When the senate had passed these decrees, the consul Lucius Aemilius went out from the senate-house into the assembly of the people, whom he addressed in a discourse to this effect:
“Romans, I think I have perceived that your congratulations, on my obtaining, by lot, the province of Macedonia, were warmer than either when I was saluted consul, or on the day when I entered on office; and that for no other reason, than your having conceived an opinion, that by me the war with Perseus, which has been long protracted, may be brought to a conclusion becoming the majesty of the Roman people.
I trust that the gods also have favoured this disposal of the lots, and will give me their aid in the conduct of affairs.
Some of these consequences I can prognosticate; others I can hope for. One thing I regard as certain, and venture to affirm; that I will endeavour, by every exertion in my power, that this hope which you have conceived of me may not be frustrated.
Every thing necessary for the service, the senate has ordered; and as it has been resolved, that I am to go abroad immediately, and I do not wish to delay, my colleague, Caius Licinius, an admirable man, will make the preparations with as much zeal, as if he himself were to carry on that war.
Do you give full credit to whatever I shall write to you, or to the senate; but do not by your credulity encourage mere rumours, of which no man shall appear as the responsible author.
For, no man is so entirely regardless of reputation, as that his spirits cannot be damped; which I have observed has commonly occurred, especially in this war.
In every circle, and, truly, at every table, there are people who lead armies into Macedonia; who know where the camp ought to be placed; what posts ought to be occupied by troops; when and through what pass Macedonia should be entered; where magazines should be formed; how provisions [p. 2081]
should be conveyed by land and sea; and when it is proper to engage the enemy, when to lie quiet.
And they not only determine what is best to be done, but if any thing is done in any other manner than what they have pointed out, they arraign the consul, as if he were on his trial.
These are great impediments to those who have the management of affairs; for every one cannot encounter injurious reports with the same constancy and firmness of mind as Fabius did, who chose to let his own authority be diminished through the folly of the people, rather than to mismanage the public business with a high reputation.
I am not one of those who think that commanders ought never to receive advice; on the contrary, I should deem that man more proud than wise, who did every thing of his own single judgment. What then is my opinion?
That commanders should be counselled, chiefly, by persons of known talent; by those, especially, who are skilled in the art of war, and who have been taught by experience; and next, by those who are present at the scene of action, who see the country, who see the enemy; who see the advantages that occasions offer, and who, embarked, as it were, in the same ship, are sharers of the danger.
If, therefore, any one thinks himself qualified to give advice respecting the war which I am to conduct, which may prove advantageous to the public, let him not refuse his assistance to the state, but let him come with me into Macedonia. He shall be furnished by me with a ship, a horse, a tent; and even with his travelling charges.
But if he thinks this too much trouble, and prefers the repose of a city life to the toils of war, let him not, on land, assume the office of a pilot. The city, in itself, furnishes abundance of topics for conversation;
let it confine its passion for talking, and rest assured, that we shall be content with such councils as shall be framed within our camp.”
Soon after this speech, the Latin festival having been celebrated on the day before the calends of April, and the sacrifice on the mount affording favourable omens, the consul, and Cneius Octavius, the prae- tor, set out directly for Macedonia.
There is a tradition that the consul, at his departure, was escorted by multitudes unusually numerous; and that people, with confident hope, presaged a conclusion of the Macedonian war, and the speedy return of the consul, to a glorious triumph.