The consul, having assembled the people in the field of Mars, before he dismissed the centuries to the vote, required their attention, and addressed them thus:
“Citizens, you seem to me not to understand that the question before you is not whether you choose to have peace or war: for Philip, having already commenced hostilities with a formidable force, both on land and sea, allows you not that option. The question is, Whether you must transport your legions to Macedonia, or admit the enemy into Italy?
How important the difference is, if you never experienced it before, you certainly did in the late Punic war. For who entertains a doubt, but if, when the Saguntines were besieged, and implored our protection, we had assisted them with vigour, as our fathers did the Mamertines, we should have averted the whole weight of the war upon Spain; which, by our dilatory proceedings, we suffered to our extreme loss to fall upon Italy?
Nor does it admit a doubt, that we confined this same Philip in Mace- [p. 1347]
donia, (after he had entered into an engagement with Hannibal, by ambassadors and letters, to cross over into Italy,) by sending Laevinus with a fleet to make war aggressively upon him.
And what we did at that time, when we had Hannibal to contend with in Italy, do we hesitate to do now, after Hannibal has been expelled Italy, and the Carthaginians subdued?
Suppose that we allow the king to experience the same inactivity on our part, while he is taking Athens, as we suffered Hannibal to experience while he was taking Saguntum:
it will not be in the fifth month, as Hannibal came from Saguntum, but on the fifth day after he sets sail from Corinth, that he will arrive in Italy. Perhaps you may not consider Philip as equal to Hannibal; or the Macedonians to the Carthaginians: certainly, however, you will allow him equal to Pyrrhus.
Equal, do I say? what a vast superiority has the one man over the other, the one nation over the other!
Epirus ever was, and is at this day, deemed but an inconsiderable accession to the kingdom of Macedonia. Philip has the entire Peloponnesus under his dominion; even Argos itself, not more celebrated for its ancient glory than for the death of Pyrrhus.
Now compare our situation. How much more flourishing was Italy, how much greater its strength, with so many commanders, so many armies unimpaired, which the Punic war afterwards consumed, when Pyrrhus attacked and shook it, and advanced victorious almost to the Roman capital!
and not the Tarentines only, and the inhabitants of that tract of Italy which they call the greater Greece, whom you may suppose to have been led by the similarity of language and name, but the Lucanian, the Bruttian, and the Samnite revolted from us. Do you believe that these would continue quiet and faithful, if Philip should come over to Italy?
They subsequently continued faithful, forsooth, during the Punic war! Be assured those states will never fail to revolt from us, except when there is no one to whom they can go over.
If you had been annoyed at passing into Africa, you would this day have had Hannibal and the Carthaginians to contend with in Italy. Let Macedonia, rather than Italy, be the seat of war. Let the cities and lands of the enemy be wasted with fire and sword. We have already found by experience, that our arms are more powerful and more successful abroad than at home.
Go to the vote with the blessing [p. 1348]
of the gods; and what the senate have voted, do you ratify by your order.
This resolution is recommended to you, not only by your consul, but even by the immortal gods themselves; who, when I offered sacrifice, and prayed that the issue of this war might be happy and prosperous to me and to the senate, to you and the allies and Latin confederates, to our fleets and armies, portended all joyful and prosperous results.”