|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXII Chapter 60: Speech of Manlius on the ransoms[216 BC]
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|When he had finished his address, the crowd of persons in the comitium immediately set up a loud lamentation, and stretched out their hands to the senate, imploring them to restore to them their children, their brothers, and their kinsmen. Their fears and affection for their kindred had brought the women also with the crowd of men in the forum. Witnesses being excluded, the matter began to be discussed in the senate. There being a difference of opinion, and some advising that they should be ransomed at the public charge, others, that the state should be put to no expense, but that they should not be prevented redeeming themselves at their own cost; and that those who had not the money at present should receive a loan from the public coffer, and security given to the people by their sureties and properties; Titus Manlius Torquatus, a man of primitive, and, as some considered, over-rigorous severity, being asked his opinion, is reported thus to have spoken: "Had the deputies confined themselves to making a request, in behalf of those who are in the hands of the enemy, that they might be ransomed, I should have briefly given my opinion, without inveighing against any one. For what else would have been necessary but to admonish you, that you ought to adhere to the custom handed down from your ancestors, a precedent indispensable to military discipline. But now, since they have almost boasted of having surrendered themselves to the enemy, and have claimed to be preferred, not only to those who were captured by the enemy in the field, but to those also who came to Venusia and Canusium, and even to the consul Terentius himself; I will not suffer you to remain in ignorance of things which were done there. And I could wish that what I am about to bring before you, were stated at Canusium, before the army itself, the best witness of every man's cowardice or valour; or at least that one person, Publius Sempronius, were here, whom had they followed as their leader, they would this day have been soldiers in the Roman camp, and not prisoners in the power of the enemy. But though the enemy was fatigue with fighting, and engaged in rejoicing for their victory, and had, the greater part of them, retired into their camp, and they had the night at their disposal for making a sally, and as they were seven thousand armed troops, might have forced their way through the troops of the enemy, however closely arrayed; yet they neither of themselves attempted to do this, nor were willing to follow another. Throughout nearly the whole night Sempronius ceased not to admonish and exhort them, while but few of the enemy were about the camp, while there was stillness and quiet, while the night would conceal their design, that they would follow him; that before daybreak they might reach places of security, the cities of their allies. If as Publius Decius, the military tribune in Samnium, said, within the memory of our grandfathers; if he had said, as Calpurnius Flamma, in the first Punic war, when we were youths, said to the three hundred volunteers, when he was leading them to seize upon an eminence situated in the midst of the enemy: LET US DIE,SOLDIERS, AND BY OUR DEATHS RESCUE THE SURROUNDED LEGIONS FROM AMBUSCADE; -- if Publius Sempronius had said thus, he would neither have considered you as Romans nor men, had no one stood forward as his companion in so valorous an attempt. He points out to you the road that leads not to glory more than to safety; he restores you to your country, your parents, your wives and children. Do you want courage to effect your preservation? What would you do if you had to die for your country? Fifty thousand of your countrymen and allies on that very day lay around you slain. If so many examples of courage did not move you, nothing ever will. If so great a carnage did not make life less dear, none ever will. While in freedom and safety, show your affection for your country; nay, rather do so while it is your country, and you its citizens. Too late you now endeavour to evince your regard for her when degraded, disfranchised from the rights of citizens, and become the slaves of the Carthaginians. Shall you return by purchase to that degree which you have forfeited by cowardice and neglect? You did not listen to Sempronius, your countryman, when he bid you take arms and follow him; but a little after you listened to Hannibal, when he ordered your arms to be surrendered, and your camp betrayed. But why do I charge those men with cowardice, when I might tax them with villany? They not only refused to follow him who gave them good advice, but endeavoured to oppose and hold him back, had not some men of the greatest bravery, drawing their swords, removed the cowards. Publius Sempronius, I say, was obliged to force his way through a band of his countrymen, before he burst through the enemy's troops. Can our country regret such citizens as these, whom if all the rest resembled, she would not have one citizen of all those who fought at Cannae? Out of seven thousand armed men, there were six hundred who had courage to force their way, who returned to their country free, and in arms; nor did forty thousand of the enemy successfully oppose them. How safe, think you, would a passage have been for nearly two legions? Then you would have had this day at Canusium, conscript fathers, twenty thousand bold and faithful. But now how can these men be called faithful and good citizens, (for they do not even call themselves brave,) except any man suppose that they showed themselves such when they opposed those who were desirous of forcing their way through the enemy? or, unless any man can suppose, that they do not envy those men their safety and glory acquired by valour, when the must know that their timidity and cowardice were the cause of their ignominious servitude? Skulking in their tents they preferred to wait for the light and the enemy together, when they had an opportunity of sallying forth during the silence of the night. But though they had not courage to sally forth from the camp, had they courage to defend it strenuously? Having endured a siege for several days and nights, did they protect their rampart by their arms, and themselves by their rampart? At length, having dared and suffered every extremity, every support of life being gone, their strength exhausted with famine, and unable to hold their arms, were they subdued by the necessities of nature rather than by arms? At sunrise, the enemy approached the rampart: before the second hour, without hazarding any contest, they delivered up their arms and themselves. Here is their military service for you during two days. When they ought to have stood firm in array and fight on, then they fled back into their camp; when they ought to have fought before their rampart, they delivered up their camp: good for nothing, either in the field or the camp. I redeem you. When you ought to sally from the camp, you linger and hesitate; and when you ought to stay and protect your camp in arms, you surrender the camp, your arms, and yourselves to the enemy. I am of opinion, conscript fathers, that these men should no more be ransomed, than that those should be surrendered to Hannibal, who sallied from the camp through the midst of the enemy, and, with the most distinguished courage, restored themselves to their country."