XXVII[27arg] A story of the Roman and the Carthaginian people, showing that they were rivals of nearly equal strength.
IT is stated in ancient records that the strength, the spirit and the numbers of the Roman and the Carthaginian people were once equal. And this opinion was not without foundation. With other nations the contest was for the independence of one or the other state, with the Carthaginians it was for the rule of the world. An indication of this is found in the following word and act of each of the two peoples: Quintus Fabius, a Roman general, delivered a letter to the Carthaginians, in which it was written that the Roman people had sent them a spear and a herald's staff, signs respectively of war and peace; they might choose whichever they pleased and regard the one which they should choose as sent them by the Roman people. The Carthaginians replied that they chose neither one; those who had brought them might leave whichever they liked; that whatever should be left them they would consider that they themselves had chosen. Marcus Varro, however, says that neither the spear itself nor the staff itself was sent, but two [p. 293] tokens, on one of which was engraved the representation of a staff; on the other that of a spear.