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If any one of you, O conscript fathers, is waiting to see what provinces I shall propose to decree to the consuls, let him consider in his own mind what men I must think it most desirable to recall from the provinces; and then he will not
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have any doubt what ought to be my sentiments, when he has once seriously thought what it is absolutely inevitable that they should be. And if I were the first to deliver the opinion which I am about to state, you would in truth praise it; if I were to stand alone in it, at all events you would pardon me. Even if my opinion were to appear to you on the whole somewhat ineligible, still you would make some allowance for my just indignation. But, as the case stands at present, O conscript fathers, I feel no ordinary delight because it is so entirely for the advantage of the republic that Syria and Macedonia should be the provinces decreed to the consuls, that my own private feelings are in no respect at variance with the general good; and because also I can cite the authority of Publius Servilius, who has delivered his opinion before me, a most illustrious man, and of singular good faith and attachment both to the republic in general, and to my safety in particular.
2 And if he, both just now, and whenever he has had any opportunity or possibility of speaking on the subject, has thought it his duty to brand not only with his adverse opinion but with the greatest severity of language, Gabinius and Piso, as the two monsters who have been almost the destruction of the republic, both on other accounts, and also most especially because of their extraordinary wickedness and unseemly inhumanity towards me, with what feelings ought I myself to be actuated towards those men,—I whose safety they devoted and ruined for the gratification of their own evil passions?
But in declaring my sentiments at this time, I will not be guided by my indignation, nor will I make my speech subservient to my enmity. The same feelings which every individual among you ought to entertain towards those men, shall influence me also. My own predominant and peculiar feeling of private indignation, which, however, you have always considered as belonging to yourselves in common with me, I will put aside while delivering my opinion, and reserve for a more fitting opportunity of revenge.
There are four provinces, O conscript fathers, concerning which I understand that opinions have as yet been delivered: the two Gauls, which at present we see united under one command; and Syria; and Macedonia; which, against your will, and when you were suffering under oppression
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and constraint, those pernicious consuls seized on as their reward for having overturned the republic. According to the provisions of the Sempronian law, we have now to decree two to the consuls. How is it possible for us to doubt about Syria and Macedonia being these two? I say nothing of the fact that those men are holding them at present who procured them in such a way that they did not get them till they condemned this order of ours till they had destroyed your authority and put an end to it in the state till they had destroyed all public credit and good faith endangered the lasting safety of the Roman people, and harassed me and my friends and relations in the most shameful and barbarous manner.
4 All these private matters, all these transactions which took place in the city, I say nothing about; though they are of such a nature that Hannibal himself never wished so much evil to this city, as those men have done. I come to the case of the provinces themselves, of which Macedonia, which was formerly fortified not by the towers built, but by the trophies erected by numbers of our generals, which had long ago been reduced to a state of tranquillity by many victories and triumphs, is now so harassed by the barbarians who are not allowed to rest in peace in consequence of the avarice of the late consul, that the people of Thessalonica, placed in the lap as it were of our empire are compelled to abandon their town and to fortify their citadel, that that military road of ours which reaches all through Macedonia as far as the Hellespont is not only infested by the incursions of the barbarians but is even studded with and divided among Thracian encampments. And so those nations which had given large sums of money to our illustrious commanders to purchase the blessings of peace, in order to be able to replenish their houses which had been thus drained, instead of the peace which they had purchased, have waged against us what is little short of a regular war. And now that very army of ours, collected by a most splendid enlistment, and by a very rigid levy, has almost entirely perished. I say this with the most real grief.
The soldiers of the Roman people have been taken prisoners, put to death, abandoned, and dispersed in a most miserable manner. They have been wasted away by neglect,
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by famine, by disease, by every sort of disaster; so that (and it is a most scandalous thing) the wickedness of the general appears to have been chastised by the punishment of the fatherland and the army. And this Macedonia, as all the neighbouring nations had been subdued, and all the barbarians checked, we used to be able to preserve by its own resources, in a peaceable state, and in perfect tranquillity, with a very slight garrison, and a small army, even without a commander-in-chief, by means of lieutenants, and by the bare name of the Roman people. And yet now, when there is a man there with consular command and a consular army, it is so harassed that it is scarcely able to recruit its strength by a peace of any duration. And in the meantime who is there of you who has not heard and who does not know that the Achaeans are every year paying a vast sum to Lucius Piso? that all the revenues and harbour duties of the Dyrrachians have been converted to a source of profit for this one man? that the city of the Byzantines, a city most loyal to you and to this empire, is harassed as if it belonged to an enemy? to which city he, after he could no longer squeeze anything out of them, because of the poverty to which he had reduced them, and could not by any acts of violence extort anything more from them, miserable as they were, sent his cohorts into winter quarters, and gave them commanders whom he thought likely to be his most complying and diligent agents in wickedness, and ministers to his desires.