the sight of so merciless a punishment broke the spirit of the Capuans. a gathering of the people before the Senate House compelled Loesius to summon the senate. and they openly threatened the leading citizens, who for a long time had been absent from public deliberations, that if they did not come into the senate, they would make the rounds of their homes and forcibly bring them all out into the streets.
the fear of that gave the magistrate a full session of the senate. there, while all the rest were speaking of sending legates to the Roman generals, Vibius Virrius,1
who had proposed rebellion from [p. 49]
on being asked for his opinion, said that the2
men who were speaking of embassies and of peace and surrender did not recall either what they would have done, if they had had the Romans in their power, or what they themselves must suffer.
“tell me,” he said, “do you suppose it will be the same kind of surrender as that under which we once gave up ourselves and all our possessions to the Romans, that we might obtain their aid against the Samnites?3
have you already forgotten in what a critical moment and in what a situation for the Roman people we have revolted from them? have you already forgotten how at the time of our revolt we with torture and as an insult put to death a garrison which we might have let go?4
or how often and with what bitterness we have made a sally against the besiegers, have beset their camps, have called in Hannibal to overpower them?
or how —this the most recent occurrence —we have sent him away to lay siege to Rome? and now for the other side, recall what have been their acts of hostility towards us, that by so doing you may know what you have to expect. when a foreign enemy —was in Italy, and that enemy Hannibal, and when everywhere were the flames of war, neglecting everything, neglecting even Hannibal, they sent both consuls and two consular armies to besiege Capua.
now for the second year they are wasting us away by starvation, shut up inside their contravallation, while they too like ourselves have endured the utmost dangers and most serious hardships, have been slain, many of them, about their earthworks and trenches, and have at last had their camp almost taken.
but I pass over these things; to suffer hardships and dangers in besieging a city of [p. 51]
the enemy is an old and familiar story. i proceed to5
proof of anger and hatred that are unspeakable.
Hannibal with immense forces of infantry and cavalry besieged and partly captured their camp: by such danger they were not moved at all to give up the siege.
setting out across the Volturnus he ravaged the territory of Cales with fire: by such a disaster to allies they were in no wise called away. he ordered his hostile standards to be carried to the city of Rome itself: that impending storm also they scorned. crossing the Anio6
he pitched camp three miles from the city, finally came close to the very walls and gates, showed that unless they should leave Capua he would take Rome away from them: they did not leave Capua. wild beasts, though excited by blind impulse and fury, can be diverted to bring help to their young, if one goes towards their lairs and their whelps.
as for the Romans, the siege of Rome, their wives and children, whose wailing could almost be heard from here, their altars and hearths, the shrines of their gods, the desecrated and profaned tombs of their ancestors did not divert them from Capua.
such is their ardour in demanding punishment, such their thirst to drink our blood.
and perhaps not without reason; we too should have done the same, had the chance been given us. therefore since the immortal gods have made a contrary decision, inasmuch as I ought under no circumstances to refuse death, I, while free and my own master, can escape tortures and insults which the enemy is preparing, by a death which is not only honourable, but also gentle.
i shall not see Appius Claudius and Quintus Fulvius, emboldened by their insolent victory, nor shall I be dragged in chains [p. 53]
through the city of Rome as a spectacle in a triumph,7
so that I may then breathe my last in the prison, or else, bound to a stake, with my back mangled by rods, may submit my neck to the Roman axe. nor shall I see my native city destroyed and burned, nor Capuan matrons and maidens and free —born boys carried off to be dishonoured.
Alba, from which they had themselves sprung, they levelled with its foundations,8
that their stock, that the memory of their origin, might not survive; much less am I to believe that they will spare Capua, to which they are more hostile than to Carthage.
accordingly, as many of you as are minded to yield to fate before they see all these sights that are so bitter, for such in my house a feast is spread and in readiness today.
when we have had our fill of wine and food, the same cup which has been served to me shall be carried round. that draught will defend the body from torture, the mind from insults, eyes and ears from seeing and hearing all the bitter and unseemly things which await the vanquished. men will be ready to light a great pyre in the court9
of the house and throw our lifeless bodies upon it.
this is the one way, at once honourable and independent, that leads to death. even our enemies will admire our courage, and Hannibal will also know that they were brave allies whom he has abandoned and betrayed.”