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Quote of the day: It is a disagreeable task in the case of
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXXVIII Chapter 40: Speech of Quintus Fabius against Scipio's plan to attack Africa[205 BC]
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The next question before the senate concerned the raising of troops and the distribution of the various commands. There was a rumour that Africa was to form a new province and be allotted to Scipio without having recourse to the ballot. Scipio himself, no longer contented with a moderate share of glory, was telling people that he had been returned as consul not simply to carry on the war but to bring it to an end, and the only way of doing that was for him to take an army over to Africa. In the event of the senate's opposition he asserted openly that he would carry his proposal by the authority of the people. The project was most distasteful to the leaders of the senate, and as the rest of the senators, afraid of becoming unpopular, refused to speak out, Quintus Fabius Maximus was asked for his opinion. This he gave in the following speech: "I am quite aware, senators, that many of you regard the question before us today as already decided, and consider that any one who discusses the destination of Africa as though it were still an open question is wasting words. I do not quite understand, however, how Africa can have been definitely assigned as the province of our gallant and energetic consul, when neither the senate nor the people have decided that it shall be included amongst the provinces for the year. If it has been so assigned then I think the consul is quite wrong in inviting a sham discussion upon a measure that has been decided upon; he is not only stultifying the senate as a body, but each individual senator who is called upon in turn for his opinion. "In expressing my dissent from those who think that we ought at once to invade Africa, I am quite conscious that I expose myself to two imputations. For one thing my action will be set down to my cautious nature. Young men may call it timidity and indolence if they please, as long as we have no cause to regret that though the counsels of others have seemed at first sight more attractive, experience shows that mine are better. The other charge against me will be that I am actuated by motives of malevolence and envy against the ever-growing glory of our most gallant consul. If my past life, my character, my dictatorship and five consulships, the glory I have acquired as a citizen and as a soldier, a glory so great as to produce surfeit rather than a desire for more if these do not shield me from this imputation at least let my age free me from it. What rivalry can exist between myself and a man who is not even as old as my son? When I was Dictator, in the full maturity of my powers and engaged in most important operations my authority was by an unheard-of innovation divided with the Master of the Horse. Yet no one ever heard a word of protest from me either in the senate or in the Assembly, even when he was pursuing me with abuse. It was through my actions rather than my words that I wished the man whom others considered my equal to be compelled to admit his inferiority to me. And am I, who have received all the honours that the State can confer, to enter into competition with one who is in the full flower of his youth? And simply that if Africa is refused to him, it may be granted to me, tired as I am not only of public business but of life itself? No, I must live and die with the glory that I have won. I have prevented Hannibal from conquering in order that he might be conquered by those of you who are in the full vigour of your powers."