The accusations that day would have been more powerful than the defence, had they not prolonged the debate to a late hour; for the senate adjourned in a mood likely to refuse the triumph.
Next day the relations and friends of Cneius Manlius exerted their utmost efforts in his behalf; and the opinion of the elder senators prevailed, who asserted, [p. 1779]
that there was no instance
on record of a commander who had subdued the enemy, completed the business of his province, and brought home his army, entering the city as a private citizen, without honours, and without the chariot and laurel. This feeling of shame overcame their prejudices against him, and a great majority voted for his triumph.
A greater contest, which was set on foot against a greater and more illustrious personage, suppressed all mention and memory of this struggle.
The two Petillii, as Valerius Antias writes, instituted a prosecution against Publius Scipio Africanus. Men construed this according to their different dispositions;
some did not blame the plebeian tribunes, but the public in general, that could suffer such a process to be carried on.
They observed, that “the two greatest states in the world proved, nearly at the same time, ungrateful to their chief commanders; but Rome the more ungrateful of the two, because Carthage was subdued when she sent the vanquished Hannibal into exile; whereas Rome, when victorious, was for banishing the conqueror Africanus.”
Others asserted, that “no one citizen ought to stand so high above the rest, as not to be made answerable to the laws for his conduct: for nothing contributed so much towards the equalization of liberty, as that the most powerful might be brought to trial.
For how could any charge, especially the administration of government, be safely intrusted to any man, if he were not liable to be called to an account? That force was not unjustly used against him who could not bear an equality of rights.” These subjects were discussed in conversation, until the day of trial came.
Never was either any other person, or Scipio himself, when consul or censor, escorted to the forum by a more numerous multitude of all kinds, than he was on that day when he appeared to answer the charge against him.
When ordered to make his defence, without taking any notice of the facts laid to his charge, he delivered so magnificent a speech concerning his exploits, that it was universally agreed, that no man had been ever praised either to more advantage or with more truth.
For his achievements were described with the same ardent spirit and powerful genius with which they had been performed; and his auditors felt no disgust, because his acts were mentioned to meet the peril, and not for ostentation.