But the transfer of soldiers to Sicily —and the most of them were of Latin status or allies —was the cause of an outbreak which might have been serious; so true is it that on small things often depends the course of great events.
For complaints began to be heard among Latins and allies in their gatherings:1
that for now the tenth year they had been exhausted by levies of troops and their pay; that almost every year they fought in a disastrous defeat.
Some, they said, were slain in battle, others carried off by disease. The townsman who was enlisted by the Roman was lost to them more completely than a man taken captive by the Carthaginian. For with no demand for a ransom the enemy sent him back to his native town; the Romans transported him out of Italy, really into exile rather than into military service.
For the eighth year now the soldiers from Cannae were growing old there, certain to die before the enemy, who at the very moment was in the flower of his strength, departed out of Italy.
If the old soldiers should not return to their native places, and fresh soldiers continued to be levied, soon no one would be left.
Accordingly, what the situation itself would soon refuse must be refused the Roman people without waiting to reach the extreme of desolation and poverty. If the Romans should see the allies unanimous to this effect, surely they would think of making peace with the Carthaginians. Otherwise never, so long as Hannibal lived, would Italy be rid of war.
Such were the matters debated in their meetings. [p. 243]
There were at that time thirty colonies of the2
Of these, while delegations from them all were at Rome, twelve informed the consuls that they had no means of furnishing soldiers and money. These were Ardea, Nepete, Sutrium, Alba, Carsioli, Sora, Suessa, Circeii, Setia, Cales, Narnia, Interamna.4
The consuls, deeply impressed by what was unheard-of, wishing to deter them from so abominable a move, and thinking they should accomplish more by upbraiding and rebuking them than by soft words, told them that they had dared to say to the consuls what the consuls could not bring themselves to utter in the senate.
For it was not a refusal of burdens and of military service, but an open revolt from the Roman people.
Accordingly they should return to their colonies promptly, and, as though nothing had been settled, since they had spoken of so great a crime but had not yet ventured to commit it, they should deliberate with their people.
Let them remind them that they were not Capuans nor Tarentines, but Romans, sprung from Rome and sent thence into colonies and on land captured in war, to increase their race. All that children owed to their parents they owed, it was said, to the Romans, if there was any filial affection, any memory of their former city.
Let them therefore deliberate again; for their present reckless proposal tended to betray the Roman empire, to give over the victory to Hannibal.
The consuls by turns kept on for a long time in this strain; but the deputies, still unmoved, said [p. 245]
that they had nothing to report back home, nor did5
their senates have anything new to decide upon, in towns where there were neither soldiers to be enlisted nor money to be furnished for pay.
The consuls, finding them unyielding, brought the matter before the senate; and there such terror was inspired in the minds of the members that a great many of them said the empire was at an end; that the same thing would be done by the other colonies, the same by the allies; that they all had conspired to betray the city of Rome to Hannibal.