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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVI Chapter 41: Scipio speaks to the Spanish army.[210 BC]
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In Spain, in the beginning of spring, Publius Scipio, having launched his ships, and summoned the auxiliary troops of his allies to Tarraco by an edict, ordered his fleet and transports to proceed thence to the mouth of the Iberus. He also ordered his legions to quit their winter quarters, and meet at the same place; and then set out from Tarraco, with five thousand of the allies, to join the army. On his arrival at the camp he considered it right to harangue his soldiers, particularly the old ones who had survived such dreadful disasters; and therefore, calling an assembly, he thus addressed them: "Never was there a new commander before myself who could, with justice and good reason, give thanks to his soldiers before he had availed himself of their services. Fortune laid me under obligations to you before I set eyes on my province or your camp; first, on account of the respect you have shown to my father and uncle, both in their lifetime and since their death; and secondly, because by your valour you have recovered and preserved entire, for the Roman people, and me their successor, the possession of the province which had been lost in consequence of so dreadful a calamity. But since, now, by the favour of the gods, our purpose and endeavour is not that we may remain in Spain ourselves, but that the Carthaginians may not; and not to stand on the bank of the Iberus, and hinder the enemy from crossing that river, but cross it first ourselves, and carry the war to the other side, I fear lest to some among you the enterprise should appear too important and daring, considering your late misfortunes, which are fresh in your recollection, and my years. There is no person from whose mind the memory of the defeats sustained in Spain could be obliterated with more difficulty than from mine; inasmuch as there my father and uncle were both slain within the space of thirty days, so that one death after another was accumulated on my family. But as the orphanhood and desolation of my own family depresses my mind, so both the good fortune and valour of our nation forbid me to despair of the safety of the state. It has happened to us by a kind of fatality, that in all important wars we have been victorious, after having been defeated. I pass over those wars of ancient date with Porsena, the Gauls, and Samnites. I will begin with the Punic wars. How many fleets, generals, and armies were lost in the former war? Why should I mention what has occurred in this present war? I have either been myself present at all the defeats sustained, or have felt more than any other those from which I was absent. What else are the Trebia, the Trasimenus, and Cannae, but monuments of Roman armies and consuls slain? Add to these the defection of Italy, of the greater part of Sicily and Sardinia, and the last terror and panic, the Carthaginian camp pitched between the Anio and the walls of Rome, and the victorious Hannibal seen almost in our gates. Amid this general ruin, the courage of the Roman people alone stood unabated and unshaken. When every thing lay prostrate on the ground, it was this that raised and supported the state. You, first of all, my soldiers, under the conduct and auspices of my father, opposed Hasdrubal on his way to the Alps and Italy, after the defeat of Cannae, who, had he formed a junction with his brother, the Roman name would now have been extinct. These successes formed a counterpoise to those defeats. Now, by the favour of the gods, everything in Italy and Sicily is going on prosperously and successfully, every day affording matter of fresh joy, and presenting things in a better light. In Sicily, Syracuse and Agrigentum have been captured, the enemy entirely expelled the island, and the province placed again under the dominion of the Romans. In Italy, Arpi has been recovered and Capua taken. Hannibal has been driven into the remotest corner of Bruttium, having fled thither all the way from Rome, in the utmost confusion; and now he asks the gods no greater boon than that he might be allowed to retire in safety, and quit the territory of his enemy. What then, my soldiers, could be more preposterous than that you, who here supported the tottering fortune of the Roman people, together with my parents, (for they may be equally associated in the honour of that epithet,) when calamities crowded one upon another in quick succession, and even the gods themselves, in a manner, took part with Hannibal, should now sink in spirits when everything is going on happily and prosperously? Even with regard to the events which have recently occurred, I could wish that they had passed with as little grief to me as to you. At the present time the immortal gods who preside over the destinies of the Roman empire, who inspired all the centuries to order the command to be given to me, those same gods, I say, by auguries and auspices, and even by nightly visions, portend entire success and joy. My own mind also, which has hitherto been to me the truest prophet, presages that Spain will be ours; that the whole Carthaginian name will in a short time be banished from this land, and will fill both sea and land with ignominious flight. What my mind presages spontaneously, is also supported by sound reasoning. Their allies, annoyed by them, are by ambassadors imploring our protection; their three generals, having differed so far as almost to have abandoned each other, have divided their army into three parts, which they have drawn off into regions as remote as possible from each other. The same fortune now threatens them which lately afflicted us; for they are both deserted by their allies, as formerly we were by the Celtiberians, and they have divided their forces, which occasioned the ruin of my father and uncle. Neither will their intestine differences allow them to unite, nor will they be able to cope with us singly. Only do you, my soldiers, favour the name of the Scipios, favour the offspring of your generals, a scion springing up from the trunks which have been cut down. Come then, veterans, lead your new commander and your new army across the Iberus, lead us across into a country which you have often traversed, with many a deed of valour. I will soon bring it to pass that, as you now trace in me a likeness to my father and uncle in my features, countenance, and figure, I will so restore a copy of their genius, honour, and courage, to you, that every man of you shall say that his commander, Scipio, has either returned to life, or has been born again." |
Event: Actions in Spain in 210 BC.