Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

The Stern Decree

Carthage soon learned that it was with Rome, and no longer with Masinissa, that she had now to deal.

That she would be punished for having taken up arms against her troublesome neighbour she knew. So she determined if possible to disarm the anger of Rome.

She therefore condemned Hasdrubal and the leaders of the war party to death, and sent ambassadors to Rome to say that they only were guilty of breaking the treaty. We do not know if Hasdrubal and his fellows were content to be made the scapegoat of their people.

In Rome, the ambassadors were coldly treated, and told that not only the leaders, but Carthage herself, must atone for the broken treaty.

Meanwhile, to the dismay of Carthage, Utica, which was strongly fortified and almost as rich and powerful as the capital, surrendered to Rome.

With Utica in their hands, the Romans had a convenient port at which to land their forces, and they at once declared war. The two Consuls for the year 149 B.C. were sent to Sicily with a large force, and ordered to sail from Lilybæum to Africa, nor were they to think that their work was ended until Carthage was destroyed.

When the Carthaginians received the declaration of war, they decided to send another embassy to Rome, with an offer to surrender.

If the offer was accepted, Carthage could be treated as a town conquered in war. But this right was often put aside when a town surrendered of its own free will. It was in the hope that Rome would prove merciful that Carthage now offered to submit.

The Roman Senate accepted the surrender of Carthage, demanding that the city should send three hundred hostages to Sicily within thirty days. Then these ominous words were added: 'Carthage must also obey the further commands of the Consuls.' When they had obeyed these 'further commands,' Rome promised that the Carthaginians should be granted liberty, and that their possessions should not be taken away.

It was with a sinking heart that Carthage complied with the first condition. Three hundred hostages were sent to Sicily within thirty days. Many of them were but children, whose mothers were in despair at being separated from them.

When the ships which were to carry the hostages away were ready to sail, the miserable parents gathered at the water's edge. In their agony, scarce knowing what they did, some of the mothers ran into the sea and held on to the ropes which tied the ships to the harbour. Others, as the ropes were loosened and the ships began to move off, swam after the vessels, weeping and uttering pitiful cries that their children might be restored to them. But the ships sailed relentlessly on their course.

In spite of the arrival of the hostages, the Consuls sailed from Lilybæum and landed at Utica.

Here ambassadors from Carthage came to learn the meaning of the words that had sounded ominous in their ears. What were the further commands to which they must bow?

'The Carthaginians must disarm,' was the sentence that fell like lead on the hearts of the ambassadors.

But the Romans had their reason for this demand, and saw no hardship in it.

'How,' said the Consuls, 'could those want arms who were resolved to live in peace, who were protected from their enemies by the strong arm of Rome, and had their liberty, independence, and possessions guaranteed them?'

It was a hard decree. Yet to appease the wrath of Rome the ambassadors agreed that this condition also should be fulfilled. They did not dream that worse could be in store.

So one day a long procession of wagons set out from Carthage, laden with suits of armour and catapults. Not catapults as you think of them, small and easily handled, but great heavy slings for hurling stones at the walls of besieged cities. Two hundred thousand suits of armour were carried away and two thousand catapults, and the walls of Carthage were left defenceless.

The procession was a solemn one. Ambassadors, priests, members of the Senate, most noble citizens, all went with the wagons to the Roman camp to deliver their contents to those who claimed this mighty sacrifice. 'Surely now,' they said to one another, 'Rome will be content, and we shall be able to go back with glad tidings of certain peace to our defenceless town.'

But a still more bitter blow was to fall upon the ambassadors, a blow bitter as death itself. The 'further demands' had not yet been exhausted.

Rome now decreed that the Carthaginians should leave their town, nor would they be allowed to settle within ten miles of the sea. Carthage herself must be destroyed.

When the ambassadors heard this last terrible sentence, their distress was profound. No humiliation was too great could they but obtain mercy.

They threw themselves at the feet of the Consuls, with tears streaming down their cheeks, and with cries of anguish pleaded that they might be spared this last bitter ordeal.

But no cries, no tears could change the stern decree. Nor was Carthage even allowed again to send messengers to Rome to plead her cause before the Senate.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus