When Hannibal had informed himself of the amount of the revenues arising from taxes and port duties, for what purposes they were issued from the treasury, what proportion of them was consumed by the ordinary expenses of the state, and how much was alienated by embezzlement;
he asserted [p. 1487]
in an assembly of the people, that if payment were enforced of the residuary funds, the taxes might be remitted to the subjects; and that the state would still be rich enough to pay the tribute to the Romans: which assertion he proved to be true.
But now those persons who, for several years past, had maintained themselves by plundering the public, were greatly enraged; as if this were ravishing from them their own property, and not as dragging out of their hands their ill-gotten spoil. Accordingly, they instigated the Romans against Hannibal, who were seeking a pretext for indulging their hatred against him.
A strenuous opposition was, however, for a long time made to this by Scipio Africanus, who thought it highly unbecoming the dignity of the Roman people to make themselves a party in the animosities and charges against Hannibal;
to interpose the public authority among factions of the Carthaginians, not deeming it sufficient to have conquered that commander in the field, but to become as it were his prosecutors1
in a judicial process, and preferring an action against him. Yet at length the point was carried, that an embassy should be sent to Carthage to represent to the senate there, that Hannibal, in concert with king Antiochus, was forming plans for kindling a war. Three
ambassadors were sent, Caius Servilius, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, and Quintus Terentius Culleo. These, when they had arrived at Carthage, by the advice of Hannibal's enemies, ordered, that any who inquired the cause of
their coming should be told, that they came to determine the disputes subsisting between the Carthaginians and Masinissa, king of Numidia; and this was generally believed. But Hannibal was not ignorant that he was the sole object aimed at by the Romans; and that, though they had granted peace to the Carthaginians, their war against him, individually, remained irreconcilable. He
therefore determined to give way to fortune and the times; and having already made every preparation for flight, he showed himself that day in the forum, in order to guard against suspicion; and, as soon as it grew dark, went in his common dress [p. 1488]
to one of the gates, with his two attendants, who knew nothing of his intention.