when the legates had been led back into the Senate House, the consul said: “not so forgetful have I been of the majesty of the Roman people and of this authority of mine, conscript fathers, that if it were a question of a charge brought against me, I as consul would have pleaded my case with Greeks as my accusers.
but it is not what I have done that is to be inquired into —for whatever I did in the case of enemies is defended by the law of war —but what they deserved to suffer. if they have not been enemies, it makes no difference whether it was recently or in the time of Hiero that I desolated Syracuse.1
but if they rebelled against the Roman people, if they attacked our ambassadors with sword and arms,2
closed their city and walls, defended them against us with an army of Carthaginians, who is indignant because they suffered hostile acts, when they have committed them?
when leading men among the Syracusans tried to surrender the city, I rejected them; I preferred Sosis and Moericus the Spaniard as the men to whom I should entrust so important a matter.
you are not Syracusans of the lowest rank, inasmuch as you reproach others with their humble station. who is there among you who promised that he would open the gates to me, that he would admit my soldiers under arms into the city? you hate and curse those who did so, and even here [p. 121]
you do not refrain from uttering insults against them.3
so far is it from the truth that you also would have done anything of the sort.
their humble rank, conscript fathers, of which those men make a reproach, is itself the strongest proof that I did not tum my back upon any man who wished to serve our state.
before I laid siege to Syracuse, I endeavoured, now by sending embassies, now by going to a conference, to secure peace; again, it was not until after they showed no shame in injuring ambassadors, and no answer was given even to myself, when I met with their leading men at the gates,4
that, having endured many hardships on land and sea, I at last captured Syracuse by force of arms.
of what befell the captured it is more reasonable for them to complain in the presence of Hannibal and the defeated Carthaginians than in the senate of a victorious nation.
for myself, conscript fathers, if I had been intending to deny the despoiling of Syracuse, I should never be using its spoils to adorn the city of Rome. but in what I as victor either took from individuals or gave to them, I am quite sure that I acted both according to the law of war and in accordance with each man's desert.
whether you confirm those acts, conscript fathers, or not, concerns the state more than myself. for my duty has been fully discharged; it is to the interest of the state that you do not make other commanders less energetic for the future by annulling my acts.
and seeing that you have heard face to face the words of the Sicilians, and mine as well, conscript fathers, we shall leave the temple at the same time, so that in my [p. 123]
absence the senate can deliberate with greater5
freedom.” so the Sicilians were dismissed, and he himself withdrew to the Capitol to conduct the levy.