The other consul then proposed to the fathers the consideration of the requests of the Sicilians, when a long debate took place.
A great part of the senate acquiesced in an opinion which originated with Titus Manlius Torquatus, “that the war ought to have been carried on against the tyrants, the enemies both of the Syracusans and the Roman people; that the city ought to have been recovered, not captured; and, when recovered, should have been firmly established under its ancient laws and liberty, and not distressed by war, when worn out with a wretched state of bondage.
That in the contest between the tyrants and the Roman general, that most beautiful and celebrated city, formerly the granary and treasury of the Roman people, which was held up as the reward of the victor, had been destroyed; a city by whose munificence and bounty the commonwealth had been assisted and adorned on many occasions, and lastly, during this very Punic war.
Should king Hiero, that most faithful friend of the Roman empire, rise from the shades, with what face could either Syracuse or Rome be shown to him, when, after beholding his half-demolished and plundered native city, he should see, on entering Rome, the spoils of his country in the [p. 1061]
vestibule, as it were, of the city, and almost in the very gates?”
Although these and other similar things were said, to throw odium upon the consul and excite compassion for the Sicilians, yet the fathers, out of regard for Marcellus, passed a milder decree, to the effect, “that what Marcellus had done while prosecuting the war, and when victorious, should be confirmed.
That for the time to come, the senate would look to the affairs of Syracuse, and would give it in charge to the consul Laevinus, to consult the interest of that state, so far as it could be done without detriment to the commonwealth.”
Two senators having been sent to the Capitol to request the consul to return to the senate-house, and the Sicilians having been called in, the decree of the senate was read.
The deputies were addressed in terms of kindness, and dismissed; when they threw themselves at the knees of the consul, Marcellus, beseeching him to pardon them for what they had said for the purpose of exciting compassion, and procuring relief from their calamities, and to receive themselves and the city of Syracuse under his protection and patronage; after which, the consul addressed them kindly and dismissed them.