“But I am adducing foreign and too remote examples. That same Africa, and Marcus Atilius, who was a signal example of both extremes of fortune, may form a warning to us.
Without doubt, Publius Cornelius, when you shall have a view of Africa from the sea, the reduction of your province of Spain will appear to you to have been a mere matter of [p. 1220]
sport and pastime.
For what similarity is there between them? After sailing along the coast of Italy and Gaul to Emporiae without any enemy to oppose you, you brought your fleet to land at a city of our allies.
There landing your soldiers, you marched them through countries entirely secure from danger to Tarraco, to join the allies and friends of the Roman people. After that, from Tarraco you marched through places garrisoned by Roman troops.
On the banks of the Iberus were the armies of your father and your uncle, rendered. still more furious after the loss of their generals, even by the very calamity they had suffered. The general, indeed, Lucius Marcius, had been irregularly constituted and chosen for the time by the suffrages of the soldiers; but had he been adorned with noble birth and the regular gradations of preferment, he would have been equal to the most distinguished generals, from his skill in every art of war.
You then laid siege to Carthage, quite at your leisure, not one of the three Punic armies coming to the defence of their allies.
The rest of your achievements, nor do I wish to disparage them, are by no means to be compared with what you will have to do in a war in Africa, where there is not a single harbour open to receive our fleet, no part of the country at peace with us, no state in alliance, no king in friendship with us, no room in any part either to take up a position or to advance.
Whichever way you turn your eyes, all is hostility and danger. Do you trust in the Numidians and Syphax? Let it suffice to have trusted in them once. Temerity is not always successful, and the fraudulent usually pave the way to confidence in small matters, that when an advantageous opportunity occurs, they may deceive with great gain.
Your father and uncle were not cut off by the arms of their enemies till they were duped by the treachery of their Celtiberian allies; nor were you yourself exposed to so much danger from Mago and Hasdrubal, the generals of your enemies, as from Indibilis and Mandonius, whom you had received into friendship.
Can you place any confidence in Numidians after having experienced a defection in your own soldiers? Syphax and Masinissa would rather that they themselves should have the rule in Africa than the Carthaginians, but that the Carthaginians should rather than any other state.
At present, emulation and the various causes of dispute existing be- [p. 1221]
tween them incite them against each other, because the fear of any foreign enemy is remote. But show them the Roman arms and a body of troops, natives of another country, and they will run together as if to extinguish a common conflagration.
These same Carthaginians defended Spain in a different manner from that in which they will defend the walls of their capital, the temples of their gods, their altars, and their hearths; when their terrified wives will attend them on the way to the battle, and their little children will run to them.
What, moreover, if the Carthaginians, feeling sufficiently secure in the harmony subsisting in Africa, in the attachment of the sovereigns in alliance with them, and their own fortifications, should, when they see Italy
deprived of the support of yourself and your army, themselves assuming an offensive attitude, either send a fresh army out of Africa into Italy, or order Mago, who, it is certain, having passed over from the Baleares, is now sailing along the coast of Liguria and the Alps, to form a junction with Hannibal.
Without doubt, we should be thrown into the same state of alarm as we were lately, when Hasdrubal passed over into Italy; that Hasdrubal, whom you, who are about to blockade, not Carthage only, but all Africa with your army, allowed to slip out of your hands into Italy. You will say that he was conquered by you. For that very reason I should be less willing, not on account of the commonwealth only, but of yourself, that, after having been defeated, he should be allowed to march into Italy.
Suffer us to ascribe to your prudence all the successful events which have happened to you and the empire of the Roman people, and to impute all those of an adverse nature to the uncertain chances of war and to fortune. The more meritorious and brave you are, so much the more do your country and all Italy desire to retain you as their protector.
You cannot even yourself pretend to deny, that where Hannibal is, there is the head and principal stress of the war, for you profess, that your motive in crossing over into Africa is to draw Hannibal thither. Whether, therefore, here or there, it is with Hannibal that you will have to contend. Will you then, I pray, have more power in Africa and alone, or here, with your own and your colleague's army united?
Is not the great difference which this makes proved to you even by the recent precedent of Claudius and Livius, [p. 1222]
the consuls? What! will Hannibal, who has now for a long time been unavailingly soliciting succours from home, be rendered more powerful in men and arms when occupying the remotest corner of the Bruttian territory, or when near to Carthage and supported by all Africa?
What sort of policy is that of yours, to prefer fighting where your own forces will be diminished by one half, and the enemy's greatly augmented, to encountering the enemy when you will have two armies against one, and that wearied with so many battles, and so protracted and laborious a service?
Consider how far this policy of yours corresponds with that of your parent. He, setting out in his consulship for Spain, returned from his province into Italy, that he might meet Hannibal on his descent from the Alps; while you are going to leave Italy when Hannibal is there, not because you consider such a course beneficial to the state, but because you think it will redound to your own honour and glory;
acting in the same manner as you did when leaving your province and your army without the sanction of a law, without a decree of the senate, you, a general of the Roman people, intrusted to two ships the fortune of the commonwealth and the majesty of the empire, which were then hazarded in your person.
In my estimation, conscript fathers, Publius Cornelius was elected consul for the service of the state and of us, and not to forward his own individual interest; and the armies were enlisted for the protection of the city and of Italy, and not for the consuls, like kings, to carry into whatever part of the world they please from motives of vanity.”