Most of them were natives of the districts ruled by, or dependent on, Carthage; they knew the feelings which had been provoked throughout these districts by the slaughter decreed by the government after the expedition of Regulus(1) and by the fearful pressure of taxation, and they knew also the character of their government, which never kept faith and never pardoned; they were well aware of what awaited them, should they disperse to their homes with pay exacted by mutiny. The Carthaginians had for long been digging the mine, and they now themselves supplied the men who could not but explode it. Like wildfire the revolution spread from garrison to garrison, from village to village; the Libyan women contributed their ornaments to pay the wages of the mercenaries; a number of Carthaginian citizens, amongst whom were some of the most distinguished officers of the Sicilian army, became the victims of the infuriated multitude; Carthage was already besieged on two sides, and the Carthaginian army marching out of the city was totally routed in consequence of the blundering of its unskilful leader.

When the Romans thus saw their hated and still dreaded foe involved in a greater danger than any ever brought on that foe by the Roman wars, they began more and more to regret the conclusion of the peace of 513 --which, if it was not in reality precipitate, now at least appeared so to all--and to forget how exhausted at that time their own state had been and how powerful had then been the standing of their Carthaginian rival. Shame indeed forbade their entering into communication openly with the Carthaginian rebels; in fact, they gave an exceptional permission to the Carthaginians to levy recruits for this war in Italy, and prohibited Italian mariners from dealing with the Libyans. But it may be doubted whether the government of Rome was very earnest in these acts of friendly alliance; for, in spite of them, the dealings between the African insurgents and the Roman mariners continued, and when Hamilcar, whom the extremity of the peril had recalled to the command of the Carthaginian army, seized and imprisoned a number of Italian captains concerned in these dealings, the senate interceded for them with the Carthaginian government and procured their release. The insurgents themselves appeared to recognize in the Romans their natural allies. The garrisons in Sardinia, which like the rest of the Carthaginian army had declared in favour of the insurgents, offered the possession of the island to the Romans, when they saw that they were unable to hold it against the attacks of the un-conquered mountaineers of the interior (about 515); and similar offers came even from the community of Utica, which had likewise taken part in the revolt and was now hard pressed by the arms of Hamilcar. The latter suggestion was declined by the Romans, chiefly doubtless because its acceptance would have carried them beyond the natural boundaries of Italy and therefore farther than the Roman government was then disposed to go; on the other hand they entertained the offers of the Sardinian mutineers, and took over from them the portion of Sardinia which had been in the hands of the Carthaginians (516). In this instance, even more than in the affair of the Mamertines, the Romans were justly liable to the reproach that the great and victorious burgesses had not disdained to fraternize and share the spoil with a venal pack of mercenaries, and had not sufficient self-denial to prefer the course enjoined by justice and by honour to the gain of the moment The Carthaginians, whose troubles reached their height just about the period of the occupation of Sardinia, were silent for the time being as to the unwarrantable violence; but, after this peril had been, contrary to the expectations and probably contrary to the hopes of the Romans, averted by the genius of Hamilcar, and Carthage had been reinstated to her full sovereignty in Africa (517), Carthaginian envoys immediately appeared at Rome to require the restitution of Sardinia. But the Romans, not inclined to restore their booty, replied with frivolous or at any rate irrelevant complaints as to all sorts of injuries which they alleged that the Carthaginians had inflicted on the Roman traders, and hastened to declare war;(2) the principle, that in politics power is the measure of right, appeared in its naked effrontery. Just resentment urged the Carthaginians to accept that offer of war; had Catulus insisted upon the cession of Sardinia five years before, the war would probably have pursued its course. But now, when both islands were lost, when Libya was in a ferment, and when the state was weakened to the utmost by its twenty-four years' struggle with Rome and the dreadful civil war that had raged for nearly five years more, they were obliged to submit It was only after repeated entreaties, and after the Phoenicians had bound themselves to pay to Rome a compensation of 1200 talents (292,000 pounds) for the warlike preparations which had been wantonly occasioned, that the Romans reluctantly desisted from war. Thus the Romans acquired Sardinia almost without a struggle; to which they added Corsica, the ancient possession of the Etruscans, where perhaps some detached Roman garrisons still remained over from the last war.(3) In Sardinia, however, and still more in the rugged Corsica, the Romans restricted themselves, just as the Phoenicians had done, to an occupation of the coasts. With the natives in the interior they were continually engaged in war or, to speak more correctly, in hunting them like wild beasts; they baited them with dogs, and carried what they captured to the slave market; but they undertook no real conquest. They had occupied the islands not on their own account, but for the security of Italy. Now that the confederacy possessed the three large islands, it might call the Tyrrhene Sea its own.

Method Of Administration In The Transmarine Possessions Provincial Praetors

The acquisition of the islands in the western sea of Italy introduced into the state administration of Rome a distinction, which to all appearance originated in mere considerations of convenience and almost accidentally, but nevertheless came to be of the deepest importance for all time following--the distinction between the continental and transmarine forms of administration, or to use the appellations afterwards current, the distinction between Italy and the provinces. Hitherto the two chief magistrates of the community, the consuls, had not had any legally defined sphere of action; on the contrary their official field extended as far as the Roman government itself.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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