To these pleas the Roman general replied [p. 483]
somewhat to this effect: "I was not unaware,1
Hannibal, that the Carthaginians, anticipating your arrival, showed no respect either for present obligations to the armistice or for the peace in prospect;
and you surely make no concealment of that fact when you omit from the earlier terms of peace everything except what has long been in our possession.2
But just as you are concerned to have your citizens appreciate how great is the burden of which they are relieved by you, so I must exert myself that they do not have as the reward of perfidy any relaxation of the terms of peace to which they at that time agreed.
Unworthy to have the same terms open to you as before, you Carthaginians are asking to have your dishonesty profit you. Our fathers were not aggressors in making war for Sicily; no more were we for Spain. In the former case the peril of our allies, the Mamertines
, as in the latter instance the destruction of Saguntum, armed us with the weapons of duty and justice.
That your people were the aggressors you yourself admit, and the gods as well are our witnesses, who gave for that war and are giving and will give for this one an outcome in accordance with justice and the right.
“So far as I am concerned, I am mindful of human weakness, and I reflect upon the might of Fortune and know that everything that we do is exposed to a thousand chances.
But, just as I should admit that I were acting with arrogance and violence if, before I had crossed over to Africa, I were to reject you when you were voluntarily withdrawing from Italy and, while your army was already on shipboard, you were coming in person to sue for peace, so now, [p. 485]
when I have dragged you to Africa, resisting
shifting ground as we almost came to blows, I am under no obligation to respect you.
Therefore, if to the terms upon which peace was formerly about to be made,4
as it seemed, you are adding some kind of compensation for the ships loaded with supplies that were taken by force during the armistice, and for violence done to my envoys, I have reason to bring it before the council. But if that addition also seems too severe, prepare for war, since you have been unable to endure a peace.”
Accordingly without making peace they returned from the conference to their armies, reporting that words had been of no avail; that arms must decide the issue and they must accept whatever lot the gods should give them.