How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg. — Abraham Lincoln

Story of Rome - Arthur Gilman




An African Sirocco

All the time that the events that we have been giving our attention to were occurring—that is to say, ever since the foundation of Rome, another city had been growing up on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea, in which a different kind of civilization had been developed. Carthage, of which we have already heard, was founded by citizens of Phoenicia. The early inhabitants were from Tyre, that old city of which we read in the Bible, which in the earliest times was famous for its rich commerce. How long the people of Phoenicia had lived in their narrow land under the shadow of great Libanus, we cannot tell, though Herodotus, when writing his history, went there to find out, and reported that at that time Tyre had existed twenty-three hundred years, which would make its foundation forty-five hundred years ago, and more. However that may be, the purple of Tyre and the glass of Sidon, another and still older Phoenician city, were celebrated long before Rome was heard of. It was from this ancient land that the people of Carthage had come. It has been usual for emigrants to call their cities in a new land "new," (as Nova Scotia, New York, New England, New Town, or Newburg,) and that is the way in which Carthage was named, for the word means, in the old language of the Phoenicians, simply new city, just as Naples was merely the Greek for new city, as we have already seen.

[Illustration] from The Story of Rome by Arthur Gilman
A PHOENICIAN VESSEL (TRIREME).


Through six centuries, the people of Carthage had been permitted by the mother-city to attend diligently to their commerce, their agriculture, and to the building up of colonies along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, and the advantages of their position soon gave them the greatest importance among the colonies of the Phoenicians. There was Utica, near by, which had existed for near three centuries longer than Carthage, but its situation was not so favorable, and it fell behind. Tunes, now called Tunis, was but ten or fifteen miles away, but it also was of less importance. The commerce of Carthage opened the way for foreign conquest, and so, besides having a sort of sovereignty over all the peoples on the northern coast of Africa, she established colonies on Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and other Mediterranean islands, and history does not go back far enough to tell us at how early a date she had obtained peaceable possessions in Spain, from the mines of which she derived a not inconsiderable share of her riches.

Perhaps it may be thought strange that Carthage and Rome had not come into conflict before the time of which we are writing, for the distance between the island of Sicily and the African coast is so small that but a few hours would have been occupied in sailing across. It may be accounted for by the facts that the Carthaginians attended to their own business, and the Romans did not engage to any extent in maritime enterprises. On several occasions, however, Carthage had sent her compliments across to Rome, though Rome does not appear to have reciprocated them to any great degree; and four formal treaties between the cities are reported, B.C. 509, 348, 306, and 279.

It is said that when Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, was about to leave Sicily, he exclaimed: "What a grand arena this would be for Rome and Carthage to contend upon!" It did not require the wisdom of an oracle to suggest that such a contest would come at some time, for the rich island lay just between the two cities, apparently ready to be grasped by the more enterprising or the stronger. As Carthage saw the gradual extension of Roman authority over Southern Italy, she realized that erelong the strong arm would reach out too far in the direction of the African continent. She was, accordingly, on her guard, as she needed to be.

At about the time of the beginning of the war with Pyrrhus, a band of soldiers from Campania, which had been brought to Sicily, took possession of the town of Messana, a place on the eastern end of the island not far from the celebrated rocks Scylla and Charybdis, opposite Rhegium. Calling themselves Mamertines, after Mars, one form of whose name was Mamers, these interlopers began to extend their power over the island. In their contests with Hiero, King of Syracuse, they found themselves in need of help. In the emergency there was a fatal division of counsel, one party wishing to call upon Rome and the other thinking best to ask Carthage, which already held the whole of the western half of the island and the northern coast, and had for centuries been aiming at complete possession of the remainder. Owing to this want of united purpose it came about that both cities were appealed to, and it very naturally happened that the fortress of the Mamertines was occupied by a garrison from Carthage before Rome was able to send its army.

The Roman senate had hesitated to send help to the Mamertines because they were people whom they had driven out of Rhegium, as robbers, six years before, with the aid of the same Hiero, of Syracuse, who was now besieging them. However, the people of Rome, not troubled with the honest scruples of the senate, were, under the direction of the consuls, inflamed by the hope of conquest and of the riches that they expected would follow success, and a war which lasted twenty-three years was the result of their reckless greed (B.C. 264).

The result was really decided during the first two years, for the Romans persuaded the Mamertines to expel the Carthaginians from Messana, and then, though besieged by them and by Hiero, drove them both off, and in the year 263 took many Sicilian towns and even advanced to Syracuse. Then Hiero concluded a peace with Rome to which he was faithful to the time of his death, fifty years afterward. The Sicilian city next to Syracuse in importance was Agrigentum, and this the Romans took the next year, thus turning the tables and making themselves instead of the Carthaginians masters of most of the important island, with the exception of Panormus and Mount Eryx, near Drepanum (B.C. 262).

The Carthaginians, being a commercial people, were well supplied with large ships, and the Romans now saw that they, too, must have a navy. Possessing no models on which to build ships of war larger than those with three banks of oars, they took advantage of the fact that a Carthaginian vessel of five banks (a quinquireme) was wrecked on their shores, and in the remarkably short space of time of less than two months built and launched one hundred and thirty vessels of that size! They were clumsy, however, and the crews that manned them were poorly trained, but, nevertheless, the bold Romans ventured, under command of Caius Duilius, to attack the enemy off the Sicilian town of Mylae, and the Carthaginians were overwhelmed, what remained of their fleet being forced to seek safety in flight. The naval prestige of Carthage was destroyed. There was a grand celebration of the victory at Rome, and a column adorned with the ornamental prows of ships was set up in the forum.

[Illustration] from The Story of Rome by Arthur Gilman
A ROMAN WAR VESSEL.


For a few years the war was pursued with but little effect; but in the ninth year, when the favorite Marcus Atilius Regulus was consul, it was determined to carry it on with more vigor, to invade Africa with an overwhelming force, and, if possible, close the struggle. Regulus sailed from Economus, not far from Agrigentum, with three hundred and thirty vessels and one hundred thousand men, but his progress was soon interrupted by the Carthaginian fleet, commanded by Hamilcar. After one of the greatest sea-fights of all time, in which the Carthaginians lost nearly a hundred ships and many men, the Romans gained the victory, and found nothing to hinder their progress to the African shore. The enemy hastened with the remainder of their fleet to protect Carthage, and the conflict was transferred to Africa. Regulus prosecuted the war with vigor, and, owing to the incompetence of the generals opposed to him, was successful to an extraordinary degree. Both he and the senate became intoxicated to such an extent, that when the Carthaginians made overtures for peace, only intolerable terms were offered them. This resulted in prolonging the war, for the Carthaginians called to their aid Xanthippus, a Spartan general, who showed them the weakness of their officers, and, finally, when his army had been well drilled, offered battle to Regulus on level ground, where the dreaded African elephants were of service, instead of among the mountains. The Roman army was almost annihilated, and Regulus himself was taken prisoner (B.C. 255).

The Romans saw that to retain a footing in Africa they must first have control of the sea. Though the fleet that brought back the remains of the army of Regulus was destroyed, another of two hundred and twenty ships was made ready in three months, only, however, to meet a similar fate off Cape Palinurus on the coast of Lucania. The Romans, at Panormus (now Palermo), were, in the year 250, attacked by the Carthaginians, over whom they gained a victory which decided the struggle, though it was continued nine years longer, owing to the rich resources of the Carthaginians. After this defeat an embassy was sent to Rome to ask terms of peace. Regulus, who had then been five years a captive, accompanied it, and, it is said, urged the senate not to make terms. He then returned to Carthage and suffered a terrible death. The character given him in the old histories and his horrible fate made Regulus the favorite of orators for ages.

The Romans now determined to push the war vigorously, and began the siege of Lilybaeum (now Marsala), which was the only place besides Drepanum, fifteen miles distant, yet remaining to the enemy on the island of Sicily (B.C. 250). It was not until the end of the war that the Carthaginians could be forced from these two strongholds. Six years before that time (B.C. 247), there came to the head of Carthaginian affairs a man of real greatness, Hamilcar Barca, whose last name is said to mean lightning; but even he was not strong enough to overcome the difficulties caused by the faults of others, and in 241 he counselled peace, which was accordingly concluded, though Carthage was obliged to pay an enormous indemnity, and to give up her claim to Sicily, which became a part of the Roman dominion (the first "province" so-called), governed by an officer annually sent from Rome. Hamilcar had at first established himself on Mount Ercte, overhanging Panormus, whence he made constant descents upon the enemy, ravaging the coast as far as Mount Aetna. Suddenly he quitted this place and occupied Mount Eryx, another height, overlooking Drepanum, where he supported himself two years longer, and the Romans despaired of dislodging him.

In their extremity, they twice resorted to the navy, and at last, with a fleet of two hundred ships, defeated the Carthaginians off the Aegusae Islands, to the west of Sicily, and as the resources of Hamilcar were then cut off, it was only a question of time when the armies at Eryx, Drepanum, and Lilybaeum would be reduced by famine. It was in view of this fact that the settlement was effected.

A period of peace followed this long war, during which at one time, in the year 235, the gates of the temple of Janus, which were always open during war and had not been shut since the days of Numa, were closed, but it was only for a short space. After this war, the Carthaginians became involved with their own troops, who arose in mutiny because they could not get their pay, and Rome took advantage of this to rob them of the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, and at the same time to demand a large addition to the indemnity fund that had been agreed upon at the peace (B.C. 227). Such arbitrary treatment of a conquered foe could not fail to beget and keep alive the deepest feelings of resentment, of which, in after years, Rome reaped the bitter fruits.

The Adriatic Sea was at that time infested with pirates from Illyria, the country north of Epirus, just over the sea to the east of Italy, and as Roman towns suffered from their inroads, an embassy was sent to make complaint. One of these peaceful messengers was murdered by direction of the queen of the country, Teuta, by name, and of course war was declared, which ended in the overthrow of the treacherous queen. Her successor, however, when he thought that the Romans were too much occupied with other matters to oppose him successfully, renewed the piratical incursions (B.C. 219), and in spite of the other wars this brought out a sufficient force from Rome. The Illyrian sovereign was forced to fly, and all his domain came under the Roman power.

Meantime the Romans had begun to think of the extensive tracts to the north acquired from the Gauls, and in 232 B.C., a law was passed dividing them among the poorer people and the veterans, in the expectation of attracting inhabitants to that part of Italy. The barbarians were alarmed by the prospect of the approach of Roman civilization, and in 225, united to make a new attack upon their old enemies. When it was rumored at Rome that the Gauls were preparing to make a stand and probably intended to invade the territory of their southern neighbors, the terrible days of the Allia were vividly brought to mind and the greatest consternation reigned. The Sibylline or other sacred books were carefully searched for counsel in the emergency, and in obedience to instructions therein found, two Gauls and two Greeks (a man and a woman of each nation) were buried alive in the Forum Boarium, and the public excitement somewhat allayed in that horrible way. A large army was immediately raised, and sent to meet the Gauls at Ariminum on the Adriatic, but they avoided it by taking a route further to the west. They were met by a reserve force, however, which suffered a great defeat, probably near Clusium. Afterwards the main army effected a junction with another body coming from Pisa, and as the Gauls were attacked on both sides at once, they were annihilated. This battle occurred near Telamon, in Etruria, not far from the mouth of the Umbria. The victory was followed up, and after three years, the whole of the valley of the Po, between the Alps and the Apennines, was made a permanent addition to Roman territory. Powerful colonies were planted at Placentia and Cremona to secure it.

[Illustration] from The Story of Rome by Arthur Gilman
HANNIBAL.


No greater generals come before us in the grand story of Rome than those who are now to appear. One was born while the first Punic war was still raging, and the other in the year 235, when the gates of the temple of Janus were, for the first time in centuries, closed in token that Rome was at peace with the world. Hannibal, the elder of the two was son of Hamilcar Barca, and inherited his father's hatred of Rome, to which, indeed, he had been bound by a solemn oath, willingly sworn upon the altar at the dictation of his father.

When Livy began his story of the second war between Rome and Carthage, he said that he was about to relate the most memorable of all wars that ever were waged; and though we may not express ourselves in such general terms, it is safe to say that no struggle recorded in the annals of antiquity, or of the middle age, surpasses it in importance or in historical interest. The war was to decide whether the conqueror of the world was to be self-centred Rome; or whether it should be a nation of traders, commanded by a powerful general who dictated to them their policy,—a nation not adapted to unite the different peoples in bonds of sympathy,—one whose success would, in the words of Dr. Arnold, "have stopped the progress of the world."

Hannibal stands out among the famed generals of history as one of the very greatest. We must remember that we have no records of his own countrymen to show how he was estimated among them; but we know that though he was poorly supported by the powers at home, he was able to keep together an army of great size, by the force of his own personality, and to wage a disastrous war against the strongest people of his age, far from his base of supplies, in the midst of the enemy's country. It has well been said that the greatest masters of the art of war, from Scipio to Napoleon, have concurred in homage to his genius.

The other hero, and the successful one, in the great struggle, was Publius Cornelius Scipio, who was born in that year when the temple of Janus was closed, of a family that for a series of generations had been noted in Roman history, and was to continue illustrious for generations to come.

Another among the many men of note who came into prominence during the second war with Carthage was Quintus Fabius Maximus, a descendant of that Rullus who in the Sabine wars brought the names Fabius and Maximus into prominence. His life is given by Plutarch under the name Fabius, and he is remembered as the originator of the policy of delay in war, as our dictionaries tell us, because his plan was to worry his enemy, rather than risk a pitched battle with him. On this account the Romans called him Cunctator, which meant delayer, or one who is slow though safe, not rash. He was called also Ovicula, or the lamb, on account of his mild temper, and Verrucosus, because he had a wart on his upper lip (Verruca, a wart).

The second Punic war was not so much a struggle between Carthage and Rome, as a war entered into by Hannibal and carried on by him against the Roman republic in spite of the opposition of his own people; and this fact makes the strength of his character appear in the strongest light. Just at the close of the first war, the Carthaginians had established in Spain a city which took the name of New Carthage—that is, New New City,—and had extended their dominion over much of that country, as well as over most of the territory on the south shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Hannibal laid siege to the independent city of Saguntum, on the northeast of New Carthage, and, after several months of desperate resistance, took it, thus throwing down the gauntlet to Rome and completing the dominion of Carthage in that region (B.C. 218). Rome sent ambassadors to Carthage, to ask reparation and the surrender of Hannibal: but "War!" was the only response, and for seventeen years a struggle of the most determined sort was carried on by Hannibal and the Roman armies.

After wintering at New Carthage, Hannibal started for Italy with a great army. He crossed the Pyrenees, went up the valley of the Rhone, and then up the valley of the Isère, and most probably crossed the Alps by the Little St. Bernard pass. It was an enterprise of the greatest magnitude to take an army of this size through a hostile country, over high mountains, in an inclement season; but no difficulty daunted this general. In five months he found himself in the valley of the Duria (modern Dora Baltea), in Northern Italy, with a force of twenty thousand foot and six thousand cavalry (the remains of the army of ninety-four thousand that had left New Carthage), with which he expected to conquer a country that counted its soldiers by the hundred thousand. The father of the great Scipio met Hannibal in the plains west of the Ticinus, and was routed, retreating to the west bank of the Trebia, where the Romans, with a larger force, were again defeated, though the December cold caused the invading army great suffering and killed all the elephants but one. The success of the Carthaginians led the Gauls to flock to their standard, and Hannibal found himself able to push forward with increasing vigor.

[Illustration] from The Story of Rome by Arthur Gilman
TERENCE, THE LAST ROMAN COMIC POET.


Taking the route toward the capital, he met the Romans at Lake Trasimenus, and totally routed them, killing the commander, Caius Flaminius, who had come from Arretium to oppose him. The defeat was accounted for by the Romans by the fact that Flaminius, always careless about his religious observances, had broken camp at Ariminum, whence he had come to Arretium, though the signs had been against him, and had also previously neglected the usual solemnities upon his election as consul before going to Ariminum. The policy of Hannibal was to make friends of the allies of Rome, in order to attract them to his support, and after his successes he carefully tended the wounded and sent the others away, often with presents. He hoped to undermine Rome by taking away her allies, and after this great success he did not march to the capital, though he was distant less than a hundred miles from it, because he expected to see tokens that his policy was a success.

The dismay that fell upon Rome when it was known that her armies had twice been routed, can better be imagined than described. The senate came together, and for two days carefully considered the critical state of affairs. They decided that it was necessary to appoint a dictator, and Fabius Maximus was chosen. Hannibal in the meantime continued to avoid Rome, and to march through the regions on the Adriatic, hoping to arouse the inhabitants to his support. In vain were his efforts. Even the Gauls seemed now to have forgotten him, and Carthage itself did not send him aid. Fabius strove to keep to the high lands, where it was impossible for Hannibal to attack him, while he harassed him or tried to shut him up in some defile.

In the spring of the year 216, both parties were prepared for a more terrible struggle than had yet been seen. The Romans put their forces under one Varro, a business man, who was considered the champion of popular liberty. The armies met on the field of Cannae, on the banks of the river Aufidus which enters the Adriatic, and there the practical man was defeated with tremendous slaughter, though he was able himself to escape toward the mountains to Venusia, and again to return to Canusium. There he served the state so well that his defeat was almost forgotten, and he was actually thanked by the senate for his skill in protecting the remnant of the wasted army.

The people now felt that the end of the republic had come, but still they would not listen to Hannibal when he sent messengers to ask terms of peace. They were probably surprised when, instead of marching upon their capital, the Carthaginian remained in comparative inactivity, in pursuance of his former policy. He was not entirely disappointed this time, in expecting that his brilliant victory would lead some of the surrounding nations to declare in his favor, for finally the rich city of Capua, which considered itself equal to Rome, opened to him its gates, and he promised to make it the capital of Italy (B.C. 216). With Capua went the most of Southern Italy, and Hannibal thought that the war would soon end after such victories, but he was mistaken.

Two other sources of help gave him hope, but at last failed him. Philip V., one of the ablest monarchs of Macedon, who had made a treaty with Hannibal after the battle of Cannae, tried to create a diversion in his favor on the other side of the Adriatic, but his schemes were not energetically pressed, and failed. Again, a new king of Syracuse, who had followed Hiero, offered direct assistance, but he, too, was overcome, and his strong and wealthy city taken with terrible carnage, though the scientific skill of the famous Archimedes long enabled its ruler to baffle the Roman generals (B.C. 212). The Romans overran the Spanish peninsula, too, and though they were for a time brought to a stand, in the year 210 the state of affairs changed. A young man of promise, who had, however, never been tried in positions of great trust, was sent out. It was the great Scipio, who has been already mentioned. He captured New Carthage, made himself master of Spain, and was ready by the year 207 to take the last step, as he thought it would be, by carrying the war into Africa, and thus obliging Hannibal to withdraw from Italy.

At home, the aged Fabius was meantime the trusted leader in public counsels, and by his careful generalship Campania had been regained. Capua, too, had been recaptured, though that enterprise had been undertaken in spite of his cautious advice. Hannibal was thus obliged to withdraw to Lower Italy, after he had threatened Rome by marching boldly up to its very gates. The Samnites and Lucanians submitted, and Tarentum fell into the hands of Fabius, whose active career then closed. He had opposed the more aggressive measures of Scipio which were to lead to success, but we can hardly think that the old commander was led to do this because, seeing that victory was to be the result, he envied the younger soldier who was to achieve the final laurels, though Plutarch mentions that sinister motive. The career of Fabius, which had opened at the battle of Cannae, and had been successful ever since, culminated in his triumph after the fall of Tarentum, which occurred in B.C. 209.

[Illustration] from The Story of Rome by Arthur Gilman
PUBLIUS CORNELIUS SCIPIO AFRICANUS


Now the Carthaginian army in Spain, under command of Hasdrubal, made an effort to go to the help of Hannibal, and, taking the same route by the Little St. Bernard pass, arrived in Italy (B.C. 208) almost before the enemy was aware of its intention. Hannibal, on his part, began to march northward from his southern position, and after gaining some unimportant victories, arrived at Canusium, where he stopped to wait for his brother. The Romans, however, managed to intercept the dispatches of Hasdrubal, and marched against him, in the spring of 207, after he had wasted much time in unsuccessfully besieging Placentia. The two armies met on the banks of the river Metaurus. The Carthaginians were defeated with terrible slaughter, and the Romans felt that the calamity of Cannae was avenged. Hasdrubal's head was sent to his brother, who exclaimed at the sight: "I recognize the doom of Carthage!"

For four years Hannibal kept his army among the mountains of Southern Italy, feeling that his effort at conquering Rome had failed. Meantime Scipio was making arrangements to carry out his favorite project, though in face of much opposition from Fabius and from the senate, which followed his lead. The people were, however, with Scipio, and though he was not able to make such complete preparations as he wished, by the year 204 he had made ready to set out from Lilybaeum for Africa. At Utica he was joined by his allies, and, in 203, defeated the Carthaginians and caused them to look anxiously across the sea toward their absent general for help. Pretending to desire peace, they took advantage of the time gained by negotiations to send for Hannibal, who reached Africa before the year closed, after an absence of fifteen years, and took up his position at Hadrumentum, where he looked over the field and sadly determined to ask for terms of peace. Scipio was desirous of the glory of closing the long struggle, and refused to make terms, thus forcing Hannibal to continue the war. The Romans went about ravaging the country until, at last, a pitched battle was brought about at a place near Zama, in which, though Hannibal managed his army with his usual skill, he was overcome and utterly routed. He now again advised peace, and accepted less favorable terms than had been before offered. Henceforth Carthage was to pay an annual war-contribution to Rome, and was not to enter upon war with any nation in Africa, or anywhere else, without the consent of her conquerors. Scipio returned to Rome in the year 201, and enjoyed a magnificent triumph, the name Africanus being at the same time added to his patronymic. Other honors were offered him, but the most extraordinary of them he declined to accept.

Hannibal, though overcome, stands forth as the greatest general. At the age of forty-five he now found himself defeated in the proud plans of his youth; but, with manly strength, he refused to be cast down, and set about work for the improvement of his depressed city. It was not long before he aroused the opposition which has often come to public benefactors, and was obliged to flee from Carthage. From that time, he was a wanderer on the earth. Ever true to his hatred of Rome, however, he continued to plot for her downfall even in his exile. He went to Tyre and then to Ephesus, and tried to lead the Syrian monarch Antiochus to make successful inroads upon his old enemy. Obliged to flee in turn from Ephesus, he sought an asylum at the court of Prusias, King of Bithynia. At last, seeing that he was in danger of being delivered up to the Romans, in despair he took his own life at Libyssa, in the year 182 or 181. Thus ignominiously ended the career of the man who stood once at the head of the commanders of the world, and whose memory is still honored for the magnificence of his ambition in daring to attack and expecting to conquer the most powerful nation of his time.