“But what need is there of ancient and foreign examples to remind us what sort of thing it is boldly to carry terror against an enemy, and, removing the danger from oneself, to [p. 1225]
bring another into peril?
Can there be a stronger instance than Hannibal himself, or one more to the point? It makes a great difference whether you devastate the territories of another, or see your own destroyed by fire and sword.
He who brings danger upon another has more spirit than he who repels it. Add to this, that the terror excited by unknown circumstances is increased on that account.
When you have entered the territory of an enemy, you may have a near view of his advantages and disadvantages. Hannibal did not expect that it would come to pass that so many of the states in Italy would come over to him as did so after the defeat at Cannae.
How much less would any firmness or constancy be experienced in Africa by the Carthaginians, who are themselves faithless allies, oppressive and haughty masters! Besides, we, even when deserted by our allies, stood firm in our own strength, the Roman soldiery. The Carthaginians possess no native strength. The soldiers they have are obtained by hire; —Africans and Numidians —people remarkable above all others for the inconstancy of their attachments.
Provided no impediment arises here, you will hear at once that I have landed, and that Africa is blazing with war; that Hannibal is preparing for his departure from this country, and that Carthage is besieged.
Expect more frequent and more joyful despatches from Africa than you received from Spain. The considerations on which I ground my anticipations are the good fortune of the Roman people, the gods, the witnesses of the treaty violated by the enemy, the kings Syphax and Masinissa; on whose fidelity I will rely in such a manner as that I may be secure from danger should they prove perfidious.
Many things which are not now apparent, at this distance, the war will develope; and it is the part of a man, and a general, not to be wanting when fortune presents itself, and to bend its events to his designs.
I shall, Quintus Fabius, have the opponent you assign me, Hannibal; but I shall rather draw him after me than be kept here by him. I will compel him to fight in his own country, and Carthage shall be the prize of victory rather than the half-ruined forts of the Bruttians.
With regard to providing that the state sustain no injury in the mean time, while I am crossing over, while I am landing my troops in Africa, while I am advancing my camp to the walls of Carthage;
be not too sure that it is not an insult to [p. 1226]
Publius Licinius, the consul, a man of consummate valour, who did not draw lots for so distant a province merely that, as he was chief pontiff, he might not be absent from religious affairs, to say that he is unable to do that, now that the power of Hannibal is shaken, and in a manner shattered, which you, Quintus Fabius, were able to effect when he was flying victorious throughout all Italy.
By Hercules, even if the war would not be more speedily terminated by adopting the plan I propose, yet it were consistent with the dignity of the Roman people, and the high character they enjoy with foreign kings and nations, to appear to have had spirit not only to defend Italy, but also to carry hostilities into Africa; and that it should not be supposed and spread abroad that no Roman general dared what Hannibal had dared;
that in the former Punic war, when the contest was about Sicily, Africa should have been so often attacked by our fleets and armies, and that now, when the contest is about Italy, Africa should be left undisturbed.
Let Italy, which has so long been harassed, at length enjoy some repose; let Africa, in her turn, be fired and devastated.
Let the Roman camp overhang the gates of Carthage rather than that we should again behold the rampart of the enemy from our walls. Let Africa be the seat of the remainder of the war. Let terror and flight, the devastation of lands, the defection of allies, and all the other calamities of war which have fallen upon us, through a period of fourteen years, be turned upon her.
It is sufficient for me to have spoken on those matters which relate to the state, the war before us, and the provinces which form the subject of deliberation.
My discourse would be tedious and uninteresting to you if, as Fabius has depreciated my services in Spain, I should also in like manner endeavour, on the other hand, to turn his glory into ridicule, and make the most of my own.
I will do neither, conscript fathers; and if in nothing else, though a young man, I shall certainly have shown my superiority over this old man, in modesty and the government of my tongue. Such has been my life, and such the services I have performed, that I can gladly rest contented in silence with that opinion which you have spontaneously conceived of me.”