"It is but fair, Publius Cornelius, that you should pardon me, if I, who in my own case never preferred the honour of men to the interest of the state, do not place even your fame before the public good.
Although, if there were either no war in Italy, or an enemy of such a description that no glory could be acquired from conquering him, the man who would retain you in Italy, though actuated by a desire to promote the public good, might appear to wish to deprive you of an opportunity of acquiring renown when he objected to your removing the war.
But since Hannibal is our antagonist, who is besieging Italy for now the fourteenth year, with an army unimpaired, will you have reason to be dissatisfied, Publius Cornelius, with the glory you will acquire, if you in your consulate shall drive out of Italy an enemy who has been the cause of so many deaths and so many disasters to us, and if you should enjoy the distinction of having terminated this, as Caius Lutatius did the former Punic war?
Unless either Hamilcar is a general more worthy of consideration than Hannibal, or a war in Africa of more importance, or a victory there greater and more glorious, (should it be our lot to be victorious while you are consul,) than one here. Would you rather have drawn away Hamilcar from Drepanum and Eryx than have expelled the Carthaginians and Hannibal from Italy?
Although you naturally prize more highly the renown which you have acquired than that which
you hope for, yet surely you would not boast more of having freed Spain from war than of having freed Italy.
Hannibal is not as yet in such a state as that the man who prefers another war would not appear to have feared rather than to have despised him. Why then do you not apply yourself to this, and carry the war in a straightforward manner to the place where Hannibal is, rather than pursue that circuitous course, according to which you expect that when you shall have crossed over into Africa Hannibal will follow you thither? Do you seek to obtain the distinguished honour of having finished the Punic war?
After you have defended your own possessions, for this is naturally the first object, then proceed to attack those of others.
Let there be peace in Italy before war in [p. 1219]
Africa; and let us be free from fear ourselves before we bring it upon others.
If it is possible that both objects may be accomplished under your conduct and auspices, having first conquered Hannibal here, then go and lay siege to Carthage; but if one or other of these conquests must be left for the succeeding consuls, the former is both the greater and more glorious, and also the cause of the second.
For now indeed, besides that the treasury is not able to maintain two different armies, one in Italy and one in Africa; besides that we have nothing left from which we may equip fleets or be able to furnish provisions, who knows not how great danger would be incurred? 'Publius Licinius will wage war in Italy, Publius Scipio in Africa.
What if, (an omen which may all the gods avert, and which my mind shrinks back with alarm from mentioning, —but what has happened may happen again, —) what I say, if Hannibal, having gained a victory, should advance to the city?
Shall we then at length send for you, our consul, out of Africa, as we formerly sent for Quintus Fulvius from Capua? What shall we say when we consider that in Africa also both parties will be liable to the chances of war?
Let your own house, your father and your uncle, slain together with their armies within the space of thirty days, after that, having spent several years in the performance of the most important services, both by sea and land, they had
inspired foreign nations with the highest reverence for the name of the Roman people and your family, be a warning to you.
The day would fail me were I disposed to enumerate the kings and generals who have brought the most signal calamities upon themselves and their armies by rashly passing into the territories of their enemies.
The Athenians, a state distinguished for prudence, leaving a war at home, sent a great fleet into Sicily at the instance of a youth equally enterprising and illustrious; but by one naval battle they reduced their flourishing republic to a state of humiliation from which she could never recover.