Part 3 out of 6
seen, unfolded itself in his memory: assaults, conflagrations,
legions, tempests, Drepanum, Syracuse, Lilybaeum, Mount Etna, the
plateau of Eryx, five years of battles,--until the fatal day when arms
had been laid down and Sicily had been lost. Then he once more saw the
woods of citron-trees, and herdsmen with their goats on grey
mountains; and his heart leaped at the thought of the establishment of
another Carthage down yonder. His projects and his recollections
buzzed through his head, which was still dizzy from the pitching of
the vessel; he was overwhelmed with anguish, and, becoming suddenly
weak, he felt the necessity of drawing near to the gods.
Then he went up to the highest story of his house, and taking a nail-
studded staple from a golden shell, which hung on his arm, he opened a
small oval chamber.
It was softly lighted by means of delicate black discs let into the
wall and as transparent as glass. Between the rows of these equal
discs, holes, like those for the urns in columbaria, were hollowed
out. Each of them contained a round dark stone, which appeared to be
very heavy. Only people of superior understanding honoured these
abaddirs, which had fallen from the moon. By their fall they denoted
the stars, the sky, and fire; by their colour dark night, and by their
density the cohesion of terrestrial things. A stifling atmosphere
filled this mystic place. The round stones lying in the niches were
whitened somewhat with sea-sand which the wind had no doubt driven
through the door. Hamilcar counted them one after another with the tip
of his finger; then he hid his face in a saffron-coloured veil, and,
falling on his knees, stretched himself on the ground with both arms
The daylight outside was beginning to strike on the folding shutters
of black lattice-work. Arborescences, hillocks, eddies, and ill-
defined animals appeared in their diaphanous thickness; and the light
came terrifying and yet peaceful as it must be behind the sun in the
dull spaces of future creations. He strove to banish from his thoughts
all forms, and all symbols and appellations of the gods, that he might
the better apprehend the immutable spirit which outward appearances
took away. Something of the planetary vitalities penetrated him, and
he felt withal a wiser and more intimate scorn of death and of every
accident. When he rose he was filled with serene fearlessness and was
proof against pity or dread, and as his chest was choking he went to
the top of the tower which overlooked Carthage.
The town sank downwards in a long hollow curve, with its cupolas, its
temples, its golden roofs, its houses, its clusters of palm trees here
and there, and its glass balls with streaming rays, while the ramparts
formed, as it were, the gigantic border of this horn of plenty which
poured itself out before him. Far below he could see the harbours, the
squares, the interiors of the courts, the plan of the streets, and the
people, who seemed very small and but little above the level of the
pavement. Ah! if Hanno had not arrived too late on the morning of the
Aegatian islands! He fastened his eyes on the extreme horizon and
stretched forth his quivering arms in the direction of Rome.
The steps of the Acropolis were occupied by the multitude. In the
square of Khamon the people were pressing forwards to see the Suffet
come out, and the terraces were gradually being loaded with people; a
few recognised him, and he was saluted; but he retired in order the
better to excite the impatience of the people.
Hamilcar found the most important men of his party below in the hall:
Istatten, Subeldia, Hictamon, Yeoubas and others. They related to him
all that had taken place since the conclusion of the peace: the greed
of the Ancients, the departure of the soldiers, their return, their
demands, the capture of Gisco, the theft of the zaimph, the relief and
subsequent abandonment of Utica; but no one ventured to tell him of
the events which concerned himself. At last they separated, to meet
again during the night at the assembly of the Ancients in the temple
They had just gone out when a tumult arose outside the door. Some one
was trying to enter in spite of the servants; and as the disturbance
was increasing Hamilcar ordered the stranger to be shown in.
An old Negress made her appearance, broken, wrinkled, trembling,
stupid-looking, wrapped to the heels in ample blue veils. She advanced
face to face with the Suffet, and they looked at each other for some
time; suddenly Hamilcar started; at a wave of his hand the slaves
withdrew. Then, signing to her to walk with precaution, he drew her by
the arm into a remote apartment.
The Negress threw herself upon the floor to kiss his feet; he raised
"Where have you left him, Iddibal?"
"Down there, Master;" and extricating herself from her veils, she
rubbed her face with her sleeve; the black colour, the senile
trembling, the bent figure disappeared, and there remained a strong
old man whose skin seemed tanned by sand, wind, and sea. A tuft of
white hair rose on his skull like the crest of a bird; and he
indicated his disguise, as it lay on the ground, with an ironic
"You have done well, Iddibal! 'Tis well!" Then piercing him, as it
were, with his keen gaze: "No one yet suspects?"
The old man swore to him by the Kabiri that the mystery had been kept.
They never left their cottage, which was three days' journey from
Hadrumetum, on a shore peopled with turtles, and with palms on the
dune. "And in accordance with your command, O Master! I teach him to
hurl the javelin and to drive a team."
"He is strong, is he not?"
"Yes, Master, and intrepid as well! He has no fear of serpents, or
thunder, or phantoms. He runs bare-footed like a herdsman along the
brinks of precipices."
"He invents snares for wild beasts. Would you believe it, that last
moon he surprised an eagle; he dragged it away, and the bird's blood
and the child's were scattered in the air in large drops like driven
roses. The animal in its fury enwrapped him in the beating of its
wings; he strained it against his breast, and as it died his laughter
increased, piercing and proud like the clashing of swords."
Hamilcar bent his head, dazzled by such presages of greatness.
"But he has been for some time restless and disturbed. He gazes at the
sails passing far out at sea; he is melancholy, he rejects bread, he
inquires about the gods, and he wishes to become acquainted with
"No, no! not yet!" exclaimed the Suffet.
The old slave seemed to understand the peril which alarmed Hamilcar,
and he resumed:
"How is he to be restrained? Already I am obliged to make him
promises, and I have come to Carthage only to buy him a dagger with a
silver handle and pearls all around it." Then he told how, having
perceived the Suffet on the terrace, he had passed himself off on the
warders of the harbour as one of Salammbo's women, so as to make his
way in to him.
Hamilcar remained for a long time apparently lost in deliberation; at
last he said:
"To-morrow you will present yourself at sunset behind the purple
factories in Megara, and imitate a jackal's cry three times. If you do
not see me, you will return to Carthage on the first day of every
moon. Forget nothing! Love him! You may speak to him now about
The slave resumed his costume, and they left the house and the harbour
Hamilcar went on his way alone on foot and without an escort, for the
meetings of the Ancients were, under extraordinary circumstances,
always secret, and were resorted to mysteriously.
At first he went along the western front of the Acropolis, and then
passed through the Green Market, the galleries of Kinisdo, and the
Perfumers' suburb. The scattered lights were being extinguished, the
broader streets grew still, then shadows glided through the darkness.
They followed him, others appeared, and like him they all directed
their course towards the Mappalian district.
The temple of Moloch was built at the foot of a steep defile in a
sinister spot. From below nothing could be seen but lofty walls rising
indefinitely like those of a monstrous tomb. The night was gloomy, a
greyish fog seemed to weigh upon the sea, which beat against the cliff
with a noise as of death-rattles and sobs; and the shadows gradually
vanished as if they had passed through the walls.
But as soon as the doorway was crossed one found oneself in a vast
quadrangular court bordered by arcades. In the centre rose a mass of
architecture with eight equal faces. It was surmounted by cupolas
which thronged around a second story supporting a kind of rotunda,
from which sprang a cone with a re-entrant curve and terminating in a
ball on the summit.
Fires were burning in cylinders of filigree-work fitted upon poles,
which men were carrying to and fro. These lights flickered in the
gusts of wind and reddened the golden combs which fastened their
plaited hair on the nape of the neck. They ran about calling to one
another to receive the Ancients.
Here and there on the flag-stones huge lions were couched like
sphinxes, living symbols of the devouring sun. They were slumbering
with half-closed eyelids. But roused by the footsteps and voices they
rose slowly, came towards the Ancients, whom they recognised by their
dress, and rubbed themselves against their thighs, arching their backs
with sonorous yawns; the vapour of their breath passed across the
light of the torches. The stir increased, doors closed, all the
priests fled, and the Ancients disappeared beneath the columns which
formed a deep vestibule round the temple.
These columns were arranged in such a way that their circular ranks,
which were contained one within another, showed the Saturnian period
with its years, the years with their months, and the months with their
days, and finally reached to the walls of the sanctuary.
Here it was that the Ancients laid aside their sticks of narwhal's-
horn,--for a law which was always observed inflicted the punishment of
death upon any one entering the meeting with any kind of weapon.
Several wore a rent repaired with a strip of purple at the bottom of
their garment, to show that they had not been economical in their
dress when mourning for their relatives, and this testimony to their
affliction prevented the slit from growing larger. Others had their
beards inclosed in little bags of violet skin, and fastened to their
ears by two cords. They all accosted one another by embracing breast
to breast. They surrounded Hamilcar with congratulations; they might
have been taken for brothers meeting their brother again.
These men were generally thick-set, with curved noses like those of
the Assyrian colossi. In a few, however, the more prominent cheek-
bone, the taller figure, and the narrower foot, betrayed an African
origin and nomad ancestors. Those who lived continually shut up in
their counting-houses had pale faces; others showed in theirs the
severity of the desert, and strange jewels sparkled on all the fingers
of their hands, which were burnt by unknown suns. The navigators might
be distinguished by their rolling gait, while the men of agriculture
smelt of the wine-press, dried herbs, and the sweat of mules. These
old pirates had lands under tillage, these money-grubbers would fit
out ships, these proprietors of cultivated lands supported slaves who
followed trades. All were skilled in religious discipline, expert in
strategy, pitiless and rich. They looked wearied of prolonged cares.
Their flaming eyes expressed distrust, and their habits of travelling
and lying, trafficking and commanding, gave an appearance of cunning
and violence, a sort of discreet and convulsive brutality to their
whole demeanour. Further, the influence of the god cast a gloom upon
They first passed through a vaulted hall which was shaped like an egg.
Seven doors, corresponding to the seven planets, displayed seven
squares of different colours against the wall. After traversing a long
room they entered another similar hall.
A candelabrum completely covered with chiselled flowers was burning at
the far end, and each of its eight golden branches bore a wick of
byssus in a diamond chalice. It was placed upon the last of the long
steps leading to a great altar, the corners of which terminated in
horns of brass. Two lateral staircases led to its flattened summit;
the stones of it could not be seen; it was like a mountain of heaped
cinders, and something indistinct was slowly smoking at the top of it.
Then further back, higher than the candelabrum, and much higher than
the altar, rose the Moloch, all of iron, and with gaping apertures in
his human breast. His outspread wings were stretched upon the wall,
his tapering hands reached down to the ground; three black stones
bordered by yellow circles represented three eyeballs on his brow, and
his bull's head was raised with a terrible effort as if in order to
Ebony stools were ranged round the apartment. Behind each of them was
a bronze shaft resting on three claws and supporting a torch. All
these lights were reflected in the mother-of-pearl lozenges which
formed the pavement of the hall. So lofty was the latter that the red
colour of the walls grew black as it rose towards the vaulted roof,
and the three eyes of the idol appeared far above like stars half lost
in the night.
The Ancients sat down on the ebony stools after putting the trains of
their robes over their heads. They remained motionless with their
hands crossed inside their broad sleeves, and the mother-of-pearl
pavement seemed like a luminous river streaming from the altar to the
door and flowing beneath their naked feet.
The four pontiffs had their places in the centre, sitting back to back
on four ivory seats which formed a cross, the high-priest of Eschmoun
in a hyacinth robe, the high-priest of Tanith in a white linen robe,
the high-priest of Khamon in a tawny woollen robe, and the high-priest
of Moloch in a purple robe.
Hamilcar advanced towards the candelabrum. He walked all round it,
looking at the burning wicks; then he threw a scented powder upon
them, and violet flames appeared at the extremities of the branches.
Then a shrill voice rose; another replied to it, and the hundred
Ancients, the four pontiffs, and Hamilcar, who remained standing,
simultaneously intoned a hymn, and their voices--ever repeating the
same syllables and strengthening the sounds--rose, grew loud, became
terrible, and then suddenly were still.
There was a pause for some time. At last Hamilcar drew from his breast
a little three-headed statuette, as blue as sapphire, and placed it
before him. It was the image of Truth, the very genius of his speech.
Then he replaced it in his bosom, and all, as if seized with sudden
wrath, cried out:
"They are good friends of yours, are the Barbarians! Infamous traitor!
You come back to see us perish, do you not? Let him speak!--No! no!"
They were taking their revenge for the constraint to which political
ceremonial had just obliged them; and even though they had wished for
Hamilcar's return, they were now indignant that he had not anticipated
their disasters, or rather that he had not endured them as well as
When the tumult had subsided, the pontiff of Moloch rose:
"We ask you why you did not return to Carthage?"
"What is that to you?" replied the Suffet disdainfully.
Their shouts were redoubled.
"Of what do you accuse me? I managed the war badly, perhaps! You have
seen how I order my battles, you who conveniently allow Barbarians--"
He went on in a low voice so as to make himself the better listened
"Oh! that is true! I am wrong, lights of the Baals; there are intrepid
men among you! Gisco, rise!" And surveying the step of the altar with
half-closed eyelids, as if he sought for some one, he repeated:
"Rise, Gisco! You can accuse me; they will protect you! But where is
he?" Then, as if he remembered himself: "Ah! in his house, no doubt!
surrounded by his sons, commanding his slaves, happy, and counting on
the wall the necklaces of honour which his country has given to him!"
They moved about raising their shoulders as if they were being
scourged with thongs. "You do not even know whether he is living or
dead!" And without giving any heed to their clamours he said that in
deserting the Suffet they had deserted the Republic. So, too, the
peace with Rome, however advantageous it might appear to them, was
more fatal than twenty battles. A few--those who were the least rich
of the Council and were suspected of perpetual leanings towards the
people or towards tyranny--applauded. Their opponents, chiefs of the
Syssitia and administrators, triumphed over them in point of numbers;
and the more eminent of them had ranged themselves close to Hanno, who
was sitting at the other end of the hall before the lofty door, which
was closed by a hanging of hyacinth colour.
He had covered the ulcers on his face with paint. But the gold dust in
his hair had fallen upon his shoulders, where it formed two brilliant
sheets, so that his hair appeared whitish, fine, and frizzled like
wool. His hands were enveloped in linen soaked in a greasy perfume,
which dripped upon the pavement, and his disease had no doubt
considerably increased, for his eyes were hidden beneath the folds of
his eyelids. He had thrown back his head in order to see. His
partisans urged him to speak. At last in a hoarse and hideous voice he
"Less arrogance, Barca! We have all been vanquished! Each one supports
his own misfortune! Be resigned!"
"Tell us rather," said Hamilcar, smiling, "how it was that you steered
your galleys into the Roman fleet?"
"I was driven by the wind," replied Hanno.
"You are like a rhinoceros trampling on his dung: you are displaying
your own folly! be silent!" And they began to indulge in
recriminations respecting the battle of the Aegatian islands.
Hanno accused him of not having come to meet him.
"But that would have left Eryx undefended. You ought to have stood out
from the coast; what prevented you? Ah! I forgot! all elephants are
afraid of the sea!"
Hamilcar's followers thought this jest so good that they burst out
into loud laughter. The vault rang with it like the beating of
Hanno denounced the unworthiness of such an insult; the disease had
come upon him from a cold taken at the siege of Hecatompylos, and
tears flowed down his face like winter rain on a ruined wall.
"If you had loved me as much as him there would be great joy in
Carthage now! How many times did I not call upon you! and you always
refused me money!"
"We had need of it," said the chiefs of the Syssitia.
"And when things were desperate with me--we drank mules' urine and ate
the straps of our sandals; when I would fain have had the blades of
grass soldiers and made battalions with the rottenness of our dead,
you recalled the vessels that I had left!"
"We could not risk everything," replied Baat-Baal, who possessed gold
mines in Darytian Gaetulia.
"But what did you do here, at Carthage, in your houses, behind your
walls? There are Gauls on the Eridanus, who ought to have been roused,
Chanaanites at Cyrene who would have come, and while the Romans send
ambassadors to Ptolemaeus--"
"Now he is extolling the Romans to us!" Some one shouted out to him:
"How much have they paid you to defend them?"
"Ask that of the plains of Brutium, of the ruins of Locri, of
Metapontum, and of Heraclea! I have burnt all their trees, I have
pillaged all their temples, and even to the death of their
"Why, you disclaim like a rhetor!" said Kapouras, a very illustrious
merchant. "What is it that you want?"
"I say that we must be more ingenious or more terrible! If the whole
of Africa rejects your yoke the reason is, my feeble masters, that you
do not know how to fasten it to her shoulders! Agathocles, Regulus,
Coepio, any bold man has only to land and capture her; and when the
Libyans in the east concert with the Numidians in the west, and the
Nomads come from the south, and the Romans from the north"--a cry of
horror rose--"Oh! you will beat your breasts, and roll in the dust,
and tear your cloaks! No matter! you will have to go and turn the
mill-stone in the Suburra, and gather grapes on the hills of Latium."
They smote their right thighs to mark their sense of the scandal, and
the sleeves of their robes rose like large wings of startled birds.
Hamilcar, carried away by a spirit, continued his speech, standing on
the highest step of the altar, quivering and terrible; he raised his
arms, and the rays from the candelabrum which burned behind him passed
between his fingers like javelins of gold.
"You will lose your ships, your country seats, your chariots, your
hanging beds, and the slaves who rub your feet! The jackal will crouch
in your palaces, and the ploughshare will upturn your tombs. Nothing
will be left but the eagles' scream and a heap of ruins. Carthage,
thou wilt fall!"
The four pontiffs spread out their hands to avert the anathema. All
had risen. But the marine Suffet, being a sacerdotal magistrate under
the protection of the Sun, was inviolate so long as the assembly of
the rich had not judged him. Terror was associated with the altar.
They drew back.
Hamilcar had ceased speaking, and was panting with eye fixed, his face
as pale as the pearls of his tiara, almost frightened at himself, and
his spirit lost in funereal visions. From the height on which he
stood, all the torches on the bronze shafts seemed to him like a vast
crown of fire laid level with the pavement; black smoke issuing from
them mounted up into the darkness of the vault; and for some minutes
the silence was so profound that they could hear in the distance the
sound of the sea.
Then the Ancients began to question one another. Their interests,
their existence, were attacked by the Barbarians. But it was
impossible to conquer them without the assistance of the Suffet, and
in spite of their pride this consideration made them forget every
other. His friends were taken aside. There were interested
reconciliations, understandings, and promises. Hamilcar would not take
any further part in any government. All conjured him. They besought
him; and as the word treason occurred in their speech, he fell into a
passion. The sole traitor was the Great Council, for as the enlistment
of the soldiers expired with the war, they became free as soon as the
war was finished; he even exalted their bravery and all the advantages
which might be derived from interesting them in the Republic by
donations and privileges.
Then Magdassin, a former provincial governor, said, as he rolled his
"Truly Barca, with your travelling you have become a Greek, or a
Latin, or something! Why speak you of rewards for these men? Rather
let ten thousand Barbarians perish than a single one of us!"
The Ancients nodded approval, murmuring:--"Yes, is there need for so
much trouble? They can always be had?"
"And they can be got rid of conveniently, can they not? They are
deserted as they were by you in Sardinia. The enemy is apprised of the
road which they are to take, as in the case of those Gauls in Sicily,
or perhaps they are disembarked in the middle of the sea. As I was
returning I saw the rock quite white with their bones!"
"What a misfortune!" said Kapouras impudently.
"Have they not gone over to the enemy a hundred times?" cried the
"Why, then," exclaimed Hamilcar, "did you recall them to Carthage,
notwithstanding your laws? And when they are in your town, poor and
numerous amid all your riches, it does not occur to you to weaken them
by the slightest division! Afterwards you dismiss the whole of them
with their women and children, without keeping a single hostage! Did
you expect that they would murder themselves to spare you the pain of
keeping your oaths? You hate them because they are strong! You hate me
still more, who am their master! Oh! I felt it just now when you were
kissing my hands and were all putting a constraint upon yourselves not
to bite them!"
If the lions that were sleeping in the court had come howling in, the
uproar could not have been more frightful. But the pontiff of Eschmoun
rose, and, standing perfectly upright, with his knees close together,
his elbows pressed to his body, and his hands half open, he said:
"Barca, Carthage has need that you should take the general command of
the Punic forces against the Mercenaries!"
"I refuse," replied Hamilcar.
"We will give you full authority," cried the chiefs of the Syssitia.
"With no control, no partition, all the money that you want, all the
captives, all the booty, fifty zereths of land for every enemy's
"No! no! because it is impossible to conquer with you!"
"He is afraid!"
"Because you are cowardly, greedy, ungrateful, pusillanimous and mad!"
"He is careful of them!"
"In order to put himself at their head," said some one.
"And return against us," said another; and from the bottom of the hall
"He wants to make himself king!"
Then they bounded up, overturning the seats and the torches: the crowd
of them rushed towards the altar; they brandished daggers. But
Hamilcar dived into his sleeves and drew from them two broad
cutlasses; and half stooping, his left foot advanced, his eyes flaming
and his teeth clenched, he defied them as he stood there beneath the
Thus they had brought weapons with them as a precaution; it was a
crime; they looked with terror at one another. As all were guilty,
every one became quickly reassured; and by degrees they turned their
backs on the Suffet and came down again maddened with humiliation. For
the second time they recoiled before him. They remained standing for
some time. Several who had wounded their fingers put them to their
mouths or rolled them gently in the hem of their mantles, and they
were about to depart when Hamilcar heard these words:
"Why! it is a piece of delicacy to avoid distressing his daughter!"
A louder voice was raised:
"No doubt, since she takes her lovers from among the Mercenaries!"
At first he tottered, then his eye rapidly sought for Schahabarim. But
the priest of Tanith had alone remained in his place; and Hamilcar
could see only his lofty cap in the distance. All were sneering in his
face. In proportion as his anguish increased their joy redoubled, and
those who were behind shouted amid the hootings:
"He was seen coming out of her room!"
"One morning in the month of Tammouz!"
"It was the thief who stole the zaimph!"
"A very handsome man!"
"Taller than you!"
He snatched off the tiara, the ensign of his rank--his tiara with its
eight mystic rows, and with an emerald shell in the centre--and with
both hands and with all his strength dashed it to the ground; the
golden circles rebounded as they broke, and the pearls rang upon the
pavement. Then they saw a long scar upon the whiteness of his brow; it
moved like a serpent between his eyebrows; all his limbs trembled. He
ascended one of the lateral staircases which led on to the altar, and
walked upon the latter! This was to devote himself to the god, to
offer himself as a holocaust. The motion of his mantle agitated the
lights of the candelabrum, which was lower than his sandals, and the
fine dust raised by his footsteps surrounded him like a cloud as high
as the waist. He stopped between the legs of the brass colossus. He
took up two handfuls of the dust, the mere sight of which made every
Carthaginian shudder with horror, and said:
"By the hundred torches of your Intelligences! by the eight fires of
the Kabiri! by the stars, the meteors, and the volcanoes! by
everything that burns! by the thirst of the desert and the saltness of
the ocean! by the cave of Hadrumetum and the empire of Souls! by
extermination! by the ashes of your sons and the ashes of the brothers
of your ancestors with which I now mingle my own!--you, the Hundred of
the Council of Carthage, have lied in your accusation of my daughter!
And I, Hamilcar Barca, marine Suffet, chief of the rich and ruler of
the people, in the presence of bull-headed Moloch, I swear"--they
expected something frightful, but he resumed in a loftier and calmer
tone--"that I will not even speak to her about it!"
The sacred servants entered wearing their golden combs, some with
purple sponges and others with branches of palm. They raised the
hyacinth curtain which was stretched before the door; and through the
opening of this angle there was visible behind the other halls the
great pink sky which seemed to be a continuation of the vault and to
rest at the horizon upon the blue sea. The sun was issuing from the
waves and mounting upwards. It suddenly struck upon the breast of the
brazen colossus, which was divided into seven compartments closed by
gratings. His red-toothed jaws opened in a horrible yawn; his enormous
nostrils were dilated, the broad daylight animated him, and gave him a
terrible and impatient aspect, as if he would fain have leaped without
to mingle with the star, the god, and together traverse the
The torches, however, which were scattered on the ground, were still
burning, while here and there on the mother-of-pearl pavement was
stretched from them what looked like spots of blood. The Ancients were
reeling from exhaustion; they filled their lungs inhaling the
freshness of the air; the sweat flowed down their livid faces; they
had shouted so much that they could now scarcely make their voices
heard. But their wrath against the Suffet was not at all abated; they
hurled menaces at him by way of farewells, and Hamilcar answered them
"Until the next night, Barca, in the temple of Eschmoun!"
"I shall be there!"
"We will have you condemned by the rich!"
"And I you by the people!"
"Take care that you do not end on the cross!"
"And you that you are not torn to pieces in the streets!"
As soon as they were on the threshold of the court they again assumed
a calm demeanour.
Their runners and coachmen were waiting for them at the door. Most of
them departed on white mules. The Suffet leaped into his chariot and
took the reins; the two animals, curving their necks, and rhythmically
beating the resounding pebbles, went up the whole of the Mappalian Way
at full gallop, and the silver vulture at the extremity of the pole
seemed to fly, so quickly did the chariot pass along.
The road crossed a field planted with slabs of stone, which were
painted on the top like pyramids, and had open hands carved out in the
centre as if all the dead men lying beneath had stretched them out
towards heaven to demand something. Next there came scattered cabins
built of earth, branches, and bulrush-hurdles, and all of a conical
shape. These dwellings, which became constantly denser as the road
ascended towards the Suffet's gardens, were irregularly separated from
one another by little pebble walls, trenches of spring water, ropes of
esparto-grass, and nopal hedges. But Hamilcar's eyes were fastened on
a great tower, the three storys of which formed three monster
cylinders--the first being built of stone, the second of brick, and
the third all of cedar--supporting a copper cupola upon twenty-four
pillars of juniper, from which slender interlacing chains of brass
hung down after the manner of garlands. This lofty edifice overlooked
the buildings--the emporiums and mercantile houses--which stretched to
the right, while the women's palace rose at the end of the cypress
trees, which were ranged in line like two walls of bronze.
When the echoing chariot had entered through the narrow gateway it
stopped beneath a broad shed in which there were shackled horses
eating from heaps of chopped grass.
All the servants hastened up. They formed quite a multitude, those who
worked on the country estates having been brought to Carthage through
fear of the soldiers. The labourers, who were clad in animals' skins,
had chains riveted to their ankles and trailing after them; the
workers in the purple factories had arms as red as those of
executioners; the sailors wore green caps; the fishermen coral
necklaces; the huntsmen carried nets on their shoulders; and the
people belonging to Megara wore black or white tunics, leathern
drawers, and caps of straw, felt or linen, according to their service
or their different occupations.
Behind pressed a tattered populace. They lived without employment
remote from the apartments, slept at night in the gardens, ate the
refuse from the kitchens,--a human mouldiness vegetating in the shadow
of the palace. Hamilcar tolerated them from foresight even more than
from scorn. They had all put a flower in the ear in token of their
joy, and many of them had never seen him.
But men with head-dresses like the Sphinx's, and furnished with great
sticks, dashed into the crowd, striking right and left. This was to
drive back the slaves, who were curious to see their master, so that
he might not be assailed by their numbers or inconvenienced by their
Then they all threw themselves flat on the ground, crying:
"Eye of Baal, may your house flourish!" And through these people as
they lay thus on the ground in the avenue of cypress trees, Abdalonim,
the Steward of the stewards, waving a white miter, advanced towards
Hamilcar with a censer in his hand.
Salammbo was then coming down the galley staircases. All her slave
women followed her; and, at each of her steps, they also descended.
The heads of the Negresses formed big black spots on the line of the
bands of the golden plates clasping the foreheads of the Roman women.
Others had silver arrows, emerald butterflies, or long bodkins set
like suns in their hair. Rings, clasps, necklaces, fringes, and
bracelets shone amid the confusion of white, yellow, and blue
garments; a rustling of light material became audible; the pattering
of sandals might be heard together with the dull sound of naked feet
as they were set down on the wood;--and here and there a tall eunuch,
head and shoulders above them, smiled with his face in air. When the
shouting of the men had subsided they hid their faces in their
sleeves, and together uttered a strange cry like the howling of a she-
wolf, and so frenzied and strident was it that it seemed to make the
great ebony staircase, with its thronging women, vibrate from top to
bottom like a lyre.
The wind lifted their veils, and the slender stems of the papyrus
plant rocked gently. It was the month of Schebaz and the depth of
winter. The flowering pomegranates swelled against the azure of the
sky, and the sea disappeared through the branches with an island in
the distance half lost in the mist.
Hamilcar stopped on perceiving Salammbo. She had come to him after the
death of several male children. Moreover, the birth of daughters was
considered a calamity in the religions of the Sun. The gods had
afterwards sent him a son; but he still felt something of the betrayal
of his hope, and the shock, as it were, of the curse which he had
uttered against her. Salammbo, however, continued to advance.
Long bunches of various-coloured pearls fell from her ears to her
shoulders, and as far as her elbows. Her hair was crisped so as to
simulate a cloud. Round her neck she wore little quadrangular plates
of gold, representing a woman between two rampant lions; and her
costume was a complete reproduction of the equipment of the goddess.
Her broad-sleeved hyacinth robe fitted close to her figure, widening
out below. The vermilion on her lips gave additional whiteness to her
teeth, and the antimony on her eyelids greater length to her eyes. Her
sandals, which were cut out in bird's plumage, had very high heels,
and she was extraordinarily pale, doubtless on account of the cold.
At last she came close to Hamilcar, and without looking at him,
without raising her head to him:
"Greeting, eye of Baalim, eternal glory! triumph! leisure!
satisfaction! riches! Long has my heart been sad and the house
drooping. But the returning master is like reviving Tammouz; and
beneath your gaze, O father, joyfulness and a new existence will
And taking from Taanach's hands a little oblong vase wherein smoked a
mixture of meal, butter, cardamom, and wine: "Drink freely," said she,
"of the returning cup, which your servant has prepared!"
He replied: "A blessing upon you!" and he mechanically grasped the
golden vase which she held out to him.
He scanned her, however, with such harsh attention, that Salammbo was
troubled and stammered out:
"They have told you, O Master!"
"Yes! I know!" said Hamilcar in a low voice.
Was this a confession, or was she speaking of the Barbarians? And he
added a few vague words upon the public embarrassments which he hoped
by his sole efforts to clear away.
"O father!" exclaimed Salammbo, "you will not obliterate what is
Then he drew back and Salammbo was astonished at his amazement; for
she was not thinking of Carthage but of the sacrilege in which she
found herself implicated. This man, who made legions tremble and whom
she hardly knew, terrified her like a god; he had guessed, he knew
all, something awful was about to happen. "Pardon!" she cried.
Hamilcar slowly bowed his head.
Although she wished to accuse herself she dared not open her lips; and
yet she felt stifled with the need of complaining and being comforted.
Hamilcar was struggling against a longing to break his oath. He kept
it out of pride or from the dread of putting an end to his
uncertainty; and he looked into her face with all his might so as to
lay hold on what she kept concealed at the bottom of her heart.
By degrees the panting Salammbo, crushed by such heavy looks, let her
head sink below her shoulders. He was now sure that she had erred in
the embrace of a Barbarian; he shuddered and raised both his fists.
She uttered a shriek and fell down among her women, who crowded around
Hamilcar turned on his heel. All the stewards followed him.
The door of the emporiums was opened, and he entered a vast round hall
form which long passages leading to other halls branched off like the
spokes from the nave of a wheel. A stone disc stood in the centre with
balustrades to support the cushions that were heaped up upon carpets.
The Suffet walked at first with rapid strides; he breathed noisily, he
struck the ground with his heel, and drew his hand across his forehead
like a man annoyed by flies. But he shook his head, and as he
perceived the accumulation of his riches he became calm; his thoughts,
which were attracted by the vistas in the passages, wandered to the
other halls that were full of still rarer treasures. Bronze plates,
silver ingots, and iron bars alternated with pigs of tin brought from
the Cassiterides over the Dark Sea; gums from the country of the
Blacks were running over their bags of palm bark; and gold dust heaped
up in leathern bottles was insensibly creeping out through the worn-
out seams. Delicate filaments drawn from marine plants hung amid flax
from Egypt, Greece, Taprobane and Judaea; mandrepores bristled like
large bushes at the foot of the walls; and an indefinable odour--the
exhalation from perfumes, leather, spices, and ostrich feathers, the
latter tied in great bunches at the very top of the vault--floated
through the air. An arch was formed above the door before each passage
with elephants' teeth placed upright and meeting together at the
At last he ascended the stone disc. All the stewards stood with arms
folded and heads bent while Abdalonim reared his pointed mitre with a
Hamilcar questioned the Chief of the Ships. He was an old pilot with
eyelids chafed by the wind, and white locks fell to his hips as if
dashing foam of the tempests had remained on his beard.
He replied that he had sent a fleet by Gades and Thymiamata to try to
reach Eziongaber by doubling the Southern Horn and the promontory of
Others had advanced continuously towards the west for four moons
without meeting with any shore; but the ships prows became entangled
in weeds, the horizon echoed continually with the noise of cataracts,
blood-coloured mists darkened the sun, a perfume-laden breeze lulled
the crews to sleep; and their memories were so disturbed that they
were now unable to tell anything. However, expeditions had ascended
the rivers of the Scythians, had made their way into Colchis, and into
the countries of the Jugrians and of the Estians, had carried off
fifteen hundred maidens in the Archipelago, and sunk all the strange
vessels sailing beyond Cape Oestrymon, so that the secret of the
routes should not be known. King Ptolemaeus was detaining the incense
from Schesbar; Syracuse, Elathia, Corsica, and the islands had
furnished nothing, and the old pilot lowered his voice to announce
that a trireme was taken at Rusicada by the Numidians,--"for they are
with them, Master."
Hamilcar knit his brows; then he signed to the Chief of the Journeys
to speak. This functionary was enveloped in a brown, ungirdled robe,
and had his head covered with a long scarf of white stuff which passed
along the edge of his lips and fell upon his shoulder behind.
The caravans had set out regularly at the winter equinox. But of
fifteen hundred men directing their course towards the extreme
boundaries of Ethiopia with excellent camels, new leathern bottles,
and supplies of painted cloth, but one had reappeared at Carthage--the
rest having died of fatigue or become mad through the terror of the
desert;--and he said that far beyond the Black Harousch, after passing
the Atarantes and the country of the great apes, he had seen immense
kingdoms, wherein the pettiest utensils were all of gold, a river of
the colour of milk and as broad as the sea, forests of blue trees,
hills of aromatics, monsters with human faces vegetating on the rocks
with eyeballs which expanded like flowers to look at you; and then
crystal mountains supporting the sun behind lakes all covered with
dragons. Others had returned from India with peacocks, pepper, and new
textures. As to those who go by way of the Syrtes and the temple of
Ammon to purchase chalcedony, they had no doubt perished in the sands.
The caravans from Gaetulia and Phazzana had furnished their usual
supplies; but he, the Chief of the Journeys, did not venture to fit
one out just now.
Hamilcar understood; the Mercenaries were in occupation of the
country. He leaned upon his other elbow with a hollow groan; and the
Chief of Farms was so afraid to speak that he trembled horribly in
spite of his thick shoulders and his big red eyeballs. His face, which
was as snub-nosed as a mastiff's, was surmounted by a net woven of
threads of bark. He wore a waist-belt of hairy leopard's skin, wherein
gleamed two formidable cutlasses.
As soon as Hamilcar turned away he began to cry aloud and invoke all
the Baals. It was not his fault! he could not help it! He had watched
the temperature, the soil, the stars, had planted at the winter
solstice and pruned at the waning of the moon, had inspected the
slaves and had been careful of their clothes.
But Hamilcar grew angry at this loquacity. He clacked his tongue, and
the man with the cutlasses went on in rapid tones:
"Ah, Master! they have pillaged everything! sacked everything!
destroyed everything! Three thousand trees have been cut down at
Maschala, and at Ubada the granaries have been looted and the cisterns
filled up! At Tedes they have carried off fifteen hundred gomors of
meal; at Marrazana they have killed the shepherds, eaten the flocks,
burnt your house--your beautiful house with its cedar beams, which you
used to visit in the summer! The slaves at Tuburbo who were reaping
barley fled to the mountains; and the asses, the mules both great and
small, the oxen from Taormina, and the antelopes,--not a single one
left! all carried away! It is a curse! I shall not survive it!" He
went on again in tears: "Ah! if you knew how full the cellars were,
and how the ploughshares shone! Ah! the fine rams! ah! the fine
Hamilcar's wrath was choking him. It burst forth:
"Be silent! Am I a pauper then? No lies! speak the truth! I wish to
know all that I have lost to the last shekel, to the last cab!
Abdalonim, bring me the accounts of the ships, of the caravans, of the
farms, of the house! And if your consciences are not clear, woe be on
your heads! Go out!"
All the stewards went out walking backwards, with their fists touching
Abdalonim went up to a set of pigeon-holes in the wall, and from the
midst of them took out knotted cords, strips of linen or papyrus, and
sheeps' shoulder-blades inscribed with delicate writing. He laid them
at Hamilcar's feet, placed in his hands a wooden frame furnished on
the inside with three threads on which balls of gold, silver, and horn
were strung, and began:
"One hundred and ninety-two houses in the Mappalian district let to
the New Carthaginians at the rate of one bekah a moon."
"No! it is too much! be lenient towards the poor people! and you will
try to learn whether they are attached to the Republic, and write down
the names of those who appear to you to be the most daring! What
Abdalonim hesitated in surprise at such generosity.
Hamilcar snatched the strips of linen from his hands.
"What is this? three palaces around Khamon at twelve kesitahs a month!
Make it twenty! I do not want to be eaten up by the rich."
The Steward of the stewards, after a long salutation, resumed:
"Lent to Tigillas until the end of the season two kikars at three per
cent., maritime interest; to Bar-Malkarth fifteen hundred shekels on
the security of thirty slaves. But twelve have died in the salt-
"That is because they were not hardy," said the Suffet, laughing. "No
matter! if he is in want of money, satisfy him! We should always lend,
and at different rates of interest, according to the wealth of the
Then the servant hastened to read all that had been brought in by the
iron-mines of Annaba, the coral fisheries, the purple factories, the
farming of the tax on the resident Greeks, the export of silver to
Arabia, where it had ten times the value of gold, and the captures of
vessels, deduction of a tenth being made for the temple of the
goddess. "Each time I declared a quarter less, Master!" Hamilcar was
reckoning with the balls; they rang beneath his fingers.
"Enough! What have you paid?"
"To Stratonicles of Corinth, and to three Alexandrian merchants, on
these letters here (they have been realised), ten thousand Athenian
drachmas, and twelve Syrian talents of gold. The food for the crews,
amounting to twenty minae a month for each trireme--"
"I know! How many lost?"
"Here is the account on these sheets of lead," said the Steward. "As
to the ships chartered in common, it has often been necessary to throw
the cargo into the seas, and so the unequal losses have been divided
among the partners. For the ropes which were borrowed from the
arsenals, and which it was impossible to restore, the Syssitia exacted
eight hundred kesitahs before the expedition to Utica."
"They again!" said Hamilcar, hanging his head; and he remained for a
time as if quite crushed by the weight of all the hatreds that he
could feel upon him. "But I do not see the Megara expenses?"
Abdalonim, turning pale, went to another set of pigeon-holes, and took
from them some planchettes of sycamore wood strung in packets on
Hamilcar, curious about these domestic details, listened to him and
grew calm with the monotony of the tones in which the figures were
enumerated. Abdalonim became slower. Suddenly he let the wooden sheets
fall to the ground and threw himself flat on his face with his arms
stretched out in the position of a condemned criminal. Hamilcar picked
up the tablets without any emotion; and his lips parted and his eyes
grew larger when he perceived an exorbitant consumption of meat, fish,
birds, wines, and aromatics, with broken vases, dead slaves, and
spoiled carpets set down as the expense of a single day.
Abdalonim, still prostrate, told him of the feast of the Barbarians.
He had not been able to avoid the command of the Ancients. Moreover,
Salammbo desired money to be lavished for the better reception of the
At his daughter's name Hamilcar leaped to his feet. Then with
compressed lips he crouched down upon the cushions, tearing the
fringes with his nails, and panting with staring eyes.
"Rise!" said he; and he descended.
Abdalonim followed him; his knees trembled. But seizing an iron bar he
began like one distraught to loosen the paving stones. A wooden disc
sprang up and soon there appeared throughout the length of the passage
several of the large covers employed for stopping up the trenches in
which grain was kept.
"You see, Eye of Baal," said the servant, trembling, "they have not
taken everything yet! and these are each fifty cubits deep and filled
up to the brim! During your voyage I had them dug out in the arsenals,
in the gardens, everywhere! your house is full of corn as your heart
is full of wisdom."
A smile passed over Hamilcar's face. "It is well, Abdalonim!" Then
bending over to his ear: "You will have it brought from Etruria,
Brutium, whence you will, and no matter at what price! Heap it and
keep it! I alone must possess all the corn in Carthage."
Then when they were alone at the extremity of the passage, Abdalonim,
with one of the keys hanging at his girdle, opened a large
quadrangular chamber divided in the centre by pillars of cedar. Gold,
silver, and brass coins were arranged on tables or packed into niches,
and rose as high as the joists of the roof along the four walls. In
the corners there were huge baskets of hippopotamus skin supporting
whole rows of smaller bags; there were hillocks formed of heaps of
bullion on the pavement; and here and there a pile that was too high
had given way and looked like a ruined column. The large Carthaginian
pieces, representing Tanith with a horse beneath a palm-tree, mingled
with those from the colonies, which were marked with a bull, star,
globe, or crescent. Then there might be seen pieces of all values,
dimensions, and ages arrayed in unequal amounts--from the ancient
coins of Assyria, slender as the nail, to the ancient ones of Latium,
thicker than the hand, with the buttons of Egina, the tablets of
Bactriana, and the short bars of Lacedaemon; many were covered with
rust, or had grown greasy, or, having been taken in nets or from among
the ruins of captured cities, were green with the water or blackened
by fire. The Suffet had speedily calculated whether the sums present
corresponded with the gains and losses which had just been read to
him; and he was going away when he perceived three brass jars
completely empty. Abdalonim turned away his head to mark his horror,
and Hamilcar, resigning himself to it, said nothing.
They crossed other passages and other halls, and at last reached a
door where, to ensure its better protection and in accordance with a
Roman custom lately introduced into Carthage, a man was fastened by
the waist to a long chain let into the wall. His beard and nails had
grown to an immoderate length, and he swayed himself from right to
left with that continual oscillation which is characteristic of
captive animals. As soon as he recognised Hamilcar he darted towards
"Pardon, Eye of Baal! pity! kill me! For ten years I have not seen the
sun! In your father's name, pardon!"
Hamilcar, without answering him, clapped his hands and three men
appeared; and all four simultaneously stiffening their arms, drew back
from its rings the enormous bar which closed the door. Hamilcar took a
torch and disappeared into the darkness.
This was believed to be the family burying-place; but nothing would
have been found in it except a broad well. It was dug out merely to
baffle robbers, and it concealed nothing. Hamilcar passed along beside
it; then stooping down he made a very heavy millstone turn upon its
rollers, and through this aperture entered an apartment which was
built in the shape of a cone.
The walls were covered with scales of brass; and in the centre, on a
granite pedestal, stood the statue of one of the Kabiri called Aletes,
the discoverer of the mines in Celtiberia. On the ground, at its base,
and arranged in the form of a cross, were large gold shields and
monster close-necked silver vases, of extravagant shape and unfitted
for use; it was customary to cast quantities of metal in this way, so
that dilapidation and even removal should be almost impossible.
With his torch he lit a miner's lamp which was fastened to the idol's
cap, and green, yellow, blue, violet, wine-coloured, and blood-
coloured fires suddenly illuminated the hall. It was filled with gems
which were either in gold calabashes fastened like sconces upon sheets
of brass, or were ranged in native masses at the foot of the wall.
There were callaides shot away from the mountains with slings,
carbuncles formed by the urine of the lynx, glossopetrae which had
fallen from the moon, tyanos, diamonds, sandastra, beryls, with the
three kinds of rubies, the four kinds of sapphires, and the twelve
kinds of emeralds. They gleamed like splashes of milk, blue icicles,
and silver dust, and shed their light in sheets, rays, and stars.
Ceraunia, engendered by the thunder, sparkled by the side of
chalcedonies, which are a cure for poison. There were topazes from
Mount Zabarca to avert terrors, opals from Bactriana to prevent
abortions, and horns of Ammon, which are placed under the bed to
The fires from the stones and the flames from the lamp were mirrored
in the great golden shields. Hamilcar stood smiling with folded arms,
and was less delighted by the sight of his riches than by the
consciousness of their possession. They were inaccessible,
exhaustless, infinite. His ancestors sleeping beneath his feet
transmitted something of their eternity to his heart. He felt very
near to the subterranean deities. It was as the joy of one of the
Kabiri; and the great luminous rays striking upon his face looked like
the extremity of an invisible net linking him across the abysses with
the centre of the world.
A thought came which made him shudder, and placing himself behind the
idol he walked straight up to the wall. Then among the tattooings on
his arm he scrutinised a horizontal line with two other perpendicular
ones which in Chanaanitish figures expressed the number thirteen. Then
he counted as far as the thirteenth of the brass plates and again
raised his ample sleeve; and with his right hand stretched out he read
other more complicated lines on his arm, at the same time moving his
fingers daintily about like one playing on a lyre. At last he struck
seven blows with his thumb, and an entire section of the wall turned
about in a single block.
It served to conceal a sort of cellar containing mysterious things
which had no name and were of incalculable value. Hamilcar went down
the three steps, took up a llama's skin which was floating on a black
liquid in a silver vat, and then re-ascended.
Abdalonim again began to walk before him. He struck the pavement with
his tall cane, the pommel of which was adorned with bells, and before
every apartment cried aloud the name of Hamilcar amid eulogies and
Along the walls of the circular gallery, from which the passages
branched off, were piled little beams of algummim, bags of Lawsonia,
cakes of Lemnos-earth, and tortoise carapaces filled with pearls. The
Suffet brushed them with his robe as he passed without even looking at
some gigantic pieces of amber, an almost divine material formed by the
rays of the sun.
A cloud of odorous vapour burst forth.
"Push open the door!"
They went in.
Naked men were kneading pastes, crushing herbs, stirring coals,
pouring oil into jars, and opening and shutting the little ovoid cells
which were hollowed out all round in the wall, and were so numerous
that the apartment was like the interior of a hive. They were brimful
of myrobalan, bdellium, saffron, and violets. Gums, powders, roots,
glass phials, branches of filipendula, and rose-petals were scattered
about everywhere, and the scents were stifling in spite of the cloud-
wreaths from the styrax shrivelling on a brazen tripod in the centre.
The Chief of the Sweet Odours, pale and long as a waxen torch, came up
to Hamilcar to crush a roll of metopion in his hands, while two others
rubbed his heels with leaves of baccharis. He repelled them; they were
Cyreneans of infamous morals, but valued on account of the secrets
which they possessed.
To show his vigilance the Chief of the Odours offered the Suffet a
little malobathrum to taste in an electrum spoon; then he pierced
three Indian bezoars with an awl. The master, who knew the artifices
employed, took a horn full of balm, and after holding it near the
coals inclined it over his robe. A brown spot appeared; it was a
fraud. Then he gazed fixedly at the Chief of the Odours, and without
saying anything flung the gazelle's horn full in his face.
However indignant he might be at adulterations made to his own
prejudice, when he perceived some parcels of nard which were being
packed up for countries beyond the sea, he ordered antimony to be
mixed with it so as to make it heavier.
Then he asked where three boxes of psagdas designed for his own use
were to be found.
The Chief of the Odours confessed that he did not know; some soldiers
had come howling in with knives and he had opened the boxes for them.
"So you are more afraid of them then of me!" cried the Suffet; and his
eyeballs flashed like torches through the smoke upon the tall, pale
man who was beginning to understand. "Abdalonim! you will make him run
the gauntlet before sunset: tear him!"
This loss, which was less than the others, had exasperated him; for in
spite of his efforts to banish them from his thoughts he was
continually coming again across the Barbarians. Their excesses were
blended with his daughter's shame, and he was angry with the whole
household for knowing of the latter and for not speaking of it to him.
But something impelled him to bury himself in his misfortune; and in
an inquisitorial fit he visited the sheds behind the mercantile house
to see the supplies of bitumen, wood, anchors and cordage, honey and
wax, the cloth warehouse, the stores of food, the marble yard and the
He went to the other side of the gardens to make an inspection in
their cottages, of the domestic artisans whose productions were sold.
There were tailors embroidering cloaks, others making nets, others
painting cushions or cutting out sandals, and Egyptian workmen
polished papyrus with a shell, while the weavers' shuttles rattled and
the armourers' anvils rang.
Hamilcar said to them:
"Beat away at the swords! I shall want them." And he drew the
antelope's skin that had been steeped in poisons from his bosom to
have it cut into a cuirass more solid than one of brass and
unassailable by steel or flame.
As soon as he approached the workmen, Abdalonim, to give his wrath
another direction, tried to anger him against them by murmured
disparagement of their work. "What a performance! It is a shame! The
Master is indeed too good." Hamilcar moved away without listening to
He slackened his pace, for the paths were barred by great trees
calcined from one end to the other, such as may be met with in woods
where shepherds have encamped; and the palings were broken, the water
in the trenches was disappearing, while fragments of glass and the
bones of apes were to be seen amid the miry puddles. A scrap of cloth
hung here and there from the bushes, and the rotten flowers formed a
yellow muck-heap beneath the citron trees. In fact, the servants had
neglected everything, thinking that the master would never return.
At every step he discovered some new disaster, some further proof of
the thing which he had forbidden himself to learn. Here he was soiling
his purple boots as he crushed the filth under-foot; and he had not
all these men before him at the end of a catapult to make them fly
into fragments! He felt humiliated at having defended them; it was a
delusion and a piece of treachery; and as he could not revenge himself
upon the soldiers, or the Ancients, or Salammbo, or anybody, and his
wrath required some victim, he condemned all the slaves of the gardens
to the mines at a single stroke.
Abdalonim shuddered each time that he saw him approaching the parks.
But Hamilcar took the path towards the mill, from which there might be
heard issuing a mournful melopoeia.
The heavy mill-stones were turning amid the dust. They consisted of
two cones of porphyry laid the one upon the other--the upper one of
the two, which carried a funnel, being made to revolve upon the second
by means of strong bars. Some men were pushing these with their
breasts and arms, while others were yoked to them and were pulling
them. The friction of the straps had formed purulent scabs round about
their armpits such as are seen on asses' withers, and the end of the
limp black rag, which scarcely covered their loins, hung down and
flapped against their hams like a long tail. Their eyes were red, the
irons on their feet clanked, and all their breasts panted
rhythmically. On their mouths they had muzzles fastened by two little
bronze chains to render it impossible for them to eat the flour, and
their hands were enclosed in gauntlets without fingers, so as to
prevent them from taking any.
At the master's entrance the wooden bars creaked still more loudly.
The grain grated as it was being crushed. Several fell upon their
knees; the others, continuing their work, stepped across them.
He asked for Giddenem, the governor of the slaved, and that personage
appeared, his rank being displayed in the richness of his dress. His
tunic, which was slit up the sides, was of fine purple; his ears were
weighted with heavy rings; and the strips of cloth enfolding his legs
were joined together with a lacing of gold which extended from his
ankles to his hips, like a serpent winding about a tree. In his
fingers, which were laden with rings, he held a necklace of jet beads,
so as to recognise the men who were subject to the sacred disease.
Hamilcar signed to him to unfasten the muzzles. Then with the cries of
famished animals they all rushed upon the flour, burying their faces
in the heaps of it and devouring it.
"You are weakening them!" said the Suffet.
Giddenem replied that such treatment was necessary in order to subdue
"It was scarcely worth while sending you to the slaves' school at
Syracuse. Fetch the others!"
And the cooks, butlers, grooms, runners, and litter-carriers, the men
belonging to the vapour-baths, and the women with their children, all
ranged themselves in a single line in the garden from the mercantile
house to the deer park. They held their breath. An immense silence
prevailed in Megara. The sun was lengthening across the lagoon at the
foot of the catacombs. The peacocks were screeching. Hamilcar walked
along step by step.
"What am I to do with these old creatures?" he said. "Sell them! There
are too many Gauls: they are drunkards! and too many Cretans: they are
liars! Buy me some Cappadocians, Asiatics, and Negroes."
He was astonished that the children were so few. "The house ought to
have births every year, Giddenem. You will leave the huts open every
night to let them mingle freely."
He then had the thieves, the lazy, and the mutinous shown to him. He
distributed punishments, with reproaches to Giddenem; and Giddenem,
ox-like, bent his low forehead, with its two broad intersecting
"See, Eye of Baal," he said, pointing out a sturdy Libyan, "here is
one who was caught with the rope round his neck."
"Ah! you wish to die?" said the Suffet scornfully.
"Yes!" replied the slave in an intrepid tone.
Then, without heeding the precedent or the pecuniary loss, Hamilcar
said to the serving-men:
"Away with him!"
Perhaps in his thoughts he intended a sacrifice. It was a misfortune
which he inflicted upon himself in order to avert more terrible ones.
Giddenem had hidden those who were mutilated behind the others.
Hamilcar perceived them.
"Who cut off your arm?"
"The soldiers, Eye of Baal."
Then to a Samnite who was staggering like a wounded heron:
"And you, who did that to you?"
It was the governor, who had broken his leg with an iron bar.
This silly atrocity made the Suffet indignant; he snatched the jet
necklace out of Giddenem's hands.
"Cursed be the dog that injures the flock! Gracious Tanith, to cripple
slaves! Ah! you ruin your master! Let him be smothered in the
dunghill. And those that are missing? Where are they? Have you helped
the soldiers to murder them?"
His face was so terrible that all the women fled. The slaves drew back
and formed a large circle around them; Giddenem was frantically
kissing his sandals; Hamilcar stood upright with his arms raised above
But with his understanding as clear as in the sternest of his battles,
he recalled a thousand odious things, ignominies from which he had
turned aside; and in the gleaming of his wrath he could once more see
all his disasters simultaneously as in the lightnings of a storm. The
governors of the country estates had fled through terror of the
soldiers, perhaps through collusion with them; they were all deceiving
him; he had restrained himself too long.
"Bring them here!" he cried; "and brand them on the forehead with red-
hot irons as cowards!"
Then they brought and spread out in the middle of the garden, fetters,
carcanets, knives, chains for those condemned to the mines, cippi for
fastening the legs, numellae for confining the shoulders, and
scorpions or whips with triple thongs terminating in brass claws.
All were placed facing the sun, in the direction of Moloch the
Devourer, and were stretched on the ground on their stomachs or on
their backs, those, however, who were sentenced to be flogged standing
upright against the trees with two men beside them, one counting the
blows and the other striking.
In striking he used both his arms, and the whistling thongs made the
bark of the plane-trees fly. The blood was scattered like rain upon
the foliage, and red masses writhed with howls at the foot of the
trees. Those who were under the iron tore their faces with their
nails. The wooden screws could be heard creaking; dull knockings
resounded; sometimes a sharp cry would suddenly pierce the air. In the
direction of the kitchens, men were brisking up burning coals with
fans amid tattered garments and scattered hair, and a smell of burning
flesh was perceptible. Those who were under the scourge, swooning, but
kept in their positions by the bonds on their arms, rolled their heads
upon their shoulders and closed their eyes. The others who were
watching them began to shriek with terror, and the lions, remembering
the feast perhaps, stretched themselves out yawning against the edge
of the dens.
Then Salammbo was seen on the platform of her terrace. She ran wildly
about it from left to right. Hamilcar perceived her. It seemed to him
that she was holding up her arms towards him to ask for pardon; with a
gesture of horror he plunged into the elephants' park.
These animals were the pride of the great Punic houses. They had
carried their ancestors, had triumphed in the wars, and they were
reverenced as being the favourites of the Sun.
Those of Megara were the strongest in Carthage. Before he went away
Hamilcar had required Abdalonim to swear that he would watch over
them. But they had died from their mutilations; and only three
remained, lying in the middle of the court in the dust before the
ruins of their manger.
They recognised him and came up to him. One had its ears horribly
slit, another had a large wound in its knee, while the trunk of the
third was cut off.
They looked sadly at him, like reasonable creatures; and the one that
had lost its trunk tried by stooping its huge head and bending its
hams to stroke him softly with the hideous extremity of its stump.
At this caress from the animal two tears started into his eyes. He
rushed at Abdalonim.
"Ah! wretch! the cross! the cross!"
Abdalonim fell back swooning upon the ground.
The bark of a jackal rang from behind the purple factories, the blue
smoke of which was ascending slowly into the sky; Hamilcar paused.
The thought of his son had suddenly calmed him like the touch of a
god. He caught a glimpse of a prolongation of his might, an indefinite
continuation of his personality, and the slaves could not understand
whence this appeasement had come upon him.
As he bent his steps towards the purple factories he passed before the
ergastulum, which was a long house of black stone built in a square
pit with a small pathway all round it and four staircases at the
Iddibal was doubtless waiting until the night to finish his signal.
"There is no hurry yet," thought Hamilcar; and he went down into the
prison. Some cried out to him: "Return"; the boldest followed him.
The open door was flapping in the wind. The twilight entered through
the narrow loopholes, and in the interior broken chains could be
distinguished hanging from the walls.
This was all that remained of the captives of war!
Then Hamilcar grew extraordinarily pale, and those who were leaning
over the pit outside saw him resting one hand against the wall to keep
himself from falling.
But the jackal uttered its cry three times in succession. Hamilcar
raised his head; he did not speak a word nor make a gesture. Then when
the sun had completely set he disappeared behind the nopal hedge, and
in the evening he said as he entered the assembly of the rich in the
temple of Eschmoun:
"Luminaries of the Baalim, I accept the command of the Punic forces
against the army of the Barbarians!"
THE BATTLE OF THE MACARAS
In the following day he drew two hundred and twenty-three thousand
kikars of gold from the Syssitia, and decreed a tax of fourteen
shekels upon the rich. Even the women contributed; payment was made in
behalf of the children, and he compelled the colleges of priests to
furnish money--a monstrous thing, according to Carthaginian customs.
He demanded all the horses, mules, and arms. A few tried to conceal
their wealth, and their property was sold; and, to intimidate the
avarice of the rest, he himself gave sixty suits of armour, and
fifteen hundred gomers of meal, which was as much as was given by the
He sent into Liguria to buy soldiers, three thousand mountaineers
accustomed to fight with bears; they were paid for six moons in
advance at the rate of four minae a day.
Nevertheless an army was wanted. But he did not, like Hanno, accept
all the citizens. First he rejected those engaged in sedentary
occupations, and then those who were big-bellied or had a
pusillanimous look; and he admitted those of ill-repute, the scum of
Malqua, sons of Barbarians, freed men. For reward he promised some of
the New Carthaginians complete rights of citizenship.
His first care was to reform the Legion. These handsome young fellows,
who regarded themselves as the military majesty of the Republic,
governed themselves. He reduced their officers to the ranks; he
treated them harshly, made them run, leap, ascend the declivity of
Byrsa at a single burst, hurl javelins, wrestle together, and sleep in
the squares at night. Their families used to come to see them and pity
He ordered shorter swords and stronger buskins. He fixed the number of
serving-men, and reduced the amount of baggage; and as there were
three hundred Roman pila kept in the temple of Moloch, he took them in
spite of the pontiff's protests.
He organised a phalanx of seventy-two elephants with those which had
returned from Utica, and others which were private property, and
rendered them formidable. He armed their drivers with mallet and
chisel to enable them to split their skulls in the fight if they ran
He would not allow his generals to be nominated by the Grand Council.
The Ancients tried to urge the laws in objection, but he set them
aside; no one ventured to murmur again, and everything yielded to the
violence of his genius.
He assumed sole charge of the war, the government, and the finances;
and as a precaution against accusations he demanded the Suffet Hanno
as examiner of his accounts.
He set to work upon the ramparts, and had the old and now useless
inner walls demolished in order to furnish stones. But difference of
fortune, replacing the hierarchy of race, still kept the sons of the
vanquished and those of the conquerors apart; thus the patricians
viewed the destruction of these ruins with an angry eye, while the
plebeians, scarcely knowing why, rejoiced.
The troops defiled under arms through the streets from morning till
night; every moment the sound of trumpets was heard; chariots passed
bearing shields, tents, and pikes; the courts were full of women
engaged in tearing up linen; the enthusiasm spread from one to
another, and Hamilcar's soul filled the Republic.
He had divided his soldiers into even numbers, being careful to place
a strong man and a weak one alternately throughout the length of his
files, so that he who was less vigorous or more cowardly might be at
once led and pushed forward by two others. But with his three thousand
Ligurians, and the best in Carthage, he could form only a simple
phalanx of four thousand and ninety-six hoplites, protected by bronze
helmets, and handling ashen sarissae fourteen cubits long.
There were two thousand young men, each equipped with a sling, a
dagger, and sandals. He reinforced them with eight hundred others
armed with round shields and Roman swords.
The heavy cavalry was composed of the nineteen hundred remaining
guardsmen of the Legion, covered with plates of vermilion bronze, like
the Assyrian Clinabarians. He had further four hundred mounted
archers, of those that were called Tarentines, with caps of weasel's
skin, two-edged axes, and leathern tunics. Finally there were twelve
hundred Negroes from the quarter of the caravans, who were mingled
with the Clinabarians, and were to run beside the stallions with one
hand resting on the manes. All was ready, and yet Hamilcar did not
Often at night he would go out of Carthage alone and make his way
beyond the lagoon towards the mouths of the Macaras. Did he intend to
join the Mercenaries? The Ligurians encamped in the Mappalian district
surrounded his house.
The apprehensions of the rich appeared justified when, one day, three
hundred Barbarians were seen approaching the walls. The Suffet opened
the gates to them; they were deserters; drawn by fear or by fidelity,
they were hastening to their master.
Hamilcar's return had not surprised the Mercenaries; according to
their ideas the man could not die. He was returning to fulfil his
promise;--a hope by no means absurd, so deep was the abyss between
Country and Army. Moreover they did not believe themselves culpable;
the feast was forgotten.
The spies whom they surprised undeceived them. It was a triumph for
the bitter; even the lukewarm grew furious. Then the two sieges
overwhelmed then with weariness; no progress was being made; a battle
would be better! Thus many men had left the ranks and were scouring
the country. But at news of the arming they returned; Matho leaped for
joy. "At last! at last!" he cried.
Then the resentment which he cherished against Salammbo was turned
against Hamilcar. His hate could now perceive a definite prey; and as
his vengeance grew easier of conception he almost believed that he had
realised it and he revelled in it already. At the same time he was
seized with a loftier tenderness, and consumed by more acrid desire.
He saw himself alternately in the midst of the soldiers brandishing
the Suffet's head on a pike, and then in the room with the purple bed,
clasping the maiden in his arms, covering her face with kisses,
passing his hands over her long, black hair; and the imagination of
this, which he knew could never be realised, tortured him. He swore to
himself that, since his companions had appointed him schalishim, he
would conduct the war; the certainty that he would not return from it
urged him to render it a pitiless one.
He came to Spendius and said to him:
"You will go and get your men! I will bring mine! Warn Autaritus! We
are lost if Hamilcar attacks us! Do you understand me? Rise!"
Spendius was stupefied before such an air of authority. Matho usually
allowed himself to be led, and his previous transports had quickly
passed away. But just now he appeared at once calmer and more
terrible; a superb will gleamed in his eyes like the flame of
The Greek did not listen to his reasons. He was living in one of the
Carthaginian pearl-bordered tents, drinking cool beverages from silver
cups, playing at the cottabos, letting his hair grow, and conducting
the siege with slackness. Moreover, he had entered into communications
with some in the town and would not leave, being sure that it would
open its gates before many days were over.
Narr' Havas, who wandered about among the three armies, was at that
time with him. He supported his opinion, and even blamed the Libyan
for wishing in his excess of courage to abandon their enterprise.
"Go, if you are afraid!" exclaimed Matho; "you promised us pitch,
sulphur, elephants, foot-soldiers, horses! where are they?"
Narr' Havas reminded him that he had exterminated Hanno's last
cohorts;--as to the elephants, they were being hunted in the woods, he
was arming the foot-soldiers, the horses were on their way; and the
Numidian rolled his eyes like a woman and smiled in an irritating
manner as he stroked the ostrich feather which fell upon his shoulder.
In his presence Matho was at a loss for a reply.
But a man who was a stranger entered, wet with perspiration, scared,
and with bleeding feet and loosened girdle; his breathing shook his
lean sides enough to have burst them, and speaking in an
unintelligible dialect he opened his eyes wide as if he were telling
of some battle. The king sprang outside and called his horsemen.
They ranged themselves in the plain before him in the form of a
circle. Narr' Havas, who was mounted, bent his head and bit his lips.
At last he separated his men into two equal divisions, and told the
first to wait; then with an imperious gesture he carried off the
others at a gallop and disappeared on the horizon in the direction of
"Master!" murmured Spendius, "I do not like these extraordinary
chances--the Suffet returning, Narr' Havas going away--"
"Why! what does it matter?" said Matho disdainfully.
It was a reason the more for anticipating Hamilcar by uniting with
Autaritus. But if the siege of the towns were raised, the inhabitants
would come out and attack them in the rear, while they would have the
Carthaginians in front. After much talking the following measures were
resolved upon and immediately executed.
Spendius proceeded with fifteen thousand men as far as the bridge
built across the Macaras, three miles from Utica; the corners of it
were fortified with four huge towers provided with catapults; all the
paths and gorges in the mountains were stopped up with trunks of
trees, pieces of rock, interlacings of thorn, and stone walls; on the
summits heaps of grass were made which might be lighted as signals,
and shepherds who were able to see at a distance were posted at
No doubt Hamilcar would not, like Hanno, advance by the mountain of
the Hot Springs. He would think that Autaritus, being master of the
interior, would close the route against him. Moreover, a check at the
opening of the campaign would ruin him, while if he gained a victory
he would soon have to make a fresh beginning, the Mercenaries being
further off. Again, he could disembark at Cape Grapes and march thence
upon one of the towns. But he would then find himself between the two
armies, an indiscretion which he could not commit with his scanty
forces. Accordingly he must proceed along the base of Mount Ariana,
then turn to the left to avoid the mouths of the Macaras, and come
straight to the bridge. It was there that Matho expected him.
At night he used to inspect the pioneers by torch-light. He would
hasten to Hippo-Zarytus or to the works on the mountains, would come
back again, would never rest. Spendius envied his energy; but in the
management of spies, the choice of sentries, the working of the
engines and all means of defence, Matho listened docilely to his
companion. They spoke no more of Salammbo,--one not thinking about
her, and the other being prevented by a feeling of shame.
Often he would go towards Carthage, striving to catch sight of
Hamilcar's troops. His eyes would dart along the horizon; he would lie
flat on the ground, and believe that he could hear an army in the
throbbing of his arteries.
He told Spendius that if Hamilcar did not arrive in three days he
would go with all his men to meet him and offer him battle. Two
further days elapsed. Spendius restrained him; but on the morning of
the sixth day he departed.
The Carthaginians were no less impatient for war than the Barbarians.
In tents and in houses there was the same longing and the same
distress; all were asking one another what was delaying Hamilcar.
From time to time he would mount to the cupola of the temple of
Eschmoun beside the Announcer of the Moons and take note of the wind.
One day--it was the third of the month of Tibby--they saw him
descending from the Acropolis with hurried steps. A great clamour
arose in the Mappalian district. Soon the streets were astir, and the
soldiers were everywhere beginning to arm themselves upon their
breasts; then they ran quickly to the square of Khamon to take their
places in the ranks. No one was allowed to follow them or even to
speak to them, or to approach the ramparts; for some minutes the whole
town was silent as a great tomb. The soldiers as they leaned on their
lances were thinking, and the others in the houses were sighing.
At sunset the army went out by the western gate; but instead of taking
the road to Tunis or making for the mountains in the direction of
Utica, they continued their march along the edge of the sea; and they
soon reached the Lagoon, where round spaces quite whitened with salt
glittered like gigantic silver dishes forgotten on the shore.
Then the pools of water multiplied. The ground gradually became
softer, and the feet sank in it. Hamilcar did not turn back. He went
on still at their head; and his horse, which was yellow-spotted like a
dragon, advanced into the mire flinging froth around him, and with
great straining of the loins. Night--a moonless light--fell. A few
cried out that they were about to perish; he snatched their arms from
them, and gave them to the serving-men. Nevertheless the mud became
deeper and deeper. Some had to mount the beasts of burden; others
clung to the horses' tails; the sturdy pulled the weak, and the
Ligurian corps drove on the infantry with the points of their pikes.
The darkness increased. They had lost their way. All stopped.
Then some of the Suffet's slaves went on ahead to look for the buoys
which had been placed at intervals by his order. They shouted through
the darkness, and the army followed them at a distance.
At last they felt the resistance of the ground. Then a whitish curve
became dimly visible, and they found themselves on the bank of the
Macaras. In spite of the cold no fires were lighted.
In the middle of the night squalls of wind arose. Hamilcar had the
soldiers roused, but not a trumpet was sounded: their captain tapped
them softly on the shoulder.
A man of lofty stature went down into the water. It did not come up to
his girdle; it was possible to cross.
The Suffet ordered thirty-two of the elephants to be posted in the
river a hundred paces further on, while the others, lower down, would
check the lines of men that were carried away by the current; and
holding their weapons above their heads they all crossed the Macaras
as though between two walls. He had noticed that the western wind had
driven the sand so as to obstruct the river and form a natural
causeway across it.
He was now on the left bank in front of Utica, and in a vast plain,
the latter being advantageous for his elephants, which formed the
strength of his army.
This feat of genius filled the soldiers with enthusiasm. They
recovered extraordinary confidence. They wished to hasten immediately
against the Barbarians; but the Suffet bade them rest for two hours.
As soon as the sun appeared they moved into the plain in three lines--
first came the elephants, and then the light infantry with the cavalry
behind it, the phalanx marching next.
The Barbarians encamped at Utica, and the fifteen thousand about the
bridge were surprised to see the ground undulating in the distance.
The wind, which was blowing very hard, was driving tornadoes of sand
before it; they rose as though snatched from the soil, ascended in
great light-coloured strips, then parted asunder and began again,
hiding the Punic army the while from the Mercenaries. Owing to the
horns, which stood up on the edge of the helmets, some thought that
they could perceive a herd of oxen; others, deceived by the motion of
the cloaks, pretended that they could distinguish wings, and those who
had travelled a good deal shrugged their shoulders and explained
everything by the illusions of the mirage. Nevertheless something of
enormous size continued to advance. Little vapours, as subtle as the
breath, ran across the surface of the desert; the sun, which was
higher now, shone more strongly: a harsh light, which seemed to
vibrate, threw back the depths of the sky, and permeating objects,
rendered distance incalculable. The immense plain expanded in every
direction beyond the limits of vision; and the almost insensible
undulations of the soil extended to the extreme horizon, which was
closed by a great blue line which they knew to be the sea. The two
armies, having left their tents, stood gazing; the people of Utica
were massing on the ramparts to have a better view.
At last they distinguished several transverse bars bristling with
level points. They became thicker, larger; black hillocks swayed to
and fro; square thickets suddenly appeared; they were elephants and
lances. A single shout went up: "The Carthaginians!" and without
signal or command the soldiers at Utica and those at the bridge ran
pell-mell to fall in a body upon Hamilcar.
Spendius shuddered at the name. "Hamilcar! Hamilcar!" he repeated,
panting, and Matho was not there! What was to be done? No means of
flight! The suddenness of the event, his terror of the Suffet, and
above all, the urgent need of forming an immediate resolution,
distracted him; he could see himself pierced by a thousand swords,
decapitated, dead. Meanwhile he was being called for; thirty thousand
men would follow him; he was seized with fury against himself; he fell
back upon the hope of victory; it was full of bliss, and he believed
himself more intrepid than Epaminondas. He smeared his cheeks with
vermilion in order to conceal his paleness, then he buckled on his
knemids and his cuirass, swallowed a patera of pure wine, and ran
after his troops, who were hastening towards those from Utica.
They united so rapidly that the Suffet had not time to draw up his men
in battle array. By degrees he slackened his speed. The elephants
stopped; they rocked their heavy heads with their chargings of ostrich
feathers, striking their shoulders the while with their trunks.
Behind the intervals between them might be seen the cohorts of the
velites, and further on the great helmets of the Clinabarians, with
steel heads glancing in the sun, cuirasses, plumes, and waving
standards. But the Carthaginian army, which amounted to eleven
thousand three hundred and ninety-six men, seemed scarcely to contain
them, for it formed an oblong, narrow at the sides and pressed back
Seeing them so weak, the Barbarians, who were thrice as numerous, were
seized with extravagant joy. Hamilcar was not to be seen. Perhaps he
had remained down yonder? Moreover what did it matter? The disdain
which they felt for these traders strengthened their courage; and
before Spendius could command a manoeuvre they had all understood it,
and already executed it.
They were deployed in a long, straight line, overlapping the wings of
the Punic army in order to completely encompass it. But when there was
an interval of only three hundred paces between the armies, the
elephants turned round instead of advancing; then the Clinabarians
were seen to face about and follow them; and the surprise of the
Mercenaries increased when they saw the archers running to join them.
So the Carthaginians were afraid, they were fleeing! A tremendous
hooting broke out from among the Barbarian troops, and Spendius
exclaimed from the top of his dromedary: "Ah! I knew it! Forward!
Then javelins, darts, and sling-bullets burst forth simultaneously.
The elephants feeling their croups stung by the arrows began to gallop
more quickly; a great dust enveloped them, and they vanished like
shadows in a cloud.
But from the distance there came a loud noise of footsteps dominated
by the shrill sound of the trumpets, which were being blown furiously.
The space which the Barbarians had in front of them, which was full of
eddies and tumult, attracted like a whirlpool; some dashed into it.
Cohorts of infantry appeared; they closed up; and at the same time all
the rest saw the foot-soldiers hastening up with the horseman at a
Hamilcar had, in fact, ordered the phalanx to break its sections, and
the elephants, light troops, and cavalry to pass through the intervals
so as to bring themselves speedily upon the wings, and so well had he
calculated the distance from the Barbarians, that at the moment when
they reached him, the entire Carthaginian army formed one long
In the centre bristled the phalanx, formed of syntagmata or full
squares having sixteen men on each side. All the leaders of all the
files appeared amid long, sharp lanceheads, which jutted out unevenly
around them, for the first six ranks crossed their sarissae, holding
them in the middle, and the ten lower ranks rested them upon the
shoulders of their companions in succession before them. Their faces
were all half hidden beneath the visors of their helmets; their right
legs were all covered with bronze knemids; broad cylindrical shields
reached down to their knees; and the horrible quadrangular mass moved
in a single body, and seemed to live like an animal and work like a
machine. Two cohorts of elephants flanked it in regular array;
quivering, they shook off the splinters of the arrows that clung to
their black skins. The Indians, squatting on their withers among the
tufts of white feathers, restrained them with their spoon-headed
harpoons, while the men in the towers, who were hidden up to their
shoulders, moved about iron distaffs furnished with lighted tow on the
edges of their large bended bows. Right and left of the elephants
hovered the slingers, each with a sling around his loins, a second on
his head, and a third in his right hand. Then came the Clinabarians,
each flanked by a Negro, and pointing their lances between the ears of
their horses, which, like themselves, were completely covered with
gold. Afterwards, at intervals, came the light armed soldiers with
shields of lynx skin, beyond which projected the points of the
javelins which they held in their left hands; while the Tarentines,
each having two coupled horses, relieved this wall of soldiers at its
The army of the Barbarians, on the contrary, had not been able to
preserve its line. Undulations and blanks were to be found through its
extravagant length; all were panting and out of breath with their
The phalanx moved heavily along with thrusts from all its sarissae;
and the too slender line of the Mercenaries soon yielded in the centre
beneath the enormous weight.
Then the Carthaginian wings expanded in order to fall upon them, the
elephants following. The phalanx, with obliquely pointed lances, cut
through the Barbarians; there were two enormous, struggling bodies;
and the wings with slings and arrows beat them back upon the
phalangites. There was no cavalry to get rid of them, except two
hundred Numidians operating against the right squadron of the
Clinabarians. All the rest were hemmed in, and unable to extricate
themselves from the lines. The peril was imminent, and the need of
coming to some resolution urgent.
Spendius ordered attacks to be made simultaneously on both flanks of
the phalanx so as to pass clean through it. But the narrower ranks
glided below the longer ones and recovered their position, and the
phalanx turned upon the Barbarians as terrible in flank as it had just
been in front.
They struck at the staves of the sarissae, but the cavalry in the rear
embarrassed their attack; and the phalanx, supported by the elephants,
lengthened and contracted, presenting itself in the form of a square,
a cone, a rhombus, a trapezium, a pyramid. A twofold internal movement
went on continually from its head to its rear; for those who were at
the lowest part of the files hastened up to the first ranks, while the
latter, from fatigue, or on account of the wounded, fell further back.
The Barbarians found themselves thronged upon the phalanx. It was
impossible for it to advance; there was, as it were, an ocean wherein
leaped red crests and scales of brass, while the bright shields rolled
like silver foam. Sometimes broad currents would descend from one
extremity to the other, and then go up again, while a heavy mass
remained motionless in the centre. The lances dipped and rose
alternately. Elsewhere there was so quick a play of naked swords that
only the points were visible, while turmae of cavalry formed wide
circles which closed again like whirlwinds behind them.
Above the voices of the captains, the ringing of clarions and the
grating of tyres, bullets of lead and almonds of clay whistled through
the air, dashing the sword from the hand or the brain out of the
skull. The wounded, sheltering themselves with one arm beneath their
shields, pointed their swords by resting the pommels on the ground,
while others, lying in pools of blood, would turn and bite the heels
of those above them. The multitude was so compact, the dust so thick,
and the tumult so great that it was impossible to distinguish
anything; the cowards who offered to surrender were not even heard.
Those whose hands were empty clasped one another close; breasts
cracked against cuirasses, and corpses hung with head thrown back
between a pair of contracted arms. There was a company of sixty
Umbrians who, firm on their hams, their pikes before their eyes,
immovable and grinding their teeth, forced two syntagmata to recoil
simultaneously. Some Epirote shepherds ran upon the left squadron of
the Clinabarians, and whirling their staves, seized the horses by the
man; the animals threw their riders and fled across the plain. The
Punic slingers scattered here and there stood gaping. The phalanx
began to waver, the captains ran to and fro in distraction, the
rearmost in the files were pressing upon the soldiers, and the
Barbarians had re-formed; they were recovering; the victory was
But a cry, a terrible cry broke forth, a roar of pain and wrath: it
came from the seventy-two elephants which were rushing on in double
line, Hamilcar having waited until the Mercenaries were massed
together in one spot to let them loose against them; the Indians had
goaded them so vigorously that blood was trickling down their broad
ears. Their trunks, which were smeared with mimium, were stretched
straight out in the air like red serpents; their breasts were
furnished with spears and their backs with cuirasses; their tusks were
lengthened with steel blades curved like sabres,--and to make them
more ferocious they had been intoxicated with a mixture of pepper,
wine, and incense. They shook their necklaces of bells, and shrieked;
and the elephantarchs bent their heads beneath the stream of
phalaricas which was beginning to fly from the tops of the towers.
In order to resist them the better the Barbarians rushed forward in a
compact crowd; the elephants flung themselves impetuously upon the
centre of it. The spurs on their breasts, like ships' prows, clove
through the cohorts, which flowed surging back. They stifled the men
with their trunks, or else snatching them up from the ground delivered
them over their heads to the soldiers in the towers; with their tusks
they disembowelled them, and hurled them into the air, and long
entrails hung from their ivory fangs like bundles of rope from a mast.
The Barbarians strove to blind them, to hamstring them; others would
slip beneath their bodies, bury a sword in them up to the hilt, and
perish crushed to death; the most intrepid clung to their straps; they
would go on sawing the leather amid flames, bullets, and arrows, and
the wicker tower would fall like a tower of stone. Fourteen of the
animals on the extreme right, irritated by their wounds, turned upon
the second rank; the Indians seized mallet and chisel, applied the
latter to a joint in the head, and with all their might struck a great
Down fell the huge beasts, falling one above another. It was like a
mountain; and upon the heap of dead bodies and armour a monstrous
elephant, called "The Fury of Baal," which had been caught by the leg
in some chains, stood howling until the evening with an arrow in its
The others, however, like conquerors, delighting in extermination,
overthrew, crushed, stamped, and raged against the corpses and the
debris. To repel the maniples in serried circles around them, they
turned about on their hind feet as they advanced, with a continual
rotatory motion. The Carthaginians felt their energy increase, and the
battle begin again.
The Barbarians were growing weak; some Greek hoplites threw away all
their arms, and terror seized upon the rest. Spendius was seen
stooping upon his dromedary, and spurring it on the shoulders with two
javelins. Then they all rushed away from the wings and ran towards
The Clinabarians, whose horses were exhausted, did not try to overtake
them. The Ligurians, who were weakened by thirst, cried out for an
advance towards the river. But the Carthaginians, who were posted in
the centre of the syntagmata, and had suffered less, stamped their
feet with longing for the vengeance which was flying from them; and
they were already darting forward in pursuit of the Mercenaries when
He held in his spotted and sweat-covered horse with silver reins. The
bands fastened to the horns on his helmet flapped in the wind behind
him, and he had placed his oval shield beneath his left thigh. With a
motion of his triple-pointed pike he checked the army.
The Tarentines leaped quickly upon their spare horses, and set off
right and left towards the river and towards the town.
The phalanx exterminated all the remaining Barbarians at leisure. When
the swords appeared they would stretch out their throats and close
their eyelids. Others defended themselves to the last, and were
knocked down from a distance with flints like mad dogs. Hamilcar had
desired the taking of prisoners, but the Carthaginians obeyed him
grudgingly, so much pleasure did they derive from plunging their
swords into the bodies of the Barbarians. As they were too hot they
set about their work with bare arms like mowers; and when they
desisted to take breath they would follow with their eyes a horseman
galloping across the country after a fleeing soldier. He would succeed
in seizing him by the hair, hold him thus for a while, and then fell
him with a blow of his axe.
Night fell. Carthaginians and Barbarians had disappeared. The
elephants which had taken to flight roamed in the horizon with their
fired towers. These burned here and there in the darkness like beacons
nearly half lost in the mist; and no movement could be discerned in
the plain save the undulation of the river, which was heaped with
corpses, and was drifting them away to the sea.
Two hours afterwards Matho arrived. He caught sight in the starlight
of long, uneven heaps lying upon the ground.
They were files of Barbarians. He stooped down; all were dead. He
called into the distance, but no voice replied.
That very morning he had left Hippo-Zarytus with his soldiers to march
upon Carthage. At Utica the army under Spendius had just set out, and
the inhabitants were beginning to fire the engines. All had fought
desperately. But, the tumult which was going on in the direction of
the bridge increasing in an incomprehensible fashion, Matho had struck
across the mountain by the shortest road, and as the Barbarians were
fleeing over the plain he had encountered nobody.
Facing him were little pyramidal masses rearing themselves in the
shade, and on this side of the river and closer to him were motionless
lights on the surface of the ground. In fact the Carthaginians had
fallen back behind the bridge, and to deceive the Barbarians the
Suffet had stationed numerous posts upon the other bank.
Matho, still advancing, thought that he could distinguish Punic
engines, for horses' heads which did not stir appeared in the air
fixed upon the tops of piles of staves which could not be seen; and
further off he could hear a great clamour, a noise of songs, and
clashing of cups.