Fabius having made a strong impression on a large portion of the senate, and especially those advanced in years, by this speech, which was adapted to the occasion, and also by his authority and his long-established reputation for prudence; and those who approved of the counsel of this old man being more numerous than those who commended the hot spirit of the young one;
Scipio is reported thus to have spoken:
"Even Quintus Fabius himself has observed, conscript fathers, in the commencement of his speech, that in the opinion he gave a feeling of jealousy might be suspected.
And though I dare not myself charge so great a man with harbouring that feeling, yet, whether it is owing to a defect in his language, or to the fact, that suspicion has certainly not [p. 1223]
been removed. For he has so magnified his own honours and the fame of his exploits, in order to do away with the imputation of envy, that it would appear I am in danger of being rivalled by every obscure person, but not by himself, because, as he enjoys an eminence above every body else, an eminence to which I do not dissemble that I also aspire, he is unwilling that I should be placed upon a level with him.
He has represented himself as an old man, and as one who has gone through every gradation of honour, and me as below the age even of his son;
as if he supposed that the desire of glory did not exceed the limits of human life, and as if its chief part had not respect to memory and future ages.
I am confident, that it is usual with all the most exalted minds, to compare themselves, not only with the illustrious men of the present, but of every age.
For my own part, I do not dissemble that I am desirous, not only to attain to the share of glory which you possess, Quintus Fabius, but, (and in saying it I mean no offence,) if I can, even to exceed it. Let not such a feeling exist in your mind towards me, nor in mine towards those who are my juniors, as that we should be unwilling that any of our countrymen should attain to the same celebrity with ourselves;
for that would be a detriment, not to those only who may be the objects of our envy, but to the state, and almost to the whole human race.
He mentioned what a great degree of danger I should incur, should I cross over into Africa, so that he appeared solicitous on my account, and not only for the state and the army. But whence has this concern for me so suddenly sprung?
When my father and uncle were slain; when their two armies were cut up almost to a man; when Spain was lost; when four armies of the Carthaginians and four generals kept possession of every thing by terror and by arms; when a general was sought for to take the command of that war, and no one came forward besides myself, no one had the courage to declare himself a candidate; when the Roman people had conferred the command upon me, though only twenty-four years of age;
why was it that no one at that time made any mention of my age, of the strength of the enemy, of the difficulty of the war, and of the recent destruction of my father and uncle?
Has some greater disaster been suffered in Africa now than had at that time befallen us in Spain? Are there now larger armies in Africa, more and better generals, than were then in Spain?
Was my age then more mature for conducting a war than now? Can a war with a Carthaginian enemy be carried on with greater convenience in Spain than in Africa?
After having routed and put to flight four Carthaginian armies; after having captured by force, or reduced to submission by fear, so many cities; after having entirely subdued every thing as far as the ocean, so many petty princes, so many savage nations; after having regained possession of the whole of Spain, so that no trace of war remains, it is an easy matter to make light of my services;
just as easy as it would be, should I return victorious from Africa, to make light of those very circumstances which are now magnified in order that they may appear formidable, for the purpose of detaining me here. He says that there is no possibility of entering Africa; that there are no ports open.
He mentions that Marcus Atilius was taken prisoner in Africa, as if Marcus Atilius had miscarried on his first access to Africa. Nor does he recollect that the ports of Africa were open to that very commander, unfortunate as he was; that he performed some brilliant services during the first year, and continued undefeated to the last, so far as related to the Carthaginian generals. You will not, therefore, in the least deter me by that example of yours.
If that disaster had been sustained in the present, and not in the former war, if lately, and not forty years ago, yet why would it be less advisable for me to cross over into Africa after Regulus had been made prisoner there, than into Spain after the Scipios had been slain there?
I should be reluctant to admit that the birth of Xanthippus the Lacedaemonian was more fortunate for Carthage than mine for my country. My confidence would be increased by the very circumstance, that such important consequences depended upon the valour of one man.
But further, we must take warning by the Athenians, who inconsiderately crossed over into Sicily, leaving a war in their own country.
Why, therefore, since you have leisure to relate Grecian tales, do you not rather set before us the instance of Agathocles, king of Syracuse, who, when Sicily was for a long time wasted by a Punic war, by passing over into this same Africa, removed the war to the country from whence it came.