The ambassadors, sent to Scipio by the king with these instructions, met him at Syracuse.
Scipio, though disappointed in an affair which was of the greatest importance with regard to his operations in Africa, and in the sanguine expectations he had formed from it, sent the ambassadors back [p. 1264]
into Africa speedily, before their business was made
known, giving them letters for the king, in which he warned him over and over again “not to violate the laws of hospitality which bound them together; the obligation of the alliance entered into with the Roman people; nor make light of justice, honour, their right hands pledged, and the gods the witnesses and arbitrators of compacts.”
But, as the coming of the Numidians could not be concealed, for they lounged about the city, and had frequently appeared at the pavilion; and as, if nothing were said about the object of their visit, there was danger lest the truth, from the very circumstance of its being made a secret, should spontaneously spread the more; and, in consequence, the troops become alarmed lest they should have to wage war at once with the king and the Carthaginians, Scipio endeavoured to divert their attention from the truth by preoccupying their minds with false information; and, summoning his soldiers to an assembly, said, “that it was not expedient to delay any longer.
That the kings, their allies, urged them to cross over into Africa with all speed.
That Masinissa himself had before come to Lalius, complaining that time was consumed in delays, and that now Syphax sent ambassadors, expressing his astonishment on the same account, namely, what could be the cause of such long delay; and requesting either that the army would now at length be transported into Africa, or, if the plan was changed, that he might be informed so that he might himself take measures for the safety of himself and his dominions.
Therefore, as every thing was now ready and prepared, and as the business admitted of no further delay, he was resolved, after having removed the fleet to Lilybaeum, and collected here all his forces of foot and horse, with the blessing of the gods to pass over into Africa the first day the ships could sail.”
He sent a letter to Marcus Pomponius, directing him, if he thought proper, to come to Lilybaeum, that they might consult together as to what legions, in preference to any others, and how large a number of soldiers, they should convey into Africa;
he also sent round to every part of the sea-coast, with directions that all the ships of burthen should be seized and collected at Lilybaeum.
When all the soldiers and ships in Sicily were assembled at Lilybaeum, and neither the city could contain the multitude of men, nor the harbour the ships, so ardent was the desire possessed by all of passing over to Africa, that they [p. 1265]
did not appear as if going to wage war, but to reap the certain rewards of victory.
Particularly those who remained of the soldiers who had fought at Cannae felt convinced that under Scipio, and no other general, they would be enabled, by exerting themselves in the cause of the state, to put an end to their ignominious service.
Scipio was very far from feeling contempt for that description of soldiers, inasmuch as he knew that the defeat sustained at Cannae was not attributable to their cowardice, and that there were no soldiers in the Roman army who had served so long, or were so experienced not only in the various kinds of battles, but in assaulting towns also.
The legions which had fought at Cannae were the fifth and sixth. After declaring that he would take these with him into Africa, he inspected them man by man; and leaving those whom he considered unfit for service, he substituted for them those whom he had brought from Sicily, filling up those legions so that each might contain six thousand two hundred infantry and three hundred horse.
The horse and foot of the allies. of the Latin confederacy, he also chose out of the army of Cannae.