The parents and relations of these men with difficulty obtained that ambassadors should be sent to the Roman consul. The consul, who had not yet set out for Canusium, they found at Venusia with a few half-armed troops, an object of entire commiseration to faithful, but of contempt to proud and perfidious allies, like the Campanians.
The consul too increased their contempt of himself and his cause, by too much exposing and exhibiting the disastrous state of his affairs;
for when the ambassadors had delivered their message, which was, that the senate and people of Capua were distressed that any adverse event should have befallen the Romans, and were promising every assistance in
prosecuting the war, he observed, “In bidding us order you to furnish us with all things which are necessary for the war, Campanians, you have rather observed the customary mode of addressing allies, than spoken suitably to the present posture of our affairs; for hath anything been left us at Cannae, so that, as if we possessed that, we can desire what is wanting to be supplied by our allies?
Can we order a supply of infantry, as if we had any cavalry? Can we say we are deficient in money, as if that were the only thing we wanted?
Fortune has not even left us anything which we can add to. Our legions, cavalry, arms, standards, horses, men, money, provisions, all perished either in the battle, or in the two camps which were lost the following day.
You must, therefore, Campanians, not assist us in [p. 840]
the war, but almost take it upon yourselves in our stead.
Call to mind how formerly at Saticula we received into our protection and defended your ancestors, when dismayed and driven within their walls; terrified not only by their Samnite but Sidicinian enemies; and how we carried on, with varying success, through a period of almost a century, a war with the Samnites, commenced on your account.
Add to this, that when you gave yourselves up to us we granted you an alliance on equal terms, that we allowed you your own laws, and lastly, what before the disaster at Cannae was surely a privilege of the highest value, we bestowed the freedom of our city on a large portion of you, and held it in common with you.
It is your duty, therefore, Campanians, to look upon this disaster which has been suffered as your own, and to consider that our common country must be protected.
It is not a Samnite or Tuscan foe we are engaged with, so that the empire taken from us might still continue in Italy. A Carthaginian enemy draws after him from the remotest regions of the world, from the straits of the ocean and the pillars of Hercules, a body of soldiers who are not even natives of Africa, destitute of all laws, and of the condition and almost of the language of men.
Savage and ferocious from nature and habit, their general has rendered them still more so, by forming bridges and works with heaps of human bodies; and, what the tongue can scarcely utter, by teaching them to live on human flesh.
What man, provided he were born in any part of Italy, would not abominate the idea of seeing and having for his masters these men, nourished with such horrid food, whom even to touch were an impiety; of fetching laws from Africa and Carthage; and of suffering Italy to become a province of the Moors and Numidians?
It will be highly honourable, Campanians, that the Roman empire, sinking under this disastrous defeat, should be sustained and restored by your fidelity and your strength.
I conceive that thirty thousand foot and four thousand horse may be raised in Campania. You have already abundance of money and corn. If your zeal corresponds with your means, neither will Hannibal feel that he has been victorious, nor the Romans that they have been defeated.”