This was the last day of glory to shine on Publius Scipio. Since in future he foresaw unpopularity and quarrels with the tribunes, obtaining a longer adjournment he retired to his country place at Liternum,1
with the definite intention of not being present to plead his cause.2
His soul and character were too lofty, and too much accustomed to a greater fortune, to know how to be a defendant and to come down to the lowly position of men who must plead their cause.
When the day arrived and the summons for the absent defendant began to be proclaimed, Lucius Scipio gave illness as the reason for his absence.
When the tribunes who had accused him refused to accept this plea and maintained that he had not come to plead his cause because of the same arrogance as that with which he had deserted the trial and the tribunes of the people and the assembly, and with which, attended by those whom he had
robbed of their right to express their opinion of him and of their liberty, leading them captive, as it were, he had celebrated a triumph over the Roman people and had brought about a secession that day from the tribunes of the people to the Capitoline: “You have, therefore,” they said, “your reward for that rash conduct;
under his leadership and [p. 183]
sanction you abandoned us and by him you are3
yourselves abandoned, and so far has our spirit declined day by day that a man for whom seventeen years ago,4
when he commanded an army and a fleet, we dared to send tribunes of the people and an aedile, to arrest him and bring him back to Rome —to
that man, when a private citizen, we do not dare to send messengers to hale him forth from his country place to plead his cause”; the tribunes of the people, when appealed to5
by Lucius Scipio, thus decreed:
that, if the plea of illness were submitted, it was their pleasure that this plea should be accepted and the case adjourned by their colleagues. One of the tribunes of the people at this time was Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus,6
between whom and Publius Scipio there was a feud.
When he had forbidden his name to be signed to the decree of his colleagues, and all men were anticipating a harsher proposal, he thus decreed: that, since Lucius Scipio had given illness as the excuse for his brother, this seemed to him sufficient;
that he would not permit Publius Scipio to be prosecuted before he returned to Rome; that even then, if he were appealed to, he would come to Scipio's aid, to save him from pleading his cause:7
such heights had Publius Scipio reached, as a result of his own deeds and of the honours conferred by the Roman people, with the approbation of gods and men, that to compel him to stand as a defendant before the Rostra and listen to the insults [p. 185]
of young men8
would be a greater disgrace to the9
Roman people than to Scipio himself.