Historical Library/Book XIII/Chapter XII
- Therma built in Sicily by the Carthaginians. They raise forces to invade Sicily. The noble temple at Agrigentum. The antient grandeur of that city. The riches of Gellias, a citizen there, and some others. Agrigentmn besieged. The Syracusans under Daphnæus route the Carthaginians near Agrigentum. Amilcar seizes the Syracusan fleet, and takes all the provisions going to Agrigentum, which was afterwards quitted by the inhabitants. Their miserable condition. The Phalarian bull.
IN Sicily the Syracusans sent ambassadors to Carthage to complain of the late war made upon them, and to persuade them to peace for the time to come; to which the Carthaginians returned a doubtful answer. In the mean time they raise again a numerous army, and were resolved to do their utmost to subdue all the cities of Sicily: but before they transported their armies, having got together out of Carthage, and other cities in Africa, many that were willing to transplant themselves, they built a new city called Therma, near the hot baths in Sicily.
The affairs of this year concluded, at Athens Callias was made chief magistrate, and at Rome, Lucius Furius and Cneius Pompeius were created consuls. At this time the Carthaginians, puffed up with their successes in Sicily, and coveting the gaining of the whole island, determined to that end to raise a great army; and thereof made Hannibal general, (the same that had razed Selinus and Himera) and invested him with full power for the management of the war. But because he endeavoured to excuse himself by reason of his age, they joined Amilcar in commission with him, the son of Hanno, one of the same family. These generals consulted together, and sent some eminent Carthaginians with great sums of money, to raise soldiers both out of Spain and the Baleary islands. They raised likewise throughout Libya, Carthaginians and Africans, and out of every city such as were most able for war. There came likewise to them from the nations and princes of their confederates abroad, both Mauritanians and Numidians, and some from the parts near to Cyrene. Besides these, there were transported into Africa, Campanians hired out of Italy. These Campanians they had experienced to be very useful to them, when those whom they had left in Sicily, by reason of some old grudge they bore the Carthaginians, were suspected to be ready to side with the Sicilians. At length, when all the forces together were mustered at Carthage, Timæus reports they were not much above a hundred and twenty thousand men; but Ephorus affirms that they were three hundred thousand.
The Carthaginians now prepare all things necessary for the transporting of the army; they equipped out all their men of war, and brought together no less than a thousand transport ships. Forty of their gallies were sent before into Sicily, which were presently encountered with as many by the Syracusans at Eryx, where, after a long and sharp dispute, fifteen of the Carthaginian ships were sunk; the rest, by the advantage of night, fled clear away. When the news of this defeat was brought to Carthage, Hannibal the general sailed away with fifty gallies, contriving both to make the enemy's victory fruitless, and the better likewise to secure the transporting of his army. When the coming of Hannibal was noised through the island, all were of opinion that he intended forthwith to transport all his forces thither: upon which all the cities (hearing of the greatness of his preparations, and that they were now like to lay all at stake) were struck with fear and amazement. The Syracusans therefore sent ambassadors both to the Grecians in Italy, and to the Lacedæmonians, to desire aid and assistance. They sent letters likewise to all the magistrates of the cities up and down, to entreat them that they would stir up the people to join every where in arms for the common defence of the liberty of their country. The Agrigentines considering the greatness of the Carthaginian army, concluded (as the thing was in truth) that they were likeliest first to feel and undergo tbe pressure and weight of the war; and therefore determined that all the corn and other fruits of the field, and every thing else that was valuable, should be brought out of the country into the city: for at that time both the city and country of the Agrigentines were very rich; of which it will not be inconvenient to say something here more largely. Their vineyards were large, and very pleasant, and most part of the country abounded with olives, so much as that they were transported and sold at Carthage. For inasmuch as Africa at that time was not planted with this sort of fruit, the Agrigentines grew very rich by their trading with the Libyans. Many marks of their great wealth remain to this very day; to speak a little of which I conceive will not be a digression from the present subject.
And first, the stately buildings and ornaments of their temples, especially the temple of Jupiter, do sufficiently witness the grandeur and riches of the men of that age. The rest of the sacred buildings are either burnt or destroyed by the frequent storming of that city. When the temple of Jupiter Olympus was near to the laying on the roof, a stop was put to the building by the war; and the city being afterwards sacked, the Agrigentines were never able (from that time to this day) to finish it. This temple at Agrigentum was three hundred and forty feet in length, threescore in breadth, and in height (besides the foundation) a hundred and twenty. It is the greatest in the island, and for the largeness of its foundation may compare with any other elsewhere: for though the design was never finished, yet the antient platform is still visible; for whereas some build up their temples only with walls, or compass them round with pillars, this is built both with the one and the other; for, together with the walls, there rise lofty pillars round on the outside of the wall, and foursquare within. The compass of every one of these pillars on the outside are twenty feet, and so far distant one from another, as that a man may well stand between each; within, they are of the compass of twelve feet. The largeness and height of the porticoes are wonderful, on the east side of which is carved the giant's war, of exquisite and incomparable workmanship: on the west side is carved the destruction of Troy, where may be seen all the brave heroes and commanders in their proper habits, most admirably represented. In those former times, likewise, there was a pond out of the walls of the city, cut by art, seven furlongs in compass, aud twenty cubits in depth: into this, with wonderful art, were drawn currents of water, by which they were abundantly supplied with all sorts of fish ready for their use, at all public entertainments. Upon this pond likewise fell multitudes of swans and other fowl, which entertained the spectators with great delight.
The grandeur of the city was likewise apparent, by the stateliness of the sepulchres, some of which were adorned with tbe charging horses of the heroes there interred; others with those little birds that the children, both girls and boys, fed and bred up in their parent's houses. All which, Timæus affirms he saw in his time. In the ninety-second olympiad there were no less than three hundred chariots of Agrigentum, all with white horses, that attended upon Exenetus, the victor at the Olympic games, and brought him mounted in a stately chariot with great pomp into the city. Their nice and delicate way of living, (till it came to their very children), both as to their food and raiment, was to that degree, that they wore garments of cloth of gold, and had their water pots, and boxes of ointment, of gold and silver. There was one Gellias, the richest man of all the Agrigentines at that time, who built several rooms for public entertainment, in his own house, and placed porters at his gates, charging them to invite all strangers that passed by, to come in to be his guests. Many others of the Agrigentines imitated his example, who made it their business (after the antient manner) to converse freely and courteously with them they thus invited. And therefore Empedocles says thus of them__
- Hospitibus sancti portus, sine labe malorum.
It happened once that five hundred Gelonian horsemen came to his house in winter-time, whom he liberally entertained, and furnished every one of them out of his wardrobe with cloaks and coats. Polyclitus in his history declares, that when he was a soldier in Agrigentum, he saw a wine-cellar in his house, in which were contained three hundred great vessels, cut out of one and the same rock, each of which received an hundred hogsheads: and that near to these was placed a cistern of pure white tempered mortar, containing a thousand hogsheads, out of which the liquor ran into the vessels. It is said that this Gellias was of a very mean presence, but of admirable parts and ingenuity. Being once sent an ambassador to the Centuripes, when he entered into the assembly, all the people fell a-laughing, seeing the mean aspect of the man, so disagreeable to his great fame and reputation in the world. Upon which, he made this sharp retort__That what they saw in him was not to be wondered at, because the Agrigentines always send the comliest and handsomest men to the noblest cities, but to those that were mean and of little note, such as himself.
And not only Gelias, but many other Agrigentines were very rich. Antisthenes, surnamed Rhodes, at the marriage of his daughter, feasted all the citizens throughout every street, and procured above eight hundred chariots to attend upon the bride: and not only horsemen out of the city, but many who were invited out of the country, went before the new-married lady in great pomp and splendor. To add to the solemnity of the day, there were great preparations for illuminations in the city; for, he ordered that as soon as they saw a flame of fire upon the top of the castle, the altars in all the temples, and the piles of wood in all the streets, and the fuel he had prepared and provided in the taverns, should be kindled together all at the same moment: whose command being observed at the very same instant, when the bride was led forth by a multitude that bore torches before her, the whole city was as it were in a flame, and the common streets and ways of the city were not able to contain those that attended at this solemnity; all were so zealous to further and encourage the gallantry and magnificence of the man. At that time there were more than twenty thousand citizens of Agrigentum; but taking in strangers with them, they were no less than two hundred thousand.
It is reported of Antisthenes, when he saw his son pressing upon a poor man his neighbour, and would force him to sell a little spot of land to him, he chid his son, and advised him to forbear awhile; but his covetous desire increasing the more, he told him he should not strive to make his neighbour poor, but rather desire he should become rich; for being rich, he would covet a greater piece of land, which when he was not able to pay for lack of ready money, he would be content to raise money by the sale of that which he then had.
In short, the excess and luxury of the Agrigentines, by reason of their riches, was such, that not long after, in the very height of the siege, which ended in the sacking of the city, a decree was made, that none of them that were upon the guard in the night, should have above a bed, a tent, a woollen mantle, and two pillows. When this seemed a hard law, and disturbance to their ease and repose, we may easily judge how soft and luxurious they were in all other things. As we were not willing to let these things pass altogether, so we shall now break off, lest we omit things more useful and necessary.
The Carthaginians having landed their forces in Sicily, marched straight against the Agrigentines, and divided their army into two parts, and encamped in two several places; one camp was upon certain hills, where were placed forty thousand Spaniards and Africans; the other was near the city, fortified with a deep trench and a wall. At the first they sent ambassadors to the Agrigentines, to invite them to join with them as confederates, and if they did not approve of that, then that they would be neuter, and enter into league of peace and amity with the Carthaginians. When both offers were rejected, they forthwith pressed on the siege with all vigour. Upon this, the Agrigentines listed all that were able to bear arms, and marshalled them, some of which they placed upon the walls, and others were appointed as reserves to relieve their fellows as occasion offered. Dexippus, the Lacadæmonian, was the man that directed them in all things, who was lately come to their assistance with five hundred soldiers from Gela: for he lived about that time (as Timæus relates) at Gela, in great esteem for the sake of his country: and therefore application was made to him by the Agrigentines, that he would hire as many soldiers as possibly he could, and come to their relief: besides these, they hired eight hundred Campanians who had formerly served under Amilcar. These kept the hill Athenea, which lay over, and commanded the city, a very commodious post.
Amilcar and Hannibal, the Carthaginian generals, having viewed the walls, and found out a place where it was most easy to enter, brought two towers of incredible bigness against the city: the first day out of these they made an assault, and after they had killed and cut off many of the citizens, sounded a retreat. The next night the besieged made a sally and burnt the engines: but Hannibal intending to assault the town in several places at once, commanded his soldiers to pull down all the monuments and tombs, and with the rubbish to raise mounds as high as the walls, which was presently done, forwarded by so great a multitude. But then a sudden pang of religion seized upon the army; for Theron's monument (a large and stately structure) was beaten down by a thunderbolt, which, by the advice of the soothsayers then present, put a stop to the perfecting the design; and forthwith the plague broke out in the army, by which many were destroyed in a short time, and not a few seized with tormenting and miserable pains, among whom Hannibal himself perished. Some that were upon the watch, reported they saw in the night, the aparitions of them that were dead. Upon this, Amilcar seeing the soldiers were possessed with the fear and awe of the gods, first forbore to demolish the sepulchres: afterwards he made (according to the custom of his country) supplications to the deities, and sacrificed a boy to Saturn, and threw a company of priests into the sea, as a sacrifice to Neptune. Notwithstanding all this, Amilcar forsook not the siege, out choaking up the river with rubbish close to the walls, brought up bis engines, and renewed his assaults every day.
In the mean time, the Syracusans weighing the condition of the Agrigentines, and fearing they should undergo the same fate with them of Himera and Selinus, were desirous to send them aid; and to that end having increased their army by the forces of their confederates from Italy and Messana, they made Daphnæus general, and having mustered the army, they set forwards, and in their march were joined by the Camarinians, Gelians, and some others out of the heart of the country, and all marched straight for Agrigentum, having a fleet of thirty gallies, which sailed all along over against them near the shore. Daphnæus had with him above thirty thousand foot, and no less than five thousand horse. Amilcar, upon intelligence of the approach of the enemy, sent forth against them the Iberians and Campanians, and no less than forty thousand out of the rest of the army. When the Syracusans had passed the river Himera, they were net by the barbarians: upon which battle was joined, and after the dispute had continued a long time, at length the Syracusans got the day, who routed the whole army, with the slaughter of above six thousand men, and pursued the rest to the very city. But the Syracusan general perceiving his men to be in disorder and confusion by their pursuit, began to fear lest Amilcar, breaking in upon them with the rest of his army, should recover the day; for he remembered how Himereus had formerly lost all by such an oversight. The barbarians flying into that part of the camp which lay nearest to Agrigentum, the besieged concluded they were beaten and fled, and therefore earnestly desired their commanders that they would lead them forth, crying out__Now was the time come for the utter ruin and destruction of their enemies. But the officers, whether corrupted by money, (as it was reported), or possessed with fear lest Amilcar should slip into the town when the soidiers were gone forth, would not stir, but commanded the soldiers to abide within the town; by which means they that fled came safe into the camp. But Daphnæus marched forward, and encamped in the place where the enemy before lay; to whom flocked presently the soldiers out of the town with Dexippus, and forthwith a council of war was held, where all shewed themselves very uneasy and discontented, that the opportunity was neglected in taking full revenge of the conquered barbarians, and that their officers, when they might have so easily destroyed them by a sally out of the town, had suffered so many tens of thousands clearly to escape. Hereupon a tumult arising in the assemby with a great noise and clamour, one Menes a Camarinian, one of the officers, stood up, and accused the commanders of Agrigentum to such a degree, that he so exasperated the whole assembly, that those who were accused could not be heard to speak for themselves; but four of them were instantly stoned by the enraged multitude. The fifth, called Argeus, in favour of his youth was discharged. Dexippus, likewise, the Lacedæmonian, was ill spoken of, that he who was general of so considerable a body of men, and ever esteemed a man more expert in martial affairs than most others, should carry it so basely and treacherously. After the council had broken up, Daphnæus endeavoured to force the Carthaginian camp; but discerning it to be excellently fortified, drew off. Then be blocked up all the passages with his horse, intercepted the foragers, and prevented all provision being brought in to the enemy, whereby they were reduced to great straits and necessities; for not daring to engage, and yet in the mean time starving for want of bread, their misery was the greater, and many were famished to death.
Upon this the Campanians, and almost all the rest of the mercenaries, in a body, came to Amilcar's tent, to demand their allowance of bread, and threatened to fall off to the enemy if they had it not. But Amilcar being informed that the Syracusans had loaded their ships with abundance of corn for Agrigentum, (upon which he relied as his last shift), persuaded the soldiers to be patient a few days, and in the mean time pawned to them the drinking vessels of the Carthaginian soldiers. Hereupon he sent for forty gallies from Panormus and Motya, and lay in wait for the ships that brought the provision. For the Syracusans never suspected the Carthaginians durst appear at sea, being now winter, and who had some time before lost their power and dominion there. Therefore, sailing on with great assurance, they were on a sudden attacked by Amilcar, with forty sail; who presently sunk eight of their ships, and drove the rest upon the shore; all which being thus taken, the scene of affairs was so changed on both sides, that the Campanians that were with the Agrigentines, perceiving the desperate condition of the Grecians, corrupted with fifteen talents, fell away to the Carthaginians. Besides, the Agrigentines, at the beginning of the siege, when things went ill with the Carthaginians, were very profuse and prodigal, both in their corn and other things, and therefore, when the affairs of the barbarians were much altered to their advantage, the besieged (being so many thousands penned up together) were insensibly, and by degrees, brought into great want. It is reported that Dexippus the Lacadæmonian also was bribed with fifteen talents; for he on a sudden told the Italian commanders, that it was better to withdraw, and carry on the war in some other place, for here they were likely to be starved. The officers therefore considering of what he had said, marched away with the army to the sea, as if now the time limited by their commissions had been determined.
After their departure, the generals with the other officers met in a council of war, and ordered that an account should be taken what provision was left in the city; and when a return was made of the scarcity, they saw it was absolutely necessary to quit the place; whereupon they commanded all to be ready to be gone the next night. Upon this there was a lamentable outcry in every house throughout the whole city, of men, women, and children, being in a distraction through fear and dread of the enemy on the one hand, and care of their goods and estates on the other, which now they must be forced in a great measure to leave to the rapine of the barbarians; and, as an aggravation, being those very things wherein a little before they placed their happiness. However, at length seeing that fortune had stripped them of all their riches, they judged it was wisdom to do what they could to save their lives. Then might be seen not only the mighty wealth of a flourishing city forsaken, but also a multitude of miserable people left behind; for those that were sick and infirm were disregarded by them of their own family, whilst every one sought to preserve himself; and those that through old age could not remove, were in the like condition. Many that preferred death before the leaving of their country, killed themselves, choosing rather to die in their own houses. But that multitude of people that did go forth, were guarded by the soldiers to Gela, so that all the ways and country towards Gela swarmed with a promiscuous multitude of women and children; amongst whom were young ladies, who though they had now changed their former soft and delicate way of living, into the fatigues and sorrows of tedious journies, yet being quickened and stirred up by fear, bore all difficulties with eminent patience. They all came at length safe to Gela; and afterwards Leontium was given to them by the Syracusans to inhabit.
Amilcar entering the city with his army, not without some fear and jealousy, killed almost all he found in it, not sparing those that fled into the temples for refuge, but, hauling them from the altars, slew them with great cruelty. There it is said Gellias, who was so eminent above the rest of his countrymen in the greatness of his wealth, and integrity of his conversation, ended his life with the loss of his country: for he with some others fled to the temple of Minerva, hoping the Carthaginians would not commit any outrages against the gods: but when he perceived the cursed impiety of the men, he set fire to the temple, and together with the wealth that was there, (consecrated to the gods), burnt himself; by one act preventing three evils, as he conceived; the impiety of the enemy against the gods, the rapine and plunder of the vast treasure that was there, and (that which was the greatest) the abuse of his own body.
Amilcar having spoiled and plundered all places both religious and profane, got together from the spoil so much riches as a city that had been inhabited by two hundred thousand men, and never taken, before since it was built, and which was the richest of all the Grecian cities, might, by an easy computation, in that time heap together; especially since the citizens made it their business to be stately and magnificent in a wonderful manner in every thing they undertook: for many curious pictures, drawn with admirable art, and an infinite number of statues of all sorts, cut and wrought with singular ingenuity, were found here by the conqueror. The best and choicest things (among which was the Phalarian bull) he sent to Carthage; the rest of the spoil he caused to be sold under the spear. Timæus, in his history, with great earnestness denies that there ever was any such bull; but fortune has since disproved him in this: for Scipio Africanus, two hundred and threescore years after this destruction, when Carthage was razed, amongst other things which were then at Carthage, restored that famous bull to the Agrigentines, which remains at Agrigentum now at the time of the writing of this history; of which I have been the more desirous to speak, because Timæus with much bitterness inveighs against the historians that were before him as altogether unpardonable; and yet he himself, in those things wherein he most pretends an earnest and diligent search after truth, does nothing but merely trifle; for in my opinion we ought to have a favourable regard and respect to those authors we differ from, because they are but men, and the truth of things that are long before past are not easy to be discovered. On the other hand, those writers that are careless and negligent in their inquiries, are justly to be censored; and those especially may be well judged regardless of truth, who make it their business to flatter some, and out of envy to cast dirt upon others.
- Now called Majorca and Minorca, near Spain.
- Centuripes—a people in Sicily: their city called Centuripinum. Pl/n. Nat. Hist. lib. 6, c. 8.