This is what I have thought worthy of record in what historians say about Marcellus and Pelopidas. In their natures and dispositions they were almost exactly alike, since both were valiant, laborious, passionate, and magnanimous; and there would seem to have been this difference only between them, that Marcellus committed slaughter in many cities which he reduced, while Epaminondas and Pelopidas never put any one to death after their victories, nor did they sell cities into slavery. And we are told that, had they been present, the Thebans would not have treated the Orchomenians as they did.
As for their achievements, those of Marcellus against the Gauls were great and astonishing, since he routed such a multitude of horse and foot with the few horsemen in his following (an action not easily found recorded of any other general), and slew the enemies' chieftain; whereas in this regard Pelopidas failed, for he set out to do the same thing, but suffered what he meant to inflict, and was slain first by the tyrant.
However, with these exploits of Marcellus one may compare the battles of Leuctra and Tegyra, greatest and most illustrious of actions; and we have no exploit of Marcellus accomplished by stealth and ambuscade which we can compare with what Pelopidas did in coming back from exile and slaying the tyrants in Thebes, nay, that seems to rank far higher than any other achievement of secrecy and cunning.
Hannibal was, it is true, a most formidable enemy for the Romans, but so, assuredly, were the Lacedaemonians in the time of Pelopidas for the Thebans, and that they were defeated by Pelopidas at Tegyra and Leuctra is an established fact; whereas Hannibal, according to Polybius,1
was not even once defeated by Marcellus, but continued to be invincible until Scipio came.
However, I believe, with Livy, Caesar, and Nepos, and, among Greek writers, with King Juba, that sundry defeats and routs were inflicted by Marcellus upon the troops of Hannibal, although these had no great influence upon the war; indeed, the Carthaginian would seem to have practised some ruse in these engagements.
But that which reasonably and fittingly called for admiration was the fact that the Romans, after the rout of so many armies, the slaughter of so many generals, and the utter confusion of the whole empire, still had the courage to face their foes. For there was one man who filled his army again with ardour and ambition to contend with the enemy, instead of the great fear and consternation which had long oppressed them, inspiring and encouraging them not only to yield the victory reluctantly,
but also to dispute it with all eagerness, and this man was Marcellus. For when their calamities had accustomed them to be satisfied whenever they escaped Hannibal by flight, he taught them to be ashamed to survive defeat, to be chagrined if they came within a little of yielding, and to be distressed if they did not win the day.