But, though there were four military tribunes there, Fabius Maximus of the first legion, whose father had been dictator the former year; and of the second legion, Lucius Publicius Bibulus and Publius Cornelius Scipio;
and of the third legion, Appius Claudius Pulcher, who had been aedile the last year; by the consent of all, the supreme command was vested in Publius Scipio, then a very young man, and Appius Claudius.
To these, while deliberating with a few others on the crisis of their affairs, Publius Furius Philus, the son of a man of consular dignity, brings intelligence, “That it was in vain that they cherished hopes which could never be realized:
that the state was despaired of, and lamented as lost.
That certain noble youths, the chief of whom was Lucius Caecilius Metellus, turned their attention to the sea and ships, in order that, abandoning Italy, they might escape to some king.”
When this calamity, which was not only dreadful in itself, but new, and in addition to the numerous disasters they had sustained, had struck them motionless with astonishment and stupor; and while those who were present gave it as their opinion that a council should be called to deliberate upon it, young Scipio, the destined general of this war, asserts, “That it is not a proper subject for deliberation: that courage and action, and not deliberation, were necessary in so great a calamity.
That those who wished the safety of the state would attend him forthwith in arms;
that in no place [p. 823]
was the camp of the enemy more truly, than where such designs were meditated.”
He immediately proceeds, attended by a few, to the lodging of Metellus; and finding there the council of youths of which he had been apprized, he drew his sword over the heads of them, deliberating, and said,
“With sincerity of soul I swear that neither will I myself desert the cause of the Roman republic, nor will I suffer any other citizen of Rome to desert it.
If knowingly I violate my oath, then, O Jupiter, supremely great and good, mayest thou visit my house, my family, and my fortune with perdition the most horrible!
I require you, Lucius Caecilius, and the rest of you who are present, to take this oath; and let the man who shall not take it be assured, that this sword is drawn against him.”
Terrified, as though they were beholding the victorious Hannibal, they all take the oath, and deliver themselves to Scipio to be kept in custody.