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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 13: Marcellus speaks to his soldiers[209 BC]
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When they were once more in camp, Marcellus addressed such an impassioned and stinging remonstrance to his men that they suffered more from the words of their angry general than in the adverse struggle which they had kept up the livelong day. "As matters are," he said, "I am devoutly thankful to heaven that the enemy did not actually attack the camp while you in your panic were dashing into the gates and over the rampart; you would most certainly have abandoned your camp in the same wild terror in which you deserted the field. What is the meaning of this panic, this terror? What has suddenly come to you that you should forget who you are and with whom you are fighting? These surely are precisely the same enemies as those whom you spent last summer in defeating and pursuing, whom you have been closely following up these last few days, whilst they fled before you night and day, whom you have worn out in skirmishes, whom as late as yesterday you prevented from either advancing or encamping. I pass over incidents for which you may possibly take credit to yourselves and will only mention one circumstance which ought to fill you with shame and remorse. Last night, as you know, you drew off from the field after holding your own against the enemy. How has the situation changed during the night or throughout the day? Have your forces been weakened or his strengthened? But really, I do not seem to myself to be speaking to my army or to Roman soldiers, it is only your bodies and weapons that are the same. Do you imagine if you had had the spirit of Romans that the enemy would have seen your backs or captured a single standard from either maniple or cohort? So far he has prided himself upon the Roman legions he has cut up, you have been the first to confer upon him today the glory of having put a Roman army to flight." Then there arose a general cry of supplication; the men begged him to pardon them for that day's work, and to make use of his soldiers' courage whenever and wherever he would. "Very well, soldiers," he said, "I will make proof of it and lead you to battle tomorrow, so that you may win the pardon you crave as victors rather as vanquished." He ordered the cohorts who had lost their standards to be put on barley rations, and the centurions of the maniples whose standards were lost were ordered to stand away from their fellows without their military cloaks and girdles and with their swords drawn. All the troops, mounted and unmounted, were ordered to assemble under arms the following day. They were then dismissed and all acknowledged that they had been justly and deservedly censured, and that in the whole army there was not one who had that day shown himself a man except their commander. They felt bound to make satisfaction to him either by their deaths or by a brilliant victory. The next morning they appeared equipped and armed according to orders. The general expressed his approval and announced that those who had been the first to flee and the cohorts which had lost their standards would be placed in the forefront of the battle. He went on to say that all must fight and conquer, and that they must, one and all, do their utmost to prevent the rumour of yesterday's flight from reaching Rome before the news of that day's victory. They were then ordered to strengthen themselves with food, so that if the fight was prolonged they might hold out. After all had been said and done to raise their courage, they marched to battle. |
Actions in Italy in 209 BC. Tarentum.