It being generally reported that Africa, as a new province, was destined for Publius Scipio without casting lots; and he himself, not content with any moderate share of glory, asserting that he had been declared consul, not only for prosecuting, but for finishing the war;
that that object could not be accomplished by any other means than by his transporting an army into Africa; and himself openly declaring that he would do it through the people if the senate opposed him; the design by no means pleased the principal senators; and when the rest, either through fear or a wish to ingratiate themselves with him, only murmured, Quintus Fabius Maximus, being asked his opinion, thus spoke:
"I know, conscript fathers, that by many of you the question which is this day agitated is considered as already determined; and that the man who shall deliver his sentiments on the subject of making [p. 1217]
Africa a province, as a new proposal, will speak to little purpose.
But, in the first place, I cannot see how it can be considered as determined, that Africa shall be the province of the consul, that brave and active officer, when neither the senate have voted nor the people ordered that it should be constituted a province this year.
In the next place, if it is determined, I think the consul is to blame, who, by pretending to consult the senate on a question already decided, insults that body, and not the senator only who delivers his sentiments in his place on the subject of deliberation.
Now I am well aware, that by disapproving of this excessive eagerness to pass over into Africa, I subject myself to two imputations: one grounded on the caution inherent in my disposition, which young men may if they please call cowardice and
sloth, so long as we have the consolation to reflect, that though hitherto the measures of others have always appeared on the first view of them the more plausible, mine on experience have proved the sounder.
The other imputation is that of jealousy and envy towards the daily increasing glory of this most valiant consul.
But if neither my past life and character, nor a dictatorship, together with five consulships, and so much glory acquired, both in peace and war, that I am more likely to loathe it than desire more, exempt me from such a suspicion, let my age at least acquit me. For what rivalry can there exist between myself and a man who is not equal in years even to my son?
When I was dictator, when as yet in the possession of full vigour, and engaged in a series of affairs of the utmost magnitude, no one heard me, either in the senate or in the popular assembly, express any reluctance to have the command equally shared between myself and the master of the horse, at the time when he was maligning me; a proposition which no one ever heard mention of before.
I chose to bring it about by actions rather than by words, that he who was placed on the same footing with me in the judgment of others, should soon by his own confession declare me his superior.
Much less, after having passed through these honours, would I propose to myself to enter the lists of competition and rivalry with a man in the very bloom of youth.
And that, forsooth, in order that Africa, if it shall have been denied to him, may be assigned as a province to me, who am now weary of life, and not merely of active employments. I must live and die with that share [p. 1218]
of glory which I have already acquired.
I prevented Hannibal from conquering, in order that he might even be conquered by you, whose powers are now in full vigour.