But Hannibal, now that he had torn himself away from Marcellus, made free use of his army, and going fearlessly round about, wasted all Italy with fire. Meantime, at Rome, Marcellus was in ill repute, and his enemies incited Publicius Bibulus, one of the tribunes of the people, a powerful speaker and a man of violence, to bring a denunciation against him.
This man held frequent assemblies of the people and tried to persuade them to put the forces of Marcellus in charge of another general,
‘since Marcellus,’ as he said,
‘after giving himself a little exercise in the war, has withdrawn from it as from a palaestra, and betaken himself to warm baths for refreshment.’ On learning of this, Marcellus left his legates in charge of his army, while he himself went up to Rome to make answer to the accusations against him.
There he found an impeachment prepared against him which was drawn from these accusations. Accordingly, on a day set for the trial, when the people had come together in the Flaminian circus, Bibulus rose up and denounced him. Then Marcellus spoke briefly and simply in his own defence, and the leading and most reputable citizens, with great boldness of speech and in glowing terms, exhorted the people not to show themselves worse judges than the enemy by convicting Marcellus of cowardice, whom alone of their leaders Hannibal avoided, and continually contrived not to fight with him, that he might fight with the rest.
When these speeches were ended, the accuser was so far disappointed in his hope of obtaining the verdict that Marcellus was not only acquitted of the charges against him, but actually appointed consul for the fifth time.1