But they delayed, and the town was at length taken by storm. When Hannibal sent the spoil for distribution to Carthage, patriotism and zeal for war were roused in the hearts of many who had hitherto felt nothing of the kind, and the distribution cut off all prospect of coming to terms with Rome. Accordingly, when after the destruction of Saguntum a Roman embassy appeared at Carthage and demanded the surrender of the general and of the gerusiasts present in the camp, and when the Roman spokesman, interrupting an attempt at justification, broke off the discussion and, gathering up his robe, declared that he held in it peace and war and that the gerusia might choose between them, the gerusiasts mustered courage to reply that they left it to the choice of the Roman; and when he offered war, they accepted it (in the spring of 536).

Preparations For Attacking Italy

Hannibal, who had lost a whole year through the obstinate resistance of the Saguntines, had as usual retired for the winter of 535-6 to Cartagena, to make all his preparations on the one hand for the attack of Italy, on the other for the defence of Spain and Africa; for, as he, like his father and his brother-in-law, held the supreme command in both countries, it devolved upon him to take measures also for the protection of his native land. The whole mass of his forces amounted to about 120,000 infantry and 16,000 cavalry; he had also 58 elephants, 32 quinqueremes manned, and 18 not manned, besides the elephants and vessels remaining at the capital. Excepting a few Ligurians among the light troops, there were no mercenaries in this Carthaginian army; the troops, with the exception of some Phoenician squadrons, consisted mainly of the Carthaginian subjects called out for service--Libyans and Spaniards. To insure the fidelity of the latter the general, who knew the men with whom he had to deal, gave them as a proof of his confidence a general leave of absence for the whole winter; while, not sharing the narrow-minded exclusiveness of Phoenician patriotism, he promised to the Libyans on his oath the citizenship of Carthage, should they return to Africa victorious. This mass of troops however was only destined in part for the expedition to Italy. Some 20,000 men were sent to Africa, the smaller portion of them proceeding to the capital and the Phoenician territory proper, the majority to the western point of Africa. For the protection of Spain 12,000 infantry, 2500 cavalry, and nearly the half of the elephants were left behind, in addition to the fleet stationed there; the chief command and the government of Spain were entrusted to Hannibal's younger brother Hasdrubal. The immediate territory of Carthage was comparatively weakly garrisoned, because the capital afforded in case of need sufficient resources; in like manner a moderate number of infantry sufficed for the present in Spain, where new levies could be procured with ease, whereas a comparatively large proportion of the arms specially African--horses and elephants--was retained there. The chief care was bestowed in securing the communications between Spain and Africa: with that view the fleet remained in Spain, and western Africa was guarded by a very strong body of troops. The fidelity of the troops was secured not only by hostages collected from the Spanish communities and detained in the stronghold of Saguntum, but by the removal of the soldiers from the districts where they were raised to other quarters: the east African militia were moved chiefly to Spain, the Spanish to Western Africa, the West African to Carthage. Adequate provision was thus made for defence. As to offensive measures, a squadron of 20 quinqueremes with 1000 soldiers on board was to sail from Carthage for the west coast of Italy and to pillage it, and a second of 25 sail was, if possible, to re-establish itself at Lilybaeum; Hannibal believed that he might count upon the government making this moderate amount of exertion. With the main army he determined in person to invade Italy; as was beyond doubt part of the original plan of Hamilcar. A decisive attack on Rome was only possible in Italy, as a similar attack on Carthage was only possible in Libya; as certainly as Rome meant to begin her next campaign with the latter, so certainly ought Carthage not to confine herself at the outset either to any secondary object of operations, such as Sicily, or to mere defence--defeat would in any case involve equal destruction, but victory would not yield equal fruit.

Method Of Attack

But how could Italy be attacked? He might succeed in reaching the peninsula by sea or by land; but if the project was to be no mere desperate adventure, but a military expedition with a strategic aim, a nearer basis for its operations was requisite than Spain or Africa. Hannibal could not rely for support on a fleet and a fortified harbour, for Rome was now mistress of the sea. As little did the territory of the Italian confederacy present any tenable basis. If in very different times, and in spite of Hellenic sympathies, it had withstood the shock of Pyrrhus, it was not to be expected that it would now fall to pieces on the appearance of the Phoenician general; an invading army would without doubt be crushed between the network of Roman fortresses and the firmly-consolidated confederacy. The land of the Ligurians and Celts alone could be to Hannibal, what Poland was to Napoleon in his very similar Russian campaigns. These tribes still smarting under their scarcely ended struggle for independence, alien in race from the Italians, and feeling their very existence endangered by the chain of Roman fortresses and highways whose first coils were even now being fastened around them, could not but recognize their deliverers in the Phoenician army (which numbered in its ranks numerous Spanish Celts), and would serve as a first support for it to fall back upon--a source whence it might draw supplies and recruits. Already formal treaties were concluded with the Boii and the Insubres, by which they bound themselves to send guides to meet the Carthaginian army, to procure for it a good reception from the cognate tribes and supplies along its route, and to rise against the Romans as soon as it should set foot on Italian ground.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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