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Treacherous Attempt on the Lives of the Roman Envoys

After delivering this' speech the envoys retired. Some
Treacherous attempt on the lives of the Roman envoys.
few of the citizens were against breaking the treaty; but the majority, both of the politicians and the Senate, were much annoyed by its terms, and irritated by the plain speaking of the envoys; and, moreover, could not make up their minds to surrender the captured transports and the provisions which were on board them. But their main motive was a confident hope that they might yet conquer by means of Hannibal. The people therefore voted to dismiss the envoys without an answer. Moreover, the political party, whose aim it was to bring on the war at all hazards, held a meeting and arranged the following act of treachery. They gave out that it was necessary to make provision for conducting the envoys back to their camp in safety. They therefore at once caused two triremes to be got ready to convoy them; but at the same time sent a message to the Navarch Hasdrubal to have some vessels ready at no great distance from the Roman camp, in order that, as soon as the convoys had taken leave of the Roman envoys, he might bear down upon their ships and sink them; for the Carthaginian fleet was stationed at the time close under Utica. Having made this arrangement with Hasdrubal, they despatched the envoys, with instructions to the officers of the convoys to leave them and return, as soon as they had passed the mouth of the River Macara; for it was from this point that the enemy's camp came into sight. Therefore, according to their instructions, as soon as they had passed this point, the officers of the convoys made signs of farewell to the Roman envoys and returned. Lucius and his colleagues suspected no danger, and felt no other annoyance at this proceeding than as regarding it as a mark of disrespect. But no sooner were they left thus alone, than three Carthaginian vessels suddenly started out to attack them, and came up with the Roman quinquereme. They failed, indeed, to stave her in, because she evaded them; nor did they succeed in boarding her, because the men resisted them with great spirit. But they ran up alongside of the vessel, and kept attacking her at various points, and managed to wound the marines with their darts and kill a considerable number of them; until at last the Romans, observing that their forage parties along the shore were rushing down to the beach to their assistance, ran their ships upon land. Most of the marines were killed, but the envoys had the unexpected good fortune to escape with their lives.

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