Probably there were in Carthage not a few who, despairing of the future of their country, counselled emigration to the islands of the Atlantic; who could blame them? But minds of the nobler order disdain to save themselves apart from their nation, and great natures enjoy the privilege of deriving enthusiasm from circumstances in which the multitude of good men despair. They accepted the new conditions just as Rome dictated them; no course was left but to submit and, adding fresh bitterness to their former hatred, carefully to cherish and husband resentment--that last resource of an injured nation. They then took steps towards a political reform.(1) They had become sufficiently convinced of the incorrigibleness of the party in power: the fact that the governing lords had even in the last war neither forgotten their spite nor learned greater wisdom, was shown by the effrontery bordering on simplicity with which they now instituted proceedings against Hamilcar as the originator of the mercenary war, because he had without full powers from the government made promises of money to his Sicilian soldiers. Had the club of officers and popular leaders desired to overthrow this rotten and wretched government, it would hardly have encountered much difficulty in Carthage itself; but it would have met with more formidable obstacles in Rome, with which the chiefs of the government in Carthage already maintained relations that bordered on treason. To all the other difficulties of the position there fell to be added the circumstance, that the means of saving their country had to be created without allowing either the Romans, or their own government with its Roman leanings, to become rightly aware of what was doing.

Hamilcar Commander-In-Chief

So they left the constitution untouched, and the chiefs of the government in full enjoyment of their exclusive privileges and of the public property. It was merely proposed and carried, that of the two commanders-in-chief, who at the end of the Libyan war were at the head of the Carthaginian troops, Hanno and Hamilcar, the former should be recalled, and the latter should be nominated commander-in-chief for all Africa during an indefinite period. It was arranged that he should hold a position independent of the governing corporations --his antagonists called it an unconstitutional monarchical power, Cato calls it a dictatorship--and that he could only be recalled and placed upon his trial by the popular assembly.(2) Even the choice of a successor was to be vested not in the authorities of the capital, but in the army, that is, in the Carthaginians serving in the array as gerusiasts or officers, who were named in treaties also along with the general; of course the right of confirmation was reserved to the popular assembly at home. Whether this may or may not have been a usurpation, it clearly indicates that the war party regarded and treated the army as its special domain.

The commission which Hamilcar thus received sounded but little liable to exception. Wars with the Numidian tribes on the borders never ceased; only a short time previously the "city of a hundred gates," Theveste (Tebessa), in the interior had been occupied by the Carthaginians. The task of continuing this border warfare, which was allotted to the new commander-in-chief of Africa, was not in itself of such importance as to prevent the Carthaginian government, which was allowed to do as it liked in its own immediate sphere, from tacitly conniving at the decrees passed in reference to the matter by the popular assembly; and the Romans did not perhaps recognize its significance at all.

Hamilcar's War Projects The Army The Citizens

Thus there stood at the head of the army the one man, who had given proof in the Sicilian and in the Libyan wars that fate had destined him, if any one, to be the saviour of his country. Never perhaps was the noble struggle of man with fate waged more nobly than by him. The army was expected to save the state; but what sort of army? The Carthaginian civic militia had fought not badly under Hamilcar's leadership in the Libyan war; but he knew well, that it is one thing to lead out the merchants and artisans of a city, which is in the extremity of peril, for once to battle, and another to form them into soldiers. The patriotic party in Carthage furnished him with excellent officers, but it was of course almost exclusively the cultivated class that was represented in it. He had no citizen- militia, at most a few squadrons of Libyphoenician cavalry. The task was to form an army out of Libyan forced recruits and mercenaries; a task possible in the hands of a general like Hamilcar, but possible even for him only on condition that he should be able to pay his men punctually and amply. But he had learned, by experience in Sicily, that the state revenues of Carthage were expended in Carthage itself on matters much more needful than the payment of the armies that fought against the enemy. The warfare which he waged, accordingly, had to support itself, and he had to carry out on a great scale what he had already attempted on a smaller scale at Monte Pellegrino. But further, Hamilcar was not only a military chief, he was also a party leader. In opposition to the implacable governing party, which eagerly but patiently waited for an opportunity of overthrowing him, he had to seek support among the citizens; and although their leaders might be ever so pure and noble, the multitude was deeply corrupt and accustomed by the unhappy system of corruption to give nothing without being paid for it. In particular emergencies, indeed, necessity or enthusiasm might for the moment prevail, as everywhere happens even with the most venal corporations; but, if Hamilcar wished to secure the permanent support of the Carthaginian community for his plan, which at the best could only be carried out after a series of years, he had to supply his friends at home with regular consignments of money as the means of keeping the mob in good humour.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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