The Roman ambassador then replied: “The Macedonians first, and afterwards the Athenians, have obliged me to change entirely the method of my discourse.
For, on the one hand, the Macedonians, by aggressively introducing charges against the Romans, when I had come prepared to make complaint of the injuries committed by Philip against so many cities in alliance with us, have obliged me to think of defence rather than accusation;
and, on the other hand, what have the Athenians, after relating his inhuman and impious crimes against the gods both celestial and infernal, left for me, or any one else, which I can further urge against him.
You are to suppose, that the same complaints are made by the Cianians, Abydenians, Aeneans, Maronites, Thasians, Parians, Samians, Larissenians, Messenians, on the side of Achaia; and complaints, still heavier and more grievous, by those whom he had it more in his power to injure.
For as to those proceedings which he censures in us, if they are not deserving of honour, I will admit that they cannot be defended at all. He has objected to us, Rhegium, and Capua, and Syracuse.
As to Rhegium, during the war with Pyrrhus, a legion which, at the earnest request of the Rhegians themselves, we had sent thither as a garrison, wickedly possessed themselves of the city which they had been sent to defend.
Did we then approve of that deed? or did we exert the force of our arms against that guilty legion, until we reduced them under our power; and then, after making them give satisfaction to the allies, by their stripes and the loss of their heads, restore to the Rhegians their city, their lands, and all their effects, together with their liberty and laws?
To the Syracusans, when oppressed, and that by foreign tyrants, which was a still greater indignity, we lent assistance; and after enduring great fatigues in carrying on the siege of so strong a city, both by land and sea, [p. 1373]
for almost three years, (although the Syracusans themselves chose to continue in slavery to the tyrants rather than be taken to us,) yet, becoming masters of the place, and by exertion of the same force setting it at liberty, we restored it to the inhabitants.
At the same time, we do not deny that Sicily is our province, and that the states which sided with the Carthaginians, and, in conjunction with them, waged war against us, pay us tribute and taxes;
on the contrary, we wish that you and all nations should know, that the condition of each is such as it has deserved at our hands: and ought we to repent of the punishment inflicted on the Campanians, of which even they themselves cannot complain?
These men, after we had on their account carried on war against the Samnites for near seventy years, with great loss on our side; had united them to ourselves, first by treaty, and then by intermarriages, and the relationships arising thence;
and lastly, by the right of citizenship; yet, in the time of our adversity, were the first of all the states of Italy which revolted to Hannibal, after basely putting our garrison to death, and afterwards, through resentment at being besieged by us, sent Hannibal to attack Rome.
If neither their city nor one man of them had been left remaining, who could take offence, or consider them as treated with more severity than they had deserved?
From consciousness of guilt, greater numbers of them perished by their own hands, than by the punishments inflicted by us.
And while from the rest we took away the town and the lands, still we left them a place to dwell in, we suffered the city which partook not of the guilt to stand uninjured; so that he who should see it this day would find no trace of its having been besieged or taken. But why do I speak of Capua, when even to vanquished Carthage we granted peace and liberty?
The greatest danger is, that, by our too great readiness to pardon the conquered, we may encourage others to try the fortune of war against us.
Let so much suffice in our defence, and against Philip, whose domestic crimes, whose parricides and murders of his relations and friends, and whose lust, more disgraceful to human nature, if possible, than his cruelty, you, as being nearer to Macedonia, are better acquainted with.
As to what concerns yourselves, Aetolians, we entered into a war with Philip on your account: you made peace with him without consulting us. [p. 1374]
Perhaps you will say, that while we were occupied in the Punic war, you were constrained by fear to accept terms of pacification, from him who at that time possessed superior power;
and that on our side, pressed by more urgent affairs, we suspended our operations in a war which you had laid aside.
At present, as we, having, by the favour of the gods, brought the Punic war to a conclusion, have fallen on Macedonia with the whole weight of our power, so you have an opportunity offered you of regaining a place in our friendship and alliance, unless you choose to perish with Philip, rather than to conquer with the Romans.”