Though these charges, partly true, and partly containing a mixture of truth and falsehood, and therefore, probably, were urged with vehemence; the opinion, however, of Quintus Metellus prevailed, who, agreeing with Maximus on other points, differed from him in the case of Scipio.
“For how inconsistent would it be,” said he, “that the person whom the state a little while ago selected as their general, though a very young man, for the recovery of Spain; whom, after he had [p. 1259]
taken Spain out of the hands of their enemies, they elected their consul, for the purpose of putting an end to the Punic war;
whom they marked out with the most confident anticipation as the person who would draw Hannibal out of Italy, and subdue Africa; how inconsistent would it be, that this man, like another Pleminius, condemned in a manner without a hearing, should suddenly be recalled from his province! when the Locrians asserted that the wicked acts which had been committed against them were done not even in the presence of Scipio, and no other charge could be brought against him, than that he spared the lieutenant-general, either from good nature or respect.
He thought it advisable, that Marcus Pomponius the praetor, to whose lot the province of Sicily had fallen, should go to his province within the next three days; that the consuls should select out of the senate ten deputies, whomsoever they thought proper, and send them with the praetor, together with two tribunes of the people, and an aedile.
That the praetor, assisted by this council, should take cognizance of the affair.
If those acts of which the Locrians complained were committed at the command or with the concurrence of Scipio, that they should command him to quit the province. If Publius Scipio had already crossed over into Africa, that the tribunes of the people and the aedile, with two of the deputies, whom the praetor should judge most fit for it, should proceed into Africa;
the tribunes and the aedile to bring Scipio back from thence, and the deputies to take the command of the army until a new general had come to it.
But if Marcus Pomponius and the ten deputies should discover that those acts had been committed neither with the orders nor concurrence of Publius Scipio, that Scipio should then remain with the army and carry on the war as he had proposed.”
A decree of the senate having passed to this effect, application was made to the tribunes of the people to arrange among themselves, or determine by lot, which two should go with the praetor and the deputies.
The advice of the college of pontiffs was taken on the subject of the expiations to be made, on account of the treasures in the temple of Proserpine, at Locri, having been touched, violated, and carried out of it.
The tribunes of the people, who went with the praetor and ten deputies, were Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Marcus Cincius Alimentus. To these a plebeian aedile [p. 1260]
was given, whom, if Scipio, whether he was still in Sicily or had now crossed over into Africa, should refuse to obey the orders of the praetor, the tribunes might direct to apprehend him, and bring him home in right of their most sacred authority. The plan was, to go to Locri before they went to Messana.