At the beginning of the following year, Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Caius Licinius, the consuls, having commenced their administration on the ides of March, the senators were impatient to hear what propositions were to be laid before them, particularly with respect to Macedonia, by the consul to whose lot that province had fallen;
but Paullus said, that he had as yet nothing to propose to them, the commissioners not being returned: that “they were then at Brundusium, after having been twice driven back to Dyrrachium in attempting the passage:
that he intended, shortly, to propose something to their consideration, when he should have obtained the information which was previously necessary, and which he expected within very few days.”
He added, that, “in order that nothing should delay his setting out, the day before the ides of April had been fixed for the Latin festival;
after finishing which solemnity, he and Cneius Octavius would begin their journey as soon as the senate should direct: that, in his absence, his colleague Caius Licinius would take care that every thing necessary to be provided, or sent for the war, should be provided and sent;
and that, in the mean time, audience might be given to the embassies of foreign nations.” The first introduced were ambassadors from Alexandria, sent by king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra.
They came into the senate-house dressed in mourning, with their hair and beard neglected, holding in their hands branches of olive; there they prostrated themselves, and their discourse was even more piteous than their dress.
Antiochus, king of Syria, who had formerly been a hostage at Rome, had lately, under the honourable pretext of restoring the elder Ptolemy to the throne, made war on his younger brother, who was then in possession of Alexandria;
and having gained the victory in a sea-fight off Pelusium, and thrown a temporary bridge across the Nile, he led over his army, and was terrifying Alexandria itself, by laying siege to it; so that he seemed [p. 2078]
almost on the point of taking possession of that very opulent kingdom.
The ambassadors, after complaining of these proceedings, besought the senate to succour those princes, the faithful friends of their empire.
They said, that “such had been the kindness of the Roman people to Antiochus, such its influence over all kings and nations, that if they only sent ambassadors, to give him notice that the senate were displeased at war being made with princes in alliance with them, he would instantly retire from the walls of Alexandria, and lead his army home into Syria.
But if they hesitated to do this, Ptolemy and Cleopatra would soon come to Rome as exiles from their kingdom, which must excite some degree of shame in the Roman people, for not having brought them assistance in their extreme distress.”
The senate, affected by the supplications of the Alexandrians, immediately sent Caius Popilius Laenas, Caius Decimius, and Caius Hostilius, ambassadors, to put an end to the dispute between those kings.
Their instructions were, to go first to Antiochus, then to Ptolemy; and to acquaint them, that, unless hostilities were stopped, whichever party persisted, must expect to be considered by the senate as neither a friend nor an ally.