Marcus Valerius, the consul, on being summoned by the letter, assigned his province and army to Lucius Cincius,1
a praetor, and sent Marcus Valerius Messalla, admiral of the fleet, with a part of his ships to Africa, to plunder and at the same time to find out what the Carthaginian state was doing and preparing to do.
The consul himself set out for Rome with ten ships, and on his safe arrival he at once held a session of the senate, in which he set forth his own achievements:
that for almost sixty years war had been carried on in Sicily by land and sea, often with great losses, but now he had completed [p. 219]
the conquest of that province.
He said that there2
was not a Carthaginian in Sicily; that not a Sicilian was absent;
that those who had been absent, banished by their fears, had all been brought back to their cities, to their lands, and were ploughing and sowing;
that a deserted land was again under cultivation, productive at last for the farmers themselves, and for the Roman people in peace and in war a most dependable source of the grain supply.3
Then Muttines and any others who had done services to the Roman people were brought into the senate, and honours were bestowed upon them all, in fulfilment of the consul's promise.4
Muttines was even made a Roman citizen, when in accordance with a decree of the senate a bill had been proposed to the plebs by its tribunes.
While these events were occurring at Rome, Marcus Valerius, having approached the coast of Africa with fifty ships before daybreak, made an unexpected landing on the territory of Utica. And this he ravaged far and wide, captured many persons together with other booty of every description, returned to his ships and crossed over to Sicily, sailing back to Lilybaeum on the 13th day after he had left that port.
Upon inquiry made from the captives the following facts were ascertained and written down fully and in order for the consul Laevinus, that he might know what the condition of affairs in Africa was:
that five thousand Numidians were at Carthage under Masinissa,5
son of Gala [p. 221]
and a most impetuous young man; and that other6
soldiers were being hired everywhere in Africa, to be sent over to Hasdrubal in Spain, so that he should cross over into Italy with the largest possible army as soon as he could and join Hannibal;
that upon this the Carthaginians believed that victory depended;
furthermore that a very large fleet was being made ready, for the purpose of recovering Sicily; and he believed that fleet would soon make the passage.
These statements as read by the consul so swayed the senators that they decided that he must not wait for the elections, but that after appointing a dictator to conduct the elections, the consul must at once return to his province.
Debate continued on one point —namely, the consul kept promising to appoint in Sicily Marcus Valerius Messalla, then in command of the fleet, as dictator, while the fathers maintained that a dictator could not be appointed outside of Roman territory, and that this was confined to Italy.
When Marcus Lucretius, tribune of the plebs, sought to know its pleasure7
in the matter, the senate decreed that, before leaving the city, the consul should ask the people8
whom they preferred to have named dictator, and should name as dictator the man ordered by the people; that if the consul should refuse, the praetor should ask the people; in case of his refusal also, the tribunes should bring the matter before the commons.9
When the consul refused to submit to the people a question that belonged to his own authority, and forbade the praetor to do so, the tribunes asked the commons [p. 223]
and the commons ordained that Quintus Fulvius,10
who was then at Capua, should be named dictator.
But on the day on which that plebeian assembly was to be held the consul left for Sicily secretly by night. And the fathers, being deserted, voted to send a letter to Marcus Claudius, that he should come to the aid of the state abandoned by his colleague, and should name as dictator whomsoever the people might command.
Thus Quintus Fulvius was named dictator by Marcus Claudius,11
the consul, and in accordance with the same decree of the commons Publius Licinius Crassus, pontifex maximus, was named master of the horse by Quintus Fulvius as dictator.