Capture Of The City

How fearfully these mighty agencies had laboured in the work of destruction during the interval while Hasdrubal continued to vaunt and to gormandize, appeared so soon as the Roman army proceeded in the spring of 608 to attack the inner town. Hasdrubal gave orders to set fire to the outer harbour and made himself ready to repel the expected assault on the Cothon; but Laelius succeeded in scaling the wall, hardly longer defended by the famished garrison, at a point farther up and thus penetrated into the inner harbour. The city was captured, but the struggle was still by no means at an end. The assailants occupied the market-place contiguous to the small harbour, and slowly pushed their way along the three narrow streets leading from this to the citadel--slowly, for the huge houses of six stories in height had to be taken one by one; on the roofs or on beams laid over the street the soldiers penetrated from one of these fortress-like buildings to that which was adjoining or opposite, and cut down whatever they encountered there. Thus six days elapsed, terrible for the inhabitants of the city and full of difficulty and danger also for the assailants; at length they arrived in front of the steep citadel-rock, whither Hasdrubal and the force still surviving had retreated. To procure a wider approach, Scipio gave orders to set fire to the captured streets and to level the ruins; on which occasion a number of persons unable to fight, who were concealed in the houses, miserably perished. Then at last the remnant of the population, crowded together in the citadel, besought for mercy. Bare life was conceded to them, and they appeared before the victor, 30,000 men and 25,000 women, not the tenth part of the former population. The Roman deserters alone, 900 in number, and the general Hasdrubal with his wife and his two children had thrown themselves into the temple of the God of Healing; for them--for soldiers who had deserted their posts, and for the murderer of the Roman prisoners--there were no terms. But when, yielding to famine, the most resolute of them set fire to the temple, Hasdrubal could not endure to face death; alone he ran forth to the victor and falling upon his knees pleaded for his life. It was granted; but, when his wife who with her children was among the rest on the roof of the temple saw him at the feet of Scipio, her proud heart swelled at this disgrace brought on her dear perishing home, and, with bitter words bidding her husband be careful to save his life, she plunged first her sons and then herself into the flames. The struggle was at an end. The joy in the camp and at Rome was boundless; the noblest of the people alone were in secret ashamed of the most recent grand achievement of the nation. The prisoners were mostly sold as slaves; several were allowed to languish in prison; the most notable, Hasdrubal and Bithyas, were sent to the interior of Italy as Roman state-prisoners and tolerably treated. The moveable property, with the exception of gold, silver, and votive gifts, was abandoned to the pillage of the soldiers. As to the temple treasures, the booty that had been in better times carried off by the Carthaginians from the Sicilian towns was restored to them; the bull of Phalaris, for example, was returned to the Agrigentines; the rest fell to the Roman state.

Destruction Of Carthage

But by far the larger portion of the city still remained standing. We may believe that Scipio desired its preservation; at least he addressed a special inquiry to the senate on the subject. Scipio Nasica once more attempted to gain a hearing for the demands of reason and honour; but in vain. The senate ordered the general to level the city of Carthage and the suburb of Magalia with the ground, and to do the same with all the townships which had held by Carthage to the last; and thereafter to pass the plough over the site of Carthage so as to put an end in legal form to the existence of the city, and to curse the soil and site for ever, that neither house nor cornfield might ever reappear on the spot. The command was punctually obeyed. The ruins burned for seventeen days: recently, when the remains of the Carthaginian city wall were excavated, they were found to be covered with a layer of ashes from four to five feet deep, filled with half-charred pieces of wood, fragments of iron, and projectiles. Where the industrious Phoenicians had bustled and trafficked for five hundred years, Roman slaves henceforth pastured the herds of their distant masters. Scipio, however, whom nature had destined for a nobler part than that of an executioner, gazed with horror on his own work; and, instead of the joy of victory, the victor himself was haunted by a presentiment of the retribution that would inevitably follow such a misdeed.

Province Of Africa

There remained the work of arranging the future organization of the country. The earlier plan of investing the allies of Rome with the transmarine possessions that she acquired was no longer viewed with favour. Micipsa and his brothers retained in substance their former territory, including the districts recently wrested from the Carthaginians on the Bagradas and in Emporia; their long-cherished hope of obtaining Carthage as a capital was for ever frustrated; the senate presented them instead with the Carthaginian libraries. The Carthaginian territory as possessed by the city in its last days-- viz. The narrow border of the African coast lying immediately opposite to Sicily, from the river Tusca (near Thabraca) to Thaenae (opposite to the island of Karkenah)--became a Roman province. In the interior, where the constant encroachments of Massinissa had more and more narrowed the Carthaginian dominions and Bulla, Zama, and Aquae already belonged to the kings, the Numidians retained what they possessed. But the careful regulation of the boundary between the Roman province and the Numidian kingdom, which enclosed it on three sides, showed that Rome would by no means tolerate in reference to herself what she had permitted in reference to Carthage; while the name of the new province, Africa, on the other hand appeared to indicate that Rome did not at all regard the boundary now marked off as a definitive one.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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