Their ambassadors, on being introduced into the senate, spoke substantially as follows: "The Campanian people has sent us to you as ambassadors, Conscript Fathers, to solicit your lasting friendship and present help.
Had we sought this amity when our affairs were prosperous, though it had been begun more quickly, yet had it been contracted with a weaker bond; for in that case, as those who remembered that they had joined with you in friendship on an equal footing, though perhaps as much your friends as now, we should have been less subject and beholden to you;
as it is, attached to you by your compassion [p. 459]
and defended in our time of trouble by your aid,1
we must lovingly remember the benefit also, lest we appear as ingrates and undeserving of any help, divine or human.
Nor do I think, in sober truth, that the circumstance of the Samnites having become your allies and friends before ourselves should make against our being received into your friendship, though it entitle them to an advantage over us in respect of priority and rank; and indeed there was no stipulation in your treaty with the Samnites that you should make no further treaties.
"It has ever been with you a sufficiently just cause for friendship that he who sought you desired to be friends with you.
We Campanians, though our present plight will not suffer us to boast, are inferior neither in the splendour of our city, nor yet in the fertility of our soil, to any people but yourselves; and in associating ourselves with you we bring, as I think, no small accession to your prosperity.
As often as the Aequi and the Volsci —perpetual enemies of this city —shall stir abroad, we shall be upon their backs, and what you will have done first for our preservation, that we will ever do for your empire and your glory.
When once you have subdued these nations that lie between our boundaries and your own —a thing which your valour and good fortune guarantee will speedily come to pass —your rule will extend unbroken all the way to our frontier.
Grievous and pitiful is the confession that our misfortune obliges us to make: to that pass, Conscript Fathers, are we Campanians come that we must be the chattels either of our friends or of our enemies.
Defend us, and we are yours; desert us, and the Samnites will possess us. Consider [p. 461]
therefore whether it be your preference that Capua and2
all Campania augment Rome's power, or that of Samnium.
"It is meet that your compassion, Romans, and your succour should be open to all mankind, but especially to those who in endeavouring beyond their strength to grant these blessings to the prayers of others, have come themselves to require them most of all.
And yet we fought but ostensibly for the Sidicini, in reality for ourselves, since we saw that a people on our borders was being cruelly despoiled by the brigand Samnites, and that, once that conflagration had consumed the Sidicini, it would spread to us.
Nor at this very moment are the Samnites come to attack us out of resentment for any injury received, but rejoicing rather that a pretext has been afforded them.
Otherwise, if this were the satisfaction of revenge and not an opportunity to appease their greed, was it not enough that first in the territory of Sidicinum, and again in Campania itself, they made slaughter of our legions?
What wrath is this, that is so implacable that the blood two armies have poured out cannot appease it? Add to this the devastation of our lands and the booty they have driven off, both men and cattle; add the burning and destruction of our farm-houses and the general havoc fire and sword have wrought.
Could not all this placate their wrath? Nay, but their greed must be appeased. It is this that hurries them to the siege of Capua; they must needs either destroy the fairest of cities, or themselves become its masters.
But do you, Romans, sooner gain it by your generosity than suffer them to have it by their malice. I am not speaking before a people that [p. 463]
refuses righteous wars; still, if you make but a show3
of helping us, you will have, I think, no need of going to war.
As far as to ourselves does the scorn of the Samnites reach, it mounts not higher; accordingly the shadow of your help is able, Romans, to protect us, and whatever thereafter we shall have, whatever we ourselves shall be, we shall consider wholly yours.
For you shall be ploughed the Campanian plain, for you shall the city of Capua be crowded; you shall be to us as founders, parents, and immortal gods; you shall have no colony that surpasses us in obedience and loyalty.
“Grant the favour of your countenance, Conscript Fathers, and of your unconquered might, to the Campanians, and bid them hope that Capua will be saved.
With what thronging crowds of every sort were we accompanied, think you, at our setting out? How did we leave on every hand prayers and tears!
In what suspense are now the senate and the people of Campania, our wives and our children! Well I know that all the people are standing at the gates, their eyes fixed on the northern road. What message, Conscript Fathers, do you hid us carry back to their perplexed and troubled spirits?
One answer would bring salvation, victory, light, and liberty; the other —I shrink from the ominous prediction! Do you therefore deliberate regarding us, as regarding those who shall either be your allies and friends, or else have no being anywhere.”