under your banners.
We know nothing either of you or your army, but we know that it would be easy for the man who has routed and dispersed so many Roman armies, to put down these rambling freebooters of ours, who roam about in disorder to whatsoever quarter the hope of booty, however groundless, attracts them.
They indeed will be the prey of a few Numidians, and a garrison sent to us will also dislodge that at Nola, provided you do not think those men undeserving that you should protect them as allies, whom you have esteemed worthy of your alliance.”