in Spain at the beginning of spring Publius Scipio launched his ships, and after summoning the allied auxiliaries to Tarraco by an edict, he ordered the fleet and the transports to sail thence to the mouth of the river Ebro.
having ordered the legions to leave their winter quarters and meet at the same point, he himself with five thousand allies set out from Tarraco to join the army.
arrived there, and thinking he must address particularly the old soldiers, survivors of defeats so serious, he summoned the men to an assembly and spoke as follows:1
"No new general in command before me has been able with reason and deservedly to thank his soldiers before he had made use of their services.
in my case, before I could see my province or camp, Fortune laid me under obligation to you, in the first place because you have showed such devotion towards my father and
uncle, living and dead, and then because, when possession of the province had been lost by so great a disaster, you by your courage have held it intact both for me as their successor and for the Roman people.
but now with the favour of the gods we are preparing and striving, not to remain in Spain [p. 159]
ourselves, but to prevent the Carthaginians from2
remaining, and not to stand on the bank of the Ebro and keep the
enemy from crossing, but taking the offensive to cross over and shift the scene of the war.
consequently I am afraid that that design may seem to some of you too great and too bold to be in keeping either with the memory of disasters recently incurred or with my years. as for the reverses in Spain, there is no man from whose mind it is less possible for them to be effaced than from mine, for my father and uncle fell within the space of thirty days, that for our family one fatality might be piled upon another.
but although within the family it is crushing to be all but orphaned and left desolate, yet the destiny of the state and her courage forbid me to despair of the final issue. it is a lot assigned to us by some fate that in all the great wars we have been first defeated and then victorious.
"Ancient examples I pass over, Porsenna, the Gauls, the Samnites. i shall begin with the Punic Wars.
how many fleets, how many generals, how many armies were lost in the former war! and now in the present war what shall I say has happened? in every disaster I was either present myself, or if absent, I above all others felt them.
Trebia, Trasumennus, Cannae, what are they but memorials of Roman armies and consuls fallen? add the revolt of Italy, of the greater part of Sicily, of Sardinia; add that extreme of alarm and panic, a Carthaginian camp pitched between the Anio and the walls of Rome, and the sight of a victorious Hannibal almost at the gates. in this general crash the one thing left standing, intact and immovable, was the courage of the Roman people.
it was this that raised and [p. 161]
set up all the scattered debris. when Hasdrubal3
after the rout at Cannae was on his way to the Alps and Italy —and if he had joined his brother even the name of the Roman people would be no more —you were the very first, soldiers, to stand in his path under the command and auspices of my father.
and victory here has upheld defeats there.
now by the favour of the gods everything in Italy and Sicily is flourishing and successful, more cheering and better from day to day. in Sicily Syracuse and Agrigentum4
have been captured, the enemy driven out of the entire island, and the recovered province is under the rule of the Roman people.
in Italy Arpi has been recovered, Capua taken. the entire road from the city of Rome has been traversed in nervous flight by Hannibal, who, driven into that remotest region, the Bruttian land, now prays the gods for nothing greater than that he may be allowed to retire in safety and leave the enemy's country.
what therefore is less consistent, soldiers, than that, while disasters were being piled one upon another and the gods themselves, one might almost say, were on Hannibal's side, you here under my fathers —for let them be coupled in that honourable name also —upheld the wavering fortune of the Roman people, but that at present, when in Italy everything is now favourable and encouraging, you, the same men, should be faint —hearted?
recent occurrences also I could wish had been as free from sorrow for me as . . .5 [p. 163]
“... Now the immortal gods, who are protectors of6
the Roman empire, who inspired all the centuries of the people to order that the command be bestowed upon me, by auguries, auspices and even visions in the night are likewise forecasting only joy and success.
my own mind as well, heretofore my greatest soothsayer, foresees that Spain is ours, that soon all the Carthaginians, banished from here, will cover seas and lands with their disgraceful flight.
what the mind of itself divines undeluded reasoning also suggests. harassed by them their allies through embassies are begging for our help. three generals, unable to agree,7
so that they have almost proved disloyal to each other, have dispersed their army in three parts in widely scattered regions. the same fortune which lately crushed us is assailing them.
for they are being deserted by their allies, as formerly were we by the Celtiberians,8
and also they have separated their armies, which was the cause of destruction for my father and uncle. neither will internal strife permit them to unite, nor will they be able singly to resist us.
only do you, soldiers, look with favour upon the name of the Scipios, upon the scion of your generals, growing again, as it were, from stems that have been cut down.
come now, veterans, lead a new army and a new commander across the Ebro, lead them over into lands often traversed by you with many deeds of bravery.
just as now you note in me a resemblance to my father and uncle in face and countenance and recognize the lines of the figure, so I will soon take pains to reproduce for you an image of their minds, of their loyalty and courage,
so that each man shall say that there has come back to life, or has been born again, his general Scipio.” [p. 165]