When Fabius by a speech adapted to the situation, but especially by his prestige and long-established reputation for foresight, had stirred a large part of the senate and in particular the older members, and while more were praising the wisdom of the veteran than the confident spirit of the young man, Scipio is said to have spoken as follows:
"Even Quintus Fabius himself at the beginning of his speech, conscript fathers, stated that in his expression of opinion captious criticism might be suspected.
Far as I should be from venturing to bring that charge against so great a man, nevertheless such suspicion has certainly not been cleared away, be it the speech or the subject that is at fault.
For he has highly extolled his offices and the fame of his achievements [p. 179]
in order to refute the charge of envy, just as if it were1
from men of the lowest rank that there is danger of rivalry for me, and not rather from one who because he rises above all others —a distinction towards which I do not deny that I also am striving —is unwilling to have me compared with himself.
He has represented himself as an old man and one who has played his part, and me as younger even than his son, just as if the desire for glory
did not reach farther than the span of human life and project in fullest measure into the memory of posterity.
Of the greatest minds it is true, I am sure, that they compare themselves not only with the living but with eminent men in every age. For my part I do not deny, Quintus Fabius, that I wish not only to attain to your fame but also —by your good leave —if possible to surpass it.
Let us not have such a spirit —you towards me, I towards younger men — that we should be unwilling to have any fellowcitizen come to be like us. For that would be a loss affecting, not only those whom we have envied, but the state also and almost the entire human race.
"He called to mind how great a danger I should encounter if I were to cross over to Africa, so that he seemed concerned for me also, not merely for the state and the army.
Whence has come this sudden solicitude about me? When my father and uncle had been slain, when their two armies had been all but annihilated, when the Spanish provinces had been lost, when four armies of Carthaginians and four
generals held the whole country in the grip of fear and arms, when, though sought for, no commanding general presented himself for that war except myself, no one had dared to put forward his name, when the [p. 181]
Roman people had bestowed upon me at the age of2
twenty-four years its high command, why in such circumstances did no one at that time call to
mind my youth, the might of the enemy, the difficulty of the war, the recent disaster to my father and my uncle?
Has some greater catastrophe now befallen us in Africa than had been suffered then in Spain? Or are there now larger armies in Africa and more generals and better than there were then in Spain? Or was my age then riper for the conduct of war than it is now?
Or is it more suitable to wage war with a Carthaginian enemy in Spain than in Africa?
It is easy to disparage my achievements after the rout and flight of four Punic armies, after the storming of so many cities or their subjugation through fear, after a thorough and complete conquest all the way to the Ocean —so many princes, so many warlike nations — after the recovery of all Spain so that no trace of war remains.
It will indeed be just as easy if I return as a victor from Africa to disparage precisely the same things which now, in order to hold me back, are magnified by the speaker to make them appear terrible.
"He denies that we have any access to Africa, he denies that any harbours are open to us.
He states that Marcus Atilius was captured in Africa, as if Marcus Atilius met disaster upon his first landing in Africa. Also he does not recall that even that unfortunate general found the harbours of Africa nevertheless open to him and conducted a remarkable campaign in his first year, and so far as Carthaginian generals are concerned,3
remained undefeated to the end. You shall not frighten me, therefore, by the example you give.
If that disaster had been incurred in this war, not in the former war, if recently and not [p. 183]
forty years ago,4
why after Regulus' capture should I5
hesitate to cross over to Africa any more than to Spain after the Scipios had fallen?
I should not admit that the Spartan Xanthippus'6
birth had been more fortunate for Carthage than mine for my native city; and my confidence would be increased by the mere possibility of such weight in the ability of a single man.
But we must hear likewise of the Athenians, how neglecting a war at home they crossed rashly to Sicily.
Why then, since you have time to tell Greek tales, do you not prefer to relate how Agathocles,7
King of Syracuse, after Sicily had long been ablaze with a Punic war, crossed over into this same Africa and diverted the war to the country from which it had come?