Hannibal - Jacob Abbott
The consequences of Hannibal's reckless ambition, and of his wholly unjustifiable aggression on Roman rights to gratify it, did not end with his own personal ruin. The flame which he had kindled continued to burn until at last it accomplished the entire and irretrievable destruction of Carthage. This was effected in a third and final war between the Carthaginians and the Romans, which is known in history as the third Punic war. With a narrative of the events of this war, ending, as it did, in the total destruction of the city, we shall close this history of Hannibal.
It will be recollected that the war which Hannibal himself waged against Rome was the second in the series, the contest in which Regulus figured so prominently having been the first. The one whose history is now to be given is the third. The reader will distinctly understand the chronological relations of these contests by the following table:
|264||War commenced in Italy||I.
|262||Naval battles in Mediterranean|
|249||Regulus sent prisoner to Rome|
|Peace for 22 years.|
|219||Hannibal attacks Saguntum||II.
|218||Crosses the Alps|
|216||Battle of Cannæ|
|205||Is conquered by Scipio|
|Peace for 52 years.|
These three Punic wars extended, as the table shows, over a period of more than a hundred years. Each successive contest in the series was shorter, but more violent and desperate than its predecessor, while the intervals of peace were longer. Thus the first Punic war continued for twenty-four years, the second about seventeen, and the third only three or four. The interval, too, between the first and second was twenty-four years, while between the second and third there was a sort of peace for about fifty years. These differences were caused, indeed, in some degree, by the accidental circumstances on which the successive ruptures depended, but they were not entirely owing to that cause. The longer these belligerent relations between the two countries continued, and the more they both experienced the awful effects and consequences of their quarrels, the less disposed they were to renew such dreadful struggles, and yet, when they did renew them, they engaged in them with redoubled energy of determination and fresh intensity of hate. Thus, the wars followed each other at greater intervals, but the conflicts, when they came, though shorter in duration, were more and more desperate and merciless in character.
We have said that, after the close of the second Punic war, there was a sort of peace for about fifty years. Of course, during this time, one generation after another of public men arose, both in Rome and Carthage, each successive group, on both sides, inheriting the suppressed animosity and hatred which had been cherished by their predecessors. Of course, as long as Hannibal had lived, and had continued his plots and schemes in Syria, he was the means of keeping up a continual irritation among the people of Rome against the Carthaginian name. It is true that the government at Carthage disavowed his acts, and professed to be wholly opposed to his designs; but then it was, of course, very well known at Rome that this was only because they thought he was not able to execute them. They had no confidence whatever in Carthaginian faith or honesty, and, of course, there could be no real harmony or stable peace.
There arose, gradually, also, another source of dissension. By referring to the map, the reader will perceive that there lies, to the westward of Carthage, a country called Numidia. This country was a hundred miles or more in breadth, and extended back several hundred miles into the interior. It was a very rich and fertile region, and contained many powerful and wealthy cities. The inhabitants were warlike, too, and were particularly celebrated for their cavalry. The ancient historians say that they used to ride their horses into the field without saddles, and often without bridles, guiding and controlling them by their voices, and keeping their seats securely by the exercise of great personal strength and consummate skill. These Numidian horsemen are often alluded to in the narratives of Hannibal's campaigns, and, in fact, in all the military histories of the times.
Among the kings who reigned in Numidia was one who had taken sides with the Romans in the second Punic war. His name was Masinissa. He became involved in some struggle for power with a neighboring monarch named Syphax, and while he, that is, Masinissa, had allied himself to the Romans, Syphax had joined the Carthaginians, each chieftain hoping, by this means, to gain assistance from his allies in conquering the other. Masinissa's patrons proved to be the strongest, and at the end of the second Punic war, when the conditions of peace were made, Masinissa's dominions were enlarged, and the undisturbed possession of them confirmed to him, the Carthaginians being bound by express stipulations not to molest him in any way.
In commonwealths like those of Rome and Carthage, there will always be two great parties struggling against each other for the possession of power. Each wishes to avail itself of every opportunity to oppose and thwart the other, and they consequently almost always take different sides in all the great questions of public policy that arise. There were two such parties at Rome, and they disagreed in respect to the course which should be pursued in regard to Carthage, one being generally in favor of peace, the other perpetually calling for war. In the same manner there was at Carthage a similar dissension, the one side in the contest being desirous to propitiate the Romans and avoid collisions with them, while the other party were very restless, and uneasy under the pressure of the Roman power upon them, and were endeavoring continually to foment feelings of hostility against their ancient enemies, as if they wished that war should break out again. The latter party were not strong enough to bring the Carthaginian state into an open rupture with Rome itself, but they succeeded at last in getting their government involved in a dispute with Masinissa, and in leading out an army to give him battle.
Fifty years had passed away, as has already been remarked, since the close of Hannibal's war. During this time, Scipio—that is, the Scipio who conquered Hannibal—had disappeared from the stage. Masinissa himself was very far advanced in life, being over eighty years of age. He, however, still retained the strength and energy which had characterized him in his prime. He drew together an immense army, and mounting, like his soldiers, bare-back upon his horse, he rode from rank to rank, gave the necessary commands, and matured the arrangements for battle.
The name of the Carthaginian general on this occasion was Hasdrubal. This was a very common name at Carthage, especially among the friends and family of Hannibal. The bearer of it, in this case, may possibly have received it from his parents in commemoration of the brother of Hannibal, who lost his head in descending into Italy from the Alps, inasmuch as during the fifty years of peace which had elapsed, there was ample time for a child born after that event to grow up to full maturity. At any rate, the new Hasdrubal inherited the inveterate hatred to Rome which characterized his namesake, and he and his party had contrived to gain a temporary ascendancy in Carthage, and they availed themselves of their brief possession of power to renew, indirectly at least, the contest with Rome. They sent the rival leaders into banishment, raised an army, and Hasdrubal himself taking the command of it, they went forth in great force to encounter Masinissa.
It was in a way very similar to this that Hannibal had commenced his war with Rome, by seeking first a quarrel with a Roman ally. Hannibal, it is true, had commenced his aggressions at Saguntum, in Spain. Hasdrubal begins in Numidia, in Africa, but, with the exception of the difference of geographical locality, all seems the same, and Hasdrubal very probably supposed that he was about to enter himself upon the same glorious career which had immortalized his great ancestor's name.
There was another analogy between the two cases; viz., that both Hannibal and Hasdrubal had strong parties opposed to them in Carthage in the incipient stages of their undertakings. In the present instance, the opposition had been violently suppressed, and the leaders of it sent into banishment; but still the elements remained, ready, in case of any disaster to Hasdrubal's arms, or any other occurrence tending to diminish his power, to rise at once and put him down. Hasdrubal had therefore a double enemy to contend against: one before him, on the battle-field, and the other, perhaps still more formidable, in the city behind him.
The parallel, however, ends here. Hannibal conquered at Saguntum, but Hasdrubal was entirely defeated in the battle in Numidia. The battle was fought long and desperately on both sides, but the Carthaginians were obliged to yield, and they retreated at length in confusion to seek shelter in their camp. The battle was witnessed by a Roman officer who stood upon a neighboring hill, and looked down upon the scene with intense interest all the day. It was Scipio—the younger Scipio—who became afterward the principal actor in the terrible scenes which were enacted in the war which followed. He was then a distinguished officer in the Roman army, and was on duty in Spain. His commanding general there had sent him to Africa to procure some elephants from Masinissa for the use of the army. He came to Numidia, accordingly, for this purpose, and as the battle between Masinissa and Hasdrubal came while he was there, he remained to witness it.
This second Scipio was not, by blood, any relative of the other, but he had been adopted by the elder Scipio's son, and thus received his name; so that he was, by adoption, a grandson. He was, even at this time, a man of high consideration among all who knew him, for his great energy and efficiency of character, as well as for his sound judgment and practical good sense. He occupied a very singular position at the time of this battle, such as very few great commanders have ever been placed in; for, as he himself was attached to a Roman army in Spain, having been sent merely as a military messenger to Numidia, he was a neutral in this contest, and, could not, properly, take part on either side. He had, accordingly, only to take his place upon the hill, and look down upon the awful scene as upon a spectacle arranged for his special gratification. He speaks of it as if he were highly gratified with the opportunity he enjoyed, saying that only two such cases had ever occurred before, where a general could look down, in such a way, upon a great battlefield, and witness the whole progress of the fight, himself a cool and disinterested spectator. He was greatly excited by the scene, and he speaks particularly of the appearance of the veteran Masinissa, then eighty-four years old, who rode all day from rank to rank, on a wild and impetuous charger, without a saddle, to give his orders to his men, and to encourage and animate them by his voice and his example.
Hasdrubal retreated with his forces to his camp as soon as the battle was over, and intrenched himself there, while Masinissa advanced with his army, surrounded the encampment, and hemmed the imprisoned fugitives in. Finding himself in extreme and imminent danger, Hasdrubal sent to Masinissa to open negotiations for peace, and he proposed that Scipio should act as a sort of umpire or mediator between the two parties, to arrange the terms. Scipio was not likely to be a very impartial umpire; but still, his interposition would afford him, as Hasdrubal thought, some protection against any excessive and extreme exorbitancy on the part of his conqueror. The plan, however, did not succeed. Even Scipio's terms were found by Hasdrubal to be inadmissible. He required that the Carthaginians should accord to Masinissa a certain extension of territory. Hasdrubal was willing to assent to this. They were to pay him, also, a large sum of money. He agreed, also, to this. They were, moreover, to allow Hasdrubal's banished opponents to return to Carthage. This, by putting the party opposed to Hasdrubal once more into power in Carthage, would have been followed by his own fall and ruin; he could not consent to it. He remained, therefore, shut up in his camp, and Scipio, giving up the hope of effecting an accommodation, took the elephants which had been provided for him, and returned across the Mediterranean to Spain.
Soon after this, Hasdrubal's army, worn out with hunger and misery in their camp, compelled him to surrender on Masinissa's own terms. The men were allowed to go free, but most of them perished on the way to Carthage. Hasdrubal himself succeeded in reaching some place of safety, but the influence of his party was destroyed by the disastrous result of his enterprise, and his exiled enemies being recalled in accordance with the treaty of surrender, the opposing party were immediately restored to power.
Under these new councils, the first measure of the Carthaginians was to impeach Hasdrubal on a charge of treason, for having involved his country in these difficulties, and the next was to send a solemn embassy to Rome, to acknowledge the fault of which their nation had been guilty, to offer to surrender Hasdrubal into their hands, as the principal author of the deed, and to ask what further satisfaction the Romans demanded.
In the mean time, before these messengers arrived, the Romans had been deliberating what to do. The strongest party were in favor of urging on the quarrel with Carthage and declaring war. They had not, however, come to any positive decision. They received the deputation, therefore, very coolly, and made them no direct reply. As to the satisfaction which the Carthaginians ought to render to the Romans for having made war upon their ally contrary to the solemn covenants of the treaty, they said that that was a question for the Carthaginians themselves to consider. They had nothing at present to say upon the subject. The deputies returned to Carthage with this reply, which, of course, produced great uneasiness and anxiety.
The Carthaginians were more and more desirous now to do every thing in their power to avert the threatened danger of Roman hostility. They sent a new embassy to Rome, with still more humble professions than before. The embassy set sail from Carthage with very little hope, however, of accomplishing the object of their mission. They were authorized, nevertheless, to make the most unlimited concessions, and to submit to any conditions whatever to avert the calamity of another war.
But the Romans had been furnished with a pretext for commencing hostilities again, and there was a very strong party among them now who were determined to avail themselves of this opportunity to extinguish entirely the Carthaginian power. War had, accordingly, been declared by the Roman senate very soon after the first embassy had returned, a fleet and army had been raised and equipped, and the expedition had sailed. When, therefore, the embassy arrived in Rome, they found that the war, which it was the object of their mission to avert, had been declared.
The Romans, however, gave them audience. The embassadors expressed their willingness to submit to any terms that the senate might propose for arresting the war. The senate replied that they were willing to make a treaty with the Carthaginians, on condition that the latter were to surrender themselves entirely to the Roman power, and bind themselves to obey such orders as the consuls, on their arrival in Africa with the army, should issue; the Romans, on their part, guarantying that they should continue in the enjoyment of their liberty, of their territorial possessions, and of their laws. As proof, however, of the Carthaginian honesty of purpose in making the treaty, and security for their future submission, they were required to give up to the Romans three hundred hostages. These hostages were to be young persons from the first families in Carthage, the sons of the men who were most prominent in society there, and whose influence might be supposed to control the action of the nation. The embassadors could not but consider these as very onerous terms. They did not know what orders the consuls would give them on their arrival in Africa, and they were required to put the commonwealth wholly into their power. Besides, in the guarantee which the Romans offered them, their territories and their laws were to be protected, but nothing was said of their cities, their ships, or their arms and munitions of war. The agreement there, if executed, would put the Carthaginian commonwealth wholly at the mercy of their masters, in respect to all those things which were in those days most valuable to a nation as elements of power. Still, the embassadors had been instructed to make peace with the Romans on any terms, and they accordingly acceded to these, though with great reluctance. They were especially averse to the agreement in respect to the hostages.
This system, which prevailed universally in ancient times, of having the government of one nation surrender the children of the most distinguished citizens to that of another, as security for the fulfillment of its treaty stipulations, was a very cruel hardship to those who had to suffer the separation; but it would seem that there was no other security strong enough to hold such lawless powers as governments were in those days, to their word. Stern and rough as the men of those warlike nations often were, mothers were the same then as now, and they suffered quite as keenly in seeing their children sent away from them, to pine in a foreign land, in hopeless exile, for many years; in danger, too, continually, of the most cruel treatment, and even of death itself, to revenge some alleged governmental wrong.
Of course, the embassadors knew, when they returned to Carthage with these terms, that they were bringing heavy tidings. The news, in fact, when it came, threw the community into the most extreme distress. It is said that the whole city was filled with cries and lamentations. The mothers, who felt that they were about to be bereaved, beat their breasts, and tore their hair, and manifested by every other sign their extreme and unmitigated woe. They begged and entreated their husbands and fathers not to consent to such cruel and intolerable conditions. They could not, and they would not give up their children.
The husbands and the fathers, however, felt compelled to resist all these entreaties. They could not now undertake to resist the Roman will. Their army had been well-nigh destroyed in the battle with Masinissa; their city was consequently defenseless, and the Roman fleet had already reached its African port, and the troops were landed. There was no possible way, it appeared, of saving themselves and their city from absolute destruction, but entire submission to the terms which their stern conquerors had imposed upon them.
The hostages were required to be sent, within thirty days, to the island of Sicily, to a port on the western extremity of the island, called Lilybæum. Lilybæum was the port in Sicily nearest to Carthage, being perhaps at a distance of a hundred miles across the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. A Roman escort was to be ready to receive them there and conduct them to Rome. Although thirty days were allowed to the Carthaginians to select and send forward the hostages, they determined not to avail themselves of this offered delay, but to send the unhappy children forward at once, that they might testify to the Roman senate, by this their promptness, that they were very earnestly desirous to propitiate their favor.
The children were accordingly designated, one from each of the leading families in the city, and three hundred in all. The reader must imagine the heart-rending scenes of suffering which must have desolated these three hundred families and homes, when the stern and inexorable edict came to each of them that one loved member of the household must be selected to go. And when, at last, the hour arrived for their departure, and they assembled upon the pier, the picture was one of intense and unmingled suffering. The poor exiles stood bewildered with terror and grief, about to part with all that they ever held dear—their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their native land—to go they knew not whither, under the care of iron-hearted soldiers, who seemed to know no feelings of tenderness or compassion for their woes. Their disconsolate mothers wept and groaned aloud, clasping the loved ones who were about to be torn forever from them in their arms, in a delirium of maternal affection and irrepressible grief; their brothers and sisters, and their youthful friends stood by, some almost frantic with emotions which they did not attempt to suppress, others mute and motionless in their sorrow, shedding bitter tears of anguish, or gazing wildly on the scene with looks of despair; while the fathers, whose stern duty it was to pass through this scene unmoved, walked to and fro restlessly, in deep but silent distress, spoke in broken and incoherent words to one another, and finally aided, by a mixture of persuasion and gentle force, in drawing the children away from their mothers' arms, and getting them on board the vessels which were to convey them away. The vessels made sail, and passed off slowly from the shore. The mothers watched them till they could no longer be seen, and then returned, disconsolate and wretched, to their homes; and then the grief and agitation of this parting scene was succeeded by the anxious suspense which now pervaded the whole city to learn what new dangers and indignities they were to suffer from the approaching Roman army, which they knew must now be well on its way.
The Roman army landed at Utica. Utica was a large city to the north of Carthage, not far from it, and upon the same bay. When the people of Utica found that another serious collision was to take place between Rome and Carthage, they had foreseen what would probably be the end of the contest, and they had decided that, in order to save themselves from the ruin which was plainly impending over the sister city, they must abandon her to her fate, and make common cause with Rome. They had, accordingly, sent deputies to the Roman senate, offering to surrender Utica to their power. The Romans had accepted the submission, and had made this city, in consequence, the port of debarkation for their army.
As soon as the news arrived at Carthage that the Roman army had landed at Utica, the people sent deputies to inquire what were the orders of the consuls, for it will be recollected they had bound themselves by the treaty to obey the orders which the consuls were to bring. They found, when they arrived there, that the bay was covered with the Roman shipping. There were fifty vessels of war, of three banks of oars each, and a vast number of transports besides. There was, too, in the camp upon the shore, a force of eighty thousand foot soldiers and four thousand horse, all armed and equipped in the most perfect manner.
The deputies were convinced that this was a force which it was in vain for their countrymen to think of resisting. They asked, trembling, for the consuls' orders. The consuls informed them that the orders of the Roman senate were, first, that the Carthaginians should furnish them with a supply of corn for the subsistence of their troops. The deputies went back to Carthage with the demand.
The Carthaginians resolved to comply. They were bound by their treaty and by the hostages they had given, as well as intimidated by the presence of the Roman force. They furnished the corn.
The consuls, soon after this, made another demand of the Carthaginians. It was, that they should surrender to them all their vessels of war. They were more unwilling to comply with this requisition than with the other; but they assented at last. They hoped that the demands of their enemies would stop here, and that, satisfied with having weakened them thus far, they would go away and leave them; they could then build new ships again when better times should return.
But the Romans were not satisfied yet. They sent a third order, that the Carthaginians should deliver up all their arms, military stores, and warlike machines of every kind, by sending them into the Roman camp. The Carthaginians were rendered almost desperate by this requisition. Many were determined that they would not submit to it, but would resist at all hazards. Others despaired of all possibility of resisting now, and gave up all as lost; while the three hundred families from which the hostages had gone, trembled for the safety of the captive children, and urged compliance with the demand. The advocates for submission finally gained the day. The arms were collected, and carried in an immensely long train of wagons to the Roman camp. There were two hundred thousand complete suits of armor, with darts and javelins without number, and two thousand military engines for hurling beams of wood and stones. Thus Carthage was disarmed.
All these demands, however unreasonable and cruel as the Carthaginians deemed them, were only preliminary to the great final determination, the announcement of which the consuls had reserved for the end. When the arms had all been delivered, the consuls announced to their now defenseless victims that the Roman senate had come to the determination that Carthage was to be destroyed. They gave orders, accordingly, that the inhabitants should all leave the city, which, as soon as it should be thus vacated, was to be burned. They might take with them such property as they could carry; and they were at liberty to build, in lieu of their fortified sea-port, an inland town, not less than ten miles' distance from the sea, only it must have no walls or fortifications of any kind. As soon as the inhabitants were gone, Carthage, the consuls said, was to be destroyed.
The announcement of this entirely unparalleled and intolerable requisition threw the whole city into a phrensy of desperation. They could not, and would not, submit to this. The entreaties and remonstrances of the friends of the hostages were all silenced or overborne in the burst of indignation and anger which arose from the whole city. The gates were closed. The pavements of the streets were torn up, and buildings demolished to obtain stones, which were carried up upon the ramparts to serve instead of weapons. The slaves were all liberated, and stationed on the walls to aid in the defense. Every body that could work at a forge was employed in fabricating swords, spearheads, pikes, and such other weapons as could be formed with the greatest facility and dispatch. They used all the iron and brass that could be obtained, and then melted down vases and statues of the precious metals, and tipped their spears with an inferior pointing of silver and gold. In the same manner, when the supplies of flax and hempen twine for cordage for their bows failed, the beautiful sisters and mothers of the hostages cut off their long hair, and twisted and braided it into cords to be used as bow-strings for propelling the arrows which their husbands and brothers made. In a word, the wretched Carthaginians had been pushed beyond the last limit of human endurance, and had aroused themselves to a hopeless resistance in a sort of phrensy of despair.
The reader will recollect that, after the battle with Masinissa, Hasdrubal lost all his influence in Carthage, and was, to all appearance, hopelessly ruined. He had not, however, then given up the struggle. He had contrived to assemble the remnant of his army in the neighborhood of Carthage. His forces had been gradually increasing during these transactions, as those who were opposed to these concessions to the Romans naturally gathered around him. He was now in his camp, not far from the city, at the head of twenty thousand men. Finding themselves in so desperate an emergency, the Carthaginians sent to him to come to their succor. He very gladly obeyed the summons. He sent around to all the territories still subject to Carthage, and gathered fresh troops, and collected supplies of arms and of food. He advanced to the relief of the city. He compelled the Romans, who were equally astonished at the resistance they met with from within the walls, and at this formidable onset from without, to retire a little, and intrench themselves in their camp, in order to secure their own safety. He sent supplies of food into the city. He also contrived to fit up, secretly, a great many fire-ships in the harbor, and setting them in flames, let them drift down upon the Roman fleet, which was anchored in supposed security in the bay. The plan was so skillfully managed that the Roman ships were almost all destroyed. Thus the face of affairs was changed. The Romans found themselves disappointed for the present of their prey. They confined themselves to their encampment, and sent home to the Roman senate for new re-enforcements and supplies.
In a word, the Romans found that, instead of having only to effect, unresisted, the simple destruction of a city, they were involved in what would, perhaps, prove a serious and a protracted war. The war did, in fact, continue for two or three years—a horrible war, almost of extermination, on both sides. Scipio came with the Roman army, at first as a subordinate officer; but his bravery, his sagacity, and the success of some of his almost romantic exploits, soon made him an object of universal regard. At one time, a detachment of the army, which, he succeeded in releasing from a situation of great peril in which they had been placed, testified their gratitude by platting a crown of grass, and placing it upon his brow with great ceremony and loud acclamations.
The Carthaginians did every thing in the prosecution of this war that the most desperate valor could do; but Scipio's cool, steady, and well-calculated plans made irresistible progress, and hemmed them in at last, within narrower and narrower limits, by a steadily-increasing pressure, from which they found it impossible to break away.
Scipio had erected a sort of mole or pier upon the water near the city, on which he had erected many large and powerful engines to assault the walls. One night a large company of Carthaginians took torches, not lighted, in their hands, together with some sort of apparatus for striking fire, and partly by wading and partly by swimming, they made their way through the water of the harbor toward these machines. When they were sufficiently near, they struck their lights and set their torches on fire. The Roman soldiers who had been stationed to guard the machines were seized with terror at seeing all these flashing fires burst out suddenly over the surface of the water, and fled in dismay. The Carthaginians set the abandoned engines on fire, and then, throwing their now useless torches into the flames, plunged into the water again, and swam back in safety. But all this desperate bravery did very little good. Scipio quietly repaired the engines, and the siege went on as before.
But we can not describe in detail all the particulars of this protracted and terrible struggle. We must pass on to the closing scene, which, as related by the historians of the day, is an almost incredible series of horrors. After an immense number had been killed in the assaults which had been made upon the city, besides the thousands and thousands which had died of famine, and of the exposures and hardships incident to such a siege, the army of Scipio succeeded in breaking their way through the gates, and gaining admission to the city. Some of the inhabitants were now disposed to contend no longer, but to cast themselves at the mercy of the conqueror. Others, furious in their despair, were determined to fight to the last, not willing to give up the pleasure of killing all they could of their hated enemies, even to save their lives. They fought, therefore, from street to street, retreating gradually as the Romans advanced, till they found refuge in the citadel. One band of Scipio's soldiers mounted to the tops of the houses, the roofs being flat, and fought their way there, while another column advanced in the same manner in the streets below. No imagination can conceive the uproar and din of such an assault upon a populous city—a horrid mingling of the vociferated commands of the officers, and of the shouts of the advancing and victorious assailants, with the screams of terror from affrighted women and children, and dreadful groans and imprecations from men dying maddened with unsatisfied revenge, and biting the dust in an agony of pain.
The more determined of the combatants, with Hasdrubal at their head, took possession of the citadel, which was a quarter of the city situated upon an eminence, and strongly fortified. Scipio advanced to the walls of this fortification, and set that part of the city on fire which lay nearest to it. The fire burned for six days, and opened a large area, which afforded the Roman troops room to act. When the troops were brought up to the area thus left vacant by the fire, and the people within the citadel saw that their condition was hopeless, there arose, as there always does in such cases, the desperate struggle within the walls whether to persist in resistance or to surrender in despair. There was an immense mass, not far from sixty thousand, half women and children, who were determined on going out to surrender themselves to Scipio's mercy, and beg for their lives. Hasdrubal's wife, leading her two children by her side, earnestly entreated her husband to allow her to go with them. But he refused. There was a body of deserters from the Roman camp in the citadel, who, having no possible hope of escaping destruction except by desperate resistance to the last, Hasdrubal supposed would never yield. He committed his wife and children, therefore, to their charge, and these deserters, seeking refuge in a great temple within the citadel, bore the frantic mother with them to share their fate.
Hasdrubal's determination, however, to resist the Romans to the last, soon after this gave way, and he determined to surrender. He is accused of the most atrocious treachery in attempting thus to save himself, after excluding his wife and children from all possibility of escaping destruction. But the confusion and din of such a scene, the suddenness and violence with which the events succeed each other, and the tumultuous and uncontrollable mental agitation to which they give rise, deprive a man who is called to act in it of all sense and reason, and exonerate him, almost as much, from moral responsibility for what he does, as if he were insane. At any rate, Hasdrubal, after shutting up his wife and children with a furious gang of desperadoes who could not possibly surrender, surrendered himself, perhaps hoping that he might save them after all.
The Carthaginian soldiers, following Hasdrubal's example, opened the gates of the citadel, and let the conqueror in. The deserters were now made absolutely desperate by their danger, and some of them, more furious than the rest, preferring to die by their own hands rather than to give their hated enemies the pleasure of killing them, set the building in which they were shut up in on fire. The miserable inmates ran to and fro, half suffocated by the smoke and scorched by the flames. Many of them reached the roof. Hasdrubal's wife and children were among the number. She looked down from this elevation, the volumes of smoke and flame rolling up around her, and saw her husband standing below with the Roman general—perhaps looking, in consternation, for his wife and children, amid this scene of horror. The sight of the husband and father in a position of safety made the wife and mother perfectly furious with resentment and anger. "Wretch!" she screamed, in a voice which raised itself above the universal din, "is it thus you seek to save your own life while you sacrifice ours? I can not reach you in your own person, but I kill you hereby in the persons of your children." So saying, she stabbed her affrighted sons with a dagger, and hurled them down, struggling all the time against their insane mother's phrensy, into the nearest opening from which flames were ascending, and then leaped in after them herself to share their awful doom.
The Romans, when they had gained possession of the city, took most effectual measures for its complete destruction. The inhabitants were scattered into the surrounding country, and the whole territory was converted into a Roman province. Some attempts were afterward made to rebuild the city, and it was for a long time a place of some resort, as men lingered mournfully there in huts that they built among the ruins. It, however, was gradually forsaken, the stones crumbled and decayed, vegetation regained, possession of the soil, and now there is nothing whatever to mark the spot where the city lay.
War and commerce are the two great antagonistic principles which struggle for the mastery of the human race, the function of the one being to preserve, and that of the other to destroy. Commerce causes cities to be built and fields to be cultivated, and diffuses comfort and plenty, and all the blessings of industry and peace. It carries organization and order every where; it protects property and life; it disarms pestilence, and it prohibits famine. War, on the other hand, destroys. It disorganizes the social state. It ruins cities, depopulates fields, condemns men to idleness and want, and the only remedy it knows for the evils which it brings upon man is to shorten the miseries of its victims by giving pestilence and famine the most ample commission to destroy their lives. Thus war is the great enemy, while commerce is the great friend of humanity. They are antagonistic principles, contending continually for the mastery among all the organizations of men.
When Hannibal appeared upon the stage, he found his country engaged peacefully and prosperously in exchanging the productions of the various countries of the then known world, and promoting every where the comfort and happiness of mankind. He contrived to turn all these energies into the new current of military aggression, conquest, and war. He perfectly succeeded. We certainly have in his person and history all the marks and characteristics of a great military hero. He gained the most splendid victories, devastated many lands, embarrassed and stopped the commercial intercourse which was carrying the comforts of life to so many thousand homes, and spread, instead of them, every where, privation, want, and terror, with pestilence and famine in their train. He kept the country of his enemies in a state of incessant anxiety, suffering, and alarm for many years, and overwhelmed his own native land, in the end, in absolute and irresistible ruin. In a word, he was one of the greatest military heroes that the world has ever known.