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THE WARS WITH CARTHAGE.
"It is easy to imagine ..... all men raising their spirits to a height too proportionable, as though they should now go through all the work without farther opposition." - CLARENDON, Hist. Rebellion, Book VII.
"The ruin of the goodliest pieces of the world foreshows the dissolution of the whole.” – RALEIGH, Hist. World, Pt. I. Book V. ch. 1. sect. 2.
DURING the last years of the Italian wars, when the power of the Commonwealth was fast increasing, and the courage of its enemies was faster failing, there occur several instances of intercourse with foreign nations, as if glances were already sent abroad for greater victories than had yet been achieved. On one occasion, an affront to some ambassadors from Apollonia? was expiated by the delivery of the offenders, though a Senator and an Ædile, in order, apparently, to prove the honor of the Romans in sight of strangers. At another time, an embassy was despatched as far as Egypt to contract an alliance proposed by the Egyptian monarch; and the distinction of the citizens selected for the mission
1 On or near the Grecian shore, 3 A. C. 275. The three were opposite to Italy.
Fabius Gurges, Q. Ogulnius, and 2 A. C. 266. Zonaras, VIII. 7. Fabius Pictor (son of the artist). Liv., Epit. XV. Val. Max., VI. Val. Max., IV. 3. 9. Liv., Epit. 6. 5. The people of Apollonia XIV. were wise enough to return their prisoners unharmed. VOL. II.
testifies to the same desire on the part of their countrymen, whether this be interpreted as vaingloriousness or wiser appreciation of the relations which could be formed with distant people. Earlier still, and before the conclusion of the contest with Pyrrhus, the ancient league with Carthage was renewed ;* although, in the same spirit that prompted alliance with Egypt and atonement to the Apollonians, the proffered aid of a Carthaginian fleet off Ostia had but just before been instantly refused.5* The first war beyond the confines of Italy was with the same nation whose alliance had been firmly maintained through many preceding centuries; and the manner in which the league was broken and the conflict won must be the first chapter in the dreary history of foreign warfare to which the temper and the strength of the Romans were now fully trained.
The account of Phænicia in the earlier part of this work would serve, in many points, for a description of the great colony at Carthage, whose independence outlasted that of the mother land. The same creation of a new class, as it may be called, in contrast with those other classes, of slaves or warriors or priests, with which the earth had been previously peopled, arising from similar enterprise, and then drooping in similar corruption, is to be observed amongst the Carthaginians as amongst their progenitors ; but there is a distinction to be made. While the habits
5 Val. Max., III. 7. 10.
4 A. C. 279. Polyb., III. 25. A clause was introduced with reference to the existing war.
of life and the forms of government in Phænicia were advances upon the institutions and the occupations of earlier origin in the Eastern world, the same forms and the same habits existing some centuries afterwards at Carthage were behind, instead of being before, the age in which they still endured. IIence various consequences, so far as we are entitled to put any construction upon the disjointed information we possess, appear to have ensued. The commerce of Carthage was pursued abroad with weapons as much as with sails or merchandise, while her merchants at home not only were her rulers, but became a sort of caste, beneath which, however divided it might be in itself, there was no people or lower order fit to rise. At the same time, the faith which drove the Phænicians into sins and terrors, though it weighed too lightly, comparatively speaking, upon the Carthaginians to keep them actually prostrate before any fears, was strong enough to drag them into the midst of sacrifices even more horrid 6 and deeds even more dreadful than those tolerated in the land their ancestors had left behind. Materials would fail, even if it were here incumbent to attempt a picture of the majestic city and the arrogant citizens of Carthage; but it will be adequate to the design of the present history to observe, that the system which bore the name and which determined the fate of the great enemy of Rome was characteristic, not merely of an epoch anterior to that represented by the Roman,
6 Diod. Sic., XX. 14.
but, moreover, and especially, of an age which, without comparison with any other, was evidently beyond its prime and in its degeneracy.
The policy of Carthage, as a maritime state, to bring the people around the Mediterranean into subjection, had long been in successful operation, when the Romans, hitherto occupied, as an inland nation, with the conquest of the races by whom they were surrounded, suddenly found themselves in possession of all the shores, and therefore eager to obtain the seas, of Italy. The precedence of the Carthaginians in achieving the conquest of many of the neighbouring islands, and, at that very time, in pressing the reduction of Sicily, was rather a spur than a preventive to the rivalry of the Roman Commonwealth; and they who had eyes to see the prospect opening on either side must have beheld the waves stained with blood and the coasts overspread with wrecks and corpses in a coming conflict for the sake of supremacy in the Mediterranean. There were other impulses to combat; but such as the mind of Roman or Carthaginian, though he were obedient to them, could not recognize.
The ambition and the principles which have thus been briefly depicted were soon brought into contact. A band of Italians, who, under the name of Mamertines, had got possession of Messana in Sicily, by treachery and massacre, some twenty years before, were, within a short period after the conquest of Italy, so hard pressed by the forces of Hiero, the king of Syracuse and the ally of Rome, as to send, though not with common consent, an embassy, imploring the protection of the Romans.8 Although the character of the Mamertines was little better than that of so many outlaws, while their enemy, Hiero, was a monarch distinguished in reputation, and stanch in fidelity to his alliance with the Commonwealth, the opportunity of obtaining a foothold in the island where the Carthaginians were carrying all before them was too strong a temptation to be resisted by the Romans; and when the Senate returned a refusal to the suit of the Mamertine ambassadors, it was with such evident reluctance, that the Consuls of the year brought the question before the Tribes, in which no breath of opposition appears to have been excited against the course upon which the whole people were now resolved. Meanwhile, or before the Romans could cross the straits, the forces of Syracuse had been withdrawn, in consequence of the introduction of a Carthaginian garrison into Messana; and when this was expelled, on the admission of the troops from Rome, the siege of the city was begun by two armies, the one Carthaginian, the other Syracusan, Hiero, apparently, having been driven into hostilities by the aggression of his former allies.
So commenced the first Punic war, as it is styled in history, which continued for two-and-twenty years." The earliest advantage gained, the second year, by the Romans, in the return of Hiero to their
8 Polyb., 1. 10.
drive out the Mamertines from Si9 Ibid., I. 11.
cily, as the cause of his junction 10 Polybius (loc. cit.) simply with the Carthaginians. mentions the desire of the king to 11 A. C. 264 - 241.