Red Book of Heroes - Andrew Lang


If we could go back more than three thousand years, and be present at one of the banquets of Egypt or of the great kingdoms of the East, we should be struck by the wonderful colour which blazed in some of the hangings on the walls, and in the dresses of the guests; and if, coveting the same beautiful colour for our own homes, we asked where it came from, the answer would be that it was the famous Tyrian purple, made at the prosperous town of Tyre, off the coast of Palestine, inhabited by the Phoenician race.

The Phoenicians were celebrated traders and sent their goods all over the world. Ships took them to the mouth of the Nile, to the islands in the Cornish sea, to the flourishing cities of Crete almost as civilised as our own; while caravans of camels bore Phoenician wares across the desert to the Euphrates and the Tigris, most likely even to India itself. Soon the Phoenicians began to plant colonies which, like Tyre their mother, grew rich and beautiful, and far along the north African coast—so runs the old story—the lady Dido founded the city of Carthage, whose marble temples, theatres, and places of assembly were by and by to vie with those of Tyre itself.

But before these were yet completed, a wanderer, tall and strong and sun-burned, towering nearly a head over the small Phoenician people, landed on the coast and was brought before the queen, as Dido was now called.

His name, he said, was AEneas, and he had spent many years in fighting before the walls of Troy for the sake of Helen, whom he thought the loveliest woman in the world, till he had looked on Dido the queen. After the war was ended he had travelled westwards, and truly strange were the scenes on which his eyes had rested since he had crossed the seas.

Dido listened, and as she had talked with many traders from all countries she understood somewhat of his speech, and bade him stay awhile and behold the wonders of the city she was building. So AEneas stayed, and the heart of the queen went out to him; but as the days passed by he tired of rich food and baths made sweet with perfumes, and longed for wild hills and the flocks driven by the shepherds. Then one morning he sailed away, and Dido saw his face no more; and in her grief she ordered a tall pyre to be reared of logs of sandalwood and cedar. When all was prepared she came forth with a golden circlet round her head, and a robe of scarlet falling to her feet, till men marvelled at her fairness, and laid herself down on the top of the pyre.

"I am ready," she said to the chief of her slaves, who stood by, and a lighted torch was placed against the pile, and the flames rose high.

In this manner Dido perished, but her name was kept green in her city to the end.



But though Dido was dead, her city of Carthage went on growing, and conquering, and planting colonies, in Sicily, Spain, and Sardinia. Not that the Carthaginians themselves, though a fierce and cruel people, cared about forming an empire, but they loved riches, and to protect their trade from other nations it was needful to have strong fleets and armies. For some time the various Greek states were her most powerful enemies; but in the third century before Christ signs appeared to those with eyes to read them that a war between Carthage and Rome was at hand.

Now it must never be forgotten for a moment that neither then, nor for over two thousand years later, was there any such thing as Italy, as we understand it.

The southern part of the peninsula was called "Greater Greece," and filled, as we have said, by colonies from different Greek towns. In the northern parts, about the river Po, tribes from Gaul had settled themselves, and in the centre were various cities peopled by strange races, who for long joined themselves into a league to resist the power of Rome. But by the third century B.C. the Roman empire, which was afterwards to swallow up the whole of the civilised world from the straits of Gibraltar to the deserts of Asia, had started on its career; the league had been broken up, the Gauls and Greeks had been driven back, and the whole of Italy south of the river Rubicon paid tribute to the City of the Seven Hills on the Tiber.

Having made herself secure in Italy, Rome next began to watch with anxious eyes the proceedings of Carthage in Spain and in Sicily. The struggle for lordship was bound to come, and to come soon. As to her army, Rome feared nothing, but it was quite clear that to gain the victory over Carthage she must have a fleet, and few things are more striking in the great war than the determination with which Rome, never a nation of sailors, again and again fitted out vessels, and when they were destroyed or sunk gave orders to build more. And at last she had her reward, and the tall galleys, with high carved prows and five banks of oars, beat the ships which had been hitherto thought invincible.

It was in 263 B.C. that the war at last broke out in Sicily, and after gaining victories both by land and sea, Rome in the eighth year of the contest sent an army to Africa, under the consuls Regulus and Volso, with orders to besiege Carthage. The invading army consisted of forty thousand men, and was joined as soon as it touched the African shore by some tributary towns, and also by twenty thousand slaves—for Carthage was hated by all who came under her rule because of her savage cruelty. At the news of the invasion the people seemed turned into stone. Then envoys were sent to beg for peace, peace at any price, at the cost of any humiliation. But the consuls would listen to nothing, and Carthage would have fallen completely into her enemy's hands had the Romans marched to the gates. But at this moment an order arrived from the Roman senate, bidding Volso with twenty-four thousand men return at once, leaving Regulus with only sixteen thousand. With exceeding folly Regulus left the strongly fortified camp, which in Roman warfare formed one of the chief defences, and arrayed his forces in the open plain. There Carthage, driven to bay, gave him battle with her hastily collected forces. The Carthaginians, commanded by Xanthippus, a better general than Regulus, won the day, and only two thousand Romans escaped slaughter. The victory gave heart to the men of Carthage, and when news came from Sicily that Rome had been driven back and her fleets destroyed, their joy knew no bounds. In her turn Rome might have lain at the feet of the conqueror, but Carthage had no army strong enough to act in a foreign land, and contented herself with destroying during the war seven hundred five-banked Roman ships, which were every time replaced with amazing swiftness.

The war had raged for sixteen years when Hamilcar Barca, father of the most famous general before Caesar (except Alexander the Great), was given command over land and sea. He was a young man, not more than thirty, and belonged to one of the oldest families in Carthage. Unlike most of his nation, he valued many things more highly than money, and despised the glitter and show and luxury in which all the Carthaginians delighted. A boy of fourteen when the first Punic war began (for this is its name in history), his strongest passion was hatred of Rome and a burning desire to humble the power which had defied his own beloved city. It did not matter to Hamilcar that his ships were few and his soldiers undisciplined. The great point was that he had absolute power over them, and as to their training he would undertake that himself.

So, full of hope he began his work, and in course of time, after hard labour, his raw troops became a fine army.

Hamilcar's first campaign in Sicily—so often the battleground of ancient Europe—was crowned with success. The Romans were hemmed in by his skilful strategy, and if he had only been given a proper number of ships it would have been easy for him to have landed in Italy, and perhaps marched to Rome. But now, as ever in the three Punic wars, Carthage, absorbed in counting her money and reckoning her gains and losses, could never understand where her real interest lay. She waited until Rome, by a supreme effort, built another fleet of two hundred vessels, which suddenly appeared on the west coast of Sicily, and gave battle to the Carthaginian ships when, too late, they came to the help of their general. The battle was lost, the fleet destroyed, and Hamilcar with wrath in his soul was obliged to make peace. Sicily, which Carthage had held for four hundred years, was ceded to Rome, and large sums of money paid into her treasury for the expenses of the war.

Bitterly disappointed at the failure forced on him when victory was within his grasp, Hamilcar was shortly after summoned back to Carthage to put down a rebellion which the government by its greed and folly had provoked. The neighbouring tribes and subject cities joined the foreign troops whose pay had been held back, and soon an army of seventy thousand men under a good general was marching upon Carthage. So widespread was the revolt that it took Hamilcar, to whom the people had insisted on giving absolute power, three years to quell the revolt; but at length he triumphed, punishing the leaders, and pardoning those who had only been led.

Peace having been restored, Hamilcar was immediately despatched to look after affairs in Spain, where both Carthage and Rome had many colonies. Strange to say, he took with him his three little boys, Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago, and before they sailed he bade Hannibal, then only nine, come with him into the great temple, and swear to the gods that he would be avenged on Rome.

If you read this story you will see how Hannibal kept his oath.

As this is a history of Hannibal, and not of his father, I have not room to tell you how Hamilcar took measures to carry out the purpose of his life, namely, the destruction of Rome. To this end he fortified the towns that had hitherto only been used as manufactories or store-houses, turned the traders into steady soldiers, sent for heavy armed African troops from Libya, and the celebrated light horse from Numidia, made friends with the Iberian (or Spanish) tribes, and ruled wisely and well from the straits of Gibraltar to the river Ebro. But, busy as he might be, he always had time to remember his three boys, and saw that they were trained in the habits and learning of a soldier. All three were apt pupils, and loved flinging darts and slinging stones, and shooting with the bow, though in these arts they could not rival their masters from the Balearic isles, however much they practised.

Hamilcar and Sons


When Hannibal was eighteen, Hamilcar was killed in a battle with some of the native tribes who had refused to submit to the sway of Carthage. In spite of the hatred that he cherished for everything Roman, he had earned the undying respect of the noblest among them. "No king was equal to Hamilcar Barca," writes Cato the elder, and the words of Livy the historian about Hannibal might also be applied to his father.

"Never was a genius more fitted to obey or to command. His body could not be exhausted nor his mind subdued by toil, and he ate and drank only what he needed." He had failed in his aim, but, dying, he left it as a heritage to his son, who, on the point of victory, was to fail also.

Under Hamilcar's son-in-law, Hasdrubal, the work of training the army, encouraging agriculture, and fostering trade was carried on as before. It was not long before Hasdrubal made his young brother-in-law commander of the cavalry, and often sought counsel from him in any perplexity. Hannibal was much beloved, too, by his soldiers of all nations, and to the end they clung to him through good and ill. He gave back their devotion by constant care for their comfort—very rare in those days—seeing that they were fed and warmed before entering on a hard day's fighting, and arranging that they had proper time for rest. To the Iberians he was bound by special ties, for before he quitted Spain for his death-struggle with Rome he married a Spanish princess, little thinking, when he started northwards in May 218 B.C., that he was leaving her and her infant son behind him for ever.

All this time Rome had been growing both in her influence and her dominions, when for a while her very existence was threatened by the sudden invasion of seventy thousand Gauls, who poured in from the north. They were defeated in a hard-fought battle and beaten back, but the struggle with the barbarians was long and fierce, and Rome remained exhausted. Her attention was occupied with measures needful for her own defence and in raising both men and money, and except for warning the Carthaginians not to cross the Ebro, she left them for a time pretty much to themselves, thinking vainly that, as long as her navy gave her command of the sea, she had no need to trouble herself about affairs in Spain or Africa. Indeed, after the severe strain of the Gallic war, the Roman senate thought that they were in so little danger either from Carthage or from Greece that their troops might take a sorely needed rest, and the army was disbanded.

This was Hannibal's chance, and with the siege and fall of the Spanish town of Saguntum in 218 B.C. began the second Punic war.

For years the young general had been secretly brooding over his plans, and had prepared friends for himself all along the difficult way his army would have to march. Unknown to Rome, he had received promises of help from most of the tribes in what is now the province of Catalonia, from Philip of Macedon, ruler in the kingdom of Alexander the Great, and from some of the Gauls near the Rhone and along the valley of the Po. Many of these proved broken reeds at the time of trial, when their help was most needed, and even turned into enemies, and Hannibal was too wise not to have foreseen that this might happen. Still, for the moment all seemed going as he wished; war was declared, and Rome made ready her fleet for the attack by sea which she felt was certain to follow.

In our days of telephones and telegrams and wireless telegraphy, it is very nearly impossible for us to understand how an army of ninety thousand foot, twelve thousand horse, and thirty-seven elephants could go right through Spain from Carthagena in the south-east to the Pyrenees in the north, and even beyond them, without a whisper of the fact reaching an enemy across the sea. Yet this is what actually occurred. Rome sent a large force under one consul into Sicily, the troops were later to embark for Carthage, another to the Po to hold the Gauls in check, while a third, under Publius Scipio, was shortly to sail for Spain and there give battle to the Carthaginians. That Hannibal was fighting his way desperately through Catalonia at that very moment they had not the remotest idea.

Not only did Hannibal lose many of his men in Catalonia, but he was obliged to leave a large body behind, under Hanno, his general, to prevent the Catalans rising behind him, and cutting off his communications with Spain.

The Pyrenees were crossed near the sea without difficulty, and for a time the march was easy and rapid along the great Roman road as far as Nismes, and then on to the Rhone between Orange and Avignon. By this time the consul, Publius Scipio, who had been prevented for some reason from going earlier to Spain, and was now sailing along the gulf of Genoa on his way thither, heard at Marseilles that Hannibal was advancing towards the river Rhone. The Roman listened to the news with incredulity and little alarm. How could Hannibal have got over the Pyrenees and he not know it? A second messenger arrived with the same tale as the first, but Scipio still refused to believe there was any danger. Why, the late rains had so swollen the river that it was now in high flood, and how could any army ford a stream so broad and so rapid? And if it did, had not the envoy said that some Gallic troops were drawn up on the other side to prevent the enemy landing? So Scipio disembarked his troops in a leisurely manner, and contented himself with sending out a scouting party of horse to see where the Carthaginians might be encamped—if they really were there at all!

Now all the way along his line of march Hannibal had followed his usual policy, and had gained over to his side most of the Gauls who lay in his path, and when they seemed inclined to oppose him, a bribe of money generally made matters smooth. But on reaching the right bank of the river he found the Gallic tribes, of whom Scipio had heard, assembled in large numbers on the left bank, just at the very place where he wished to cross. He knew at once that it was useless to persist in making the passage here, and some other plan must be thought of.

The first thing Hannibal did was to buy at their full value all the boats and canoes used by the natives in carrying their goods down to the mouth of the Rhone, there to be sold to foreign traders. The people, finding that the army of strange nations with dark skins and curious weapons did not intend to rob them, but to pay honestly for all they took, became ready to help them, and offered themselves as guides if they should be needed. And to prove their good will, they began to help the soldiers to cut down trees from the neighbouring forests, and to scoop them into canoes, one for every soldier.

It was the third night after the Carthaginians had reached the river when Hannibal ordered Hanno, one of his most trusted generals, to take a body of his best troops up the stream, to a place out of sight and sound of the Gallic camp, where one of the friendly guides had told him that a passage might be made. The country at this point was lonely, and the detachment met with no enemies along the road, and no one hindered them in felling trees and making rafts to carry them to the further bank. Early next morning they all got across, and then by Hannibal's express orders rested and slept, for he never allowed his soldiers to fight when exhausted. Before dawn they started on their march down the left bank, sending up, as soon as it was light, a column of smoke to warn Hannibal that everything had gone smoothly, and that he might now begin to cross himself.

His men were all ready, and without hurry or confusion took their places. The heavy-armed cavalry, with their corselets of bronze, and swords and long spears, entered the larger vessels; two men, standing in the stern of every boat, holding the bridles of three or four horses which were swimming after them. It must have required great skill on the part of the oarsmen to allow sufficient space between the boats, so that the horses should not become entangled with each other, but no accident happened either to the larger vessels or to the canoes which contained the rest of the foot.

Cathage vs. Gauls


Exactly as Hannibal expected, for he always seemed to know by magic the faults that his enemy would commit, at the sight of the Carthaginian army on the river the Gauls poured out of their camp, and crowded to the bank, shouting and screaming with delight and defiance. There they stood, with eyes fixed on the advancing boats, when suddenly Hanno's men came up and attacked them from behind. They turned to grapple with this unexpected enemy, thus giving Hannibal time to land his first division and charge them in the rear. Unable to stand the twofold onslaught, the Gauls wavered, and in a few minutes disappeared in headlong flight.

When the rest of the army was safe on the left bank a camp was pitched, and orders given for the morrow. Hannibal's great anxiety was for the passage of the elephants, still on the other side, for the great creatures on whose help he counted, perhaps more than he should, were terribly afraid of water. But no man ever lived who was cleverer at forming schemes than Hannibal, and at last he hit on one which he thought would do. Five hundred of his light-armed horsemen from the African province of Numidia were despatched down the river to find out how many soldiers Scipio had with him, the number and size of the ships that had arrived, and, if possible, the consul's future plans. Then the general chose out some men who were specially fitted to manage the elephants, and bade them recross the river immediately, giving them exact directions what they were to do when they were once more on the right bank.

The plan Hannibal had invented for the passage of the elephants was this.

The men whom he had left on the other side of the Rhone were ordered to cut down more trees as fast as possible, and chop them into logs, which were bound firmly together into rafts about fifty feet broad; when finished, these rafts were standing on the bank, lashed to trees and covered with turf, so that they looked just like part of the land. The rafts stretched a long way into the river, and the two furthest from the bank were only tied lightly to the others, in order that their ropes might be cut in a moment. By this means Hannibal felt that it would be possible for the elephants to be led by their keepers as far as the outermost rafts, when the ropes would be severed, and the floating platform rowed towards the further shore. The elephants, seeing the water all round them, would be seized with a panic, and either jump into the river in their fright and swim by the side of the raft, guided by their Indian riders, or else from sheer terror would remain where they stood, trembling with fear. But though the rafts were to be built without delay, the passage was on no account to be attempted till the signal was given from Hannibal's camp.

Meanwhile the Numidians on their way down the left bank of the Rhone had nearly reached the Roman headquarters when they met the party of cavalry whom Scipio, on his side, had sent out to reconnoitre. The two detachments at once fell upon each other and fought fiercely, and then, as Hannibal had directed, the Numidians retreated, drawing the Romans after them, till they were in sight of the Carthaginian entrenchments. Here the cavalry pulled up, and returned unpursued to Scipio with the news that they had defeated the famous Numidian horsemen in a hot skirmish, and that Hannibal was entrenched higher up the river. Immediately Scipio broke up his camp and began his march northwards, which was just what Hannibal wanted.

But at sunrise that same morning the signal had been given for the passage of the elephants, and the Carthaginians had started on their way to the Alps, the heavy-armed infantry in front, with the cavalry in the rear to protect them. Hannibal himself was determined not to stir till the elephants were safely over, but everything fell out as he expected, and the whole thirty-seven were soon safe beside him on dry land, snorting and puffing with their trunks in the air.

Then he followed his main body, and when Scipio, thirsting to give battle to the enemy he felt sure of conquering, arrived at the spot where three days before the Carthaginian army had been encamped, he found it empty.

Hannibal crossing the Rhone


Nothing is so necessary to the success of a campaign as having correct maps and information about the country through which your army has to pass. Hannibal, who thought of everything, had thought of this also, and had paid native guides well to lead him to the nearest passes over the Alps. For four days the Carthaginians marched along the Rhone, till they reached the place where the river Isere flows into it. The Gallic chief of the tribes settled in this part of Gaul, being at war with his brother, was easily gained over by some assistance of Hannibal's in securing his rights, and in return he furnished the Carthaginians with stores from the rich lands he ruled, with new clothes and strong leather sandals, and, more precious than all, with fresh weapons, for their own had grown blunted and battered in many a grim fight since the soldiers left Carthagena.

At the foot of the pass leading over the Mont du Chat, or Cat Mountain, in a lower range of the Alps, the chief bade them farewell, and returned to his own dominions. It was then that Hannibal's real difficulties began. His army consisted of many races, all different from each other, with different customs and modes of warfare, worshippers of different gods. There were Iberians from Spain, Libyans and Numidians from Africa, Gauls from the south of France; but they one and all loved their general, and trusted him completely, and followed blindly where he led. Still, the plunge into those silent heights was a sore trial of their faith, and in spite of themselves they trembled.

As they began their climb they found the pass occupied by numbers of Gallic tribes ready to hurl down rocks on their heads, or attack them at unexpected places. Perceiving this, Hannibal called a halt, while his native scouts stole away to discover the hiding-places of the enemy, and, as far as possible, how they intended to make their assault.

The guides came back bringing with them the important news that the tribes never remained under arms during the night, but retired till daylight to the nearest villages. Then Hannibal knew what to do. As soon as it was dark he seized upon the vacant posts with his light-armed troops, leaving the rest, and the train of animals, to follow at sunrise.

When they returned and saw what had happened in their absence the Gallic tribes were filled with rage, and lost no time in attacking the baggage-horses, which were toiling painfully over the rough ground. The animals, stung by their wounds, were thrown into confusion, and either rolled down the precipice themselves or pushed others over. To save worse disasters, Hannibal sounded a charge, and drove the Gauls out of the pass, even succeeding in taking a town which was one of their strongholds, and full of stores and horses.

After a day's rest he started again, this time accompanied by some of the enemy, who came with presents of cows and sheep, pretending to wish for peace, and offered themselves as guides over the next pass. But Hannibal feared them "even when they bore gifts," and did not put much faith in their promises. He determined to keep a close watch on them, but guides of some sort were necessary, and no others were to be had. However, he made arrangements to guard as far as possible against their treachery, placing his cavalry and baggage train in front, and his heavy troops in the rear to protect them.

The Carthaginian army had just entered a steep and narrow pass when the Gauls, who had kept pace with them all the way, suddenly attacked them with stones and rocks. Unlike their usual custom, they did not cease their onslaughts, even during the dark hours, and did great harm; but at sunrise they had vanished, and without much more trouble the Carthaginians managed to reach the head of the pass, where for two days the men and beasts, quite exhausted, rested amidst the bitter cold of the November snows, so strange to many of the army, who had grown up under burning suns and the sands of the desert.

Cold and tired though they were, hundreds of miles from their homes, one and all answered to Hannibal's words, entreating them to put their trust in him, and they should find ample reward for their sufferings in the rich plains of Italy which could be seen far below them.

"You are now climbing," he said, "not only the walls of Italy, but also those of Rome. The worst is past, and the rest of the way lies downhill, and will be smooth and easy to travel. We have but to fight one, or at most two, battles, and Rome will be ours."

And so perhaps it might have been if Carthage had only supported the greatest of her sons, and sent him help when he needed it so badly.

Hannibal was wrong when he told his soldiers that their difficulties were over, for as all accustomed to mountain-climbing could have informed him, it was much harder to go down the pass than it had been to come up it. A fresh fall of snow had covered the narrow track, but beneath it all was frozen hard and was very slippery. The snow hid many holes in the ice or dangerous rocks, while landslips had carried away large portions of the path. No wonder that men and beasts unused to such ground staggered and fell and rolled down the sides of the precipice. At length the path, barely passable before, grew narrower still; the army halted, and an active, light-armed soldier offered to go forward, and discover if the track became wider, and whether it was possible for even the men to go on. But the further he went the worse matters seemed. For some distance he managed, by clinging to a few small bushes which had wedged themselves into clefts of the rock, to lower himself down the side of the cliff, which was as steep as the wall of a house. Then he found right in front of him a huge precipice nearly a thousand feet deep, formed by a recent landslip, which entirely blocked what was once a path. As long as this rock remained standing it was plain that no man, still less an army, could get round it.

Hannibal crossing the alps


Climbing painfully back the way he had come, the soldier at once went with his report to Hannibal, who instantly made up his mind what to do. He carried supplies of some sort of explosive with him—what it was we do not know—and with this he blew up the rocks in front till there was a rough pathway through the face of the precipice. Then the soldiers cleared away the stones, and after one day's hard work the oxen, bearing the few stores left, and the half-starved, weary horses, were led carefully along, and down into a lower valley, where patches of grass could be seen, green amidst the wastes of snow. Here the beasts were turned loose to find their own food, and a camp was pitched to protect them.

Still, though the path had proved wide enough for horses and oxen, it was yet far too narrow for the elephants, and it took the Numidian troops three more days to make it safe for the great creatures which had struck such terror into the hearts of the mountain tribes. But weak as they were, the skin hanging loose over their bones, they made no resistance, and soon the whole army was marching towards the friendly Gauls, in the valley of the Po.

This was how in fifteen days Hannibal made the passage of the Little St. Bernard five months after he had set out from Carthagena. But the journey had been accomplished at a fearful cost, for of the fifty thousand men whom he had led from the city there remained only eight thousand Iberians or Spaniards, twelve thousand Libyans, and six thousand cavalry, though, strange to say, not one elephant had been lost.

It was well indeed for the Carthaginians that Scipio was not awaiting them at the foot of the Alps, but was making his way northwards from Pisa to the strong fortress of Placentia on the Po.

Among the friendly Gallic tribe of the Insubres, to whom Hannibal was united by the bond of hate of Rome, the troops rested and slept, and the horses and elephants grew fat once more. The men had had no time to think of themselves during those terrible weeks, and their health had suffered from the bitter cold and the wet clothes, which were often frozen on them. To add to this, their food had been as scanty as their labour had been hard, for most of their stores lay buried under the snows of the Alps. But in the rich, well-watered plains of Italy, "the country and the inhabitants being now less rugged," as the historian Livy tells us, they soon recovered their strength, and besieged and took by assault the city of Turin, capital of the territory of the Taurini, who were always at war with the Gallic allies of Hannibal.

With two Roman armies so near at hand the Gauls did not dare to join him in any great numbers, though they would gladly have flocked to his standard. Rome itself was filled with consternation at the news that Hannibal, whom they had expected to fight in Spain, was really in Italy, and hastily recalled the troops intended for Carthage, which were still at the Sicilian town of Lilybaeum. On receipt of the order, the general Tiberius instantly sailed with part of the men for Rome, and ordered the rest of the legions to proceed to Rimini on the Adriatic, bidding each man swear that he would reach the city by bedtime on a certain day.

If you look at the map and see the distance they had to go, you will be amazed that they kept their oaths, and arrived at Rimini in four weeks, marching daily sixteen miles.

Meanwhile Scipio was encamped in Placentia, and Hannibal, who had no time to lose in besieging such a strong position, was doing his best to tempt his enemy into the plain, where his own cavalry could have room to manoeuvre. But instead of remaining in Placentia, and allowing Hannibal to wear himself out in waiting, the Roman general left the town, crossed the Po, and advanced towards the river Ticino, where he ordered his engineers to build a bridge.

It was quite clear that with the two armies so near each other a battle could not be long delayed, and both commanders took what measures they thought necessary.

The way which Hannibal took to "encourage" his army, as the Greek historian Polybius calls it, was rather a curious one, and reminds us of the manner in which lessons were taught in some of the old Bible stories.

While crossing the Alps he had captured a number of young Gauls in the very act of hurling rocks on the head of his army. Most commanders, both in that age and for very long after, would have put them to death at once, but Hannibal, unlike the Carthaginians, was never unnecessarily cruel, though he put his prisoners in chains and took care they should not escape. He now ordered these young men to be brought before him and placed in the centre of his troops, which were drawn up all round. On the ground near him lay some suits of armour, once worn by Gallic chiefs, and a pile of swords, while horses were tethered close by. Making a short speech, he then offered the young men a chance of saving their lives with honour, or meeting an honourable death at each other's hands. Would they take it, or would they rather remain prisoners?

A shout of joy answered him.

"Well, then," said Hannibal, "you will each of you draw lots which shall fight with the other, and the victor of every pair shall be given armour, a horse, and a sword, and be one of my soldiers."

Pressing eagerly forward towards the urns which held the lots, the captives stopped to hold up their hands, as was their custom, praying to their gods for victory. After the lots were all drawn, they took their places, and under the eyes of the army the combat began. And when it was finished, and half the fighters lay dead on the field, it was they, and not the victors, who were envied by the soldiers, for having gloriously ended the misery of their lives. For in the old world death was welcomed as a friend, and seldom was a man found who dared to buy his life at the cost of his disgrace.

Roman prisoners in combat


"The struggle between the captives," said Hannibal to his army, "is an emblem of the struggle between Carthage and Rome. The prize of the victors will be the city of Rome, and to those who fall will belong the crown of a painless death while fighting for their country. Let every man come to the battlefield resolved, if he can, to conquer, and if not to die."

It was in this spirit that Hannibal trained his troops and led them to battle. He never made light of the difficulties that lay before him, or the dogged courage of the Romans, who rose up from every defeat with a fresh determination to be victorious. One advantage they had over Hannibal, and it could hardly be valued too highly. Though the councils of the senate who sent forth the troops might be divided, though the consuls who commanded them might be jealous of each other, yet the great mass of the army consisted of one nation, who together had fought for years under the eagles of Rome.

Hannibal, on the other hand, had to deal with soldiers of a number of different races, and his latest recruits, the Gauls, though eager and courageous, could not be depended upon in battle. When to this is added the fact that Hannibal was in a country which he did not know, among a people who feared Rome even while they hated her, and would desert him at the first sign of defeat; that he had to provide daily for the wants of both men and animals, and that for sixteen years he remained in Italy with a dwindling army, striking terror into the hearts of the bravest of the Romans, you may have some little idea of the sort of man he was.

Well may an historian say that the second Punic war was the struggle of a great man against a great nation. Take away Hannibal, and the Carthaginian forces were at the mercy of Rome.

We have no space to describe the various battles in the valley of the Po, in which Hannibal was always the victor. At the river Trebia he defeated Scipio in December 218, by aid of the strategy which never failed, till he taught his enemies how to employ it against himself. Hannibal was a man who never left anything to chance, and whether his generals were trusted to draw the enemy from a strong position into the open field, or to decoy it into an ambuscade, everything was foreseen, and as far as possible provided against. He took care that his troops and his animals should go into action fresh, well-fed, and well-armed, and more than once had the wounds of both horses and men washed with old wine after a battle. That tired soldiers cannot fight was a truth he never forgot or neglected.

During the winter months following the victory of Trebia, Hannibal pitched his camp in the territories of his Gallic allies, and busied himself with making friendly advances to the Italian cities which had been forced to acknowledge the headship of Rome. "He had not come to fight against them," he said, "but against Rome, on their behalf." So the Italian prisoners were set free without ransom, while the Roman captives were kept in close confinement. He also sent out spies to collect all the information they could as to the country through which he had to travel. He was anxious, for other reasons, to break up his camp as soon as he was able, as he saw signs that the Gauls were weary and rather afraid of having him for a neighbour.

Therefore, in the spring of 217 B.C. he marched southwards, placing the Spaniards and Libyans in front, with the baggage and stores behind them, the Gauls, whom he never quite trusted, in the centre, and the Numidian light horse and cavalry in the rear, under his brother Mago. There were no elephants to be thought of now, for they had all died of cold after the battle of Trebia. North of the Arno was a wide tract of marshland, which had to be crossed before the Apennine mountains could be reached. Never, during all his campaigns, did Hannibal's army have to undergo such suffering. In many ways it was worse than the passage of the Alps, for once in the midst of the morasses, swollen by the melting snows, it was hardly possible to snatch a moment of sleep. Many of the oxen fell and died, and when this happened the wearied men stretched themselves on their still warm bodies, and closed their eyes for a short space.

At length, after three nights and four days of incessant marching, till the troops were nearly numb with cold, firm ground was reached, and for a while they rested in peace on the hill of Fiesole, above the Arno.

Here Hannibal formed his plans for the next campaign. He found out that Flaminius the consul was a vain, self-confident man, with neither experience nor skill in war. It would be easy, he thought, by laying waste the rich country to the south, to draw the Roman general from his camp at Arretium; and so it proved. Flaminius, greedy of glory he could never gain, refused to listen to the advice of his officers and wait for the arrival of the other consul, and set out in pursuit of Hannibal, who felt that victory was once more in his hands.

The place which Hannibal chose for his battle was close to lake Thrasymene, a reedy basin in the mountains not far from the city of Cortona. At this spot a narrow valley ran down to the lake, with lines of hills on both sides, and a very steep mountain at the opposite end of the lake. At the lake end the hills came so close together that there was only a small track through which a few men could pass at a time.

Making sure that his enemy was following in his footsteps, Hannibal placed his steady heavy armed Spaniards and Libyans on the hill at the end of the valley opposite the lake, in full view of anyone who might approach them. His Balearic slingers and archers, and light-armed troops, were hidden behind the rocks of the hills on the right, and the Gauls and cavalry were posted in gorges on the left, close to the entrance of the defile, but concealed by folds in the ground. Next day Flaminius arrived at the lake, and, as Hannibal intended, perceived the camp on the hill opposite. It was too late to attack that night, but the next morning, in a thick mist, the consul gave orders for the advance through the pass. Grimly smiling at the success of his scheme, Hannibal waited till the Romans were quite close to him, and then gave the signal for the assault from all three sides at once.

Never in the whole of history was a rout more sudden and more complete. Flaminius' army was enclosed in a basin, and in the thick fog could get no idea from which direction the enemy was coming. The soldiers seemed to have sprung right out of the earth, and to be attacking on every quarter. All that the Romans could do was to fight, and fight they did with desperation. But there was no one to lead them, for their generals, like themselves, were bewildered, and Flaminius speedily met with the fate his folly deserved. Fifteen thousand Romans fell that day in the fierce battle, during which even an earthquake passed unheeded. Multitudes were pushed back into the lake and were dragged down to the bottom by the weight of their armour. Some fled to the hills and surrendered on the promise of their lives being spared, and a few thousands found their way back to Rome.

The victory being won, Hannibal charged the soldiers to seek for the body of Flaminius, so that he might give it honourable burial, by which nations in ancient times set special store. But, search as they might, they could not find it, nor was it ever known what became of him. Very differently did the Roman general Nero behave eleven years later on the banks of the Metaurus, when Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal, seeing that the day was lost, rode straight into the ranks of the enemy. When he fell, Nero, with savagery worthy of his namesake the emperor, cut off the head of the Carthaginian and threw it into Hannibal's camp.

Battle of Cannae


There was silence in Rome when bands of wounded and weary soldiers came flying to the gates, bearing the news of this fresh disaster. Fifteen thousand men slain, fifteen thousand men taken prisoners! Hardly a family in Rome that was not stricken, and who could tell when the banners of the Carthaginians might not be seen on the crests of the hills? But as the troubles of life show the stuff of which men are made, Romans were never so great as when their cause seemed hopeless. The city was at once put in a state of defence, every boy and old man that could bear arms was sent to the walls, the bridges over the Tiber were destroyed, and the senate, putting aside the consuls, elected a dictator, who for six months had absolute power over the whole state.

The man who in this hour of sorest need was chosen to save the city was Quintus Fabius, whose policy of "waiting" has become a proverb even to this day. He was already old, and was never a brilliant general, but, like most Romans, possessed great common-sense.

Alone among the senate he saw that there was no hope of conquering Hannibal in a pitched battle. Rome had not then—and, except for Caesar, never has had—a single general with a genius equal to his; but there was one way, and one only, by which he might be vanquished, and that was to leave him where he was, in the midst of a hostile country, till his troops grew weary of expecting a battle which never was fought, and his Gallic allies became tired of inaction and deserted him.

Such was the plan of warfare which Fabius proposed, but his own countrymen put many obstacles in the way of its success. Many times he was called a coward for declining a battle which would certainly have been a defeat; but he let such idle cries pass him by, and hung on Hannibal's rear, keeping his soldiers, many of whom were raw and untrained, under his own eye. In vain Hannibal drew up his men in order of battle and tried by every kind of insult to induce Fabius to fight. The old general was not to be provoked, and the enemy at length understood this and retired to his camp.

Immediately after the battle of Thrasymene, Hannibal, knowing quite well that he was not strong enough to attack Rome, had taken up his headquarters on the shores of the Adriatic, so as to be at hand if Philip of Macedon made a descent upon Italy, or Carthage sent the reinforcements her general had so frequently asked for. But it was as useless to trust to the promises of the one as to the patriotism of the other, and having laid waste the country nearly as far south as Tarentum, he suddenly crossed the Apennines to the plain on the western sea, where he hoped to gain over some of the cities to his cause. In this again he was doomed to disappointment, for the rich Campanian towns, notably Capua, richest of all, held aloof till they knew for certain who would be conqueror.

In all Hannibal's campaigns nothing is more surprising than the way he managed to elude his enemies, who were always close to him and always on the look-out for him; yet he went wherever he wished.

Seeing that he could not hope for support in Campania, Hannibal determined to carry off the stores and booty he had collected into a safe place east of the Apennines, in order that his troops might be well-fed during the winter. This Fabius learned through a spy, and, knowing that there was only one pass through the mountains, sent a body of four thousand men to occupy a position in ambush from which they might fall upon the Carthaginians as they entered the gorge, while he himself encamped with a large force on a hill near at hand.

We can imagine the old dictator's satisfaction when he had completed his arrangements for crushing the Carthaginians, and felt that this time he would put to silence the grumblings of the people in Rome.

Fabius passed the day in preparing his plan of the attack which was to take place on the morrow, perhaps now and then allowing his secret thoughts to linger a little on the triumph awaiting him at Rome. But that very night Hannibal ordered one of his generals to fell some trees and split them into faggots, which were to be piled close to where two thousand oxen were tethered outside the camp. The men wondered a little what was going to happen, but did as they were bid, and then, by Hannibal's directions, had supper and lay down to sleep. Very early in the morning they were awakened by Hannibal himself, who bade them follow him out of the camp and tie the faggots on to the horns of the oxen. This was soon done, and then the faggots were kindled by a burning torch, and the oxen were driven up a low ridge which stretched before the pass.

"Help the drivers get them on to the ridge," he said to his light troops, "and then pass them, shouting and making all the noise you can."

The march was conducted silently for some distance, but no sooner did the soldiers break out into shrieks and yells than the oxen grew frightened and wildly rushed hither and thither. The Romans in the defile below heard the shouts and saw the bobbing lights, but could not tell what they meant. Leaving their post, the whole four thousand climbed the ridge, where they found the Carthaginians. But it was still too dark for the Romans to see what these strange lights really were, so they drew up on the ridge to wait till daybreak, by which time Hannibal and most of his army were safe through the pass, when he sent back some of his Spanish troops to help the force he had left behind him. The troops speedily defeated the entire army of Fabius, who had now come up, and then, joining Hannibal, pushed on to Apulia.

Trapped by Fabius


A howl of rage rang through Rome at the news that they had once more been outwitted, and all Fabius' wise generalship was forgotten in this fresh defeat. Yet, had they stopped to think, the fault did not lie with the dictator, whose plans had been well laid, but with the commander of the troops in the pass, who, instead of sending out scouts to find out the cause of the disturbance on the ridge, moved his whole body of men, leaving the defile unguarded. Perhaps Hannibal, in arranging the surprise, had known something of the commander and what to expect of him; or he may merely have counted—as he had often done before—on the effects of curiosity. But time after time he traded on the weakness of man, and always succeeded.

It was in June 216 B.C. that Hannibal gained his last great battle in Italy. He had remained for many months near the river Ofanto, which runs into the Adriatic, but in the beginning of summer he threw himself into the town of Cannae, used by the Romans as a storehouse for that part of Italy.

A Roman army of ninety thousand men amply supplied was coming swiftly to meet him along the splendid roads, and he had only fifty thousand to cope with them, the greater number being Gauls, and not to be depended on. Of the original troops that he had brought from Spain, many were dead, but he was able to muster ten thousand cavalry, mostly consisting of the Numidian horse, and in this respect he was superior to the Romans. There was also to be reckoned to his advantage the fact that the two consuls, Varro and Paulus, hated each other bitterly, and that neither of them had any instinct of command, though Paulus was a capable soldier and a brave man.

There was a custom among the Romans, dating back from ancient days, that when the two consuls were serving on the same campaign, each should command on alternate days. It seems strange that such a very practical nation should have made such a foolish law, but so it was; and on this occasion it once more led, as it was bound to do, to an utter defeat. Hannibal played his usual game of sending Numidians across the river to insult and tease his enemy, till at length Varro exclaimed in wrath that the next day the command would be his, and that he would give the Carthaginians battle and teach them something of the majesty of Rome.

In vain the wiser Paulus, who had followed the counsels of Fabius, reasoned and protested. Varro would listen to nothing, and orders were given to the army to be ready on the morrow for the attack.

The day before the battle Hannibal spent "in putting the bodies of his troops into a fit state to fight," as the historian tells us—that is, he made them rest and sleep, and prepare plenty of food for their breakfast. Early next morning the Romans began to cross the river, which took several hours, thus leaving their strong camp on the southern bank with only a small force to defend it, and took up their position in the plains, where Hannibal's cavalry had ample room to manoeuvre. And, to make matters worse, the consul formed his men into such close columns that they could not avoid being hampered by each other's movements.

The two armies when facing each other in order of battle must have presented a curious contrast. The Roman legions and their allies, amounting in all to seventy-six thousand men, wore helmets and cuirasses and carried swords and short throwing-spears. In front, the Carthaginian troops looked a mere motley crowd, so various were the dress and weapons of the different nations. It is true that the black-skinned Libyans might at first sight have been taken for deserters from the Roman camp, as they, like their enemies, were clad in the same armour and bore the same arms, the spoils of many a victory; and the young men of the legions trembled with rage as they beheld the glittering line, and thought of what it betokened. But the Gauls were almost naked, and their swords, unlike those of the Romans, could only cut, and were useless for thrusting, while the Spanish troops were clothed in a uniform of short linen tunics striped with purple. In the van, or front of the army, were the small remainder of the contingent from the Balearic Isles, with their slings and bows.

In spite of the faults committed by Varro in placing his troops, Hannibal's lines were once broken by the heavy-armed Roman soldiers, while the cavalry on the wing by the river were fighting in such deadly earnest that they leaped from their horses and closed man to man. But at Cannae, as at Trebia, the honours of the day fell to the Numidians and to the Spanish and Gallic horse commanded by Hasdrubal. The Romans had been again routed by an army weaker by thirty thousand men than their own; the consul Paulus, and Servilius and Atilius, consuls of the year before, were all dead: only Varro saved his life by a disgraceful flight.

Still Hannibal did not march to Rome, as the senate expected. Though the battle of Cannae decided the wavering minds of those who had been waiting to see on which side lay the victory; though the southern half of Italy and many cities of Campania were now anxious to throw in their lot with him; though Philip of Macedon promised once more to send ships and men to his support, and thousands of Gauls swarmed into his camp, the army on which he could actually rely was too small to besiege the city with any chance of success. He did, indeed, send ambassadors to Rome, with powers to treat for the ransoming of some Roman prisoners, but as before in the case of the Gauls, the envoys were not even given a hearing by the senate.

Till he got reinforcements from Carthage, Hannibal felt he must remain where he was; but surely she would delay no longer when she knew that the moment for which Hannibal was waiting had come, and his allies were ready. So he sent his brother Mago to tell the story of his triumphs and his needs to the Carthaginian senate, never doubting that a few weeks would see the tall-prowed ships sailing up the coast of the Tyrrhene sea, where he now had his headquarters. He did not reckon on the jealousy of his success which filled the breasts of the rulers of his country, a jealousy which even self-interest was unable to overcome. From the first he had borne their burden alone, and owing to the treachery and baseness of his own nation in the end it proved too heavy for his shoulders.

Soon Hannibal began to understand that he would get help from no one, and from Carthage least of all, and the knowledge was very bitter. The Romans had gathered together a fresh army of eighty or ninety thousand men, and had armed a large number of their slaves, offering them freedom. Any check, however slight, to the Carthaginian army was the cause of joy and thankfulness in Rome, for, as Livy says, "not to be conquered by Hannibal then was more difficult than to vanquish him afterwards."

In spite of Thrasymene and Cannae things were now changed, and it was Hannibal who was on the defensive. The Romans had learned their lesson, and the legions always lying at the heels of Hannibal's army were commanded by experienced generals, who adopted the policy of Fabius and were careful never to risk a battle.

Thus three years passed away, and Carthage, absorbed in the difficult task of keeping Spain, from which she drew so much of her wealth, in her hands, sent thither all the troops she could muster to meet the Romans, who were gradually gaining ground in the peninsula.

In Italy the war was shifting to the south, and about 213 B.C. Hannibal was besieged in the town of Tarentum by a Roman fleet which had blocked the entrance to the gulf on which the city was situated. The alarm in Tarentum was great; escape seemed impossible; but Hannibal ordered boards to be placed in the night across a little spit of land that lay between the gulf and the open sea. When darkness fell, the boards were greased, and ox-hides stretched tightly over them. Then one by one the imprisoned Tarentine fleet was dragged along the boards and launched on the other side, and when all the ships were afloat, they formed in a line and attacked the Roman vessels, which were soon sunk or destroyed.

It was deeds such as these which showed the power Hannibal still possessed, and kept alive the Roman dread of him; yet he himself knew that the triumph of Rome was only a work of time, and that the kingdom of Carthage was slipping from her.

In Sicily, which had once been hers, and even now contained many towns which were her allies, a strong Roman party had arisen. Syracuse in the south was besieged by Appius Claudius by land and by Marcellus by sea, and its defence is one of the most famous in history. The Greek engineer, Archimedes, invented all sorts of strange devices new to the ancient world. He made narrow slits in the walls, and behind them he placed archers who could shoot through with deadly aim, while they themselves were untouched. He taught the smiths in the city how to make grappling irons, which were shot forth from the ramparts and seized the prows of the ships. By pressing a lever the vessels were slowly raised till they stood nearly upright, when the grapplers were opened, and the ships fell back with a splash that generally upset the crew into the sea, or were filled with water and sunk to the bottom. Of course you must remember that these were not great vessels with four masts like our old East Indiamen, but were long, high boats, worked by banks of oars, the shortest row being, of course, the lowest, nearest the water.

After a while the Romans got so frightened, not knowing what Archimedes might do next, that they thought every end of loose rope that was lying about hid some machine for their destruction. For a long while the engineer kept the enemy at bay, but in the end the power of Rome conquered; the beautiful marble palaces were ruined, and the paintings and statues which had been the glory of Syracuse were carried to Rome.

Just at this time news from Spain became more and more gloomy for the Carthaginians. The young Scipio, who had saved his father's life nine years before at the battle of the Ticinus, was, at the age of twenty-six, made commander-in-chief in the peninsula. Though never a great soldier, Scipio was a good statesman, and had the gift of winning men to his side. Multitudes of natives flocked to his standard, and many important places fell into his hands; and in his hour of victory he was merciful, and caused his captives as little suffering as possible. In the words of the people themselves, "he had conquered by kindness."

Seeing that for the time, at any rate, all was lost in Spain, Hasdrubal set out with an army to join his brother Hannibal. In Auvergne, in the centre of Gaul, where he spent the winter, large numbers of Gallic tribes joined him, and in the spring he crossed the Alps by the same pass as Hannibal. But the difficulties of nine years earlier were now absent, for the mountaineers understood at last that no evil to them was intended, and let the Carthaginian army climb the defile without attempting to hurt them. Traces of Hannibal's roads remained everywhere, and thus the troops, consisting perhaps of sixty thousand men, marched easily along and descended into the plains of the Po. But it was all useless; before Hasdrubal could join Hannibal, who was still in Apulia, the consul Nero, encamped near by at the head of a considerable force, made prisoners some messengers sent by the general to his brother.

Instantly taking steps to have the roads to the north watched by armies, Nero set off at night with a picked detachment to meet the consul Livius on the coast of the Adriatic, south of the river Metaurus. Night and day his men marched, eating as they went food brought them by the peasants. In less than ten days they had gone two hundred miles, and entered the camp of Livius by night, so that the Carthaginian general might know nothing of their arrival. Next morning Nero insisted, against the opinion of the other generals, that battle should be given immediately, as he must return and meet Hannibal at once. In vain they protested that his troops were too tired to fight; he shut his ears, the signal was sounded, and the army drawn up.

The Carthaginians had already taken their places at the time that the Romans began to form, when Hasdrubal, riding down his lines to make sure that everything was done according to his orders, noticed that among the enemy's array clad in shining armour were a band with rusty shields, and a bevy of horses which looked lean and ill-groomed. Glancing from the horses to their riders, he saw that their skins were brown with the sun of the south and their faces weary. No more was needed to tell him that reinforcements had come, and that it would be madness to risk a fight. He could do nothing during the day, but as soon as the night came he silently broke up his camp and started for the river Metaurus, hoping to put it between him and the Romans; but it was too late.

Had the Carthaginian army only consisted of old and well-seasoned troops all might have gone well with it; but the large body of Gauls were totally untrained, and in their disappointment at not being allowed to give battle, seized on all the drink in the camp, and fell along the roadside quite unable to move. Before Hasdrubal could get his vanguard across the Romans were close upon him, and there was nothing left for him to do but to post his men as strongly as he could.

For hours they fought, and none could tell with whom the victory would lie: then a charge by Nero decided it. When the day was hopelessly lost, Hasdrubal, who had always been in the fiercest of the struggle, cheering and rallying his men, rode straight at the enemy, and died fighting. Thus ended the battle of the Metaurus, the first pitched battle the Romans had ever gained over the Carthaginian army.

The next night Nero set off again for Apulia, bearing with him the head of Hasdrubal, which, as we have said, he caused to be flung into Hannibal's tent, staining for ever the laurels he had won.

With the triumph of Nero, and his reception in the Rome which he had delivered, dates the last act of the second Punic war. At the news of his brother's defeat, which was a great blow to him, Hannibal retreated into the most southern province of Italy. His troops, whose love and loyalty never wavered, were largely composed of foreign levies, and had not the steadiness and training of his old Libyans and Spaniards. Never for one moment did he think of abandoning his post till his country called him, yet his quick eye could not fail to read the signs of the times. The Roman senate was no longer absorbed by the thought of war. Relieved by Nero's victory from the crushing dread which for so long had weighed it down, it was taking measures to encourage agriculture and to rebuild villages, to help the poor who had been ruined during these years of strife, to blot out, he felt, the traces of the victories he had won. And he had to watch it all and to know himself powerless, though he still defied Rome for three years longer, and knew that she still feared him.

It was in the year 204 B.C. that Scipio entreated the senate to allow him to carry the war into Africa, which he had already visited, and where he had already made many important allies, among them the famous Numidian Massinissa, whom he promised to make king over his tribe. Fabius, now ninety, declared it was folly to take an army to Africa while Hannibal remained in Italy, and a large party agreed with him. The people, however, who had absolute trust in the young general, insisted that he should have his way; and after a long and fierce debate, the senate with almost inconceivable foolishness consented that Scipio should sail for Carthage, as he so much desired it, but that he must do so at the head of no more than thirty thousand or forty thousand men.

That so practical and sensible a nation should not have remembered the lesson of the defeat of Regulus, and have known the dangers which must be run by a small army in a foreign land, is truly surprising, and had Massinissa, with his priceless Numidian horse, not joined the Romans, Scipio's army would more than once have been almost certainly cut to pieces.

When it became known that Scipio had landed and was besieging the old town of Utica, the rich and pleasure-loving citizens of Carthage were filled with despair. But this did not last long, for one of the leading men of the city, called Hanno, collected a small force, while Hasdrubal Gisco and Syphax the Numidian raised another, and between them both Scipio was forced to retreat. If only Hannibal had been there——But Hannibal was still in Italy, and no tidings of the struggle had reached him.

Winter had now set in, and though it was only the mild winter of North Africa, Scipio entrenched himself securely on rising ground, and Hasdrubal Gisco with Syphax made their camps close by. The Carthaginians, who had several times been defeated, now wished to make peace, and Syphax, whom the Roman general was most anxious to gain over to his side, was the messenger chosen. While discussing the terms, Scipio suddenly learned that the Carthaginian and Numidian huts were built solely of wood and reeds, covered with hastily woven mats—materials which they had gathered from the woods and streams close by.

"A spark would set them on fire, and how they would burn," said the general to himself, and the evil thought took root, till one night orders were given to surround the camps stealthily and put flaming torches against the walls. In a few minutes the country round was lighted up with a fierce blaze, and the Carthaginians, wakened from their sleep and not knowing what was happening, were cut down on all sides before they could defend themselves. This piece of wicked treachery may be said to have turned the scales in favour of Rome. A battle followed in a place called "the great plains," when Hasdrubal was beaten and Syphax soon after fell into the hands of the enemy. The Numidian chief was sent to Rome, and Sophonisba, his wife, took poison rather than bear the humiliation of walking behind the triumphal car of the Roman victor.

Massinissa obtained the reward promised for his help—or his treason—and was made king of Numidia. Again Scipio offered peace, and the terms he proposed were as good as Carthage had any right to expect; but, favourable as they were, a few citizens were left to reject them with scorn. The fastest ship in the Carthaginian navy was sent to Italy to summon Hannibal from Bruttium and Mago from Milan. When the message arrived, Mago was already dead, but his troops embarked immediately and joined Hannibal and his twenty-five thousand men who had landed in Africa.

It was in this way that Hannibal came back to his native city, after an absence of thirty-six years. When he had last seen it he had been a boy of nine, and the events that had since happened crowded into his memory.

Notwithstanding his recent defeats, he had "left a name at which the world grew pale," and during the sixteen years he had spent in Italy none had dared to molest him. Single-handed he had fought; was it possible that at last his hour of triumph was at hand?

Now that Hannibal, whom they had deserted and betrayed, was really in Africa the weak and foolish citizens of Carthage sent orders to him to fight without delay. For answer he bade the messengers "confine their attention to other matters, and leave such things to him, for he would choose for himself the time of fighting," and without more ado he began collecting a number of elephants and all the Numidian horse that had not gone over to Rome with Massinissa.

He was labouring night and day at this task when again his plans were spoilt by some citizens of Carthage, who broke the truce which had been made by seizing some Roman ships. Scipio lost no time in avenging himself by burning all the towns and villages on the plain, and occupying the passes on a range of mountains where Hannibal had hoped to take up his position. Baulked in this project, Hannibal sent to Scipio to beg for an interview, and tried to obtain for Carthage better terms than the Roman was inclined to grant.

"You have broken the truce by capturing the vessel containing the Roman envoys," he said, "and now you and your country must throw yourselves on our mercy, or else conquer us."

So the armies drew up opposite each other on the field of Zama, on the bright spring morning of 202 B.C. which was to decide whether Carthaginians or Romans were to be masters of the world. Hannibal had about five thousand men more than his enemy, but he was weak in cavalry, and the eighty elephants which he had placed in front were young and untrained. The cavalry of the Romans was under the command of Massinissa and of Laelius, friend of the historian Polybius, and it was this strong body of Numidian horse which ultimately turned the fate of the day. As for the elephants, the sound of the Roman trumpets frightened them before the battle had begun, and threw them into confusion. They charged right into the middle of the Carthaginian cavalry, followed by Massinissa and by Laelius, who succeeded in breaking the ranks of the horse and putting them to flight. For a moment it seemed as if the heavy armed foreign troops which Hannibal then brought up would prevail against the Roman legions, but at length they were forced back on to their own lines, which took them for deserters.

With a cry of "Treachery!" the foreign soldiers fell on the Carthaginians, and fighting hard they retreated on Hannibal's reserve, the well-trained Italians.

At this point there was a pause, and both commanders made use of it to re-form their armies. Then the battle began afresh, and the generals left their posts and fought for hours in the ranks of the common soldiers. At last the cavalry returned from pursuit and threw itself on the rear of the Carthaginians. This time they gave way, and Hannibal, seeing that the battle was lost, quitted the field, in the hope that somehow or other he might still save his country from destruction.

How bitter, in after years, must have been his regret that he had not died fighting among his men at Zama!

Though Hannibal and the Romans hated each other so much, they were alike in many respects, and in nothing more than in the way that no defeat ever depressed them or found them without some plan to turn it into victory. In truth, in spite of his love for his country, which was dearer to him than wife or child, Hannibal was far, far more of a Roman than a Carthaginian.

Peace was made, and, as was inevitable, the terms were less favourable than when the fate of both countries hung in the balance. Naturally, the Carthaginians threw the blame on Hannibal, and naturally also, being filled with the meanest qualities that belong to mankind, when they found that all was in confusion and no one knew where to turn, they sent for the man they had abandoned and abused, and bade him set them on their feet again. In a moment all the wrongs he had suffered at their hands were forgotten; he accepted the position of dictator or suffete, he caused more humane laws to be passed, and not only saved the people from ruin and enabled the merchants again to sell their goods, but paid the large sum demanded as a war indemnity by Rome within the year.

Having done what no other man in Carthage, probably no other man in his age, could possibly have done, it is needless to remark that his fellow-citizens grew jealous of him, and listened without anger to Rome's demand for his surrender, made, it is just to say, in spite of the indignation of Scipio. To save himself from the people for whom he had "done and dared" everything he escaped by night, leaving a sentence of banishment to be passed on him and the palace of his fathers to be wrecked. Perhaps—who knows?—he may have wished to save his country from the crowning shame of giving him up to walk by the chariot wheels in the triumph of Scipio Africanus.

The remaining years of his life—nearly twenty-five, it is said—are so sad that one can hardly bear to write about them. The first place at which he sought refuge was at Ephesus, with Antiochus the Great, lord, at least in name, of a vast number of mixed races from Asia Minor to the river Oxus. Here, still keeping in mind the master passion of his life, he tried to induce Antiochus to form a league by which Rome could be attacked on all sides. But the king, who had little in him of greatness but his name, made war before his preparations were half finished, and gave the chief commands to incapable men, leaving Hannibal to obey orders instead of issuing them. One by one the allies forsook the king and joined Rome—even Carthage sending help to the Roman fleet. In 196 B.C. the battle of Magnesia put an end to the war, and the dominions of Antiochus became a Roman province.

Once more the surrender of Hannibal was made one of the terms of the treaty, and once more he escaped and spent some time first in Crete, and then in Armenia, and finally, for the last time, returned to Asia Minor on the invitation of Prusias, king of Bithynia.

The hearty welcome of Prusias gave Hannibal a feeling of pleasure and rest that he had not known for long; but he was never destined to be at peace, and soon after a Roman envoy arrived at the palace of Prusias and demanded that the enemy of Rome should instantly be given up. To a brave soldier like Flaminius the mission was highly distasteful, which is another proof, if one were wanted, how great even in his downfall was the dread the Carthaginian inspired. "Italy will never be without war while Hannibal lives!" had been the cry long, long ago, and it still rang proudly in his ears. He knew, and had always known, that his life would end by his own hand, and most likely he was not sorry that the moment had come.

"Let me release the Romans from their anxiety, since they cannot wait for the death of one old man," he said, when he heard that soldiers had surrounded his house, and drawing from his tunic some poison that he carried, he swallowed it and fell back dead. He had escaped at last.

Death of Hannibal.


His last words had told truly the story of his life. It was the one old man who had held at bay the whole of the great nation.

On reading the tale of his steadfastness, his unselfishness, his goodness to his soldiers, and the base ingratitude and wickedness with which his countrymen treated him, more than ever do we instinctively long that the lost cause had proved the winning one, and again and again we have to remind ourselves of the terrible evil it would have been to the world if Carthage had overcome Rome. For Carthage was possessed of almost every bad quality which could work ill to the human race. Greed for money was her passion, and in order to obtain wealth she proved herself fickle, short-sighted, lawless, and boundlessly cruel. The government of Rome, which the Eternal City handed on to the countries she conquered, was founded not only on law, but on common-sense. Considering the customs of the world during the thousand years of her greatest glory, she was seldom cruel, and her people were ready at all times to sacrifice themselves for the good of the state.

So it was well for us now and here that Hannibal was overthrown at Zama, and was banished from Carthage; yet our hearts will always cry out with Othello, "Oh, the pity of it!"