But the most significant part of the story is this:
the eight thousand prisoners in Hannibal's hands
were not men that he had taken in the battle or that
had escaped in the peril of their lives, but men that
the consuls Paulus and Varro had left behind in
camp. Though these might have been ransomed
by a small sum of money, the senate voted not to
redeem them, in order that our soldiers might have
the lesson planted in their hearts that they must
either conquer or die. When Hannibal heard this
news, according to that same writer, he lost heart
completely, because the senate and the people of
Rome displayed courage so lofty in a time of disaster.
Thus apparent expediency is outweighed when
placed in the balance against moral rectitude.