“If you either had a colleague like yourself, Lucius Aemilius, which is what I should prefer, or you were like your colleague, an address from me would be superfluous.
For were you both good consuls, you would do every thing for the good of the state from your own sense of honour, even without my saying a word: and were you both bad consuls, you would neither receive my words into your ears, nor my counsels into your minds.
As the case now is, looking at your colleague and yourself, a man of such character, my address will be solely to you; who, I feel convinced, will prove yourself a good man and a worthy citizen in vain, if the state on the other hand should halt. Pernicious counsels will have the same authority and influence as those which are sound.
For you are mistaken, Lucius Paulus, if you imagine that you will have a less violent contest with Caius Terentius than with Hannibal.
I know not whether the former, your opponent, or the latter, your open enemy, be the more hostile. With the latter you will have to contend in the field only; with the former, at every place and time. Hannibal, moreover, you have to oppose with your own horse and foot; while Varro will head your own soldiers against you.
Let Caius Flaminius be absent from your thoughts, even for the omen's sake. Yet he only began to play the madman's consul, in his province, and at the head of the army. This man is raving before he put up for the consulship, afterwards while canvassing for it, and now having obtained it, before he has seen the camp or the enemy.
And he who by talking largely of battles and marshalled armies, even now excites such storms among the citizens with their gowns on, what do you think he will effect among the youth in arms, where words are followed forthwith by acts?
But be assured, if this man, as he protests he will, shall immediately engage the enemy, either I am unacquainted with military affairs, with this kind of war, and the character of the enemy, or another place will become more celebrated than the Trasimenus by our disasters.
Neither is this the season for boasting while I am addressing one man; and besides, I have exceeded the bounds of moderation in despising rather than in courting fame. But the case is really this. The only way of conducting the war [p. 809]
Hannibal is that which I adopted: nor does the event only, that instructor of fools, demonstrate it, but that same reasoning which has continued hitherto, and will continue unchangeable so long as circumstances shall remain the same.
We are carrying on war in Italy, in our own country, and our own soil.
All around us are countrymen and allies in abundance. With arms, men, horses, and provisions, they do and will assist us. Such proofs of their fidelity have they given in our adversity. Time, nay, every day makes us better, wiser, and firmer.
Hannibal, on the contrary, is in a foreign, a hostile land, amidst all hostile and disadvantageous circumstances, far from his home, far from his country; he has peace neither by land nor sea: no cities, no walls receive him: he sees nothing any where which he can call his own: he daily lives by plunder. He has now scarcely a third part of that army which he conveyed across the Iberus.
Famine has destroyed more than the sword; nor have the few remaining a sufficient supply of provisions.
Do you doubt, therefore, whether by remaining quiet we shall not conquer him who is daily sinking into decrepitude? who has neither provisions nor money?
How long before the walls of Geronium, a miserable fortress of Apulia, as if before the walls of Carthage — —? But not even in your presence will I boast.
See how Cneius Servilius and Atilius, the last consuls, fooled him. This is the only path of safety, Lucius Paulus, which your countrymen will render more difficult and dangerous to you than their enemies will.
For your own soldiers will desire the same thing as those of the enemy: Varro, a Roman consul, and Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, will wish the same thing. You alone must resist two generals: and you will resist them sufficiently if you stand firm against the report and the rumours of men; if neither the empty glory of your colleague, and the unfounded calumnies against yourself, shall move you. They say that truth too often suffers, but is never destroyed.
He who despises fame will have it genuine. Let them call you coward instead of cautious, dilatory instead of considerate, unwarlike instead of an expert general.
I would rather that a sagacious enemy should fear you, than that foolish countrymen should commend you. A man who hazards all things Hannibal will despise, him who does nothing rashly he will fear.
And neither do I advise that nothing should be done; but that in [p. 810]
what you do, reason should guide you, and not fortune. All things will be within your own power, and your own. Be always ready armed and on the watch, and neither be wanting when a favourable opportunity presents itself, nor give any favourable opportunity to the enemy.
All things are clear and sure to the deliberate man. Precipitation is improvident and blind.”