Such are the accounts of the death of Hannibal. When the story of it was brought to the senate, many of them thought the conduct of Titus odious, officious, and cruel; for he had killed Hannibal when he was like a bird permitted to live a tame and harmless life because too old to fly and without a tail, and there had been no necessity for his doing this, but he did it to win fame, that his name might be associated with the death of Hannibal.
Men also pointed to the clemency and magnanimity of Scipio Africanus and admired it all the more, since after defeating a Hannibal who had not been conquered before and was filling Africa with fear, he neither drove him from the country nor demanded his surrender by his fellow citizens, nay, he actually gave him a kindly greeting when he held conference with him before the battle, and after the battle, in making terms of peace, he did not insult or trample upon the fortunes of his foe.1
Moreover, we are told that the two men met again at Ephesus, and in the first place, that when, as they were walking about together, Hannibal took the side which more properly belonged to Scipio as the superior, Scipio suffered it and walked about without paying any heed to it; and again, that when they fell to discussing generals and Hannibal declared Alexander to have been the mightiest of generals, and next to him Pyrrhus, and third himself, Scipio asked with a quiet smile,
‘And what wouldst thou have said if I had not conquered thee?’
To which Hannibal replied,
‘In that case, Scipio, I should not have counted myself third, but first of generals.’
Such conduct on the part of Scipio most people admired, and they blamed Titus for having laid violent hands on one whom another had slain. But some there were who praised what he had done and thought that Hannibal, as long as he was alive, was a consuming fire which needed only to be fanned;
for when he was in his prime, they said, it was not his body nor his arm that had been formidable to the Romans, but his ability and experience coupled with his ingrained bitterness and hostility, and from these naught is subtracted by old age, but the natural characteristics remain unchanged: whereas fortune does not remain the same, but changes sides, and summons with hope to fresh undertakings those whom hatred makes perpetual foes.
And subsequent events were perhaps still more a justification of Titus; for Aristonicus, the son of a harpist's daughter, used his reputed connection with Eumenes to fill all Asia with wars and rebellions,3
and Mithridates, notwithstanding his defeats by Sulla and Fimbria and his great losses in armies and generals,4
rose once more to be a formidable antagonist of Lucullus by land and sea.5
However, not even Hannibal was reduced to a lower level than Caius Marius. For Hannibal had a king as his friend, and his days as usual were occupied with ships and horses and the care of soldiers; whereas Marius in his misfortunes was a laughingstock to the Romans as he wandered about and begged his way in Africa, though after a little while he was in Rome with his axes at their necks and his rods at their backs, and they were humbly begging his mercy. So true is it that nothing in the present is either small or great in view of what may happen in the future, but change, like life, can only end with death.
For this reason some say that Titus did not take this step on his own account, but that he was sent as ambassador with Lucius Scipio, and their embassy had no other object than the death of Hannibal.
We do not find that Titus was active after this, either as statesman or soldier, and his end was a peaceful one. It is therefore time to think of our comparison.