Now, since the charge respecting the undertaking of the war has been fully refuted, I must account for my conduct in the prosecution of it. In which, indeed, I should perfectly confide in the merits of my cause, though I were pleading, not before a Roman, but before a Carthaginian senate, by whom their commanders are said to be crucified, if they act on wrong plans, even with success.
But in such a state as this, which, in the commencement and progress of every undertaking, makes application to the gods on this account, because it subjects to no malicious cavilling those plans of which the gods have approved; and which, in the established form, when it decrees a supplication or triumph, uses these words, —'For
having conducted the business of the public successfully and fortunately;' if I should be unwilling, if I should think it presumptuous and arrogant to boast of my own bravery, and if I should demand, in consideration of my own good fortune, and that of my army, in having vanquished so great a nation, without any loss of men, that thanks should be given to the immortal gods, and that I should ascend the Capitol in triumph, from whence I took my departure, with vows duly offered;
—would you refuse this to me, and the immortal gods? Yes; for I fought on unfavourable ground.
Tell me, then, on what more favourable ground could I have fought, when the enemy had seized on a mountain, and kept themselves in a strong post; surely, if I wished to conquer them, I must go where they were. What if they had a town on the same spot, and kept within the walls: surely they must be attacked.
Did Manlius Acilius fight with Antiochus, at Thermopylae, on favourable ground? Did not Titus Quintius dislodge Philip when he was posted in the same manner, on the tops of mountains, over the river Aous? Truly I cannot yet discover what sort of an enemy they [p. 1778]
may represent to themselves, or in what light they may wish them to appear to you.
If as being degenerate and softened by the pleasures of Asia, what danger was there in advancing against them even on unfavourable ground? If formidable, both for fierceness of courage and strength of body, do you refuse a triumph to victories so honourable? Conscript fathers, envy is blind, and only capable of depreciating merit, and poisoning its honours and rewards.
Pardon me, I beseech you, conscript fathers, on these conditions, if it be the case that the necessary reply to the accusation, and not my desire of boasting of my exploits, hath made my speech too long.
Whether could I, in my march through Thrace, create open glades out of narrow defiles, and level plains out of steep precipices, and fields out of woods, and insure that the Thracian plunderers should not lurk any where in those concealments which they were acquainted with;
that none of our packages should be snatched away, none of our loaded horses, out of so large a train, led off; that no one should be wounded; and that the brave and active Lucius Minucius should not die of his wound? On this mischance, by which we unfortunately lost so valuable a citizen, those men declaim profusely.
That the enemy attacked us in a dangerous pass, where every advantage of ground was against us; that our two divisions, the front and the rear, surrounded by a combined movement the army of the barbarians, while they were employed about our baggage; that they killed and took prisoners many thousands on that day; and, in a few days after, many more; —do they imagine that you would not ascertain this, even if they passed it over in silence, when the whole army can testify the truth of what I assert?
If I had never drawn a sword in Asia, if I had never seen an enemy there, yet, by the two battles fought in Thrace, I had merited a triumph, as proconsul.
But I have said enough, and shall only request, and, I should hope, obtain, your pardon, conscript fathers, for having troubled you longer than I could have wished to do.