But while Phoenicia was declining in the East its great colony, Carthage, was rising in the West. This city had been founded by malcontents from Tyre. But they kindly cherished the memories of their motherland, and, like the Pilgrim Fathers, always spoke of the country which had cast them forth as "Home." And after a time all the old wrongs were forgotten, all angry feelings died away. Every year the Carthaginians sent to the national temple a tenth part of their revenues as a free-will offering. During the great Persian wars, when on all sides empires and kingdoms were falling to the ground, the Phoenicians refused to lend their fleet to the Great King to make war upon Carthage. When Tyre was besieged by Alexander the nobles sent their wives and children to Carthage, where they were tenderly received.
The Africa of the ancients—the modern Barbary—lies between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea. It is protected from the ever-encroaching waves of the sandy ocean by the Atlas range. In its western parts this mountain wall is high and broad and covered with eternal snow. It becomes lower as it runs towards the east, also drawing nearer to the sea, and dwindles and dwindles till finally it disappears, leaving a wide, unprotected region between Barbary and Egypt. Over this the Sahara flows, forming a desert barrier tract to all intents and purposes itself a sea, dividing the two lands from each other as completely as the Mediterranean divides Italy and Greece. This land of North Africa is in reality a part of Spain; the Atlas is the southern boundary of Europe. Grey cork-trees clothe the lower sides of those magnificent mountains; their summits are covered with pines, among which the cross-bill flutters, and in which the European bear may still be found. The flora of the range, as Dr. Hooker has lately shown, is of a Spanish type; the Straits of Gibraltar is merely an accident; there is nothing in Morocco to distinguish it from Andalusia. The African animals which are there found are desert-haunting species-—the antelope and gazelle, the lion, the jackal, the hyena,[spelt hyaena in original text] and certain species of the monkey tribe; and these might easily have found their way across the Sahara from oasis to oasis. It is true that in the Carthaginian days the elephant abounded in the forests of the Atlas, and it could not have come across from central Africa, for the Sahara, before it was a desert, was a sea. It is probable that the elephant of Barbary belonged to the same species as the small elephant of Europe, the bones of which have been discovered in Malta and in certain caves of Spain, and that it outlived the European kind on account of its isolated position in the Atlas, which was thinly inhabited by savage tribes. But it did not long withstand the power of the Romans. Pliny mentions that in his time the forests of Morocco were being ransacked for ivory, and Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century observes that "there are no longer any elephants in Mauritania."
In Morocco the Phoenicians were settled only on the coast. The Regency of Tunis and part of Algeria is the scene on which the tragedy of Carthage was performed.
In that part of Africa the habitable country must be divided into three regions; first a corn region, lying between the Atlas and the sea, exceedingly fertile but narrow in extent; secondly the Atlas itself, with its timber stores and elephant preserves; and thirdly a plateau region of poor sandy soil, affording a meagre pasture, interspersed with orchards of date-trees, abounding in ostriches, lions, and gazelles, and gradually fading away into the desert.
Africa belonged to a race of man whom we shall call Berbers or Moors, but who were known as the ancients under many names, and who still exist as the Kabyles or Algeria, the Shilluhs of the Atlas, and the Tuaricks or tawny Moors of the Sahara. Their habits depended on the locality in which they dwelt. Those who lived in the Tell or region of the coast cultivated the soil and lived in towns, some of which appear to have been of considerable size. Those who inhabited the plateau region led a free Bedouin life, wandering from place to place with flocks and herds, and camping under oblong huts which the Romans compared to boats turned upside down. In holes and caverns of the mountains dwelt a miserable black race, apparently the aborigines of the country, and represented to this day by the Rock Tibboos. They were also found on the outskirts of the desert, and were hunted by the Berbers in four-horse chariots, caught alive, and taken to the Carthage market to be sold.
The Phoenician settlements were at first independent of one another, but Carthage gradually obtained the supremacy as Tyre had obtained it in Phoenicia. The position of Utica towards Carthage was precisely that of Sidon towards Tyre. It was the more ancient city of the two, and it preserved a certain kind of position without actual power. Carthage and Utica, like Tyre and Sidon, were at one time always spoken of together.
The Carthaginians began by paying a quit-rent or custom to the natives, but that did not last very long; they made war, and exacted tribute from the original possessors of the soil. When Carthage suffered from over-population colonies were dispatched out west along the coast, and down south into the interior. These colonies were more on the Roman than the Greek pattern; the emigrants built cities and intermarried freely with the Berbers, for there was no difference of colour between them, and little difference of race. In course of time the whole of the habitable region was subdued; the Tyrian factory became a mighty empire. Many of the roving tribes were broken in; the others were driven into the desert or into wild Morocco. A line of fortified posts and block-houses protected the cultivated land. The desire to obtain red cloth and amber and blue beads secured the allegiance of many unconquerable desert tribes, and by their means, although the camel had not yet been introduced, a trade was opened up between Carthage and Timbuktu. Negro slaves, bearing tusks of ivory on their shoulders and tied to one another so as to form a chain of flesh and blood, were driven across the terrible desert—a caravan of death, the route of which was marked by bones bleaching in the sun. Gold dust also was brought over from those regions of the Niger, and the Carthaginian traders reached the same land by sea. For they were not content, like the Tyrians, to trade only on the Morocco coast as far as Mogadore. By good fortune there has been preserved the log-book of an expedition which sailed to the wood-covered shores of Guinea; saw the hills covered with fire, as they always are in the dry season when the grass is being burnt; heard the music of the natives in the night; and brought home the skins of three chimpanzees which they probably killed near Sierra Leone.
When Phoenicia died, Carthage inherited its settlements on the coasts of Sicily and Spain and on the adjoining isles. Not only were these islands valuable possessions in themselves—Malta as a cotton plantation, Elba as an iron mine, Majorca and Minorca as a recruiting ground for slingers; they wee also useful as naval stations to preserve the monopoly of the Western waters.
The foreign policy of Carthage was very different from that of the motherland. The Phoenicians had maintained an army of mercenaries, but had used them only to protect their country from the robber kings of Damascus and Jerusalem. They had many ships of war, but had used them only to convoy their round-bellied ships of trade and to keep off the attacks of the Greek and Etruscan pirates. Their settlements were merely fortified factories; they made no attempt to reduce the natives of the land. If their settlements grew into colonies they let them go. But Carthage founded many colonies and never lost a single one. Situated among them, and possessing a large fleet, she was able both to punish and protect. She defended them in time of war; she controlled them in time of peace.
A policy of concession had not saved the Phoenicians from the Greeks, and now these same Greeks were settling in the West and displaying immense activity. The Carthaginians saw that they must resist or be ruined, and they went to war as a matter of business. They first put down the Etruscan rovers, in which undertaking they were assisted by the events which occurred on the Italian main. They next put a stop to the spread of the Greek power in Africa itself.
Half-way between Algeria and Egypt, in the midst of the dividing sea of sand, is a coast oasis formed by a tableland of sufficient height to condense the vapours which float over from the sea, and to chill them into rain. There was a hole in the sky above it, as the natives used to say. To this island-tract came a band of Greeks directed thither by the oracle at Delphi, where geography was studied as a part of the system. They established a city and called it Cyrene.
The land was remarkably fertile, and afforded them three harvests in the course of the year. One was gathered on the coast meadows, which were watered by the streams that flowed down from the hills; a second on the hill-sides; a third on the surface of the plateau,* which was about two thousand feet above the level of the sea. Cyrenaica produced the silphium, or asafoetida, which, like the balm of Gilead, was one of the specifics of antiquity, and which is really a medicine of value. It was found in many parts of the world—for instance, in certain districts of Asia Minor, and on the summit of the Hindu Kush. But the asafoetida of Cyrene was the most esteemed. Its juice, when dried, was worth its weight in gold; its leaves fattened cattle and cured them of all diseases.
*(spelt pleateau in the original text)
Some singular pits or chasms existed in the lower part of the Cyrene hills. Their sides were perpendicular walls of rock: it appeared impossible to descend to the bottom of the precipice, and yet, when the traveller peeped over the brink, he saw to his astonishment that the abyss beneath had been sown with herbs and corn. Hence rose the legend of the Gardens of the Hesperides.
Cyrene was renowned as the second medical school of the Greek world. It produced a noted freethinker, who was a companion of Socrates and the founder of a school. It was also famous for its barbs, which won more than one prize in the chariot races of the Grecian games. It obtained the honour of more than one Pindaric ode. But owing to internal dissension it never became great. It was conquered by Persia, it submitted to Alexander, and Carthage speedily checked its growth towards the west by taking the desert which lay between them, and which it then garrisoned with nomad tribes.
The Carthaginians hitherto had never paid tribute, and they had never suffered a serious reverse. Alcibiades talked much of invading them when he had done with Sicily, and the young men of his set were at one time always drawing plans of Carthage in the dust of the market-place at Athens; but the Sicilian expedition failed. The affection of the Tyrians preserved them from Cambyses. Alexander opportunely died. Pyrrhus in Sicily began to collect ships to sail across, but he who tried to take up Italy with one hand and Carthage with the other, and who also excited the enmity of the Sicilian Greeks, was not a very dangerous foe. Agathocles of Syracuse invaded Africa, but it was the action of a desperate and defeated man and bore no result.
Sicily was long the battlefield of the Carthaginians, and ultimately proved their ruin. Its western side belonged to them: its eastern side was held by a number of independent Greek cities which were often at war with one another. Of these Syracuse was the most important: its ambition was the same as that of Carthage—to conquer the whole island, and then to extend its rule over the flourishing Greek towns on the south Italian coast. Hence followed wars generation after generation, till at length the Carthaginians obtained the upper hand. Already they were looking on the island as their own when a new power stepped upon the scene.
The ancient Tuscans or Etruscans had a language and certain arts peculiar to themselves, and Northern Italy was occupied by Celtic Gauls. But the greater part of the peninsula was inhabited by a people akin to the Greeks, though differing much from them in character, dwelling in city states, using a form of the Phoenician alphabet, and educating their children in public schools. The Greek cities on the coast diffused a certain amount of culture through the land.
A rabble of outlaws and runaway slaves banded together, built a town, fortified it strongly, and offered it as an asylum to all fugitives. To Rome fled the over-beaten slave, the thief with his booty, the murdered with blood-red hands. This city of refuge became a war-town—to use an African phrase—its citizens alternately fought and farmed; it became the dread and torment of the neighbourhood. However, it contained no women, and it was hoped that in course of time the generation of robbers would die out. The Romans offered their hands and hearts to the daughters of a neighbouring Sabine city. The Sabines declined, and told them that they had better make their city an asylum for runaway women. The Romans took the Sabine girls by force; a war ensued, but the relationship had been established; the women reconciled their fathers to their husbands, and the tribes were united in the same city.
The hospitality which Rome had offered in its early days in order to sustain its life became a custom and a policy. The Romans possessed the art of converting their conquered enemies into allies, and this was done by means of concessions which cities of respectable origin would have been too proud to make.
Their military career was very different from that of the Persians, who swept over the continent in a few months. The Romans spent three centuries in establishing their rule within a circle of a hundred miles round the city. Whatever they won by the sword they secured by the plough. After every successful war they demanded a tract of land, and on this they planted a colony of Roman farmers. The municipal governments of the conquered cities were left undisturbed. The Romans aimed to establish, at least in appearance, a federation of states, a United Italy. At the time of the first Punic War this design had nearly been accomplished. Wild tribes of Celtic shepherds still roamed over the rich plains at the foot of the Alps, but the Italian boroughs had acknowledged the supremacy of Rome. The Greek cities on the southern coast had, a few years before, called over Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, a soldier of fortune and the first general of the day. But the legion broke the Macedonian phalanx, and the broadsword vanquished the Macedonian spear. The Greek cities were no longer independent except in name. Pyrrhus returned to Greece, and prophesied of Sicily, as he left its shores, that it would become the arena of the Punic and the Roman arms.
In the last war that was ever waged between the Syracusans and the Carthaginians, the former had employed some mercenary troops belonging to the Mamertines, an Italian tribe. When the war was ended these soldiers were paid off and began to march home. They passed through the Greek town of Messina on their road, were hospitably received by the citizens, and provided with quarters for the night. In the middle of the night they rose up and massacred the men, married the widows, and settled down as rulers of Messina, each soldier beneath another man’s vine and fig-tree. A Roman regiment stationed at Rhegium, a Greek town on the Italian side of the straits, heard of this exploit, considered it an excellent idea, and did the same. The Romans marched upon Rhegium, took it by storm, and executed four hundred of the soldiers in the Forum. The king of Syracuse, who held the same position in eastern Sicily as did Rome on the peninsula, marched against Messina. The Mamertine bandits became alarmed; one party sent to the Carthaginians for assistance; another party sent to Rome, declaring that they were kinsmen and desired to enter the Italian league.
The Roman senate rejected this request on account of its "manifest absurdity." They had just punished their soldiers for imitating the Mamertines; how then could they interfere with the punishment of the Mamertines? But in Rome the people possessed the sovereign power of making peace or war. There was a scarcity of money at that time; a raid on Sicily would yield plunder, and troops were accordingly ordered to Messina. For the first time Romans went outside Italy-—the vanguard of an army which subdued the world. The Carthaginians were already in Messina: the Romans drove them out, and the war began. The Syracusans were defeated in the first battle, and then went over to the Roman side. It became a war between Asiatics and Europeans.
The two great republics were already well acquainted with each other. In the apartment of the Aediles in the Capitol was preserved a commercial treaty between Carthage and Rome, inscribed on tables of brass in old Latin; in the time of Polybius it could scarcely be understood, for it had been drawn up twenty eight years before Xerxes invaded Greece. When Pyrrhus invaded Italy the Carthaginians had taken the Roman side, for the Greeks were their hereditary enemies. There were Carthaginian shops in the streets of Rome, a city in beauty and splendour far inferior to Carthage, which as called the metropolis of the Western world. The Romans were a people of warriors and small farmers, quaint in their habits and simple in their tastes. Some Carthaginian ambassadors were much amused at the odd fashion of their banquets, where the guests sang old ballads in turn while the piper played, and they discovered that there was only one service of plate in Rome, and that each senator borrowed it when he gave a dinner. Yet there were already signs that Rome was inhabited by a giant race. The vast aqueducts had been constructed; the tunnel-like sewers had been hollowed out; the streets were paved with smooth and massive slabs. There were many temples and statues to be seen; each temple was the monument of a great victory; each statue was the memorial of a hero who had died for Rome.
The Carthaginian army was composed entirely of mercenary troops. Africa, Spain and Gaul were their recruiting grounds, an inexhaustible treasury of warriors as long as the money lasted which they received as pay. The Berbers were a splendid Cossack cavalry; they rode without saddle or bridle, a weapon in each hand; on foot they were merely a horde or savages with elephant-hide shields, long spears, and bear-skins floating from their shoulders. The troops of Spain were the best infantry that the Carthaginians possessed; they wore a white uniform with purple facings; they fought with pointed swords. The Gauls were brave troops but were badly armed; they were naked to the waist; their cutlasses were made of soft iron and had to be straightened after every blow. The Balearic Islands supplied a regiment of slingers whose balls of hardened clay whizzed through the air like bullets, broke armour, and shot men dead. We read much of the Sacred Legion in the Sicilian wars. It was composed of young nobles, who wore dazzling white shields and
breast-plates which were works of art; who even in the camp never drank except from goblets of silver and of gold. But this corps had apparently become extinct, and the Carthaginians only officered their troops, who they looked upon as ammunition, and to whom their orders were delivered through interpreters. The various regiments of the Carthaginian army had therefore nothing in common with one another or with those by whom they were led. They rushed to battle in confusion, "with sounds, discordant as their various tribes," and with no higher feeling than the hope of plunder or the excitement which the act of fighting arouses in the brave soldier.
In Rome the army was the nation: no citizen could take office unless he had served in ten campaigns. All spoke the same language, all were inspired by the same ambition. The officers were often small farmers like the men, but this civil equality produced no ill effects; the discipline was most severe. It was a maxim that the soldier should fear his officer more than he feared his foe. The drill was unremitting; when they were in winter quarters they erected sheds in which the soldiers fenced with swords cased in leather with buttons at the point and hurled javelins, also buttoned, at one another. These foils were double the weight of the weapons that were actually used. When the day’s march was over they took pick-axe and spade, and built their camp like a town with a twelve-foot stockade around it, and a ditch twelve feet deep and twelve feet broad. When the red mantle was hung before the general’s tent each soldier said to himself, "Perhaps to-day I may win the golden crown." Laughing and jesting they rubbed their limbs with oil, and took out of their cases the bright helmets and the polished shields which they used only on the battle-day. As they stood ready to advance upon the foe the general would address them in a vigorous speech; he would tell them that the greatest honour which could befall a Roman was to die for his country on the field, and that glorious was the sorrow, enviable the woe of the matron who gave a husband or a son to Rome. Then the trumpets pealed, and the soldiers charged, first firing a volley of javelins and then coming to close quarters with the solid steel. The chief fault of the Roman military system at that time was in the arrangement of the chief command. There were two commanders-in-chief, possessing equal powers, and it sometimes happened that they were both present on the same spot, that they commanded on alternate days, and that their tactics differed. They were appointed only for the year, and when the term drew near its end a consul would often fight a battle at a disadvantage, or negotiate a premature peace, that he might prevent his successor from reaping the fruits of his twelve month’s toil. The Carthaginian generals had thereby an advantage, but they also were liable to be recalled when too successful by the jealous and distrustful government at home.
The wealth of Carthage was much greater than that of Rome, but her method of making war was more costly, and a great deal of money was stolen and wasted by the men in power. In Carthage the highest offices of state were openly bought from a greedy and dangerous populace, just as in Pompey’s time tables were set out in the streets of Rome at which candidates for office paid the people for their votes. But at this time bribery was a capital offence at Rome. It was a happy period in Roman history, the interlude between two aristocracies. There had been a time when a system of hereditary castes prevailed; when the plebeians were excluded from all share in the public lands and the higher offices of state; when they were often chained in the dungeons of the nobles, and marked with scars upon their backs: when Romans drew swords on Romans and the tents of the people whitened the Sacred Hill. But the Licinian Laws were carried; the orders were reconciled; plebeian consuls were elected; and two centuries of prosperity, harmony, and victory prepared Rome for the prodigious contest in which she was now engaged.
To her subject people Carthage acted as a tyrant. She had even deprived the old Phoenician cities of their liberty of trade. She would not allow them to build walls for fear they should rebel, loaded them with heavy burdens grievous to be borne, treated the colonial provinces as conquered lands, and sent decayed nobles as governors to wring out of the people all they could. If the enemies of Carthage invaded Africa they would meet with no resistance except from Carthage herself, and they would be joined by thousands of Berbers who longed to be revenged on their oppressors. But if the enemies of Rome invaded Italy they would find everywhere walled cities ready to defend their liberties and having liberties to defend. No tribute was taken by Rome from her allies except that of military service, which service was rewarded with a share of the harvest that the war brought in.
The Carthaginians were at a greater distance from the seat of war than the Romans, who had only to sail across a narrow strait. However, this was counterbalanced by the superiority of the Punic fleet. At that time the Carthaginians were completely masters of the sea; they boasted that no man could wash his hands in the salt water without their permission. The Romans had not a single decked vessel, and in order to transport their troops across the straits they were obliged to borrow triremes from the Italian-Greeks. But their marvellous resolution and the absolute necessities of the case overmastered their deficiencies and their singular dislike of the sea. The wreck of a Carthaginian man-of-war served them as a model; they ranged benches along the beach and drilled sailors who had just come from the plough’s tail to the service of the oar. The vessels were rudely built and the men clumsy at their work, and when the hostile fleets first met the Carthaginians burst into loud guffaws. Without taking order of battle they flew down upon the Romans, the admiral leading the van in a seven-decker that had belonged to Pyrrhus. On they went, each ship in a bed of creamy foam, flags flying, trumpets blowing, and the negroes singing and clanking their chains as they laboured at the oar. But presently they perceived some odd-looking machines on the forecastles of the Roman ships; they had never seen such things before, and this made them hesitate a little. But when they saw in what a lubberly fashion the ships were worked their confidence returned; they dashed in among the Roman vessels, which they tried to rip up with their aquiline prows. As soon as they came to close quarters the machines fell down upon them with a crash, tore open their decks, and grappled them tightly in their iron jaws, forming at the same time a gangway over which the Roman soldiers poured. The sea fight was made a land fight, and only a few ships with beaks all bent and broken succeeded in making their escape. They entered the harbour of Carthage with their bows covered with skins, the signal of defeat.
However, by means of skilful manoeuvring the invention of Duilius was made of no avail, and the Carthaginians for many years remained the masters of the sea. Twice the Roman fleet was entirely destroyed, and their treasury was now exhausted. But he undaunted people fitted out a fleet by private subscription, and so rapidly was this done that the trees, as Florus said, were transformed into ships. Two hundred five-deckers were ready before the enemy knew that they had begun to build, and so the Carthaginian fleet was one day surprised by the Romans in no fighting condition, for the vessels were laden to the gunwales with corn, and only sailors were on board; the whole fleet was taken or sunk, and the war was at an end. Yet when all was added up it was found that the Romans had lost two hundred vessels more than the Carthaginians. But Rome, even without large ships, could always reinforce Sicily, while the Carthaginians, without a full fleet, were completely cut off from the seat of war, and they were unable to rebuild in the manner of the Romans.
The war in Sicily had been a drawn game. Hamilcar Barca, although unconquered, received orders to negotiate for peace. The Romans demanded a large indemnity to pay for the expenses of the war, and took the Sicilian settlements which Carthage had held for four hundred years.
Peace was made, and the mercenary troops were sent back to Carthage. Their pay was in arrear, and there was no money left. Matters were so badly managed that the soldiers were allowed to retain their arms. They burst into mutiny, ravaged the country, and besieged the capital. The veterans of Hamilcar could only be conquered by Hamilcar himself. He saved Carthage, but the struggle was severe. Venerable senators, ladies of gentle birth, innocent children, had fallen into the hands of the brutal mutineers, and had been crucified, torn to pieces, tortured to death in a hundred ways. During those awful orgies of Spendius and Matho the Roman war had almost been forgotten; the disasters over which men had mourned became by comparison happiness and peace. The destruction of the fleet was viewed as a slight calamity when death was howling at the city gates. At last Hamilcar triumphed, and the rebels were cast to the elephants, who kneaded their bodies with their feet and gored them with their tusks; and Carthage, exhausted, faint from loss of blood, attempted to repose.
But all was not yet over. The troops that were stationed in Sardinia rebelled, and Hamilcar prepared to sail with an armament against them.
The Romans had acted in the noblest manner towards the Carthaginians during the civil war. The Italian merchants had been allowed to supply Carthage with provisions, and had been forbidden to communicate with the rebels. When the Sardinian troops mutinied they offered the island to Rome; the city of Utica had also offered itself to Rome, but the Senate had refused both applications. And now all of a sudden, as if possessed by an evil spirit, they pretended that the Carthaginian armament had been prepared against Rome, and declared war. When Carthage, in the last stage of misery and prostration, prayed for peace in the name of all the pitiful gods, it was granted. But Rome had been put to some expense on account of this intended war; they must therefore pay an additional indemnity, and surrender Corsica and Sardinia. Poor Carthage was made to bite the dust indeed.
Hamilcar Barca was appointed commander-in-chief. He was the favourite of the people. He had to the last remained unconquered in Sicily. He had saved the city from the mutineers. His honour was unstained, his patriotism was pure.
In that hour of calamity and shame, when the city was hung with black, when the spacious docks were empty and bare, when there was woe in every face and the memory of death in every house, faction was forced to be silent, and the people were permitted to be heard, and those who loved their country more than their party rejoiced to see a Man at the head of affairs. But Hamilcar knew well that he was hated by the leaders of the government, the politicians by profession, those men who had devoured the gold which was the very heart of Carthage, and had brought upon her by their dishonesty this last distressing war; those men who by their miserable suspicions and intrigues had ever deprived their best generals of their commands as soon as they began to succeed, and appointed generals whom they--and the enemy—had no cause to fear. To him was entrusted by the patriots the office of regenerating Carthage. But how was it to be done? Without money he was powerless; without money he could not keep his army together; without money he could not even retain his command. He had been given it by the people, but the people were accustomed to be bribed. Gold they must have from the men in power; if he had none to give they would go to those who had. His enemies he knew would be able to employ the state revenues against him. What could he do? Where was the money to be found? He saw before him nothing but defeat, disgrace, and even an ignominious death—for in Carthage they sometimes crucified their generals. Often he thought that it would be better to give up public life, to abandon the corrupt and ruined city, and to sail to those sweet islands which the Carthaginians had discovered in the Atlantic Sea. There the earth was always verdant, the sky was always pure. No fiery sirocco blew, and no cold rain fell in that delicious land. Odoriferous balm dripped from the branches of the trees; canary birds sang among the leaves; streams of silver water rippled downwards to the sea. There Nature was a calm and gentle mother: there the turmoils of the world might be forgotten; there the weary heart might be at rest.
Yet how could he desert his fatherland in its affliction? To him the nation turned its sorrowful eyes; on him the people called as men call upon their gods. At this feet lay the poor, torn, and wounded Carthage—the Carthage once so beautiful and so strong, the Carthage who had fed him from her full breast with riches and with power, the Carthage who had made him what he was. And should he, who had never turned his back upon her enemies, desert her now?
Then a glorious idea flashed in upon his brain. He saw a way of restoring Carthage to her ancient glory, of making her stronger than she had ever been, of making her a match for Rome. He announced to the senate that he intended to take the army to Tangiers to reduce a native tribe which had caused some trouble in the neighbourhood. He quickly made all arrangements for the march. A few vessels had been prepared for the expedition to Sardinia. These were commanded by his brother, and he ordered that they should be sailed along the coast side by side with the army as it marched. It might have appeared strange to some persons that he should require ships to make war against a tribe of Moors on land. But there was no fear of his enemies suspecting his design. It was so strange and wild that when it had been actually accomplished they could scarcely believe that it was real.
The night before he marched he went to the Great Temple to offer the sacrifice of propitiation and entreaty. He took with him his son, a boy nine years of age. When the libations and other rites were ended and the victim lay divided on the altar, he ordered the attendants to withdraw. He remained alone with his son.
The temple of Baal was a magnificent building supported by enormous columns, covered with gold, or formed of a glass-like substance which began to glitter and sparkle in a curious manner as the night came on. Around the temple walls were idols representing the Phoenician gods; prominent among them was the hideous statue of Moloch, with its downward-sloping hands and the fiery furnace at its feet. There also might be seen beautiful Greek statues, trophies of the Sicilian
Wars—especially the Diana which the Carthaginians had taken from Segesta, which was afterwards restored to that city by the Romans, which Verres placed in his celebrated gallery and Cicero in his celebrated speech. There also might be seen the famous brazen bull which an Athenian invented for the amusement of Phalaris. Human beings were put inside, a fire was lit underneath, and the throat was so contrived that the shrieks and groans of the victims made the bull bellow as if he was alive. The first experiment was made by King Phalaris upon the artist, and the last by the people upon King Phalaris.
Hamilcar caressed his son and asked him if he would like to go to the war; when the boy said yes, and showed much delight, Hamilcar took his little hands and placed them upon the altar, and made him swear that he would hate the Romans to his dying day. Long years afterwards, when that boy was an exile in a foreign land—the most glorious, the most unfortunate of men—he was accused by his royal host of secretly intriguing with the Romans. He then related this circumstance, and asked if it was likely that he would ever be a friend to Rome.
Hamilcar marched. The politicians supposed that he was merely engaged in a third-rate war, and were quite easy in their minds. But one day there came a courier from Tangiers. He brought tidings which plunged the whole city in a tumult of wonder and excitement. The three great streets which led to the market-place were filled with streaming crowds. A multitude collected round the city hall, in which sat the senators anxiously deliberating. Women appeared on the roofs of the houses and bent eagerly over the parapets, while men ran along bawling out the news. Hamilcar Barca had gone clean off. He was no longer in Africa. He had crossed the sea. The Tangier expedition was a trick. He had taken the army right over into Spain, and was fighting with the native chiefs who had always been the friends and allies of Carthage.
By a strange fortuity, Spain was the Peru of the ancient world. The horrors of the mines in South America, the sufferings of the Indians, were copied, so to speak, from the early history of the people who inflicted them. When the Phoenicians first entered the harbours of Andalusia they found themselves in a land where silver was used as iron. They loaded their vessel with the precious metal to the water’s edge, cast away their wooden lead-weighted anchor, and substituted a lump of pure silver in its stead. Afterwards factories were established, arrangements were made with the chiefs for the supply of labour, and the mining was conducted on scientific principles. The Carthaginians succeeded the Phoenicians, and remained, like them, only on the coast.
It was Hamilcar’s design to conquer the whole country, to exact tribute from the inhabitants, to create a Spanish army. His success was splendid and complete. The peninsula of Spain became almost entirely a Punic province. Hamilcar built a city which he called New Carthage—the Carthagena of modern times—and discovered in its neighbourhood rich mines of silver-lead which have lately been reopened. He acquired a private fortune, formed a native army, fed his party at Carthage, and enriched the treasury of the state. He administered the province nine years, and then dying, was succeeded by his brother, who, after governing or reigning a few years, also died. Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar, became Viceroy of Spain.
It appears strange that Rome should so tamely have allowed the Carthaginians to take Spain. The truth was that the Romans just then had enough to do to look after their own affairs. The Gauls of Lombardy had furiously attacked the Italian cities, and had called to their aid the Gauls who lived beyond the Alps. Before the Romans had beaten off the barbarians the conquest in Spain had been accomplished. The Romans therefore accepted the fact, and contented themselves with a treaty by which the government of Carthage pledged itself not to pass beyond the Ebro.
But Hannibal cared nothing about treaties made at Carthage. As Hamilcar without orders had invaded Spain, so he without orders invaded Italy. The expedition of the Gauls had shown him that it was possible to cross the Alps, and he chose that extraordinary route. The Roman army was about to embark for Spain, which it was supposed would be the seat or war, when the news arrived that Hannibal had alighted in Italy with elephants and cavalry, like a man descending from the clouds.
If wars were always decided by individual exploits and pitched battles Hannibal would have conquered Italy. He defeated the Romans so often and so thoroughly that at last they found it their best policy not to fight with him at all. He could do nothing then but sweep over the country with his Cossack cavalry, plunder, and destroy. It was impossible for him to take Rome, which was protected by walls strong as rocks and by rocks steep as walls. When he did march on Rome, encamping within three miles of the city and raising a panic during an afternoon, it was done merely as a ruse to draw away the Roman army from the siege of Capua. But it did not have even that effect. The army before Capua remained where it was, and another army appeared as if by magic to defend the city. Rome appeared to be inexhaustible, and so in reality it was.
Hannibal knew well that Italy could be conquered only by Italians. So great a general could never have supposed that with a handful of cavalry he could subdue a country which had a million armed men to bring into the field. He had taken it for granted that if he could gain some success at first he would be joined by the subject cities. But in spite of his great victories they remained true to Rome. Nothing shows so clearly the immense resources of the Italian Republic as that second Punic War. Hannibal was in their country, but they employed against him only a portion of their troops. A second army was in Sicily waging war against his Greek allies; a third army was in Spain, attacking his operations at the base, pulling Carthage out of Europe by the roots. Added to which, it was now the Romans who ruled the sea. When Scipio had taken New Carthage and conquered Spain, he crossed over into Africa, and Hannibal was of necessity recalled. He met on the field of Zama a general whose genius was little inferior to his own, and who possessed an infinitely better army. Hannibal lost the day, and the fate of Carthage was decided. It was not the battle which did that; it was the nature and constitution of the state. In itself the battle of Zama was not a more ruinous defeat than the battle of Cannae. But Carthage was made of different stuff from that of Rome. How could a war between those two people have ended otherwise than as it did? Rome was an armed nation fighting in Italy for hearth and home, in Africa for glory and revenge. Carthage was a city of merchants, who paid men to fight for them, and whose army was dissolved as soon as the exchequer was exhausted. Rome could fight to its last man; Carthage could fight only to its last dollar. At the beginning of both wars the Carthaginians did wonders, but as they became poor they became feeble; their strength dribbled out with their gold; the refusal of Alexandria to negotiate a loan perhaps injured them more deeply than the victory of Scipio.
The fall of the Carthaginian empire is not a matter for regret. Outside the walls of the city existed hopeless slavery on the part of the subject, shameless extortion on the part of the officials. Throughout Africa Carthage was never named without a curse. In the time of the mercenary war the Moorish women, taking oath to keep nothing back, stripped off their gold ornaments and brought them all to the men who were resisting their oppressors. That city, that Carthage, fed like a vulture upon the land. A corrupt and grasping aristocracy, a corrupt and turbulent populace, divided between them the prey. The Carthaginian customs were barbarous in the extreme. When a battle had been won they sacrificed their handsomest prisoners to the gods; when a battle had been lost the children of their noblest families were cast into the furnace. Their Asiatic character was strongly marked. They were a people false and sweet-worded, effeminate and cruel, tyrannical and servile, devout and licentious, merciless in triumph, faint-hearted in danger, divinely heroic in despair.
Let us therefore admit that, as an imperial city, Carthage merited her fate. But henceforth we must regard her from a different point of view. In order to obtain peace she had given up her colonies abroad, her provinces at home, her vessels and elephants of war. The empire was reduced to a municipality. Nothing was left but the city and a piece of ground. The merchant princes took off their crowns and went back into the glass and purple business. It was only as a town of manufacture and trade that Carthage continued to exist, and as such her existence was of unmixed service to the world.
Hannibal was made prime minister, and at once set to work to reform the constitution. The aristocratic party informed the Romans that he was secretly stirring up the people to war. The Romans demanded that he should be surrendered; he escaped to the court of Antiochus, the Greek king in Asia Minor, and there he did attempt to raise war against Rome. The senate were justified in expelling him from Carthage, for he was really a dangerous man. But the persecution to which he was afterwards subjected was not very creditable to their good fame. Driven from place to place, he at last took refuge in Bithynia, on the desolate shores of the Black Sea, and a Roman consul, who wished to obtain some notoriety by taking home the great Carthaginian as a show, commanded the prince under whose protection he was living to give him up. When Hannibal heard of this he took poison, saying, "Let me deliver the Romans from their cares and anxieties since they think it too tedious and too dangerous to wait for the death of a poor, hated old man." The news of this occurrence excited anger in Rome, but it was the presage of a greater crime which was soon to be committed in the Roman name.
There was a Berber chief named Masinissa who had been deprived of his estates, and who during the war had rendered important services to Rome. He was made king of Numidia, and it was stipulated in the treaty that the Carthaginians should restore the lands and cities which had belonged to him and to his ancestors. The lands which they had taken from him were accordingly surrendered, and then Masinissa sent in a claim for certain lands which he said had been taken from his ancestors. The wording of the treaty was ambiguous. He might easily declare that the whole of the sea-coast had belonged to his family in ancient times, and who could disprove the evidence of a tradition? He made no secret of his design; it was to drive the Phoenician strangers out of Africa and to reign at Carthage in their stead. He soon showed that he was worthy to be called the King of Numidia and the Friend of Rome. He drilled his bandits into soldiers; he taught his wandering shepherds to till the ground. He made his capital, Constantine, a great city; he opened schools in which the sons of native chiefs were taught to read and write in the Punic tongue. He allied himself with the powers of Morocco and the Atlas. He reminded the Berbers that it was to them the soil belonged, that the Phoenicians were intruders who had come with presents in their hands and with promises in their mouths, declaring that they had met with trouble in their own country, and praying for a place where they might repose from the weary sea. Their fathers had trusted them; their fathers had been bitterly deceived. By force and by fraud the Carthaginians had taken all the lands which they possessed; they had stolen the ground on which their city stood.
In the meantime Rome advanced into the East. As soon as the battle of Zama had been fought Alexandria demanded her protection. This brought the Romans into contact with the Graeco-Asiatic world; they found it in much the same condition as the English found Hindustan, and they conquered it in much the same manner.
Time went on. The generation of Hannibal had almost become extinct. In Carthage war had become a tradition of the past. The business of that city was again as flourishing as it had ever been. Again ships sailed to the coasts of Cornwall and Guinea; again the streets were lined with the workshops of industrious artisans. Such is the vis medicatrix, the restoring power of a widely extended commerce, combined with active manufactures and the skilful management of soil, that the city soon regained its ancient wealth. The Romans had imposed an enormous indemnity which was to be paid off by instalments extending over a series of years. The Carthaginians paid it off at once.
But in the midst of all their prosperity and happiness there were grave and anxious hearts. They saw ever before them the menacing figure of Masinissa. The very slowness of his movements was portentous. He was in all things deliberate, gradual, and calm. From time to time he demanded a tract of land; if it was not given up at once he took it by force. Then, waiting as if to digest it, he left them for a while in peace.
They were bound by treaty not to make war against the Friend of Rome. They therefore petitioned the senate that commissioners should be sent and the boundary definitely settled. But the senate had no desire that Carthage should be left in peace. The commissioners were instructed to report in such a manner that Masinissa might be encouraged to continue his depredations. They brought back astonishing accounts of the magnificence and activity of the African metropolis; and among these commissioners there was one man who never ceased to declare that the country was in danger, and who never rose to speak in the House without saying before he sat down: "And it is my opinion, fathers, that Carthage must be destroyed."
Cato the censor has been called the last of the old Romans. That class of patriot farmers had been extinguished by Hannibal’s invasion. In order to live during the long war they had been obliged to borrow money on their lands. When the war was over the prices of everything rose to an unnatural height; the farmers could not recover themselves, and the Roman law of debt was severe. They were ejected by thousands—it was the favourite method to turn the women and children out of doors while the poor man was working in the fields. Italy was converted into a plantation; slaves in chains tilled the land. No change was made in the letter of the constitution, but the commonwealth ceased to exist. Society was now composed of the nobles, the money-merchants or city men, and a mob like that of Carthage which lived on saleable votes, sometimes raging for agrarian laws, and which was afterwards fed at government expense like a wild beast every day.
At this time a few refined and intellectual men began to cultivate a taste for Greek literature and the fine arts. They collected libraries, and adorned them with busts of celebrated men and with antiques of Corinthian bronze. Crowds of imitators soon arose, and the conquests in the East awakened new ideas. In the days of old the Romans had been content to decorate their door-posts with trophies obtained in single combat, and their halls with the waxen portraits of their ancestors. The only spoils which they could then display were flocks and herds, wagons of rude structure, and heaps of spears and helmets. But now the arts of Greece and the riches of Asia adorned the triumphs of their generals, and the reign of taste and luxury commenced. A race of dandies appeared who wore semi-transparent robes, and who were always passing their hands in an affected manner through their hair—who lounged with the languor of the Sybarite, and spoke with the lisp of Alcibiades. The wives of senators and bankers became genteel, kept a herd of ladies’ maids, passed hours before their full-length silver mirrors, bathed in asses’ milk, rouged their cheeks and dyed their hair, never went out except in palanquins, gabbled Greek phrases, and called their slaves by Greek names even when they happened to be of Latin birth. The houses of the great were paved with mosaic floors, and the painted walls were works of art: sideboards were covered with gold and silver plate, with vessels of amber and of the tinted Alexandrine glass. The bathrooms were of marble, with the water issuing from silver tubes.
New amusements were invented, and new customs began to reign. An academy was established, in which five hundred boys and girls were taught castanet dances of anything but a decorous kind. The dinner hour was made later, and instead of sitting at table they adopted the style of lying down to eat on sofas inlaid with tortoiseshell and gold. It was chiefly in the luxuries of the cuisine that the Romans exhibited their wealth. Prodigious prices were paid for a good Greek cook. Every patrician villa was a castle of gastronomical delight: it was provided with its salt-water tank for fish and oysters, and an aviary which was filled with field-fares, ortolans, nightingales, and thrushes; a white dove-cot, like a tower, stood beside the house, and beneath it was a dark dungeon for fattening the birds; there was also a poultry ground, with pea-fowl, guinea-fowl, and pink feathered flamingoes imported from the East, while an orchard of fig-trees, honey-apples, and other fruits, and a garden in which the trees of cypress and yew were clipped into fantastic shapes, conferred an aspect of rural beauty on the scene. The hills round the Bay of Naples were covered with these villas; and to that charming region it became the fashion to resort at a certain season of the year. In such places gambling, drinking, and lovemaking shook off all restraints. Black-eyed soubrettes tripped perpetually about with billets-doux in Greek; the rattle of the ivory dice-box could be heard in the streets, like the click of billiard balls in the Parisian boulevards; and many a boat with purple sails and with garlands of roses twined round its mast floated softly along the water, laughter and sweet music sounding from the prow.
Happily for Cato’s peace of mind, he died before the casino with its cachucha—or cancan, or whatever it might have been—was introduced, and before the fashions of Asia had been added to those of Greece. But he lived long enough to see the Graeco-maniacs triumphant. In earlier and happier days he had been able to expel two philosophers from Rome, but now he saw them swarming in the streets with their ragged cloaks and greasy beards, and everywhere obtaining seats as domestic chaplains at the tables of the rich. He could now do no more than protest in his bitter and extravagant style against the corruption of the age. He prophesied that as soon as Rome had thoroughly imbibed the Greek philosophy she would lose the empire of the world; he declared that Socrates was a prating, seditious fellow who well deserved his fate; and he warned his son to beware of the Greek physicians, for the Greeks had laid a plot to kill all the Romans, and the doctors had been deputed to put it into execution with their medicines.
Cato was a man of an iron body which was covered with honourable scars, a loud, harsh voice, greenish-grey eyes, foxy hair, and enormous teeth resembling tusks. His face was so hideous and forbidding that, according to one of the hundred epigrams that were composed against him, he would wander for ever on the banks of the Styx, for hell itself would be afraid to let him in. He was distinguished as a general, as an orator, and as an author, but he pretended that it was his chief ambition to be considered a good farmer. He lived in a little cottage on his Sabine estate, and went in the morning to practise as an advocate in the neighbouring town. When he came home he stripped to the skin and worked in the fields with his slaves, drinking as they did the vinegar-water or the thin, sour wine. In the evening he used to boil the turnips for his supper while his wife made the bread. Although he cared so little about external things, if he gave an entertainment and the slaves had not cooked it or waited to his liking, he used to chastise them with leather thongs. It was one of his maxims to sell his slaves when they grew old—the worst cruelty that a slave-owner can commit. "For my part," says Plutarch, "I should never have the heart to sell an ox that had grown old in my service, still less my aged slave."
Cato’s old-fashioned virtue paid very well. He gratified his personal antipathies and obtained the character of the people’s friend. He was always impeaching the great men of his country, and was himself impeached nearly fifty times. The man who sets up as being much better than his age is always to be suspected, and Cato is perhaps the best specimen of the rugged hypocrite and austere charlatan that history can produce. This censor of morals bred slaves for sale. He made laws against usury and then turned usurer himself. He was always preaching about the vanity of riches, and wrote an excellent work on the best way of getting rich. He degraded a Roman knight for kissing his wife in the day-time in the presence of his daughter, and he himself, while he was living under his daughter-in-law’s roof, bestowed his favours on one of the servant girls of the establishment, and allowed her to be impudent to her young mistress. "Old age," he once said to a grey-headed debauchee, "has deformities enough of its own. Do not add to it the deformity of vice." At the time of the amorous affair above mentioned Cato was nearly eighty years of age.
On the other hand, he was a most faithful servant to his country; he was a truly religious man, and his god was the Commonwealth of Rome. Nor was he destitute of the domestic virtues, though sadly deficient in that respect. He used to say that those who beat their wives and children laid their sacrilegious hands on the holiest things in the world. He educated his son himself, taught him to box, to ride, and to swim, and wrote out for him a history of Rome in large pothook characters, that he might become acquainted at an early age with the great actions of the ancient Romans. He was as careful in what he said before the child as if he had been in the presence of the vestal virgins.
This Cato was the man on whom rests chiefly the guilt of the murder which we must now relate. In public and in private, by direct denunciation, by skilful innuendo, by appealing to the fears of some and to the interests of others, he laboured incessantly towards his end. Once, after he had made a speech against Carthage in the senate, he shook the skirt of his robe as if by accident, and some African figs fell upon the ground. When all had looked and wondered at their size and beauty he observed that the place where they grew was only three days’ sail from Rome.
It is possible that Cato was sincere in his alarms, for he was one of the few survivors of the second Punic War. He had felt the arm of Carthage in its strength. He could remember that day when even Romans had turned pale; when the old men covered their faces with their mantles; when the young men clambered on the walls; when the women ran wailing round the temples of the gods, praying for protection and sweeping the shrines with their hair; when a cry went forth that Hannibal was at the gates; when a panic seized the city; when the people, collecting on the roofs, flung tiles at Roman soldiers, believing them to be the enemy already in the town; when all over the Campagna could be seen the smoke of ricks and farmhouses mounting in the air, and the wild Berber horsemen driving herds of cattle to the Punic camp.
Besides, it was his theory that the annihilation of foreign powers was the building up of Rome. He used to boast that in his Peninsular campaign he had demolished a Spanish town a day. There were in the senate many enlightened men who denied that the prosperity of Rome could be assisted by the destruction of trading cities, and Carthage was defended by the Scipio party. But the influence of the banker class was employed on Cato’s side. They wanted every penny that was spent in the Mediterranean world to pass through their books. Carthage and Corinth were rival firms which it was to their profit to destroy. These money-mongers possessed great power in the senate and the state, and at last they carried the day. It was privately resolved that Carthage should be attacked as soon as an opportunity occurred.
Thus in Africa and in Italy Masinissa and Cato prepared the minds of men for the deed of blood. It was as if the Furies of the slaughtered dead had entered the bodies of those two old men and kept them alive beyond their natural term. Cato had done his share. It was now Masinissa’s turn. As soon as he was assured that he would be supported by the Romans he struck again and again the wretched people, who were afraid to resist and yet who soon saw that it would be folly to submit. It was evident that Rome would not interfere. If Masinissa was not checked he would strip them of their cornfields; he would starve them to death. The war party at last prevailed; the city was fortified and armed. Masinissa descended on their villas, their gardens, and their farms. Driven to despair, the Carthaginians went forth to defend the crops which their own hands had sown. A great battle was fought, and Masinissa was victorious.
On a hill near the battle-field sat a young Roman officer, Scipio Aemilianus, a relative of the man who had defeated Hannibal. He had been sent over from Spain for a squadron of elephants, and arrived in Masinissa’s camp at this interesting crisis. The news of the battle was soon despatched by him to Rome. The treaty had now been broken, and the senate declared war.
The Carthaginians fell into an agony of alarm. They were now so broken down that a vassal of Rome could defeat them in the open field. What had they to expect in a war with Rome? Ambassadors were at once dispatched with full powers to obtain peace—peace at any price—from the terrible Republic. The envoys presented themselves before the senate; they offered the submission of the Carthaginians, who formally disowned the act of war, who had put the two leaders of the war-party to death, and who desired nothing but the alliance and goodwill of Rome. The answer which they received was this: "Since the Carthaginians are so well advised, the senate returns them their country, their laws, their sepulchres, their liberties, and their estates, if they will surrender three hundred sons of their senators as hostages, and obey the orders of the consuls."
The Roman army had already disembarked. When the consuls landed on the coast no resistance was made. They demanded provisions. Then the city gates were opened, and long trains of bullocks and mules laden with corn were driven to the Roman camp. The hostages were demanded. Then the senators brought forth their children and gave them to the city; the city gave them to the Romans; the Romans placed them on board the galleys, which at once spread their sails and departed from the coast. The roofs of the palaces of Carthage were crowded with women who watched these receding sails with straining eyes and outstretched arms. Never more would they see their beloved ones. Yet they would not perhaps have grieved so much at the children leaving Carthage had they known what was to come.
The city gates again opened. The senate sent its council to the Roman camp. A company of venerable men clad in purple, with golden chains, presented themselves at headquarters and requested to know what were the "orders of the consuls." They were told that Carthage must disarm. They returned to the city and at once sent out to the camp all their fleet-material and artillery, all the military stores in the public magazines, and all the arms that could be found in the possession of private individuals. Three thousand catapults and two hundred thousand sets of armour were given up.
They again came out to the camp. The military council was assembled to receive them. The old men saluted the Roman ensigns, and bowed low to the consuls, placing their hands upon their breasts. The orders of the consuls, they said, had been obeyed. Was there anything more that their lords had to command?
The senior consul rose up and said that there was something more. He was instructed by the Roman senate to inform the senators of Carthage that the city must be destroyed, but that in accordance with the promise of the Roman senate their country, their laws, their sepulchres, their liberties, and their estates would be preserved, and they might build another city. Only it must be without walls, and at a distance of at least ten miles from the sea.
The Carthaginians cast themselves upon the ground, and the whole assembly fell into confusion. The consul explained that he could exercise no choice: he had received his orders, and they must be carried out. He requested them to return and apprise their fellow-townsmen. Some of the senators remained in the Roman camp; others ventured to go back. When they drew near the city the people came running out to meet them, and asked them the news. They answered only by weeping and beating their foreheads, and stretching out their hands and calling on the gods. They went on to the senate house; the members were summoned; an enormous crowd gathered in the market-place. Presently the doors opened; the senators came forth, and the orders of the consuls were announced.
And then there rose in the air a fierce, despairing shriek, a yell of agony and rage. The mob rushed through the city and tore limb from limb the Italians who were living in the town. With one voice it was resolved that the city should be defended to the last. They would not so tamely give up their beautiful Carthage, their dear and venerable home beside the sea. If it was to be burnt to ashes, their ashes should be mingled with it, and their enemies’ as well.
All the slaves were set free. Old and young, rich and poor, worked together day and night forging arms. The public buildings were pulled down to procure timber and metal. The women cut off their hair to make strings for the catapults. A humble message was sent in true Oriental style to the consul, praying for a little time. Days passed, and Carthage gave no signs of life. Tired of waiting, the consul marched towards the city, which he expected to enter like an open village. He found, to his horror, the gates closed, and the battlements bristling with artillery.
Carthage was strongly fortified, and it was held by men who had abandoned hope. The siege lasted more than three years. Cato did not live to see his darling wish fulfilled. Masinissa also died while the siege was going on, and bitter was his end. The policy of the Romans had been death to all his hopes. His dream of a great African empire was dissolved. He sullenly refused to co-operate with the Romans-—it was his Carthage which they had decreed should be levelled to the ground.
There was a time when it seemed as if the great city would prove itself to be impregnable; the siege was conducted with small skill or vigour by the Roman generals. More than one reputation found its grave before the walls of Carthage. But when Scipio Aemilianus obtained the command he at once displayed the genius of his house. Perceiving that it would be impossible to subdue the city as long as smuggling traders could run into the port with provisions, he constructed a stone mole across the mouth of the harbour. Having thus cut off the city from the sea, he pitched his camp on the neck of the isthmus—for Carthage was built on a peninsula—and so cut it off completely from the land. For the first time in the siege the blockade was complete: the city was enclosed in a stone and iron cage. The Carthaginians in their fury brought forth the prisoners whom they had taken in their sallies, and hurled them headlong from the walls. There were many in the city who protested against this outrage. They were denounced as traitors; a reign of terror commenced; the men of the moderate party were crucified in the streets. The hideous idol of Moloch found victims in that day; children were placed on its outstretched and downward sloping hands and rolled off them into the fiery furnace which was burning at its feet. Nor were there wanting patriots who sacrificed themselves upon the altars that the gods might have compassion upon those who survived. But among these pestilence and famine had begun to work, and the sentinels could scarcely stand to their duty on the walls. Gangs of robbers went from house to house and tortured people to make them give up their food; mothers fed upon their children; a terrible disease broke out; corpses lay scattered in the streets; men who were burying the dead fell dead upon them; others dug their own graves and laid down in them to die; houses in which all had perished were used as public sepulchres, and were quickly filled.
And then, as if the birds of the air had carried the news, it became known all over Northern Africa that Carthage was about to fall. And then from the dark and dismal corners of the land, from the wasted frontiers of the desert, from the snow lairs, and caverns of the Atlas, there came creeping and crawling to the coast the most abject of the human race—black, naked, withered beings, their bodies covered with red paint, their hair cut in strange fashions, their language composed of muttering and whistling sounds. By day they prowled round the camp and fought with the dogs for the offal and the bones. If they found a skin they roasted it on ashes and danced round it in glee, wriggling their bodies and uttering abominable cries. When the feast was over they cowered together on their hams, and fixed their gloating eyes upon the city, and expanded their blubber lips, and showed their white fangs.
At last the day came. The harbour walls were carried by assault, and the Roman soldiers pressed into the narrow streets which led down to the water side. The houses were six or seven storeys high, and each house was a fortress which had to be stormed. Lean and haggard creatures, with eyes of flame, defended their homesteads from room to room, onwards, upwards, to the death struggle on the broad, flat roof.
Day followed day, and still that horrible music did not cease—the shouts and songs of the besiegers, the yells and shrieks of the besieged, the moans of the wounded, the feeble cries of children divided by the sword. Night followed night, and still the deadly work went on; there was no sleep and no darkness; the Romans lighted houses that they might see to kill.
Six days passed thus, and only the citadel was left. It was a steep rock in the middle of the town; a temple of the God of Healing crowned its summit.
The rock was covered with people, who could be seen extending their arms to heaven and uniting with one another in the last embrace. Their piteous lamentations, like the cries of wounded animals, ascended in the air, and behind the iron circle which enclosed them could be heard the crackling of the fire and the dull boom of falling beams.
The soldiers were weary with smiting: they were filled with blood. Nine-tenths of the inhabitants had been already killed. The people on the rock were offered their lives; they descended with bare hands and passed under the yoke. Some of them eneded their days in prison; the greater part were sold as slaves.
But in the temple on the summit of the rocky hill nine hundred Roman deserters, for whom there could be no pardon, stood at bay. The trumpets sounded; the soldiers, clashing their bucklers with their swords and uttering the war-cry alala! alala! Advanced to the attack. Of a sudden the sea of steel recoiled, the standards reeled; a long tongue of flame sprang forth upon them through the temple door. The deserters had set the building on fire that they might escape the ignominious death of martial law.
A man dressed in purple rushed out of the temple with an olive-branch in his hand. This was Hasdrubal, the commander-in-chief, and the Robespierre of the reign of terror. His life was given him; he would do for the triumph. And as he bowed the knee before the consul a woman appeared on the roof of the temple with two children in her arms. She poured forth some scornful words upon her husband, and then plunged with her children into the flames.
Carthage burned seventeen days before it was entirely consumed. Then the plough was passed over the soil to put an end in legal form to the existence of the city. House might never again be built, corn might never again be sown, upon the ground where it had stood. A hundred years afterwards Julius Caesar founded another Carthage and planted a Roman colony therein. But it was not built upon the same spot. The old site remained accursed; it was a browsing ground for cattle, a field of blood. When recently the remains of the city walls were disinterred they were found to be covered with a layer of ashes from four to five feet deep, filled with half-charred pieces of wood, fragments of iron, and projectiles.