In consequence of Scipio's being afflicted with a severe fit of illness, which rumour represented as more serious than it really was; for every one made some addition to the account he had received, from a desire inherent in mankind of intentionally exaggerating reports, the whole province, and more especially the distant parts of it, were thrown into a state of ferment;
and it was evident what a serious disturbance would have been excited had he really died, when an unfounded report created such violent commotions.
Neither the allies kept their allegiance, nor the army their duty. Mandonius and Indibilis, who were not at all satisfied with what had occurred, for they had anticipated with certainty that they would
have the dominion of Spain on the expulsion of the Carthaginians, called together their countrymen the Lacetani, [p. 1194]
and summoning the Celtiberian youth to arms, devastated in a hostile manner the territories of the Suessetanians and Sedetanians, allies of the Romans.
Besides, a mutiny arose in the camp at Sucro. Here were eight thousand men, stationed as a guard over the nations dwelling on this side the Iberus.
It was not on hearing uncertain rumours respecting the life of the general that their minds were first excited, but previously, owing to the licentiousness which naturally results from long-continued idleness, and in some degree also owing to the restraint felt in time of peace by men who had been accustomed to live freely on what they gained by plunder in an enemy's country.
At first they only discoursed in private, asking what they were doing among people who were at peace with them, if there was a war in the province? if the war was terminated and the province completely subdued, why were they not conveyed back into Italy?
The pay also was demanded with more insolence than was customary or consistent with military subordination, and the guards cast reproaches upon the tribunes while going round to the watches. Some too had gone out by night into the neighbouring lands, belonging to persons at peace with the Romans, to plunder; but at last they quitted their standards in the day-time and openly without furloughs.
Every thing was done according to the caprice and unrestrained will of the soldiers, and nothing according to rule and military discipline, or the orders of those who were in command.
The form, however, of a Roman camp was preserved solely in consequence of the hopes they entertained that the tribunes, catching the spirit of insubordination, would not be averse from taking part in the mutiny and defection, on which account they suffered them to dispense justice in their courts, went to them for the watch-word, and served in their turn on the outposts and watches;
and as they had taken away the power of command, so they preserved the appearance of obedience to orders, by spontaneously executing their own.
Afterwards, when they perceived that the tribunes censured and reprobated their proceedings, endeavoured to counteract them, and publicly declared that they would not take any share in their disorderly conduct, the mutiny assumed a decided character;
when, after driving the tribunes from their courts, and shortly after from the camp, the command was conferred by universal con- [p. 1195]
sent upon Caius Albius of Cales and Caius Atrius of Umbria, common soldiers, who were the prime movers of the sedition.
These men were so far from being satisfied with the ornaments used by tribunes, that they had the audacity to lay hold even of the insignia of the highest authority, the fasces and axes, without ever reflecting that their own backs and necks were in danger from those very rods and axes which they carried before them to intimidate others.
Their mistaken belief of the death of Scipio had blinded their minds, and they doubted not that, in a short time, when that event should be made generally known, all Spain would blaze with war;
that during this confusion money might be exacted from the allies and the neighbouring cities plundered; and that in this unsettled state of affairs, when there was nothing which any man would not dare, their own acts would be less conspicuous.