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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXI Chapter 43: Speech of Hannibal[218 BC]
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When he [Note 1] had dismissed the soldiers, thus affected after viewing several pairs of combatants, having then an summoned, he is said to have addressed them in these terms: "If, soldiers, you shall by and by, in judging of your own fortune, preserve the same feelings which you experienced a little before in the example of the fate of others, we have already conquered; for neither was that merely a spectacle, but as it were a certain representation of your condition. And I know not whether fortune has not thrown around you still stronger chains and more urgent necessities than around your captives. On the right and left two seas enclose you, without your possessing a single ship even for escape. The river Po around you, the Po larger and more impetuous than the Rhone, the Alps behind, scarcely passed by you when fresh and vigorous, hem you in. Here, soldiers, where you have first met the enemy, you must conquer or die; and the same fortune which has imposed the necessity of fighting, holds out to you, if victorious, rewards, than which men are not wont to desire greater, even from the immortal gods. If we were only about to recover by our valour Sicily and Sardinia, wrested from our fathers, the recompence would be sufficiently ample; but whatever, acquired and amassed by so many triumphs, the Romans possess, all, with its masters themselves, will become yours. To gain this rich reward, hasten, then, and seize your arms with the favour of the gods. Long enough in pursuing cattle among the desert mountains of Lusitania and Celtiberia, you have seen no emolument from so many toils and dangers: it is time to make rich and profitable campaigns, and to gain the great reward of your labours, after having accomplished such a length of journey over so many mountains and rivers, and so many nations in arms. Here fortune has granted you the termination of your labours; here she will bestow a reward worthy of the service you have undergone. Nor, in proportion as the war is great in name, ought you to consider that the victory will be difficult. A despised enemy has often maintained a sanguinary contest, and renowned states and kings been conquered by a very slight effort. For, setting aside only the splendour of the Roman name, what remains in which they can be compared to you? To pass over in silence your service for twenty years, distinguished by such valour and success you have made your way to this place from the pillars of Hercules, [Footnote: Calpe, a mountain or rather rock in Spain, and Abyla in Africa, fabled to have been placed by Hercules as marks of his most distant voyage, are now well known as Gibraltar and Ceuta.] from the ocean, and the remotest limits of the world advancing victorious through so many of the fiercest nations of Gaul and Spain: you will fight with a raw army, which this very summer was beaten, conquered, and surrounded by the Gauls, as yet unknown to its general, and ignorant of him. Shall I compare myself, almost born, and certainly bred in the tent of my father, that most illustrious commander, myself the subjugator of Spain and Gaul, the conqueror too not only of the Alpine nations, but what is much more, of the Alps themselves, with this six months' general, the deserter of his army? To whom, if any one, having taken away their standards, should show to-day the Carthaginians and Romans, I am sure that he would not know of which army he was consul. I do not regard it, soldiers, as of small account, that there is not a man among you before whose eyes I have not often achieved some military exploit; and to whom, in like manner, I the spectator and witness of his valour, could not recount his own gallant deeds, particularized by time and place. With soldiers who have a thousand times received my praises and gifts, I, who was the pupil of you all before I became your commander, will march out in battle-array against those who are unknown to and ignorant of each other." |
Note 1: he = Hannibal
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Triumph:The highest honour to a general: clad like Jupiter he drove in a chariot drawn by four white horses. Before him walked the prisoners taken in the war, and the spoils of the captured cities, and in later times pictures of the conquered territories were carried before the general's chariot. He was followed by his troops, who sung songs, often extempore effusions, in honour of their commander.
Standard:When an army was in camp, they were fixed in the ground, each marking the station of the cohort to which it belonged; when they were taken up it was the signal for breaking up the camp and commencing the march.