|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXXVIII Chapter 44: Answer of Scipio (cont.)[205 BC]
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|"Put what need is there of instances drawn from other lands and other times to remind us how much depends upon taking the aggressive and removing danger from ourselves by making it recoil upon others? It makes all the difference in the world whether you are devastating the territory of another nation or seeing your own destroyed by fire and sword. It shows more courage to attack than to repel attacks. Then again, the unknown always inspires terror, but when you have entered your enemy's country you have a nearer view of his strength and weakness. Hannibal never hoped that so many communities would go over to him after Cannae; how much less could the Carthaginians, faithless allies, harsh and tyrannical masters as they are, count upon the firmness and stability of their African empire! So far, even when deserted by our allies, we stood in our own strength, the soldiery of Rome. The Carthaginians have no citizen army, their soldiers are all mercenaries, ready to change sides on the smallest provocation. If only nothing stops me, you will hear that I have landed, that Africa is wrapped in the flames of war, that Hannibal is tearing himself away from Italy, that Carthage is besieged all at one stroke. You may look for more cheerful and more frequent news from Africa than you received from Spain. Everything inspires me with hope which waits on Rome, the gods who witnessed the treaty which the enemy has broken, the two princes Syphax and Masinissa, whose fidelity I shall so far trust as to protect myself from any perfidy they may attempt. Many advantages which at this distance are not apparent will be disclosed as the war goes on. A man proves his capacity for leadership by seizing every opportunity that presents itself, and making every contingency subserve his plans. I shall have the adversary whom you, Quintus Fabius assign to me but I would rather draw him away than that he should keep me here; I would compel him to fight in his own country, and Carthage shall be the prize of victory rather than the half-ruined strongholds of Bruttium. "And now as to any injury that may befall the republic during my voyage or whilst I am disembarking my men on the shores of Africa or during my advance on Carthage. As the consul, Publius Licinius, is also Pontifex Maximus, and cannot be absent from his sacred duties, it is impossible for him to ballot for so distant a province. Would it not be almost an insult to say that he cannot accomplish the task, after Hannibal's power has been shaken and almost shattered, which you, Quintus Fabius, were able to accomplish when Hannibal in the hour of victory was flying about in every part of Italy? And even if the war should not be brought to a more speedy termination by the plan which I suggest, the dignity of Rome and her prestige amongst foreign kings and nations would surely require us to show that we possess sufficient courage not only to defend Italy but to carry our arms even as far as Africa. We must not let the idea get abroad that no Roman general durst do what Hannibal has done, or that whilst in the First Punic War, when the struggle was for Sicily, Africa was frequently attacked by our fleets and armies, in this war, when the struggle is for Italy, Africa is left in peace. Let Italy, which has been so long harassed, have some rest at last; let Africa take its turn of fire and ruin; let a Roman camp threaten the gates of Carthage rather than that we should see the enemy's lines from our walls. Let Africa be the seat of war henceforth; let us roll back there all the terror and the flight, all the wasting of our lands and the defection of our allies, all the other miseries of war which have been assailing us for the last fourteen years. Enough has been said as to the republic and the present war and the allocation of provinces. It would be a long and uninteresting discussion if I were to follow the example of Quintus Fabius, and as he has depreciated my services in Spain, so I were to pour ridicule on his glory and extol my own. I will do neither the one nor the other, senators, and if, young as I am, I cannot have the advantage over an old man in anything else, I will at least prove his superior in moderation and restraint of language. My life and my conduct of affairs have been such that I am quite content to accept in silence the judgment which you have spontaneously formed."