Then, a herald having obtained silence, he thus began: "I imagined that language would never fail me in which to address my army;
not that I have ever accustomed myself to speaking rather than action, but because, having been kept in a camp almost from my boyhood, I had become familiar with the dispositions of soldiers.
But I am at a loss both for sentiments and expressions with which to address you, whom I know not even by what name I ought to call.
Can I call you countrymen, who have revolted from your country? or soldiers, who have rejected the command and authority of your general, and violated the solemn obligation of your oath? Can I call you enemies?
I recognise the persons, faces, dress, and mien of fellow countrymen; but I perceive the actions, expressions, intentions, and feelings of enemies. For what have you wished and hoped for, but what the Ilergetians and Lacetanians did. Yet they followed Mandonius and Indibilis, men of royal rank, who were the leaders of their mad project; you conferred the auspices and command upon the Umbrian, Atrius, and the Calenian, Albius.
Deny, soldiers, that you were all concerned in this measure, or that you approved of it when taken. I shall willingly believe, when you disclaim it, that it was the folly and madness of a few. For the acts which have been committed are of such a nature, that, if [p. 1199]
the whole army participated in them, they could not be expiated without atonements of tremendous magnitude.
Upon these points, like wounds, I touch with reluctance; but unless touched and handled, they cannot be cured.
For my own part, I believed that, after the Carthaginians were expelled from Spain, there was not a place in the whole province where, or any persons to whom, my life was obnoxious; such was the manner in which I had conducted myself, not only towards my allies, but even towards my enemies.
But lo, even in my own camp, so much was I deceived in my opinion, the report of my death was not only readily believed, but anxiously waited for.
Not that I wish to implicate you all in this enormity; for, be assured, if I supposed that the whole of my army desired my death, I would here immediately expire before your eyes; nor could I take any pleasure in a life which was odious to my countrymen and my soldiers.
But every multitude is in its nature like the ocean; which, though in itself incapable of motion, is excited by storms and winds. So, also, in yourselves there is calm and there are storms; but the cause and origin of your fury is entirely attributable to those who led you on; you have caught your madness by contagion.
Nay, even this day you do not appear to me to be aware to what a pitch of phrensy you have proceeded; what a heinous crime you have dared to commit against myself, your country, your parents, your children; against the gods, the witnesses of your oath; against the auspices under which you serve; against the laws of war, the discipline of your ancestors, and the majesty of the highest authority.
With regard to myself, I say nothing. You may have believed the report of my death rather inconsiderately than eagerly. Lastly, suppose me to be such a man that it could not at all be a matter of astonishment that my army should be weary of my command, yet what had your country deserved of you, which you betrayed by making common cause with Mandonius and Indibilis?
What the Roman people, when, taking the command from the tribunes appointed by their suffrages, you conferred it on private men? When, not content even with having them for tribunes, you, a Roman army, conferred the fasces of your general upon men who never had a slave under their command?
Albius and Atrius had their tents in your general's pavilion. With them the trumpet sounded, from [p. 1200]
them the word was taken, they sat upon the tribunal of Scipio, upon whom the lictor attended, for them the crowd was cleared away as they moved along, before them the fasces with the axes were carried.
When showers of stones descend, lightnings are darted from the heavens, and animals give birth to monsters, you consider these things as prodigies. This is a prodigy which can be expiated by no victims, by no supplications, without the blood of those men who have dared to commit so great a crime.