With surprise and jealousy Cato had seen with his own eyes the flourishing state of the hereditary foes of Rome, the luxuriant country and the crowded streets, the immense stores of arms in the magazines and the rich materials for a fleet; already he in spirit beheld a second Hannibal wielding all these resources against Rome. In his honest and manly, but thoroughly narrow-minded, fashion, he came to the conclusion that Rome could not be secure until Carthage had disappeared from the face of the earth, and immediately after his return set forth this view in the senate. Those of the aristocracy whose ideas were more enlarged, and especially Scipio Nasica, opposed this paltry policy with great earnestness; and showed how blind were the fears entertained regarding a mercantile city whose Phoenician inhabitants were becoming more and more disused to warlike arts and ideas, and how the existence of that rich commercial city was quite compatible with the political supremacy of Rome. Even the conversion of Carthage into a Roman provincial town would have been practicable, and indeed, compared with the present condition of the Phoenicians, perhaps even not unwelcome. Cato, however, desired not the submission, but the destruction of the hated city. His policy, as it would seem, found allies partly in the statesmen who were inclined to bring the transmarine territories into immediate dependence on Rome, partly and especially in the mighty influence of the Roman bankers and great capitalists on whom, after the destruction of the rich moneyed and mercantile city, its inheritance would necessarily devolve. The majority resolved at the first fitting opportunity--respect for public opinion required that they should wait for such--to bring about war with Carthage, or rather the destruction of the city.

War Between Massinissa And Carthage

The desired occasion was soon found. The provoking violations of right on the part of Massinissa and the Romans brought to the helm in Carthage Hasdrubal and Carthalo, the leaders of the patriotic party, which was not indeed, like the Achaean, disposed to revolt against the Roman supremacy, but was at least resolved to defend, if necessary, by arms against Massinissa the rights belonging by treaty to the Carthaginians. The patriots ordered forty of the most decided partisans of Massinissa to be banished from the city, and made the people swear that they would on no account ever permit their return; at the same time, in order to repel the attacks that might be expected from Massinissa, they formed out of the free Numidians a numerous army under Arcobarzanes, the grandson of Syphax (about 600). Massinissa, however, was prudent enough not to take arms now, but to submit himself unconditionally to the decision of the Romans respecting the disputed territory on the Bagradas; and thus the Romans could assert with some plausibility that the Carthaginian preparations must have been directed against them, and could insist on the immediate dismissal of the army and destruction of the naval stores. The Carthaginian senate was disposed to consent, but the multitude prevented the execution of the decree, and the Roman envoys, who had brought this order to Carthage, were in peril of their lives. Massinissa sent his son Gulussa to Rome to report the continuance of the Carthaginian warlike preparations by land and sea, and to hasten the declaration of war. After a further embassy of ten men had confirmed the statement that Carthage was in reality arming (602), the senate rejected the demand of Cato for an absolute declaration of war, but resolved in a secret sitting that war should be declared if the Carthaginians would not consent to dismiss their army and to burn their materials for a fleet. Meanwhile the conflict had already begun in Africa. Massinissa had sent back the men whom the Carthaginians had banished, under the escort of his son Gulussa, to the city. When the Carthaginians closed their gates against them and killed also some of the Numidians returning home, Massinissa put his troops in motion, and the patriot party in Carthage also prepared for the struggle. But Hasdrubal, who was placed at the head of their army, was one of the usual army-destroyers whom the Carthaginians were in the habit of employing as generals; strutting about in his general's purple like a theatrical king, and pampering his portly person even in the camp, that vain and unwieldy man was little fitted to render help in an exigency which perhaps even the genius of Hamilcar and the arm of Hannibal could have no longer averted. Before the eyes of Scipio Aemilanus, who at that time a military tribune in the Spanish army, had been sent to Massinissa to bring over African elephants for his commander, and who on this occasion looked down on the conflict from a mountain "like Zeus from Ida," the Carthaginians and Numidians fought a great battle, in which the former, though reinforced by 6000 Numidian horsemen brought to them by discontented captains of Massinissa, and superior in number to the enemy, were worsted. After this defeat the Carthaginians offered to make cessions of territory and payments of money to Massinissa, and Scipio at their solicitation attempted to bring about an agreement; but the project of peace was frustrated by the refusal of the Carthaginian patriots to surrender the deserters. Hasdrubal, however, closely hemmed in by the troops of his antagonist, was compelled to grant to the latter all that he demanded--the surrender of the deserters, the return of the exiles, the delivery of arms, the marching off under the yoke, the payment of 100 talents (24,000 pounds) annually for the next fifty years. But even this agreement was not kept by the Numidians; on the contrary the disarmed remnant of the Carthaginian army was cut to pieces by them on the way home.

Declaration Of War By Rome

The Romans, who had carefully abstained from preventing the war Itself by seasonable interposition, had now what they wished: namely, A serviceable pretext for war--for the Carthaginians had certainly Now transgressed the stipulations of the treaty, that they should not wage war against the allies of Rome or beyond their own bounds(7)-- and an antagonist already beaten beforehand.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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