Their ambassadors, being introduced into the senate, spoke as near as possible to this purport: “Conscript fathers, the Campanian state has sent us to you, to solicit from you friendship for ever, and present aid, which if we had solicited whilst our affairs were prosperous, as it would have commenced more readily, so would it have been bound by a weaker tie.
For then, as we should have recollected that we entered into friendship on equal terms, we might be equally friendly as [p. 483]
now, but less submissive and compliant with your wishes Now, won over by your compassion
for us, and defended by your aid in our critical circumstances, it is incumbent on us that we show our sense also of the kindness received; lest we should seem ungrateful, and undeserving of aid from either god or man.
Nor, indeed, do I think that because the Samnites first became your allies and friends, such a circumstance is sufficient to prevent our being admitted into friendship; but merely shows that they excel us in priority and in the degree of honour; for no provision has been made in your treaty with the Samnites that you should not form any new treaties.
It has ever been with you a sufficient title to your friendship, that he who sought it desired to be a friend of yours.
We, Campanians, though our present state forbids us to speak in high terms, not yielding to any state save you in the extent of our city, or in the fertility of our land, come into friendship with you, no inconsiderable accession in my opinion to your flourishing condition.
We shall be in the rear of the Aequans and Volscians, the eternal enemies of this city, whenever they may stir; and whatever ye shall be the first to perform in defence of our safety, the same shall we ever do in defence of your empire and glory.
Those nations which lie between us and you being reduced, which both your bravery and good fortune makes it certain will soon be the case, you will then have an uninterrupted empire extending even to us.
It is distressing and painful, what our condition obliges us to confess. Conscript fathers, matters are come to this, that we Campanians must be the property either of friends or enemies. If you defend us, yours; if you desert us, we shall be the property of the Samnites.
Consider, then, whether you would rather that Capua and all Campania should be added to your power or to that of the Samnites.
Romans, it is surely but just, that your compassion and your aid should lie open to all men; to those, however, chiefly, who, whilst they afford it beyond their means to others imploring aid, have themselves been involved in this distress.
Although we fought nominally for the Sidicinians, in reality for ourselves, when we saw a neighbouring state assailed by the nefarious plunder of the Samnites; and after the Sidicinians had been consumed, we saw that the conflagration would pass over to ourselves. For the Samnites do [p. 484]
not come to attack us, because they resent an injury received, but because they are glad that a pretext has been presented to them.
If this were the gratification of their resentment, and not an occasion for satiating their ambition,
was it not sufficient that they cut down our legions once in the Sidicinian territory, a second time in Campania itself? What sort of resentment must that be, which the blood shed in two pitched battles cannot satiate?
To this add the laying waste of our lands; the spoil of men and cattle driven away, the burning and ruin of our country-houses, every thing destroyed by fire and sword. Could not resentment be satisfied with this? But ambition must be satiated. That hurries them on to besiege Capua.
They either wish to destroy that most beautiful city, or to possess it themselves. But, Romans, do you take possession of it in your kindness, rather than suffer them to hold it by injustice.
I am not addressing a people who decline just wars; but still, if you make but a show of your aid, I do not think that you will have occasion for war. The contempt of the Samnites has just reached to us; it soars not higher. Accordingly, Romans, we may be protected even by the shadow of your aid: whatever after this we shall possess, whatever we ourselves shall be, determined to consider all that as yours.
For you the Campanian field shall be ploughed; for you the city of Capua shall be made populous; you shall be to us in the light of founders, parents, ay, even immortal gods.
There shall be no colony of your own which shall surpass us in attachment and loyalty to you. Grant to the Campanians, conscript fathers, your nod, and your irresistible favour, and bid us hope that Capua will be safe.
With what crowds of persons of all classes attending us do you suppose that we set out from thence —how, think you, did we leave every place full of vows and tears?
In what a state of expectation do you suppose that the senate are, the Campanian nation, our wives and our children?
I am certain that the entire multitude are standing at the gates, looking forward to the road that leads from hence, anxious as to what answer you may order us, conscript fathers, to bring back to them, in their solicitude and suspense of mind.
One kind of answer may bring them safety, victory, light, and liberty —what the other may, I feel horror to think. Determine there- [p. 485]
fore about us, as about persons who will be your future friends and allies, or as persons who are to have no existence any where.”