Hannibal had not been invited to this council, being an object of suspicion to the king on account of his conferences with Villius, and being held in no honour after that.
At first he endured this humiliation in silence; then, thinking that it was better both to inquire the reason for this sudden change of attitude and to clear himself, he chose a suitable time and frankly asked the reason for the
king's anger, and having heard it, he said, “My father Hamilcar, Antiochus, led me, still a little boy, to the altar when he was sacrificing and bound me by an oath never to be a friend to the Roman people.
Under this oath I fought for six and thirty years1
; this oath drove me from my fatherland in time of peace; it brought me, an exile from my home, to [p. 57]
your court; with it as my guiding principle, if you2
disappoint my hopes, wherever I know that strength and arms are found, searching throughout the whole earth, I shall find some enemies of the Romans.
And so, whoever of your courtiers have a fancy to win favour with you by insinuations against me, let them choose another means of winning it at my expense.
I hate and am hateful to the Romans. That I speak the truth my father Hamilcar and the gods are witnesses. So long as you plan concerning a war on Rome, consider Hannibal among your first friends; if anything inclines you towards peace, seek for that advice some other man with whom to consult.”
This speech not only convinced the king but reconciled him to Hannibal. The council broke up with the decision that war should be begun.