The Italian contingents were already summoned to Rome, and the ships were assembled; the declaration of war might issue at any moment. The Carthaginians made every effort to avert the impending blow. Hasdrubal and Carthalo, the leaders of the patriot party, were condemned to death, and an embassy was sent to Rome to throw the responsibility on them. But at the same time envoys from Utica, the second city of the Libyan Phoenicians, arrived there with full powers to surrender their Community wholly to the Romans--compared with such obliging submissiveness, it seemed almost an insolence that the Carthaginians had rested content with ordering, unbidden, the execution of their most eminent men. The senate declared that the excuse of the Carthaginians was found insufficient; to the question, what in that case would suffice, the reply was given that the Carthaginians knew that themselves. They might, no doubt, have known what the Romans wished; but yet it seemed impossible to believe that the last hour of their loved native city had really come. Once more Carthaginian envoys--on this occasion thirty in number and with unlimited powers--were sent to Rome. When they arrived, war was already declared (beginning of 605), and the double consular army had embarked. Yet they even now attempted to dispel the storm by complete submission. The senate replied that Rome was ready to guarantee to the Carthaginian community its territory, its municipal freedom and its laws, its public and private property, provided that it would furnish to the consuls who had just departed for Sicily within the space of a month at Lilybaeum 300 hostages from the children of the leading families, and would fulfil the further orders which the consuls in conformity with their instructions should issue to them. The reply has been called ambiguous; but very erroneously, as even at the time clearsighted men among the Carthaginians themselves pointed out. The circumstance that everything which they could ask was guaranteed with the single exception of the city, and that nothing was said as to stopping the embarkation of the troops for Africa, showed very clearly what the Roman intentions were; the senate acted with fearful harshness, but it did not assume the semblance of concession. The Carthaginians, however, would not open their eyes; there was no statesman found, who had the power to move the unstable multitude of the city either to thorough resistance or to thorough resignation. When they heard at the same time of the horrible decree of war and of the endurable demand for hostages, they complied immediately with the latter, and still clung to hope, because they had not the courage fully to realize the import of surrendering themselves beforehand to the arbitrary will of a mortal foe. The consuls sent back the hostages from Lilybaeum to Rome, and informed the Carthaginian envoys that they would learn further particulars in Africa. The landing was accomplished without resistance, and the provisions demanded were supplied. When the gerusia of Carthage appeared in a body at the head-quarters in Utica to receive the further orders, the consuls required in the first instance the disarming of the city. To the question of the Carthaginians, who was in that case to protect them even against their own emigrants-- against the army, which had swelled to 20,000 men, under the command of Husdrubal who had saved himself from the sentence of death by flight--it was replied, that this would be the concern of the Romans. Accordingly the council of the city obsequiously appeared before the consuls, with all their fleet-material, all the military stores of the public magazines, all the arms that were found in the possession of private persons--to the number of 3000 catapults and 200,000 sets of armour--and inquired whether anything more was desired. Then the consul Lucius Marcius Censorinus rose and announced to the council, that in accordance with the instructions given by the senate the existing city was to be destroyed, but that the inhabitants were at liberty to settle anew in their territory wherever they chose, provided it were at a distance of at least ten miles from the sea.

Resistance Of The Carthaginians

This fearful command aroused in the Phoenicians all the--shall we say magnanimous or frenzied?--enthusiasm, which was displayed previously by the Tyrians against Alexander, and subsequently by the Jews against Vespasian. Unparalleled as was the patience with which this nation could endure bondage and oppression, as unparalleled was now the furious rising of that mercantile and seafaring population, when the things at stake were not the state and freedom, but the beloved soil of their ancestral city and their venerated and dear home beside the sea. Hope and deliverance were out of the question; political discretion enjoined even now an unconditional submission. But the voice of the few who counselled the acceptance of what was inevitable was, like the call of the pilot during a hurricane, drowned amidst the furious yells of the multitude; which, in its frantic rage, laid hands on the magistrates of the city who had counselled the surrender of the hostages and arms, made such of the innocent bearers of the news as had ventured at all to return home expiate their terrible tidings, and tore in pieces the Italians who chanced to be sojourning in the city by way of avenging beforehand, at least on them, the destruction of its native home. No resolution was passed to defend themselves; unarmed as they were, this was a matter of course. The gates were closed; stones were carried to the battlements of the walls that had been stripped of the catapults; the chief command was entrusted to Hasdrubal, the grandson of Massinissa; the slaves in a body were declared free. The army of refugees under the fugitive Hasdrubal--which was in possession of the whole Carthaginian territory with the exception of the towns on the east coast occupied by the Romans, viz. Hadrumetum, Little Leptis, Thapsus and Achulla, and the city of Utica, and offered an invaluable support for the defence--was entreated not to refuse its aid to the commonwealth in this dire emergency.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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