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When Audacity is the Truest Safety

Much the same remark applies to Hannibal. For who can refrain from regarding with respect and admiration a general capable of doing what he did? First he attempted by harassing the enemy with skirmishing attacks to raise the siege: having failed in this he made direct for Rome itself: baffled once more by a turn of fortune entirely independent of human calculation, he kept his pursuers in play,1 and waited till the moment was ripe to see whether the besiegers of Capua stirred: and finally, without relaxing in his determination, swept down upon his enemies to their destruction, and all but depopulated Rhegium. One would be inclined however to judge the Romans to be superior to the Lacedaemonians at this crisis. For the Lacedaemonians rushed off en masse at the first message and relieved Sparta, but, as far as they were concerned, lost Mantinea. The Romans guarded their own city without breaking up the siege of Capua: on the contrary, they remained unshaken and firm in their purpose, and in fact from that time pressed the Capuans with renewed spirit.

I have not said this for the sake of making a panegyric on either the Romans or Carthaginians, whose great qualities I have already remarked upon more than once: but for the sake of those who are in office among the one or the other people, or who are in future times to direct the affairs of any state whatever; that by the memory, or actual contemplation, of exploits such as these they may be inspired with emulation. For in an adventurous and hazardous policy it often turns out that audacity was the truest safety and the finest sagacity;2 and success or failure does not affect the credit and excellence of the original design, so long as the measures taken are the result of deliberate thought. . . .

When the Romans were besieging Tarentum, Bomilcar the

The Carthaginian fleet invited from Sicily to relieve Tarentum does more harm than good, and departs to the joy of the people, B. C. 211. Livy, 26, 20.
admiral of the Carthaginian fleet came to its relief with a very large force; and being unable to afford efficient aid to those in the town, owing to the strict blockade maintained by the Romans, without meaning to do so he used up more than he brought; and so after having been constrained by entreaties and large promises to come, he was afterwards forced at the earnest supplication of the people to depart. . . .

1 συμπέμψαι, a difficult word. See Strachan-Davidson's note. It seems to me to be opposed to φυγεῖν or some such idea. Hannibal was not in flight, but kept the enemy with him, as it were, in a kind of procession, until the moment for striking.

2 There is some word wanting in the text here which has been variously supplied. I have ventured to conjecture τὰ γὰρ δοκοῦντα παράβολον κ.τ.λ., and to translate accordingly: for it is the boldness and apparent rashness of Hannibal's movement that Polybius seems to wish to commend.

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