Lucius Cornelius Scipio and Gaius Laelius1
entered upon the consulship, and after the religious observances were carried out, no question in the senate had priority over that concerning the Aetolians. And their ambassadors were urging a decision, since only a brief time of truce was allowed them, and they were seconded by Titus Quinctius, who had now returned to Rome from Greece.
The Aetolians, like men who reposed more hope in the mercy of the senate than in their own case, pleaded like suppliants, balancing former services against recent misdeeds.
But not only while still present were they pursued by senatorial questionings from all sides, forcing from them confessions of guilt rather than replies, but when they were ordered to leave the senate-house they gave occasion to a violent conflict.
Anger had greater weight in their case than the spirit of mercy, since the senators were incensed at them not as enemies but as an untamable and anti-social people.
When the contest had continued for many days, it was finally decided that peace should be neither granted nor refused; two choices were placed before them; either they should entrust themselves to the free discretion of the senate, or they should pay one thousand talents and consider the same peoples as friends and enemies.2
When they tried to elicit a definite statement as to [p. 293]
the extent to which the senate would exercise its3
over them, no positive reply was given. So without any settlement they were ordered to leave the City that same day and Italy within fifteen days.
Then the question of the consular provinces began to be discussed. Both consuls wanted Greece.5
Laelius was very influential in the senate. Laelius, when the senate had directed the consuls either to cast lots or to determine the matter of the provinces between themselves, said that they would act more fittingly if they entrusted this decision to the wisdom of the Fathers instead of to the lot.
Scipio, having replied to this that he would consider what he ought to do, conferred with his brother alone, and being instructed by him to leave the matter to the senate with confidence, answered his colleague that he would do as he suggested.
When this proposal, either novel or revived on the basis of ancient precedents long escaped from memory, had excited the senate with the expectation of a sharp contest, Publius Scipio Africanus said that if they should decree Greece as a province to his brother Lucius Scipio, he would go as his lieutenant.6
These words, listened to with full approbation, ended the contest; they wanted to ascertain whether King Antiochus would find more powerful assistance in the defeated Hannibal or the Roman consul and legions in his conqueror Africanus: and almost unanimously they decreed Greece to Scipio, Italy to Laelius. [p. 295]