After the senate had passed these decrees, the consuls drew lots for their provinces. Sicily and the fleet fell to the lot of Marcellus; Italy, with the war against Hannibal, to Laevinus.
This result so terrified the Sicilians, who were standing in sight of the consuls waiting the determination of the lots, that their bitter lamentations and mournful cries both drew upon them the eyes of all at the time, and afterwards furnished matter for conversation.
For they went round to [p. 1057]
the several senators in mourning garments, affirming, that “they would not only abandon, each of them, his native country, but all Sicily, if Marcellus should again go thither with command.
That he had formerly been implacable toward them for no demerit of theirs; what would he do now, when exasperated that they had come to Rome to complain of him? That it would be better for that island to be overwhelmed with the fires of Aetna, or sunk in the sea, than to be delivered up, as it were, for execution to an enemy.”
These complaints of the Sicilians, having been carried round to the houses of the nobility, and frequently canvassed in conversations, which were prompted partly by compassion for the Sicilians and partly by dislike for Marcellus, at length reached the senate also.
The consuls were requested to take the sense of the senate on an exchange of provinces. Marcellus said, that “if the Sicilians had already had an audience of the senate, his opinion perhaps might have been different, but as the case now stood, lest any one should be able
to say that they were prevented by fear from freely venting their complaints respecting him, to whose power they were presently about to be subject, he was willing, if it made no difference to his colleague, to exchange provinces with him.
That he deprecated a premature decision on the part of the senate; for since it would be unjust that his colleague should have the power of selecting his province without drawing lots, how much greater injustice would it be, nay, rather indignity, for his lot to be transferred to him.”
Accordingly the senate, having rather shown than decreed what they wished, adjourned. An exchange of provinces was made by the consuls of themselves;
fate hurrying on Marcellus to encounter Hannibal, that he might be the last of the Roman generals, who, by his fall, when the affairs of the war were most prosperous, might add to the glory of that man, from whom he derived the reputation of having been the first Roman general who defeated him.