The Great Events by Famous Historians/Volume 2/The Punic Wars

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THE PUNIC WARS

B.C. 264-219-149

FLORUS

(The three Punic wars stand out in history as a mighty "duel à l'outrance" [a fight to the death], as Victor Hugo says, in the final scene of which Rome, having herself been brought near to defeat, "rises again, uses the limits of her strength in a last blow, throws herself on Carthage, and effaces her from the world."

Jealousy and antagonism had long existed between Rome and Carthage, but it was the preeminence of the African city which held Roman ambition in check and for generations deferred the final struggle. But when at last Rome had acquired the strength she needed in order to assert her rivalry, it was only a question of actual preparation, and the first cause of quarrel was sure to be seized upon by either party, especially by the growing and haughty Italian Power.

The immediate object of contention was the island of Sicily, lying between the territory of Rome and that of Carthage. In Sicily the First Punic War, lasting about twenty-three years, was mainly carried on by the Romans with success, while on the sea Carthage for a long time maintained superiority.

During the intervals between the Punic wars two things appear with striking force in the history of these events—the passive strength and recuperative power of Carthage, which enabled her to return again and again to the struggle from almost crushing defeat, and the marvellous development of resources and aggressive vigor on the part of Rome, in whose case the rise of powerful individual leaders more than offset the weight of long-accumulated energies, supplemented as these were by the genius and achievement of great Carthaginian warriors.

The wars progressed in a spirit of deadly hatred, constantly intensified on both sides, and the Roman determination, of which Cato was the mouthpiece, that Carthage must be destroyed, met its stubborn answer in the endeavors of the Carthaginians to turn this vengeance against Rome herself.

Carthage had been mistress of the world, the richest and most powerful of cities. Her naval supremacy alone had sufficed to secure her safety and superiority over all rivals or possible combinations of force. But the strength of her government lay not so much in her people, or even in her statesmen and soldiers, as in her men of wealth. A political establishment founded upon such supports was peculiarly liable to all the dangers of corruption and of public ignorance and apathy in the conduct of affairs. These causes appear conspicuously in the history of the Punic wars, as contributing largely to the overthrow and final extinguishment of Carthage, which left to her successful rival the open way to universal dominion.

The account of Florus presents in a style at once comprehensive and succinct a splendid narrative of these wars, with their decisive and world-changing events.)

THE FIRST PUNIC WAR[edit]

The victor-people of Italy, having now spread over the land as far as the sea, checked its course for a little, like a fire, which, having consumed the woods lying in its track, is stopped by some intervening river. But soon after, seeing at no great distance a rich prey, which seemed in a manner detached and torn away from their own Italy, they were so inflamed with a desire to possess it that, since it could neither be joined to their country by a mole or bridge, they resolved that it should be secured by arms and war, and reunited, as it were, to their continent. And behold! as if the Fates themselves opened a way for them, an opportunity was not wanting, for Messana, a city of Sicily in alliance with them, happened then to make a complaint concerning the tyranny of the Carthaginians.

As the Romans coveted Sicily, so likewise did the people of Carthage; and both at the same time, with equal desires and equal forces, contemplated the attainment of the empire of the world. Under the pretext, therefore, of assisting their allies, but in reality being allured by the prey, that rude people, that people sprung from shepherds, and merely accustomed to the land, made it appear, though the strangeness of the attempt startled them (yet such confidence is there in true courage), that to the brave it is indifferent whether a battle be fought on horseback or in ships, by land or by sea.

It was in the consulship of Appius Claudius that they first ventured upon that strait which has so ill a name from the strange things related of it, and so impetuous a current. But they were so far from being affrighted, that they regarded the violence of the rushing tide as something in their favor, and, sailing forward immediately and without delay, they defeated Hiero, king of Syracuse, with so much rapidity that he owned he was conquered before he saw the enemy. In the consulship of Duilius and Cornelius, they likewise had courage to engage at sea, and then the expedition used in equipping the fleet was a presage of victory; for within sixty days after the timber was felled, a navy of a hundred and sixty ships lay at anchor; so that the vessels did not seem to have been made by art, but the trees themselves appeared to have been turned into ships by the aid of the gods. The aspect of the battle, too, was wonderful; as the heavy and slow ships of the Romans closed with the swift and nimble barks of the enemy. Little availed their naval arts, such as breaking off the oars of a ship, and eluding the beaks of the enemy by turning aside; for the grappling-irons and other instruments, which, before the engagement, had been greatly derided by the enemy, were fastened upon their ships, and they were compelled to fight as on solid ground. Being victorious, therefore, at Liparæ, by sinking and scattering the enemy's fleet, they celebrated their first naval triumph. And how great was the exultation at it! Duilius, the commander, not content with one day's triumph, ordered, during all the rest of his life, when he returned from supper, lighted torches to be carried, and flutes to play, before him, as if he would triumph every day. The loss in this battle was trifling, in comparison with the greatness of the victory; though the other consul, Cornelius Asina, was cut off, being invited by the enemy to a pretended conference, and put to death; an instance of Carthaginian perfidy.

Under the dictatorship of Calatinus, the Romans expelled almost all the garrisons of the Carthaginians from Agrigentum, Drepanum, Panormus, Eryx, and Lilybæum. Some alarm was experienced at the forest of Camarina, but we were rescued by the extraordinary valor of Calpurnius Flamma, a tribune of the soldiers, who, with a choice troop of three hundred men, seized upon an eminence occupied by the enemy, to our annoyance, and so kept them in play till the whole army escaped; thus, by eminent success, equalling the fame of Thermopylæ and Leonidas, though our hero was indeed more illustrious, inasmuch as he escaped and outlived so great an effort, notwithstanding he wrote nothing with his blood.

In the consulship of Lucius Cornelius Scipio, when Sicily was become as a suburban province of the Roman people, and the war was spreading farther, they crossed over into Sardinia, and into Corsica, which lies near it. In the latter they terrified the natives by the destruction of the city of Olbia, in the former by that of Aleria; and so effectually humbled the Carthaginians, both by land and sea, that nothing remained to be conquered but Africa itself. Accordingly, under the leadership of Marcus Atilius Regulus, the war passed over into Africa. Nor were there wanting some on the occasion who mutinied at the mere name and dread of the Punic sea, a tribune named Mannius increasing their alarm; but the general, threatening him with the axe if he did not obey, produced courage for the voyage by the terror of death. They then hastened their course by the aid of winds and oars, and such was the terror of the Africans at the approach of the enemy that Carthage was almost surprised with its gates opened.

The first prize taken in the war was the city of Clypea, which juts out from the Carthaginian shore as a fortress or watch-tower. Both this and more than three hundred fortresses besides were destroyed. Nor had the Romans to contend only with men, but with monsters also; for a serpent of vast size, born, as it were, to avenge Africa, harassed their camp on the Bagrada. But Regulus, who overcame all obstacles, having spread the terror of his name far and wide, having killed or taken prisoners a great number of the enemy's force, and their captains themselves, and having despatched his fleet, laden with much spoil and stored with materials for a triumph, to Rome, proceeded to besiege Carthage itself, the origin of the war, and took his position close to the gates of it. Here fortune was a little changed; but it was only that more proofs of Roman fortitude might be given, the greatness of which was generally best shown in calamities. For the enemy applying for foreign assistance, and Lacedaemon having sent them Xanthippus as a general, we were defeated by a captain so eminently skilled in military affairs. It was then that by an ignominious defeat, such as the Romans had never before experienced, their most valiant commander fell alive into the enemy's hands. But he was a man able to endure so great a calamity; as he was neither humbled by his imprisonment at Carthage nor by the deputation which he headed to Rome; for he advised what was contrary to the injunctions of the enemy, and recommended that no peace should be made, and no exchange of prisoners admitted. Even by his voluntary return to his enemies, and by his last sufferings, whether in prison or on the cross, the dignity of the man was not at all obscured. But being rendered, by all these occurrences, even more worthy of admiration, what can be said of him but that, when conquered, he was superior to his conquerors, and that, though Carthage had not submitted, he triumphed over Fortune herself?

The Roman people were now much keener and more ardent to revenge the fate of Regulus than to obtain victory. Under the consul Metellus, therefore, when the Carthaginians were growing insolent, and when the war had returned into Sicily, they gave the enemy such a defeat at Panormus that they thought no more of that island. A proof of the greatness of this victory was the capture of about a hundred elephants, a vast prey, even if they had taken that number, not in war, but in hunting.[1] Under the consulship of Appius Claudius, they were overcome, not by the enemy, but by the gods themselves, whose auspices they had despised, their fleet being sunk in that very place where the consul had ordered the chickens to be thrown overboard, because he was warned by them not to fight. Under the consulship of Marcus Fabius Buteo, they overthrew, near Ægimurus, in the African sea, a fleet of the enemy which was just sailing for Italy. But, oh! how great materials for a triumph were then lost by a storm, when the Roman fleet, richly laden with spoil, and driven by contrary winds, covered with its wreck the coasts of Africa and the Syrtes, and of all the islands lying amid those seas! A great calamity! But not without some honor to this eminent people, from the circumstance that their victory was intercepted only by a storm, and that the matter for their triumph was lost only by a shipwreck. Yet, though the Punic spoils were scattered abroad, and thrown up by the waves on every promontory and island, the Romans still celebrated a triumph. In the consulship of Lutatius Catulus, an end was at last put to the war near the islands named Ægates. Nor was there any greater fight during this war; for the fleet of the enemy was laden with provisions, troops, towers, and arms; indeed, all Carthage, as it were, was in it; a state of things which proved its destruction, as the Roman fleet, on the contrary, being active, light, free from encumbrance, and in some degree resembling a land-camp, was wheeled about by its oars like cavalry in a battle by their reins; and the beaks of the vessels, directed now against one part of the enemy and now against another, presented the appearance of living creatures. In a very short time, accordingly, the ships of the enemy were shattered to pieces, and filled the whole sea between Sicily and Sardinia with their wrecks. So great, indeed, was the victory that there was no thought of demolishing the enemy's city; since it seemed superfluous to pour their fury on towers and walls, when Carthage had already been destroyed at sea.

THE SECOND PUNIC WAR[edit]

After the first Carthaginian war there was scarcely a rest of four years, when there was another war, inferior, indeed, in length of time, for it occupied but eighteen years, but so much more terrible, from the direfulness of its havoc, that if anyone compares the losses on both sides, the people that conquered was more like one defeated. What provoked this noble people was that the command of the sea was forced from them, that their islands were taken, and that they were obliged to pay tribute which they had before been accustomed to impose. Hannibal, when but a boy, swore to his father, before an altar, to take revenge on the Romans; nor was he backward to execute his oath. Saguntum, accordingly, was made the occasion of a war; an old and wealthy city of Spain, and a great but sad example of fidelity to the Romans. This city, though granted, by the common treaty, the special privilege of enjoying its liberty, Hannibal, seeking pretences for new disturbances, destroyed with his own hands and those of its inhabitants, in order that, by an infraction of the compact, he might open a passage for himself into Italy.

Among the Romans there is the highest regard to treaties, and consequently, on hearing of the siege of an allied city, and remembering, too, the compact made with the Carthaginians, they did not at once have recourse to arms, but chose rather to expostulate on legal grounds. In the mean time the Saguntines, exhausted with famine, the assaults of machines, and the sword, and their fidelity being at last carried to desperation, raised a vast pile in the market-place, on which they destroyed, with fire and sword, themselves, their wives and children, and all that they possessed. Hannibal, the cause of this great destruction, was required to be given up. The Carthaginians hesitating to comply, Fabius, who was at the head of the embassy, exclaimed: "What is the meaning of this delay? In the fold of this garment I carry war and peace; which of the two do you choose?" As they cried out "War," "Take war, then," he rejoined, and, shaking out the fore-part of his toga in the middle of the senate house, as if he really carried war in its folds, he spread it abroad, not without awe on the part of the spectators.

The sequel of the war was in conformity with its commencement; for, as if the last imprecations of the Saguntines, at their public self-immolation and burning of the city, had required such obsequies to be performed to them, atonement was made to their manes by the devastation of Italy, the reduction of Africa, and the destruction of the leaders and kings who engaged in that contest. When once, therefore, that sad and dismal force and storm of the Punic War had arisen in Spain, and had forged, in the fire of Saguntum, the thunderbolt long before intended for the Romans, it immediately burst, as if hurried along by resistless violence, through the middle of the Alps, and descended, from those snows of incredible altitude, on the plains of Italy, as if it had been hurled from the skies. The violence of its first assault burst, with a mighty sound, between the Po and the Ticinus. There the army under Scipio was routed; and the general himself, being wounded, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy, had not his son, then quite a boy, covered his father with his shield, and rescued him from death. This was the Scipio who grew up for the conquest of Africa, and who was to receive a name from its ill-fortune.

To Ticinus succeeded Trebia, where, in the consulship of Sempronius, the second outburst of the Punic War was spent. On that occasion, the crafty enemy, having chosen a cold and snowy day, and having first warmed themselves at their fires, and anointed their bodies with oil, conquered us, though they were men that came from the south and a warm sun, by the aid (strange to say!) of our own winter.

The third thunderbolt of Hannibal fell at the Trasimene lake, when Flaminius was commander. There also was employed a new stratagem of Carthaginian subtlety; for a body of cavalry, being concealed by a mist rising from the lake, and by the osiers growing in the fens, fell upon the rear of the Romans as they were fighting. Nor can we complain of the gods; for swarms of bees settling upon the standards, the reluctance of the eagles to move forward, and a great earthquake that happened at the commencement of the battle—unless, indeed, it was the tramping of horse and foot, and the violent concussion of arms, that produced this trembling of the ground—had forewarned the rash leader of approaching defeat.

The fourth and almost mortal wound of the Roman Empire was at Cannæ, an obscure village of Apulia; which, however, became famous by the greatness of the defeat, its celebrity being acquired by the slaughter of forty thousand men. Here the general, the ground, the face of heaven, the day, indeed, all nature conspired together for the destruction of the unfortunate army. For Hannibal, the most artful of generals, not content with sending pretended deserters among the Romans, who fell upon their rear as they were fighting, but having also noted the nature of the ground in those open plains, where the heat of the sun is extremely violent, the dust very great, and the wind blows constantly, and as it were statedly, from the east, drew up his army in such a position that, while the Romans were exposed to all these inconveniences, he himself, having heaven, as it were, on his side, fought with wind, dust, and sun in his favor. Two vast armies, in consequence, were slaughtered till the enemy were satiated, and till Hannibal said to his soldiers, "Put up your swords." Of the two commanders, one escaped, the other was slain; which of them showed the greater spirit is doubtful. Paulus was ashamed to survive; Varrodid not despair. Of the greatness of the slaughter the following proofs may be noticed: that the Aufidus was for some time red with blood; that a bridge was made of dead bodies, by order of Hannibal, over the torrent of Vergellus, and that two modii of rings were sent to Carthage, and the equestrian dignity estimated by measure.

It was afterward not doubted but that Rome might have seen its last day, and that Hannibal, within five days, might have feasted in the Capitol, if—as they say that Adherbal, the Carthaginian, the son of Bomilcar, observed—"he had known as well how to use his victory as how to gain it." But at that crisis, as is generally said, either the fate of the city that was to be empress of the world, or his own want of judgment, and the influence of deities unfavorable to Carthage, carried him in a different direction. When he might have taken advantage of his victory, he chose rather to seek enjoyment from it, and, leaving Rome, to march into Campania and to Tarentum, where both he and his army soon lost their vigor, so that it was justly remarked that "Capua proved a Cannæ to Hannibal"; since the sunshine of Campania and the warm springs of Baiæ subdued—who could have believed it?—him who had been unconquered by the Alps and unshaken in the field. In the mean time the Romans began to recover and to rise, as it were, from the dead. They had no arms, but they took them down from the temples; men were wanting, but slaves were freed to take the oath of service; the treasury was exhausted, but the senate willingly offered their wealth for the public service, leaving themselves no gold but what was contained in their children's bullæ[2] and in their own belts and rings. The knights followed their example, and the common people that of the knights; so that when the wealth of private persons was brought to the public treasury—in the consulship of Lævinus and Marcellus—the registers scarcely sufficed to contain the account of it, or the hands of the clerks to record it.

But how can I sufficiently praise the wisdom of the centuries in the choice of magistrates, when the younger sought advice from the elder as to what consuls should be created? They saw that against an enemy so often victorious, and so full of subtlety, it was necessary to contend, not only with courage, but with his own wiles. The first hope of the empire now recovering, and, if I may use the expression, coming to life again, was Fabius, who found a new mode of conquering Hannibal, which was, not to fight. Hence he received that new name, so salutary to the commonwealth, of Cunctator, or Delayer. Hence too it happened that he was called by the people the shield of the empire. Through the whole of Samnium, and through the Falerian and Gauran forests, he so harassed Hannibal that he who could not be reduced by valor was weakened by delay. The Romans then ventured, under the command of Claudius Marcellus, to engage him; they came to close quarters with him, drove him out of his dear Campania, and forced him to raise the siege of Nola. They ventured likewise, under the leadership of Sempronius Gracchus, to pursue him through Lucania, and to press hard upon his rear as he retired; though they then fought him (sad dishonor!) with a body of slaves, for to this extremity had so many disasters reduced them, but they were rewarded with liberty, and from slaves they made them Romans.

O amazing confidence in the midst of so much adversity! O extraordinary courage and spirit of the Roman people in such oppressive and distressing circumstances! At a time when they were uncertain of preserving their own Italy, they yet ventured to look to other countries; and when the enemy were at their throat, flying through Campania and Apulia, and making an Africa in the middle of Italy, they at the same time both withstood that enemy and dispersed their arms over the earth into Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain.

Sicily was assigned to Marcellus, and did not long resist his efforts; for the whole island was conquered in the conquest of one city. Syracuse, its great and, till that period, unconquered capital, though defended by the genius of Archimedes, was at last obliged to yield. Its triple wall and three citadels, its marble harbor and the celebrated fountain of Arethusa, were no defence to it, except so far as to procure consideration for its beauty when it was conquered.

Sardinia Gracchus reduced; the savageness of the inhabitants, and the vastness of its Mad Mountains—for so they are called—availed it nothing. Great severity was exercised upon its cities, and upon Caralis, the city of its cities, that a nation, obstinate and regardless of death, might at least be humbled by concern for the soil of its country.

Into Spain were sent the two Scipios, Cnaeus, and Publius, who wrested almost the whole of it from the Carthaginians; but, being surprised by the artifices of Punic subtlety, they again lost it, even after they had slaughtered the enemy's forces in great battles. The wiles of the Carthaginians cut off one of them by the sword as he was pitching his camp, and the other by surrounding him with lighted fagots after he had made his escape into a tower. But the other Scipio, to whom the Fates had decreed so great a name from Africa, being sent with an army to revenge the death of his father and uncle, recovered all that warlike country of Spain, so famous for its men and arms, that seminary of the enemy's force, that instructress of Hannibal, from the Pyrenean mountains—the account is scarcely credible—to the Pillars of Hercules and the ocean, whether with greater speed or good fortune is difficult to decide; how great was his speed, four years bear witness; how remarkable his good fortune, even one city proves, for it was taken on the same day in which siege was laid to it, and it was an omen of the conquest of Africa that Carthage in Spain was so easily reduced. It is certain, however, that what most contributed to make the province submit was the eminent virtue of the general, who restored to the barbarians certain captive youths and maidens of extraordinary beauty, not allowing them even to be brought into his sight, that he might not seem, even by a single glance, to have detracted from their virgin purity.

These actions the Romans performed in different parts of the world, yet were they unable, notwithstanding, to remove Hannibal, who was lodged in the heart of Italy. Most of the towns had revolted to the enemy, whose vigorous commander used even the strength of Italy against the Romans. However, we had now forced him out of many towns and districts. Tarentum had returned to our side; and Capua, the seat, home, and second country of Hannibal, was again in our hands; the loss of which caused the Punic leader so much affliction that he then directed all his force against Rome.

O people worthy of the empire of the world, worthy of the favor and admiration of all, not only men, but gods! Though they were brought into the greatest alarm, they desisted not from their original design; though they were concerned for their own city, they did not abandon their attempts on Capua; but, part of their army being left there with the consul Appius, and part having followed Flaccus to Rome, they fought both at home and abroad at the same time. Why then should we wonder that the gods themselves, the gods, I say—nor shall I be ashamed[3] to admit it—again opposed Hannibal as he was preparing to march forward when at three miles' distance from Rome. For, at every movement of his force, so copious a flood of rain descended, and such a violent storm of wind arose, that it was evident the enemy was repulsed by divine influence, and the tempest proceeded, not from heaven, but from the walls of the city and the Capitol. He therefore fled and departed, and withdrew to the farthest corner of Italy, leaving the city in a manner adored. It is but a small matter to mention, yet sufficiently indicative of the magnanimity of the Roman people, that during those very days in which the city was besieged, the ground which Hannibal occupied with his camp was offered for sale at Rome, and, being put up to auction, actually found a purchaser. Hannibal, on the other side, wished to imitate such confidence, and put up for sale the bankers' houses in the city; but no buyer was found; so that it was evident that the Fates had their presages.

But as yet nothing had been effectually accomplished by so much valor, or even through such eminent favor from the gods; for Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, was approaching with a new army, new strength, and every fresh requisite for war. There had doubtless been an end of Rome, if that general had united himself with his brother; but Claudius Nero, in conjunction with Livius Salinator, overthrew him as he was pitching his camp. Nero was at that time keeping Hannibal at bay in the farthest corner of Italy; while Livius had marched to the very opposite quarter, that is, to the very entrance and confines of Italy; and of the ability and expedition with which the consuls joined their forces—though so vast a space, that is, the whole of Italy where it is longest, lay between them—and defeated the enemy with their combined strength, when they expected no attack, and without the knowledge of Hannibal, it is difficult to give a notion. When Hannibal, however, had knowledge of the matter, and saw his brother's head thrown down before his camp, he exclaimed, "I perceive the evil destiny of Carthage." This was his first confession of that kind, not without a sure presage of his approaching fate; and it was now certain, even from his own acknowledgment, that Hannibal might be conquered. But the Roman people, full of confidence from so many successes, thought it would be a noble enterprise to subdue such a desperate enemy in his own Africa. Directing their whole force, therefore, under the leadership of Scipio, upon Africa itself, they began to imitate Hannibal, and to avenge upon Africa the sufferings of their own Italy. What forces of Hasdrubal (good gods!), what armies of Syphax, did that commander put to flight! How great were the camps of both that he destroyed in one night by casting firebrands into them! At last, not at three miles distance, but by a close siege, he shook the very gates of Carthage itself. And thus he succeeded in drawing off Hannibal when he was still clinging to and brooding over Italy. There was no more remarkable day, during the whole course of the Roman Empire, than that on which those two generals, the greatest of all that ever lived, whether before or after them, the one the conqueror of Italy, and the other of Spain, drew up their forces for a close engagement. But previously a conference was held between them concerning conditions of peace. They stood motionless awhile in admiration of each other. When they could not agree on a peace, they gave the signal for battle. It is certain, from the confession of both, that no troops could have been better drawn up, and no fight more obstinately maintained. This Hannibal acknowledged concerning the army of Scipio, and Scipio concerning that of Hannibal. But Hannibal was forced to yield, and Africa became the prize of the victory; and the whole earth soon followed the fate of Africa.

THE THIRD PUNIC WAR[edit]

The third war with Africa was both short in its duration—for it was finished in four years—and, compared with those that preceded it, of much less difficulty; as we had to fight not so much against troops in the field as against the city itself; but it was far the greatest of the three in its consequences, for in it Carthage was at last destroyed. And if anyone contemplates the events of the three periods, he will understand that the war was begun in the first, greatly advanced in the second, and entirely finished in the third.

The cause of this war was that Carthage, in violation of an article in the treaty, had once fitted out a fleet and army against the Numidians, and had frequently threatened the frontiers of Masinissa. But the Romans were partial to this good king, who was also their ally.

When the war had been determined upon, they had to consider about the end of it. Cato, even when his opinion was asked on any other subject, pronounced, with implacable enmity, that Carthage should be destroyed. Scipio Nasica gave his voice for its preservation, lest, if the fear of the rival city were removed, the exultation of Rome should grow extravagant. The senate decided on a middle course, resolving that the city should only be removed from its place; for nothing appeared to them more glorious than that there should be a Carthage which should not be feared. In the consulship of Manlius and Censorinus, therefore, the Roman people having attacked Carthage, but giving them some hopes of peace, burned their fleet, which they voluntarily delivered up, in sight of the city. Having next summoned the chief men, they commanded them to quit the place if they wished to preserve their lives. This requisition, from its cruelty, so incensed them that they chose rather to submit to the utmost extremities. They accordingly bewailed their necessities publicly, and shouted with one voice to arms; and a resolution was made to resist the enemy by every means in their power; not because any hope of success was left, but because they had rather their birthplace should be destroyed by the hands of the enemy than by their own. With what spirit they resumed the war may be understood from the facts that they pulled down their roofs and houses for the equipment of a new fleet; that gold and silver, instead of brass and iron, were melted in their forges for the construction of arms; and that the women parted with their hair to make cordage for the engines of war.

Under the command of the consul Mancinus, the siege was warmly conducted both by land and sea. The harbor was dismantled of its works, and a first, second, and even third wall taken, while nevertheless the Byrsa, which was the name of the citadel, held out like another city. But though the destruction of the place was thus very far advanced, it was the name of the Scipios only that seemed fatal to Africa. The Government, accordingly, applying to another Scipio, desired from him a termination of the war. This Scipio, the son of Paulus Macedonicus, the son of the great Africanus had adopted as an honor to his family, and, as it appeared, with this destiny, that the grandson should overthrow the city which the grandfather had shaken. But as the bites of dying beasts are wont to be most fatal, so there was more trouble with Carthage half-ruined than when it was in its full strength. The Romans having shut the enemy up in their single fortress, had also blockaded the harbor; but upon this they dug another harbor on the other side of the city, not with a design to escape, but because no one supposed that they could even force an outlet there. Here a new fleet, as if just born, started forth; and, in the mean while, sometimes by day and sometimes by night, some new mole, some new machine, some new band of desperate men perpetually started up, like a sudden flame from a fire sunk in ashes. At last, their affairs becoming desperate, forty thousand men, and (what is hardly credible) with Hasdrubal at their head, surrendered themselves. How much more nobly did a woman behave, the wife of the general, who, taking hold of her two children, threw herself from the top of her house into the midst of the flames, imitating the queen that built Carthage. How great a city was then destroyed is shown, to say nothing of other things, by the duration of the fire, for the flames could scarcely be extinguished at the end of seventeen days; flames which the enemy themselves had raised in their houses and temples, that, since the city could not be rescued from the Romans, all matter for triumph might at least be burned.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. "A vast prey—not in war, but in hunting." The sense is, it would have been a considerable capture if he had taken these hundred elephants, not in battle, but in hunting, in which more are often taken.
  2. A sort of ornament suspended from the necks of children, which, among the wealthy, was made of gold. It was in the shape of a bubble on water, or, as Pliny says, of a heart.
  3. Why should he be ashamed to admit that Rome was saved by the aid of the gods? To receive assistance from the gods was a proof of merit. The gods help those who help themselves, says the proverb. When he says that the gods "again opposed Hannibal," he seems to refer to what he said above in speaking of the battle of Cannae, that the deities, averse to Carthage, prevented Hannibal from marching at that time to Rome.