During the time in which these events occurred, neither did those states of Spain which had revolted after the defeat that was sustained, return to the Romans, nor did any others desert them.
At Rome, the attention of the senate and people, after the recovery of Capua, was not fixed in a greater degree upon Italy than upon Spain. They resolved that the army there should be augmented and a general sent.
They were not, however, so clear as to the person whom they should send, as that, where two generals had fallen within the space of thirty days, he who was to supply the place of them should be selected with unusual care.
Some naming one person, and others another, they at length came to the resolution that the [p. 1042]
people should assemble for the purpose of electing a proconsul for Spain; and the consuls fixed a day for the election.
At first they waited in expectation that those persons who might think themselves qualified for so momentous a command would give in their names; but this expectation being disappointed, their grief was renewed for the calamity they had suffered, and their regret for the generals they had lost.
The people thus afflicted, and almost at their wits' end, came down, however, to the Campus Martius on the day of the election; where, turning towards the magistrates, they looked round at the countenances of their most eminent men, who were earnestly gazing at each other; and murmured bitterly, that their affairs were in so ruinous a state, and the condition of the commonwealth so desperate, that no one dared undertake the command in Spain.
When suddenly Publius Cornelius, son of Publius who had fallen in Spain, who was about twenty-four years of age, declaring himself a candidate, took his station on an eminence from which he could be seen by all.
The eyes of the whole assembly were directed towards him, and by acclamations and expressions of approbation, a prosperous and happy command were at once augured to him.
Orders were then given that they should proceed to vote, when not only every century, but every individual to a man, decided that Publius Scipio should be invested with the command in Spain.
But after the business had been concluded, and the ardour and impetuosity of their zeal had subsided, a sudden silence ensued, and a secret reflection on what they had done; whether their partiality had not got the better of their judgment?
They chiefly regretted his youth; but some were terrified at the fortune which attended his house and his name; for while the two families to which he belonged were in mourning, he was going into a province where he must carry on his operations between the tombs of his father and his uncle.