Scipio elected Consul -- Saves Mancinus from Destruction -- Demoralization of the Army -- Scipio's Speech to the Soldiers
When the ill success of Piso and the preparation of the Carthaginians were reported at Rome, the people were chagrined and anxious, as the war was growing larger and more irreconcilable, and coming nearer every day. There could be no expectation of peace since they had been the first to break faith. Remembering the exploits of Scipio while he was a military tribune not long before, and comparing them with the present blunders and recalling the letters written to them by friends and relatives from the army on that subject, there was presently an intense desire that he should be sent to Carthage as consul. The election was drawing near and Scipio was a candidate for the dileship, for the laws did not permit him to hold the consulship as yet, on account of his youth; yet the people elected him consul. This was illegal, and when the consuls showed them the law they became importunate and urged all the more, exclaiming that by the laws handed down from Tullius and Romulus the people were the judges of the elections, and that, of the laws pertaining thereto, they could set aside or confirm whichever they pleased. Finally one of the tribunes of the people declared that he would take from the consuls the power of holding an election unless they yielded to the people in this matter. Then the Senate allowed the tribunes to repeal this law, and after one year they renacted it. In like manner the Lacedemonians, when they were obliged to relieve from disgrace those who had surrendered at Pylus,386 said, "Let the laws sleep to-day." Thus Scipio, while seeking the dileship, was chosen consul. When his colleague, Drusus, proposed to him to cast lots to see which should have Africa as his province, one of the tribunes put the question of the command of that army to the people, and they chose Scipio. They also allowed him to take as many soldiers by conscription as had been lost in the war, and as many volunteers as he could enlist among the allies, and for this purpose to send to the allied kings and states letters written in the name of the Roman people, according to his own discretion. In this way he obtained assistance from them. 387
Having made these arrangements, Scipio sailed first to Sicily and thence to Utica. Piso, in the meantime, had laid siege to a town in the interior. Mancinus, observing a neglected part of the wall of Carthage, which was protected by continuous and almost impassable cliffs and had been neglected for that reason, made an attack there, thinking to scale the wall secretly by means of ladders. These being fixed, certain soldiers mounted boldly. The Carthaginians, despising their small numbers, opened a gate adjacent to these rocks and made a sally against the enemy. The Romans repulsed and pursued them, and rushed into the 388 city through the open gate. They raised a shout of victory, and Mancinus, transported with joy (for he was giddy and rash by nature), and the whole crowd with him, rushed from the ships, unarmed or half-armed, to aid their companions. As it was now about sunset they occupied a strong position adjacent to the wall and spent the night there. Being without food, Mancinus called upon Piso and the magistrates of Utica to assist him in his perilous position and to send him provisions in all haste, for he was in danger of being thrust out by the Carthaginians at daylight and dashed to pieces on the rocks.
Scipio arrived at Utica that same evening, and happening, about midnight, to meet those to whom Mancinus had written, he ordered the trumpet to sound for fighting immediately, and the heralds to call to the sea-shore those who had come with him from Italy, and also the young men of Utica, and he directed the older ones to bring provisions to the galleys. At the same time, he released some Carthaginian captives so that they might go and tell their friends that Scipio was coming upon them with his fleet. To Piso he sent horseman after horseman, urging him to move with all speed. About the last watch he put to sea, giving orders to the soldiers that when they approached the city they should stand up on the decks in order to give an appearance of vast numbers to the enemy. At early dawn the Carthaginians attacked Mancinus from all sides and he formed a circle with his 500 armed men, within which he placed the unarmed ones, 3000 in number. Suffering from wounds and being forced back to the wall, he was on the point of being pushed over the precipice when Scipio's fleet came in sight, driven at a tremendous rate of speed, with soldiers crowding the decks everywhere. This was not a surprise to the Carthaginians, who had been advised of it by the returned prisoners, but to the Romans, who were ignorant of what had happened, Scipio brought unexpected relief. Gradually the Carthaginians drew back and Scipio received those who had been in peril into his ships. Straightway he sent Mancinus to Rome (for his successor, Serranus, had come with Scipio to take command of the fleet), and he pitched his camp not far from Carthage. The Carthaginians advanced five stades from the walls and fortified a camp opposite him. Here they were joined by Hasdrubal, the commander of the forces in the country, and Bithya, the cavalry general, who had 6000 foot-soldiers and 1000 horse well trained and seasoned.
Scipio, finding the discipline of the army relaxed and the soldiers under Piso given up to idleness, avarice, and rapine, and a multitude of hucksters mingled with them, who followed the camp for the sake of booty, and accompanied the bolder ones when they made expeditions for plunder without permission (although in contemplation of law everybody was a deserter who went beyond the sound of the trumpet in time of war); seeing also that the commander was held to blame for all their failures and that the plunder they took was the cause of fresh quarrels and demoralization among them, for many of them fell out with their comrades on account of it and proceeded to blows, wounds, and even manslaughter -- in view of all these things and believing that he should never master the enemy unless he first mastered his own men, he called them together and, mounting a high platform, he lashed them with these words: --
"Soldiers, when I served with you under the command of Manilius, I gave you an example of obedience, as you can testify. I ask the same from you, now that I am in command; for while I have ample powers to punish the disobedient, I think it best to give you warning beforehand. You know what you have been doing. Therefore why should I tell you what I am ashamed to speak of? You are more like robbers than soldiers. You are runaways instead of guardians of the camp. You are more like hucksters than conquerors. You are in quest of luxuries in the midst of war and before the victory is won. For this reason the enemy, from the hopeless weakness in which I left him, has risen to such strength, and your labor has been made harder by your laziness. If I considered you to blame for this I should punish you now, but since I ascribe it to another, I shall overlook the past. I have come here not to rob, but to conquer, not to exact money before victory, but to overcome the enemy first. Now, all of you who are not soldiers must leave the camp to-day, except those who have my permission to remain, and of those who go, I shall allow none to come back except such as bring food, and this must be for the army, and plain food at that. A definite time will be given to them to dispose of their goods, and I and my qustor will superintend the sale. So much for the camp followers. For you, soldiers, I have one order adapted to all occasions, and that is, that you follow the example of my habits and my industry. If you observe this rule you will not be wanting in your duty and you will not fail of your reward. We must toil while the danger lasts; spoils and luxury must be postponed to their proper time. This I command and this the law commands. Those who obey shall reap large rewards; those who do not will repent it."