But the transportation of the soldiers into Sicily, and they consisted chiefly of Latins and allies, had very nearly caused a serious commotion; from such trifling circumstances do events of great importance frequently arise.
A murmuring arose among the Latins and allies at their meetings. They said, that “they had been drained by levies and contributions for ten years. That almost every year they fought with the most disastrous consequences.
That some of them were slain in the field, others were carried off by disease. That a countryman of theirs who was enlisted by the Romans, was more lost to them than one who was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians; for the latter was sent back to his country by the enemy without ransom, while the former was sent beyond the limits of Italy, into exile rather than military service.
That the troops which fought at Cannae were growing old there, for eight years, and would die there before the enemy, who was now more than ever flourishing and vigorous, would depart from Italy.
If the old soldiers did not return to their country, and fresh ones were enlisted, that in a short time there would be no one left. That, therefore, they must refuse to the Roman people, before they came to utter desolation and want, what shortly their very condition would refuse.
If the Romans saw their allies unanimous on this point, that they would then certainly think of making peace with the Carthaginians; otherwise, Italy would never be without war while Hannibal was alive.” Thus they discoursed in their meetings. The Roman people had at that time thirty colonies.
Twelve of these, for they all had embassies at Rome, told the consuls that they had not whence to furnish either men or money. The twelve were, Ardea, Nepete, Sutrium, Alba, Carseoli, Cora, Suessa, Cerceii, Setia, Cales, Narnia, Interamna.
The consuls, astonished at this new proceeding, were desirous to deter them from so hateful a measure; and, considering that they could effect this better by censure and remonstrance than by mild means, said that “they had dared to say to the consuls what the consuls could not bring their minds to declare in the senate; for that this was not a refusal to perform military service, but an open defection from the Roman people.
They desired, therefore, that they [p. 1103]
would return to their colonies speedily, and
that, considering the subject as untouched, as they had only spoken of, but not attempted, so impious a business, they would consult with their countrymen.
That they would warn them that they were not Campanians or Tarentines, but Romans; that from thence they derived their origin, and thence were sent out into colonies and lands captured from the enemy, for the purpose of increasing the population. That they owed to the Romans what children owed to parents, if they possessed any natural affection, or any gratitude towards their mother country.
That they should, therefore, consider the matter afresh; for that certainly what they then so rashly meditated, was the betraying the Roman empire, and putting the victory in the hands of Hannibal.”
The consuls having spent a long time in exchanging arguments of this kind, the ambassadors, who were not at all moved by what they said, declared, that “they had nothing which they could carry home, nor had their senate any thing fresh to devise, having neither men to be enlisted, nor money to be furnished for pay.”
The consuls, seeing that they were inflexible, laid the matter before the senate; where the alarm excited in the minds of all was so great, that “the greater part declared it was all over with the empire; that the rest of the colonies would take the same course, and that all the allies had conspired to betray the city of Rome to Hannibal.”