At the same time intelligence was brought to Rome that both Mago and Hannibal had taken their departure. But the delight occasioned by this twofold source of joy was diminished by the reflection that their commanders had wanted either spirit or strength sufficient to detain them, for they had been charged by the senate to do so;
and also in consequence of the anxiety they felt for the issue of a contest, in which the whole weight of the war rested on the efforts of one general and his army.
About the same time ambassadors from Saguntum arrived, bringing with them some Carthaginians who had crossed over into Spain for the purpose of hiring auxiliaries, having seized them and the money they had with them.
They laid down in the vestibule of the senate-house two hundred and fifty pounds' weight of gold, and eight hundred of silver.
After the men had been received and thrown into prison, and the gold and silver returned, the ambassadors were thanked, and received, besides, presents and ships to convey them back into Spain. Some of the older senators then observed, that men were less powerfully affected by prosperity than adversity. That they themselves remembered what terror and consternation had been occasioned by the passage of Hannibal into Italy; what disasters and what lamentations had followed that event.
When the camp of the enemy was seen from their walls, what vows were poured forth by each and all!
How often, extending their hands to heaven, exclamations were heard in their assemblies, Oh! will that [p. 1310]
day ever arrive when we shall behold Italy cleared of her enemies and enjoying the blessings of peace!
The gods, they said, had at length, in the sixteenth year, granted that favour, and yet there was no one who proposed that thanks should be returned to them for it.
That if men received a present blessing so ungratefully, they would not be very mindful of it when it was past. In consequence of this a general shout was raised from every part of the senate-house, that Publius Aelius, the praetor, should lay the matter before the senate, and a decree was
passed, that a supplication should be performed at all the shrines for the space of five days, and that a hundred and twenty victims of the larger sort should be immolated.
Laelius and the ambassadors of Masinissa having been by this time dismissed, and intelligence having arrived that ambassadors of the Carthaginians, who were coming to the senate to treat about peace, had been seen at Puteoli, and would proceed thence by land, it was resolved, that Caius Laelius should be recalled, that the negotiations respecting the peace might take place in his presence.
Quintus Fulvius Gillo, a lieutenant-general of Scipio, conducted the Carthaginians to Rome; and as they were forbidden to enter the city, they were lodged in a country-house belonging to the state, and admitted to an audience of the senate at the temple of Bellona.