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The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol. 2 by Various

Part 4 out of 9

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how far the commonplace assertions are true that his successes were the
mere results of fortunate rashness and unreasoning pugnacity. Napoleon
selected Alexander as one of the seven greatest generals whose noble
deeds history has handed down to us, and from the study of whose
campaigns the principles of war are to be learned. The critique of the
greatest conqueror of modern times on the military career of the great
conqueror of the Old World is no less graphic than true:

"Alexander crossed the Dardanelles B.C. 334, with an army of about forty
thousand men, of which one-eighth was cavalry; he forced the passage of
the Granicus in opposition to an army under Memnon, the Greek, who
commanded for Darius on the coast of Asia, and he spent the whole of the
year 333 in establishing his power in Asia Minor. He was seconded by the
Greek colonies, who dwelt on the borders of the Black Sea and on the
Mediterranean, and in Sardis, Ephesus, Tarsus, Miletus, etc. The kings
of Persia left their provinces and towns to be governed according to
their own particular laws. Their empire was a union of confederated
states, and did not form one nation; this facilitated its conquest. As
Alexander only wished for the throne of the monarch, he easily effected
the change by respecting the customs, manners, and laws of the people,
who experienced no change in their condition.

"In the year 332 he met with Darius at the head of sixty thousand men,
who had taken up a position near Tarsus, on the banks of the Issus, in
the province of Cilicia. He defeated him, entered Syria, took Damascus,
which contained all the riches of the Great King, and laid siege to
Tyre. This superb metropolis of the commerce of the world detained him
nine months.

"He took Gaza after a siege of two months; crossed the desert in seven
days; entered Pelusium and Memphis, and founded Alexandria. In less than
two years, after two battles and four or five sieges, the coasts of the
Black Sea, from Phasis to Byzantium, those of the Mediterranean as far
as Alexandria, all Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, had submitted to his

"In 331 he repassed the desert, encamped in Tyre, re-crossed Syria,
entered Damascus, passed the Euphrates and Tigris, and defeated Darius
on the field of Arbela when he was at the head of a still stronger army
than that which he commanded on the Issus, and Babylon opened her gates
to him. In 330 he overran Susa and took that city, Persepolis, and
Pasargada, which contained the tomb of Cyrus. In 329 he directed his
course northward, entered Ecbatana, and extended his conquests to the
coasts of the Caspian, punished Bessus, the cowardly assassin of Darius,
penetrated into Scythia, and subdued the Scythians.

"In 328 he forced the passage of the Oxus, received sixteen thousand
recruits from Macedonia, and reduced the neighboring people to
subjection. In 327 he crossed the Indus, vanquished Porus in a pitched
battle, took him prisoner, and treated him as a king. He contemplated
passing the Ganges, but his army refused. He sailed down the Indus, in
the year 326, with eight hundred vessels; having arrived at the ocean,
he sent Nearchus with a fleet to run along the coasts of the Indian
Ocean and the Persian Gulf as far as the mouth of the Euphrates. In 325
he took sixty days in crossing from Gedrosia, entered Keramania,
returned to Pasargada, Persepolis, and Susa, and married Statira, the
daughter of Darius. In 324 he marched once more to the north, passed
Echatana, and terminated his career at Babylon."

The enduring importance of Alexander's conquests is to be estimated, not
by the duration of his own life and empire, or even by the duration of
the kingdoms which his generals after his death formed out of the
fragments of that mighty dominion. In every region of the world that he
traversed, Alexander planted Greek settlements and founded cities, in
the populations of which the Greek element at once asserted its
predominance. Among his successors, the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies
imitated their great captain in blending schemes of civilization, of
commercial intercourse, and of literary and scientific research with all
their enterprises of military aggrandizement and with all their systems
of civil administration.

Such was the ascendency of the Greek genius, so wonderfully
comprehensive and assimilating was the cultivation which it introduced,
that, within thirty years after Alexander crossed the Hellespont, the
Greek language was spoken in every country from the shores of the AEgean
to the Indus, and also throughout Egypt--not, indeed, wholly to the
extirpation of the native dialects, but it became the language of every
court, of all literature, of every judicial and political function, and
formed a medium of communication among the many myriads of mankind
inhabiting these large portions of the Old World.

Throughout Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt the Hellenic character that was
thus imparted remained in full vigor down to the time of the Mahometan
conquests. The infinite value of this to humanity in the highest and
holiest point of view has often been pointed out, and the workings of
the finger of Providence have been gratefully recognized by those who
have observed how the early growth and progress of Christianity were
aided by that diffusion of the Greek language and civilization
throughout Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt which had been caused by the
Macedonian conquest of the East.

In Upper Asia, beyond the Euphrates, the direct and material influence
of Greek ascendency was more short-lived. Yet, during the existence of
the Hellenic kingdoms in these regions, especially of the Greek kingdom
of Bactria, the modern Bokhara, very important effects were produced on
the intellectual tendencies and tastes of the inhabitants of those
countries, and of the adjacent ones, by the animating contact of the
Grecian spirit. Much of Hindu science and philosophy, much of the
literature of the later Persian kingdom of the Arsacidae, either
originated from or was largely modified by Grecian influences. So, also,
the learning and science of the Arabians were in a far less degree the
result of original invention and genius than the reproduction, in an
altered form, of the Greek philosophy and the Greek lore acquired by the
Saracenic conquerors, together with their acquisition of the provinces
which Alexander had subjugated, nearly a thousand years before the armed
disciples of Mahomet commenced their career in the East.

It is well known that Western Europe in the Middle Ages drew its
philosophy, its arts, and its science principally from Arabian teachers.
And thus we see how the intellectual influence of ancient Greece, poured
on the Eastern world by Alexander's victories, and then brought back to
bear on mediaeval Europe by the spread of the Saracenic powers, has
exerted its action on the elements of modern civilization by this
powerful though indirect channel, as well as by the more obvious effects
of the remnants of classic civilization which survived in Italy, Gaul,
Britain, and Spain, after the irruption of the Germanic nations.

These considerations invest the Macedonian triumphs in the East with
never-dying interest, such as the most showy and sanguinary successes of
mere "low ambition and the pride of kings," however they may dazzle for
a moment, can never retain with posterity. Whether the old Persian
empire which Cyrus founded could have survived much longer than it did,
even if Darius had been victorious at Arbela, may safely be disputed.
That ancient dominion, like the Turkish at the present time, labored
under every cause of decay and dissolution. The satraps, like the modern
pachas, continually rebelled against the central power, and Egypt in
particular was almost always in a state of insurrection against its
nominal sovereign. There was no longer any effective central control, or
any internal principle of unity fused through the huge mass of the
empire, and binding it together.

Persia was evidently about to fall; but, had it not been for Alexander's
invasion of Asia, she would most probably have fallen beneath some other
oriental power, as Media and Babylon had formerly fallen before herself,
and as, in after-times, the Parthian supremacy gave way to the revived
ascendency of Persia in the East, under the sceptres of the Arsacidae. A
revolution that merely substituted one Eastern power for another would
have been utterly barren and unprofitable to mankind.

Alexander's victory at Arbela not only overthrew an oriental dynasty,
but established European rulers in its stead. It broke the monotony of
the eastern world by the impression of western energy and superior
civilization, even as England's present mission is to break up the
mental and moral stagnation of India and Cathay by pouring upon and
through them the impulsive current of Anglo-Saxon commerce and conquest.

Arbela, the city which has furnished its name to the decisive battle
which gave Asia to Alexander, lies more than twenty miles from the
actual scene of conflict. The little village, then named Gaugamela, is
close to the spot where the armies met, but has ceded the honor of
naming the battle to its more euphonious neighbor. Gaugamela is situated
in one of the wide plains that lie between the Tigris and the mountains
of Kurdistan. A few undulating hillocks diversify the surface of this
sandy tract; but the ground is generally level and admirably qualified
for the evolutions of cavalry, and also calculated to give the larger of
two armies the full advantage of numerical superiority.

The Persian King--who, before he came to the throne, had proved his
personal valor as a soldier and his skill as a general--had wisely
selected this region for the third and decisive encounter between his
forces and the invader. The previous defeats of his troops, however
severe they had been, were not looked on as irreparable. The Granicus
had been fought by his generals rashly and without mutual concert; and,
though Darius himself had commanded and been beaten at Issus, that
defeat might be attributed to the disadvantageous nature of the ground,
where, cooped up between the mountains, the river, and the sea, the
numbers of the Persians confused and clogged alike the general's skill
and the soldiers' prowess, and their very strength had been made their
weakness. Here, on the broad plains of Kurdistan, there was scope for
Asia's largest host to array its lines, to wheel, to skirmish, to
condense or expand its squadrons, to manoeuvre, and to charge at will.
Should Alexander and his scanty band dare to plunge into that living sea
of war, their destruction seemed inevitable.

Darius felt, however, the critical nature to himself as well as to his
adversary of the coming encounter. He could not hope to retrieve the
consequences of a third overthrow. The great cities of Mesopotamia and
Upper Asia, the central provinces of the Persian empire, were certain to
be at the mercy of the victor. Darius knew also the Asiatic character
well enough to be aware how it yields to _prestige_ of success and the
apparent career of destiny. He felt that the diadem was now either to be
firmly replaced on his own brow or to be irrevocably transferred to the
head of his European conqueror. He, therefore, during the long interval
left him after the battle of Issus, while Alexander was subjugating
Syria and Egypt, assiduously busied himself in selecting the best troops
which his vast empire supplied, and in training his varied forces to act
together with some uniformity of discipline and system.

The hardy mountaineers of Afghanistan, Bokhara, Khiva, and Tibet were
then, as at present, far different from the generality of Asiatics in
warlike spirit and endurance. From these districts Darius collected
large bodies of admirable infantry; and the countries of the modern
Kurds and Turkomans supplied, as they do now, squadrons of horsemen,
hardy, skilful, bold, and trained to a life of constant activity and
warfare. It is not uninteresting to notice that the ancestors of our own
late enemies, the Sikhs, served as allies of Darius against the
Macedonians. They are spoken of in Arrian as Indians who dwelt near
Bactria. They were attached to the troops of that satrapy, and their
cavalry was one of the most formidable forces in the whole Persian army.

Besides these picked troops, contingents also came in from the numerous
other provinces that yet obeyed the Great King. Altogether, the horse
are said to have been forty thousand, the scythe-bearing chariots two
hundred, and the armed elephants fifteen in number. The amount of the
infantry is uncertain; but the knowledge which both ancient and modern
times supply of the usual character of oriental armies, and of their
populations of camp-followers, may warrant us in believing that many
myriads were prepared to fight or to encumber those who fought for the
last Darius.

The position of the Persian King near Mesopotamia was chosen with great
military skill. It was certain that Alexander, on his return from Egypt,
must march northward along the Syrian coast before he attacked the
central provinces of the Persian empire. A direct eastward march from
the lower part of Palestine across the great Syrian Desert was then, as
ever, utterly impracticable. Marching eastward from Syria, Alexander
would, on crossing the Euphrates, arrive at the vast Mesopotamian
plains. The wealthy capitals of the empire, Babylon, Susa, and
Persepolis, would then lie to the south; and if he marched down through
Mesopotamia to attack them, Darius might reasonably hope to follow the
Macedonians with his immense force of cavalry, and, without even risking
a pitched battle, to harass and finally overwhelm them.

We may remember that three centuries afterward a Roman army under
Crassus was thus actually destroyed by the oriental archers and horsemen
in these very plains, and that the ancestors of the Parthians who thus
vanquished the Roman legions served by thousands under King Darius. If,
on the contrary, Alexander should defer his march against Babylon, and
first seek an encounter with the Persian army, the country on each side
of the Tigris in this latitude was highly advantageous for such an army
as Darius commanded, and he had close in his rear the mountainous
districts of Northern Media, where he himself had in early life been
satrap, where he had acquired reputation as a soldier and a general, and
where he justly expected to find loyalty to his person, and a safe
refuge in case of defeat.[49]

[Footnote 49: Mitford's remarks on the strategy of Darius in his last
campaign are very just. After having been unduly admired as a historian,
Mitford is now unduly neglected. His partiality and his deficiency in
scholarship have been exposed sufficiently to make him no longer a
dangerous guide as to Greek politics, while the clearness and brilliance
of his narrative, and the strong common sense of his remarks (where his
party prejudices do not interfere), must always make his volumes
valuable as well as entertaining.]

His great antagonist came on across the Euphrates against him, at the
head of an army which Arrian, copying from the journals of Macedonian
officers, states to have consisted of forty thousand foot and seven
thousand horse. In studying the campaigns of Alexander, we possess the
peculiar advantage of deriving our information from two of Alexander's
generals of division, who bore an important part in all his enterprises.
Aristobulus and Ptolemy--who afterward became king of Egypt--kept
regular journals of the military events which they witnessed, and these
journals were in the possession of Arrian when he drew up his history of
Alexander's expedition.

The high character of Arrian for integrity makes us confident that he
used them fairly, and his comments on the occasional discrepancies
between the two Macedonian narratives prove that he used them sensibly.
He frequently quotes the very words of his authorities; and his history
thus acquires a charm such as very few ancient or modern military
narratives possess. The anecdotes and expressions which he records we
fairly believe to be genuine, and not to be the coinage of a
rhetorician, like those in Curtius. In fact, in reading Arrian, we read
General Aristobulus and General Ptolemy on the campaigns of the
Macedonians, and it is like reading General Jomini or General Foy on the
campaigns of the French.

The estimate which we find in Arrian of the strength of Alexander's army
seems reasonable enough, when we take into account both the losses which
he had sustained and the reenforcements which he had received since he
left Europe. Indeed, to Englishmen, who know with what mere handfuls of
men our own generals have, at Plassy, at Assaye, at Meeanee, and other
Indian battles, routed large hosts of Asiatics, the disparity of numbers
that we read of in the victories won by the Macedonians over the
Persians presents nothing incredible. The army which Alexander now led
was wholly composed of veteran troops in the highest possible state of
equipment and discipline, enthusiastically devoted to their leader, and
full of confidence in his military genius and his victorious destiny.

The celebrated Macedonian phalanx formed the main strength of his
infantry. This force had been raised and organized by his father,
Philip, who, on his accession to the Macedonian throne, needed a
numerous and quickly formed army, and who, by lengthening the spear of
the ordinary Greek phalanx, and increasing the depth of the files,
brought the tactics of armed masses to the highest extent of which it
was capable with such materials as he possessed. He formed his men
sixteen deep, and placed in their grasp the _sarissa_, as the Macedonian
pike was called, which was four-and-twenty feet in length, and, when
couched for action, reached eighteen feet in front of the soldier; so
that, as a space of about two feet was allowed between the ranks, the
spears of the five files behind him projected in front of each
front-rank man.

The phalangite soldier was fully equipped in the defensive armor of the
regular Greek infantry. And thus the phalanx presented a ponderous and
bristling mass, which, as long as its order was kept compact, was sure
to bear down all opposition. The defects of such an organization are
obvious, and were proved in after-years, when the Macedonians were
opposed to the Roman legions. But it is clear that under Alexander the
phalanx was not the cumbrous, unwieldy body which it was at Cynoscephate
and Pydna. His men were veterans; and he could obtain from them an
accuracy of movement and steadiness of evolution such as probably the
recruits of his father would only have floundered in attempting, and
such as certainly were impracticable in the phalanx when handled by his
successors, especially as under them it ceased to be a standing force,
and became only a militia.

Under Alexander the phalanx consisted of an aggregate of eighteen
thousand men, who were divided into six brigades of three thousand each.
These were again subdivided into regiments and companies; and the men
were carefully trained to wheel, to face about, to take more ground, or
to close up, as the emergencies of the battle required. Alexander also
arrayed troops armed in a different manner in the intervals of the
regiments of his phalangites, who could prevent their line from being
pierced and their companies taken in flank, when the nature of the
ground prevented a close formation, and who could be withdrawn when a
favorable opportunity arrived for closing up the phalanx or any of its
brigades for a charge, or when it was necessary to prepare to receive

Besides the phalanx, Alexander had a considerable force of infantry who
were called shield-bearers: they were not so heavily armed as the
phalangites, or as was the case with the Greek regular infantry in
general, but they were equipped for close fight as well as for
skirmishing, and were far superior to the ordinary irregular troops of
Greek warfare. They were about six thousand strong. Besides these, he
had several bodies of Greek regular infantry; and he had archers,
slingers, and javelin-men, who fought also with broadsword and target,
and who were principally supplied him by the highlanders of Illyria and

The main strength of his cavalry consisted in two chosen regiments of
cuirassiers, one Macedonian and one Thessalian, each of which was about
fifteen hundred strong. They were provided with long lances and heavy
swords, and horse as well as man was fully equipped with defensive
armor. Other regiments of regular cavalry were less heavily armed, and
there were several bodies of light-horsemen, whom Alexander's conquests
in Egypt and Syria had enabled him to mount superbly.

A little before the end of August, Alexander crossed the Euphrates at
Thapsacus, a small corps of Persian cavalry under Mazaeus retiring
before him. Alexander was too prudent to march down through the
Mesopotamian deserts, and continued to advance eastward with the
intention of passing the Tigris, and then, if he was unable to find
Darius and bring him to action, of marching southward on the left side
of that river along the skirts of a mountainous district where his men
would suffer less from heat and thirst, and where provisions would be
more abundant.

Darius, finding that his adversary was not to be enticed into the march
through Mesopotamia against his capital, determined to remain on the
battle-ground, which he had chosen on the left of the Tigris; where, if
his enemy met a defeat or a check, the destruction of the invaders would
be certain with two such rivers as the Euphrates and the Tigris in their

The Persian King availed himself to the utmost of every advantage in his
power. He caused a large space of ground to be carefully levelled for
the operation of his scythe-armed chariots; and he deposited his
military stores in the strong town of Arbela, about twenty miles in his
rear. The rhetoricians of after-ages have loved to describe Darius
Codomanus as a second Xerxes in ostentation and imbecility; but a fair
examination of his generalship in this his last campaign shows that he
was worthy of bearing the same name as his great predecessor, the royal
son of Hystaspes.

On learning that Darius was with a large army on the left of the Tigris,
Alexander hurried forward and crossed that river without opposition. He
was at first unable to procure any certain intelligence of the precise
position of the enemy, and after giving his army a short interval of
rest he marched for four days down the left bank of the river.

A moralist may pause upon the fact that Alexander must in this march
have passed within a few miles of the ruins of Nineveh, the great city
of the primaeval conquerors of the human race. Neither the Macedonian
King nor any of his followers knew what those vast mounds had once been.
They had already sunk into utter destruction; and it is only within the
last few years that the intellectual energy of one of our own countrymen
has rescued Nineveh from its long centuries of oblivion.

On the fourth day of Alexander's southward march, his advance guard
reported that a body of the enemy's cavalry was in sight. He instantly
formed his army in order for battle, and directing them to advance
steadily he rode forward at the head of some squadrons of cavalry and
charged the Persian horse, whom he found before him. This was a mere
reconnoitring party, and they broke and fled immediately; but the
Macedonians made some prisoners, and from them Alexander found that
Darius was posted only a few miles off, and learned the strength of the
army that he had with him. On receiving this news Alexander halted, and
gave his men repose for four days, so that they should go into action
fresh and vigorous. He also fortified his camp and deposited in it all
his military stores and all his sick and disabled soldiers, intending to
advance upon the enemy with the serviceable part of his army perfectly

After this halt, he moved forward, while it was yet dark, with the
intention of reaching the enemy, and attacking them at break of day.
About half way between the camps there were some undulations of the
ground, which concealed the two armies from each other's view; but, on
Alexander arriving at their summit, he saw, by the early light, the
Persian host arrayed before him, and he probably also observed traces of
some engineering operation having been carried on along part of the
ground in front of them.

Not knowing that these marks had been caused by the Persians having
levelled the ground for the free use of their war chariots, Alexander
suspected that hidden pitfalls had been prepared with a view of
disordering the approach of his cavalry. He summoned a council of war
forthwith. Some of the officers were for attacking instantly, at all
hazards; but the more prudent opinion of Parmenio prevailed, and it was
determined not to advance farther till the battle-ground had been
carefully surveyed.

Alexander halted his army on the heights, and, taking with him some
light-armed infantry and some cavalry, he passed part of the day in
reconnoitring the enemy and observing the nature of the ground which he
had to fight on. Darius wisely refrained from moving from his position
to attack the Macedonians on the eminences which they occupied, and the
two armies remained until night without molesting each other.

On Alexander's return to his headquarters, he summoned his generals and
superior officers together, and telling them that he knew well that
_their_ zeal wanted no exhortation, he besought them to do their utmost
in encouraging and instructing those whom each commanded, to do their
best in the next day's battle. They were to remind them that they were
now not going to fight for a province as they had hitherto fought, but
they were about to decide by their swords the dominion of all Asia. Each
officer ought to impress this upon his subalterns, and they should urge
it on their men. Their natural courage required no long words to excite
its ardor; but they should be reminded of the paramount importance of
steadiness in action. The silence in the ranks must be unbroken as long
as silence was proper; but when the time came for the charge, the shout
and the cheer must be full of terror for the foe. The officers were to
be alert in receiving and communicating orders; and everyone was to act
as if he felt that the whole result of the battle depended on his own
single good conduct.

Having thus briefly instructed his generals, Alexander ordered that the
army should sup and take their rest for the night.

Darkness had closed over the tents of the Macedonians when Alexander's
veteran general, Parmenio, came to him and proposed that they should
make a night attack on the Persians. The King is said to have answered
that he scorned to filch a victory, and that Alexander must conquer
openly and fairly. Arrian justly remarks that Alexander's resolution was
as wise as it was spirited. Besides the confusion and uncertainty which
are inseparable from night engagements, the value of Alexander's victory
would have been impaired if gained under circumstances which might
supply the enemy with any excuse for his defeat, and encourage him to
renew the contest. It was necessary for Alexander not only to beat
Darius, but to gain such a victory as should leave his rival without
apology and without hope of recovery.

The Persians, in fact, expected and were prepared to meet a night
attack. Such was the apprehension that Darius entertained of it that he
formed his troops at evening in order of battle, and kept them under
arms all night. The effect of this was that the morning found them jaded
and dispirited, while it brought their adversaries all fresh and
vigorous against them.

The written order of battle which Darius himself caused to be drawn up
fell into the hands of the Macedonians after the engagement, and
Aristobulus copied it into his journal. We thus possess, through Arrian,
unusually authentic information as to the composition and arrangement of
the Persian army. On the extreme left were the Bactrian, Daan, and
Arachosian cavalry. Next to these Darius placed the troops from Persia
proper, both horse and foot. Then came the Susians, and next to these
the Cadusians. These forces made up the left wing.

Darius' own station was in the centre. This was composed of the Indians,
the Carians, the Mardian archers, and the division of Persians who were
distinguished by the golden apples that formed the knobs of their
spears. Here also were stationed the bodyguard of the Persian nobility.
Besides these, there were, in the centre, formed in deep order, the
Uxian and Babylonian troops and the soldiers from the Red Sea. The
brigade of Greek mercenaries whom Darius had in his service, and who
alone were considered fit to stand the charge of the Macedonian phalanx,
was drawn up on either side of the royal chariot.

The right wing was composed of the Coelosyrians and Mesopotamians, the
Medes, the Parthians, the Sacians, the Tapurians, Hyrcanians, Albanians,
and Sacesinae. In advance of the line on the left wing were placed the
Scythian cavalry, with a thousand of the Bactrian horse and a hundred
scythe-armed chariots. The elephants and fifty scythe-armed chariots
were ranged in front of the centre; and fifty more chariots, with the
Armenian and Cappadocian cavalry, were drawn up in advance of the right

Thus arrayed, the great host of King Darius passed the night that to
many thousands of them was the last of their existence. The morning of
the first of October[50] dawned slowly to their wearied watching, and
they could hear the note of the Macedonian trumpet sounding to arms, and
could see King Alexander's forces descend from their tents on the
heights and form in order of battle on the plain.

[Footnote 50: The battle was fought eleven days after an eclipse of the
moon, which gives the means of fixing the precise date.]

There was deep need of skill, as well as of valor, on Alexander's side;
and few battle-fields have witnessed more consummate generalship than
was now displayed by the Macedonian King. There were no natural barriers
by which he could protect his flanks; and not only was he certain to be
overlapped on either wing by the vast lines of the Persian army, but
there was imminent risk of their circling round him, and charging him in
the rear, while he advanced against their centre. He formed, therefore,
a second, or reserve line, which was to wheel round, if required, or to
detach troops to either flank, as the enemy's movements might
necessitate; and thus, with their whole army ready at any moment to be
thrown into one vast hollow square, the Macedonians advanced in two
lines against the enemy, Alexander himself leading on the right wing,
and the renowned phalanx forming the centre, while Parmenio commanded on
the left.

Such was the general nature of the disposition which Alexander made of
his army. But we have in Arrian the details of the position of each
brigade and regiment; and as we know that these details were taken from
the journals of Macedonian generals, it is interesting to examine them,
and to read the names and stations of King Alexander's generals and
colonels in this the greatest of his battles.

The eight regiments of the royal horse-guards formed the right of
Alexander's line. Their colonels were Clitus--whose regiment was on the
extreme right, the post of peculiar danger--Glaucias, Ariston, Sopolis,
Heraclides, Demetrias, Meleager, and Hegelochus. Philotas was general of
the whole division. Then came the shield-bearing infantry: Nicanor was
their general. Then came the phalanx in six brigades. Coenus' brigade
was on the right, and nearest to the shield-bearers; next to this stood
the brigade of Perdiccas, then Meleager's, then Polysperchon's; and then
the brigade of Amynias, but which was now commanded by Simmias, as
Amynias had been sent to Macedonia to levy recruits. Then came the
infantry of the left wing, under the command of Craterus.

Next to Craterus' infantry were placed the cavalry regiments of the
allies, with Eriguius for their general. The Thessalian cavalry,
commanded by Philippus, were next, and held the extreme left of the
whole army. The whole left wing was intrusted to the command of
Parmenio, who had round his person the Pharsalian regiment of cavalry,
which was the strongest and best of all the Thessalian horse regiments.

The centre of the second line was occupied by a body of phalangite
infantry, formed of companies which were drafted for this purpose from
each of the brigades of their phalanx. The officers in command of this
corps were ordered to be ready to face about if the enemy should succeed
in gaining the rear of the army. On the right of this reserve of
infantry, in the second line, and behind the royal horse-guards,
Alexander placed half the Agrian light-armed infantry under Attalus, and
with them Brison's body of Macedonian archers and Cleander's regiment of
foot. He also placed in this part of his army Menidas' squadron of
cavalry and Aretes' and Ariston's light horse. Menidas was ordered to
watch if the enemy's cavalry tried to turn their flank, and, if they did
so, to charge them before they wheeled completely round, and so take
them in flank themselves.

A similar force was arranged on the left of the second line for the same
purpose. The Thracian infantry of Sitalces were placed there, and
Coeranus' regiment of the cavalry of the Greek allies, and Agathon's
troops of the Odrysian irregular horse. The extreme left of the second
line in this quarter was held by Andromachus' cavalry. A division of
Thracian infantry was left in guard of the camp. In advance of the right
wing and centre was scattered a number of light-armed troops, of
javelin-men and bowmen, with the intention of warding off the charge of
the armed chariots.[51]

[Footnote 51: Kleber's arrangement of his troops at the battle of
Heliopolis, where, with ten thousand Europeans, he had to encounter
eighty thousand Asiatics in an open plain, is worth comparing with
Alexander's tactics at Arbela. See Thiers' _Histoire du Consulat_.]

Conspicuous by the brilliancy of his armor, and by the chosen band of
officers who were round his person, Alexander took his own station, as
his custom was, in the right wing, at the head of his cavalry; and when
all the arrangements for the battle were complete, and his generals were
fully instructed how to act in each probable emergency, he began to lead
his men toward the enemy.

It was ever his custom to expose his life freely in battle, and to
emulate the personal prowess of his great ancestor, Achilles. Perhaps,
in the bold enterprise of conquering Persia, it was politic for
Alexander to raise his army's daring to the utmost by the example of his
own heroic valor; and, in his subsequent campaigns, the love of the
excitement, of "the raptures of the strife," may have made him, like
Murat, continue from choice a custom which he commenced from duty. But
he never suffered the ardor of the soldier to make him lose the coolness
of the general.

Great reliance had been placed by the Persian King on the effects of the
scythe-bearing chariots. It was designed to launch these against the
Macedonian phalanx, and to follow them up by a heavy charge of cavalry,
which, it was hoped, would find the ranks of the spearmen disordered by
the rush of the chariots, and easily destroy this most formidable part
of Alexander's force. In front, therefore, of the Persian centre, where
Darius took his station, and which it was supposed that the phalanx
would attack, the ground had been carefully levelled and smoothed, so as
to allow the chariots to charge over it with their full sweep and speed.

As the Macedonian army approached the Persian, Alexander found that the
front of his whole line barely equalled the front of the Persian centre,
so that he was outflanked on his right by the entire left wing of the
enemy, and by their entire right wing on his left. His tactics were to
assail some one point of the hostile army, and gain a decisive
advantage, while he refused, as far as possible, the encounter along the
rest of the line. He therefore inclined his order of march to the right,
so as to enable his right wing and centre to come into collision with
the enemy on as favorable terms as possible, although the manoeuvre
might in some respect compromise his left.

The effect of this oblique movement was to bring the phalanx and his own
wing nearly beyond the limits of the ground which the Persians had
prepared for the operations of the chariots; and Darius, fearing to lose
the benefit of this arm against the most important parts of the
Macedonian force, ordered the Scythian and Bactrian cavalry, who were
drawn up in advance on his extreme left, to charge round upon
Alexander's right wing, and check its farther lateral progress. Against
these assailants Alexander sent from his second line Menidas' cavalry.
As these proved too few to make head against the enemy, he ordered
Ariston also from the second line with his right horse, and Cleander
with his foot, in support of Menidas.

The Bactrians and Scythians now began to give way; but Darius reenforced
them by the mass of Bactrian cavalry from his main line, and an
obstinate cavalry fight now took place. The Bactrians and Scythians were
numerous, and were better armed than the horsemen under Menidas and
Ariston; and the loss at first was heaviest on the Macedonian side. But
still the European cavalry stood the charge of the Asiatics, and at
last, by their superior discipline, and by acting in squadrons that
supported each other,[52] instead of fighting in a confused mass like
the barbarians, the Macedonians broke their adversaries and drove them
off the field.

[Footnote 52: The best explanation of this may be found in Napoleon's
account of the cavalry fights between the French and the mamelukes: "Two
mamelukes were able to make head against three Frenchmen, because they
were better armed, better mounted, and better trained; they had two pair
of pistols, a blunderbuss, a carbine, a helmet with a visor, and a coat
of mail; they had several horses, and several attendants on foot. One
hundred cuirassiers, however, were not afraid of one hundred mamelukes;
three hundred could beat an equal number, and one thousand could easily
put to the rout fifteen hundred, so great is the influence of tactics,
order, and evolutions! Leclerc and Lasalle presented their men to the
mamelukes in several lines. When the Arabs were on the point of
overwhelming the first, the second came to its assistance on the right
and left; the mamelukes then halted and wheeled, in order to turn the
wings of this new line; this moment was always seized upon to charge
them, and they were uniformly broken."]

Darius now directed the scythe-armed chariots to be driven against
Alexander's horse-guards and the phalanx, and these formidable vehicles
were accordingly sent rattling across the plain, against the Macedonian
line. When we remember the alarm which the war chariots of the Britons
created among Caesar's legions, we shall not be prone to deride this arm
of ancient warfare as always useless. The object of the chariots was to
create unsteadiness in the ranks against which they were driven, and
squadrons of cavalry followed close upon them to profit by such
disorder. But the Asiatic chariots were rendered ineffective at Arbela
by the light-armed troops, whom Alexander had specially appointed for
the service, and who, wounding the horses and drivers with their missile
weapons, and running alongside so as to cut the traces or seize the
reins, marred the intended charge; and the few chariots that reached the
phalanx passed harmlessly through the internals which the spearmen
opened for them, and were easily captured in the rear.

A mass of the Asiatic cavalry was now, for the second time, collected
against Alexander's extreme right, and moved round it, with the view of
gaining the flank of his army. At the critical moment, when their own
flanks were exposed by this evolution, Aretes dashed on the Persian
squadrons with his horsemen from Alexander's second line. While
Alexander thus met and baffled all the flanking attacks of the enemy
with troops brought up from his second line, he kept his own
horse-guards and the rest of the front line of his wing fresh, and ready
to take advantage of the first opportunity for striking a decisive blow.

This soon came. A large body of horse, who were posted on the Persian
left wing nearest to the centre, quitted their station, and rode off to
help their comrades in the cavalry fight that still was going on at the
extreme right of Alexander's wing against the detachments from his
second line. This made a huge gap in the Persian array, and into this
space Alexander instantly charged with his guard and all the cavalry of
his wing; and then, pressing toward his left, he soon began to make
havoc in the left flank of the Persian centre. The shield-bearing
infantry now charged also among the reeling masses of the Asiatics; and
five of the brigades of the phalanx, with the irresistible might of
their sarissas, bore down the Greek mercenaries of Darius, and dug their
way through the Persian centre.

In the early part of the battle Darius had showed skill and energy; and
he now, for some time, encouraged his men, by voice and example, to keep
firm. But the lances of Alexander's cavalry and the pikes of the phalanx
now pressed nearer and nearer to him. His charioteer was struck down by
a javelin at his side; and at last Darius' nerve failed him, and,
descending from his chariot, he mounted on a fleet horse and galloped
from the plain, regardless of the state of the battle in other parts of
the field, where matters were going on much more favorably for his
cause, and where his presence might have done much toward gaining a

Alexander's operations with his right and centre had exposed his left to
an immensely preponderating force of the enemy. Parmenio kept out of
action as long as possible; but Mazaeus, who commanded the Persian right
wing, advanced against him, completely outflanked him, and pressed him
severely with reiterated charges by superior numbers.

Seeing the distress of Parmenio's wing, Simmias, who commanded the sixth
brigade of the phalanx, which was next to the left wing, did not advance
with the other brigades in the great charge upon the Persian centre, but
kept back to cover Parmenio's troops on their right flank, as otherwise
they would have been completely surrounded and cut off from the rest of
the Macedonian army. By so doing, Simmias had unavoidably opened a gap
in the Macedonian left centre; and a large column of Indian and Persian
horse, from the Persian right centre, had galloped forward through this
interval, and right through the troops of the Macedonian second line.
Instead of then wheeling round upon Parmenio, or upon the rear of
Alexander's conquering wing, the Indian and Persian cavalry rode
straight on to the Macedonian camp, overpowered the Thracians who were
left in charge of it, and began to plunder. This was stopped by the
phalangite troops of the second line, who, after the enemy's horsemen
had rushed by them, faced about, countermarched upon the camp, killed
many of the Indians and Persians in the act of plundering, and forced
the rest to ride off again.

Just at this crisis, Alexander had been recalled from his pursuit of
Darius by tidings of the distress of Parmenio and of his inability to
bear up any longer against the hot attacks of Mazaeus. Taking his
horse-guards with him, Alexander rode toward the part of the field where
his left wing was fighting; but on his way thither he encountered the
Persian and Indian cavalry on their return from his camp.

These men now saw that their only chance of safety was to cut their way
through, and in one huge column they charged desperately upon the
Macedonian regiments. There was here a close hand-to-hand fight, which
lasted some time, and sixty of the royal horse-guards fell, and three
generals, who fought close to Alexander's side, were wounded. At length
the Macedonian discipline and valor again prevailed, and a large number
of the Persian and Indian horsemen were cut down, some few only
succeeding in breaking through and riding away.

Relieved of these obstinate enemies, Alexander again formed his
regiments of horse-guards, and led them toward Parmenio; but by this
time that general also was victorious. Probably the news of Darius'
flight had reached Mazaeus, and had damped the ardor of the Persian right
wing, while the tidings of their comrades' success must have
proportionally encouraged the Macedonian forces under Parmenio. His
Thessalian cavalry particularly distinguished themselves by their
gallantry and persevering good conduct; and by the time that Alexander
had ridden up to Parmenio, the whole Persian army was in full flight
from the field.

It was of the deepest importance to Alexander to secure the person of
Darius, and he now urged on the pursuit. The river Lycus was between the
field of battle and the city of Arbela, whither the fugitives directed
their course, and the passage of this river was even more destructive to
the Persians than the swords and spears of the Macedonians had been in
the engagement.[53]

[Footnote 53: I purposely omit any statement of the loss in the battle.
There is a palpable error of the transcribers in the numbers which we
find in our present manuscripts of Arrian, and Curtius is of no

The narrow bridge was soon choked up by the flying thousands who rushed
toward it, and vast numbers of the Persians threw themselves, or were
hurried by others, into the rapid stream, and perished in its waters.
Darius had crossed it, and had ridden on through Arbela without halting.
Alexander reached the city on the next day, and made himself master of
all Darius' treasure and stores; but the Persian King, unfortunately for
himself, had fled too fast for his conqueror, but had only escaped to
perish by the treachery of his Bactrian satrap, Bessus.

A few days after the battle Alexander entered Babylon, "the oldest seat
of earthly empire" then in existence, as its acknowledged lord and
master. There were yet some campaigns of his brief and bright career to
be accomplished. Central Asia was yet to witness the march of his
phalanx. He was yet to effect that conquest of Afghanistan in which
England since has failed. His generalship, as well as his valor, was yet
to be signalized on the banks of the Hydaspes and the field of
Chillianwallah; and he was yet to precede the queen of England in
annexing the Punjab to the dominions of a European sovereign. But the
crisis of his career was reached; the great object of his mission was
accomplished; and the ancient Persian empire, which once menaced all the
nations of the earth with subjection, was irreparably crushed when
Alexander had won his crowning victory at Arbela.


B.C. 280-279


(The Romans, in B.C. 290, had conquered the Samnites and this extended
the Roman power to the very gates of the Grecian cities on the Gulf of
Tarentine. Tarentum, the chief city among them, was almost totally
controlled by a party which advised a peaceful submission to the Roman
conquerors. The opposing party of patriots, against such cowardly
measures, looked abroad for aid and found a ready ally in Pyrrhus, the
Molossian king of Epirus. He was warlike and adventurous, and a member
of the royal family of Macedonia, through Olympias, who was the mother
of Alexander the Great.

Pyrrhus had established a reputation for fighting. Not alone had he
fought at the memorable battle of Ipsus, in Phrygia, but he had proven a
formidable opponent to Demetinus, king of Macedonia, having forced the
latter powerful monarch to conclude a truce with him, though afterward
he had been conquered and driven back to his little kingdom of Epirus.
At the time the Tarentines sent to him to help them against Rome he was
eager for a field in which he might do something to prove his mettle.
This was the greatest opportunity of his life, and he seized upon it.
The campaign is memorable for having brought the Romans and Greeks into
conflict on the battle-field for the first time.)

Pyrrhus, now that he had lost Macedonia, might have spent his days
peacefully ruling his own subjects in Epirus; but he could not endure
repose, thinking that not to trouble others and be troubled by them was
a life of unbearable ennui, and, like Achilles in the _Iliad_,

"he could not rest in indolence at home,
He longed for battle, and the joys of war."

As he desired some new adventures he embraced the following opportunity.
The Romans were at war with the Tarentines; and as that people were not
sufficiently powerful to carry on the war, and yet were not allowed by
the audacious folly of their mob orators to make peace, they proposed to
make Pyrrhus their leader and to invite him to be their ally in the war,
because he was more at leisure than any of the other kings, and also was
the best general of them all. Of the older and more sensible citizens
some endeavored to oppose this fatal decision, but were overwhelmed by
the clamor of the war party, while the rest, observing this, ceased to
attend the public assembly.

There was one citizen of good repute, named Meton, who, on the day when
the final decision was to be made, when the people were all assembled,
took a withered garland and a torch, and like a drunkard, reeled into
the assembly with a girl playing the flute before him. At this, as one
may expect in a disorderly popular meeting, some applauded and some
laughed, but no one stopped him. They next bade the girl play, and Meton
come forward and dance to the music; and he made as though he would do
so. When he had obtained silence he said: "Men of Tarentum, you do well
in encouraging those who wish to be merry and amuse themselves while
they may. If you are wise you will all enjoy your freedom now, for when
Pyrrhus is come to our city you will have very different things to think
of and will live very differently." By these words he made an impression
on the mass of the Tarentine people, and a murmur ran through the crowd
that he had spoken well. But those politicians who feared that if peace
were made they should be delivered up to the Romans, reproached the
people for allowing anyone to insult them by such a disgraceful
exhibition, and prevailed on them to turn Meton out of the assembly.

Thus the vote for war was passed, and ambassadors were sent to Epirus,
not from Tarentum alone, but from the other Greek cities in Italy,
carrying with them presents for Pyrrhus, with instructions to tell him
that they required a leader of skill and renown, and that they possessed
a force of Lucanians, Messapians, Samnites, and Tarentines, which
amounted to twenty thousand cavalry and three hundred and fifty thousand
infantry. This not only excited Pyrrhus, but also made all the Epirotes
eager to take part in the campaign.

There was one Cineas, a Thessalian, who was thought to be a man of good
sense, and who, having heard Demosthenes the orator speak, was better
able than any of the speakers of his age to delight his hearers with an
imitation of the eloquence of that great master of rhetoric. He was now
in the service of Pyrrhus, and being sent about to various cities,
proved the truth of the Euripidean saw, that

"All can be done by words
Which foemen wish to do with conquering swords."

Pyrrhus at any rate used to say that more cities were won for him by
Cineas with words than he himself won by force of arms. This man,
observing that Pyrrhus was eagerly preparing for his Italian expedition,
once when he was at leisure conversed with him in the following manner.
"Pyrrhus," said he, "the Romans are said to be good soldiers, and to
rule over many warlike nations. Now, if heaven grants us the victory
over them, what use shall we make of it?"

"You ask what is self-evident," answered Pyrrhus. "If we can conquer the
Romans, there is no city, Greek or barbarian, that can resist us, and we
shall gain possession of the whole of Italy, a country whose size,
richness, and power no one knows better than yourself." Cineas then,
after waiting for a short time, said: "O King, when we have taken Italy,
what shall we do then?"

Pyrrhus, not yet seeing his drift, answered: "Close to it Sicily invites
us, a noble and populous island, and one which is very easy to conquer;
for, my Cineas, now that Agathocles is dead, there is nothing there but
revolution and faction and the violence of party spirit."

"What you say," answered Cineas, "is very probably true. But is this
conquest of Sicily to be the extreme limit of our campaign?"

"Heaven," answered Pyrrhus, "alone can give us victory and success; but
these conquests would merely prove to us the stepping-stones to greater
things. Who could refrain from making an attempt upon Carthage and Libya
when he was so close to them, countries which were all but conquered by
Agathocles when he ran away from Syracuse with only a few ships? and if
we were masters of these countries, none of the enemies who now give
themselves such airs at our expense will dare to resist us."

"Certainly not," answered Cineas; "with such a force at our disposal we
clearly could recover Macedonia, and have the whole of Greece at our
feet. And after we have made all these conquests, what shall we do

Pyrrhus laughing answered: "We will take our ease and carouse every day,
and enjoy pleasant conversation with one another."

Having brought Pyrrhus to say this, Cineas asked in reply: "But what
prevents our carousing and taking our ease now, since we have already at
hand all those things which we propose to obtain with much bloodshed,
and great toils and perils, and after suffering much ourselves and
causing much suffering to others?"

By talking in this manner Cineas vexed Pyrrhus, because he made him
reflect on the pleasant home which he was leaving, but his reasoning had
no effect in turning him from his purpose.

He first despatched Cineas to Tarentum with three thousand men; next he
collected from Tarentum many horse-transports, decked vessels, and boats
of all sorts, and embarked upon them twenty elephants, twenty-three
thousand cavalry, twenty-two thousand infantry, and five hundred
slingers. When all was ready he put to sea; and when half way across a
storm burst upon him from the north, which was unusual at that season of
the year. He himself, though his ship was carried away by the tempest,
yet, by the great pains and skill of the sailors and pilots, resisted it
and reached the land, with great toil to the rowers, and beyond
everyone's expectation; for the rest of the fleet was overpowered by the
gale and scattered. Some ships were driven off the Italian coast
altogether, and forced into the Libyan and Sicilian seas, and some which
could not weather the Iapygian Cape were overtaken by night, and being
dashed by a violent and boisterous sea against that harborless coast
were utterly lost, except only the King's ship. She was so large and
strongly built as to resist the waves as long as they broke upon her
from the seaward; but when the wind changed and blew directly off the
shore, the ship, which now met the waves directly with her head, was in
great danger of going to pieces, while to let her drive out to sea again
now that it was so rough, and the wind changed so frequently, seemed
more terrible than to remain where they were.

Pyrrhus rose and leaped into the water, and at once was eagerly followed
by his friends and his bodyguard. The darkness of night and the violent
recoil of the roaring waves made it hard for them to help him, and it
was not until daybreak, when the wind abated, that he reached the land,
faint and helpless in body, but with his spirit invincible in
misfortune. The Messapians, upon whose coast he had been thrown, now
assembled from the neighboring villages and offered their help, while
some of the ships which had outlived the storm appeared, bringing a few
horsemen, about two thousand foot, and two elephants.

With these Pyrrhus marched to Tarentum; Cineas, as soon as he heard of
his arrival, bringing out the Tarentine army to meet him. When he
reached the city he did nothing to displease the Tarentines until his
fleet returned to the coast and he had assembled the greater part of his
army. But then, as he saw that the populace, unless ruled by a strong
hand, could neither help him nor help themselves, but intended to stay
idling about their baths and entertainments at home, while he fought
their battles in the field, he closed the gymnasia and public walks, in
which the people were wont to waste their time in empty talk about the
war. He forbade all drinking, feasting, and unseasonable revels, and
forced the people to take up arms, proving himself inexorable to
everyone who was on the muster-roll of able-bodied citizens. This
conduct made him much disliked, and many of the Tarentines left the city
in disgust; for they were so unused to discipline that they considered
that not to be able to pass their lives as they chose was no better than

When news came that Laevinus, the Roman consul, was marching to attack
him with a large force, and was plundering the country of Lucania as he
advanced, while Pyrrhus' allies had not yet arrived, he thought it a
shameful thing to allow the enemy to proceed any farther, and marched
out with his army. He sent before him a herald to the Roman general,
informing him that he was willing to act as arbitrator in the dispute
between the Romans and the Greek cities of Italy, if they chose to
terminate it peacefully. On receiving for an answer that the Romans
neither wished for Pyrrhus as an arbitrator, nor feared him as an enemy,
he marched forward, and encamped in the plain between the city of
Pandosia and Heraclea.

Learning that the Romans were close by, and were encamping on the
farther side of the river Siris (the river Aciris, now called Agri), he
rode up to the river to view them; and when he observed their even
ranks, their orderly movements, and their well-arranged camp, he was
surprised, and said to the nearest of his friends: "These barbarians,
Megacles, have nothing barbarous in their military discipline; but we
shall soon learn what they can do." He began indeed already to feel some
uncertainty as to the issue of the campaign, and determined to wait
until his allies came up, and till then to observe the movements of the
Romans, and prevent their crossing the river. They, however, perceiving
his object, at once crossed the river, the infantry at a ford, the
cavalry at many points at once, so that the Greeks feared they might be
surrounded, and drew back. Pyrrhus, perceiving this, ordered his
officers instantly to form the troops in order of battle and wait under
arms while he himself charged with the cavalry, three thousand strong,
hoping to catch the Romans in the act of crossing the river and
consequently in disorder.

When he saw many shields of the Roman infantry appearing over the river
bank, and their horsemen all ranged in order, he closed up his own ranks
and charged them first himself, a conspicuous figure in his beautiful
glittering armor, and proving by his exploits that he deserved his high
reputation; especially as although he fought personally, and engaged in
combat with the enemy, yet he continually watched the whole battle, and
handled his troops with as much facility as though he were not in the
thick of the fight, appearing always wherever his presence was required,
and reenforcing those who seemed likely to give way. In this battle
Leonnatus the Macedonian, observing one of the Italians watching Pyrrhus
and constantly following him about the field, said to him: "My King, do
you see that barbarian on the black horse with white feet? He seems to
be meditating some desperate deed. He is a man of spirit and courage,
and he never takes his eyes off you, and takes no notice of anyone else.
Beware of that man."

Pyrrhus answered: "Leonnatus, no man can avoid his fate; but neither
that Italian nor anyone else who attacks me will do so with impunity."
While they were yet talking the Italian levelled his lance and urged his
horse in full career against Pyrrhus. He struck the King's horse with
his spear, and at the same instant his own horse was struck a sidelong
blow by Leonnatus. Both horses fell; Pyrrhus was saved by his friends,
and the Italian perished fighting. He was of the nation of the Frentani,
Hoplacus by name, and was the captain of a troop of horse.

This incident taught Pyrrhus to be more cautious. He observed that his
cavalry were inclined to give way, and therefore sent for his phalanx,
and arrayed it against the enemy. Then he gave his cloak and armor to
one of his companions, Megacles, and after partially disguising himself
in those of his friend, led his main body to attack the Roman army. The
Romans stoutly resisted him, and an obstinate battle took place, for it
is said that the combatants alternately yielded and again pressed
forward no less than seven distinct times. The King's exchange of armor,
too, though it saved his life, yet very nearly lost him the victory: for
many attacked Megacles, and the man who first struck him down, who was
named Decius, snatched up his cloak and helmet, and rode with them to
Laevinus, displaying them and shouting aloud that he had slain Pyrrhus.

The Romans, when they saw these spoils carried in triumph along their
ranks, raised a joyful cry, while the Greeks were correspondingly
disheartened, until Pyrrhus, learning what had taken place, rode along
the line with his head bare, stretching out his hands to his soldiers
and telling them that he was safe. At length he was victorious, chiefly
by means of a sudden charge of his Thessalian horse on the Romans after
they had been thrown into disorder by the advance of the elephants. The
Roman horses were terrified at these animals, and, long before they came
near, ran away with their riders in panic. The slaughter was very great:
Dionysius says that of the Romans there fell but little short of fifteen
thousand, but Hieronymus reduces this to seven thousand, while on
Pyrrhus' side there fell, according to Dionysius, thirteen thousand, but
according to Hieronymus less than four thousand.

These, however, were the very flower of Pyrrhus' army; for he lost all
his most trusty officers and his most intimate personal friends. Still,
he captured the Roman camp, which was abandoned by the enemy, induced
several of their allied cities to join him, plundered a vast extent of
country, and advanced within three hundred stades--less than forty
English miles--of Rome itself. After the battle many of the Lucanians
and Samnites came up; these allies he reproached for their dilatory
movements, but was evidently well pleased at having conquered the great
Roman army with no other forces but his own Epirotes and the Tarentines.

The Romans did not remove Laevinus from his office of consul, although
Caius Fabricius is reported to have said that it was not the Epirotes
who had conquered the Romans, but Pyrrhus who had conquered Laevinus;
meaning that he thought that the defeat was owing not to the greater
force but the superior generalship of the enemy. They astonished Pyrrhus
by quickly filling up their ranks with fresh levies, and talking about
the war in a spirit of fearless confidence. He decided to try whether
they were disposed to make terms with him, as he perceived that to
capture Rome and utterly subdue the Roman people would be a work of no
small difficulty, and that it would be vain to attempt it with the force
at his disposal, while after his victory he could make peace on terms
which would reflect great lustre on himself. Cineas was sent as
ambassador to conduct this negotiation.

He conversed with the leading men of Rome, and offered their wives and
children presents from the King. No one, however, would accept them, but
they all, men and women alike, replied that if peace were publicly
concluded with the King, they would then have no objection to regard him
as a friend. And when Cineas spoke before the senate in a winning and
persuasive manner he could not make any impression upon his audience,
although he announced to them that Pyrrhus would restore the prisoners
he had taken without any ransom, and would assist them in subduing all
Italy, while all that he asked in return was that he should be regarded
as a friend, and that the people of Tarentum should not be molested. The
common people, however, were evidently eager for peace, in consequence
of their having been defeated in one great battle, and expecting that
they would have to fight another against a larger force, because the
Italian states would join Pyrrhus.

At this crisis Appius Claudius, an illustrious man, but who had long
since been prevented by old age and blindness from taking any active
part in politics, when he heard of the proposals of Pyrrhus, and that
the question of peace or war was about to be voted upon by the senate,
could no longer endure to remain at home, but caused his slaves to carry
him through the Forum to the senate house in a litter. When he reached
the doors of the senate house his sons and sons-in-law supported him and
guided him into the house, while all the assembly observed a respectful

Speaking from where he stood, he addressed them as follows: "My
countrymen, I used to grieve at the loss of my sight, but now I am sorry
not to be deaf also, when I hear the disgraceful propositions with which
you are tarnishing the glory of Rome. What has become of that boast
which we were so fond of making before all mankind, that if Alexander
the Great had invaded Italy, and had met us when we were young, and our
fathers when they were in the prime of life, he would not have been
reputed invincible, but would either have fled or perhaps even have
fallen, and added to the glory of Rome?

"You now prove that this was mere empty vaporing, by your terror of
these Chaonians and Molossians, nations who have always been a prey and
a spoil to the Macedonians, and by your fear of this Pyrrhus, who used
formerly to dance attendance on one of Alexander's bodyguards,[54] and
who has now wandered hither not so much in order to assist the Greeks in
Italy as to escape from his enemies at home, and promises to be our
friend and protector, forsooth, when the army he commands did not
suffice to keep for him the least portion of that Macedonia which he
once acquired. Do not imagine that you will get rid of this man by
making a treaty with him. Rather you will encourage other Greek princes
to invade you, for they will despise you and think you an easy prey to
all men if you let Pyrrhus go home again without paying the penalty of
his outrages upon you, nay, with the power to boast that he has made
Rome a laughing-stock for Tarentines and Samnites."

[Footnote 54: Demetrius.]

By these words Appius roused a warlike spirit in the Romans, and they
dismissed Cineas with the answer that if Pyrrhus would leave Italy they
would, if he wished, discuss the question of an alliance with him, but
that while he remained in arms in their country the Romans would fight
him to the death, however many Laevinuses he might defeat. It is related
that Cineas, during his mission to Rome, took great interest in
observing the national life of the Romans, and fully appreciated the
excellence of their political constitution, which he learned by
conversing with many of the leading men of the State. On his return he
told Pyrrhus that the senate seemed to him like an assembly of kings,
and that as to the populace he feared that the Greeks might find in them
a new Lernaean hydra; for twice as many troops had been enrolled in the
consul's army as he had before, and yet there remained many more Romans
capable of bearing arms.

After this Caius Fabricius came to arrange terms for the exchange of
prisoners; a man whom Cineas said the Romans especially valued for his
virtue and bravery, but who was excessively poor. Pyrrhus, in
consequence of this, entertained Fabricius privately, and made him an
offer of money, not as a bribe for any act of baseness, but speaking of
it as a pledge of friendship and sincerity. As Fabricius refused this,
Pyrrhus waited till the next day, when, desirous of making an impression
on him, as he had never seen an elephant, he had his largest elephant
placed behind Fabricius during their conference, concealed by a curtain.
At a given signal, the curtain was withdrawn, and the creature reached
out his trunk over the head of Fabricius with a harsh and terrible cry.
Fabricius, however, quietly turned round, and then said to Pyrrhus with
a smile, "You could not move me by your gold yesterday, nor can you with
your beast to-day."

At table that day they conversed upon all subjects, but chiefly about
Greece and Greek philosophy. Cineas repeated the opinion of Epicurus and
his school, about the gods, and the practice of political life, and the
objects at which we should aim, how they considered pleasure to be the
highest good, and held aloof from taking any active part in politics,
because it spoiled and destroyed perfect happiness; and about how they
thought that the gods lived far removed from hopes and fears, and
interest in human affairs, in a placid state of eternal fruition.[55]
While he was speaking in this strain Fabricius burst out: "Hercules!"
cried he, "may Pyrrhus and the Samnites continue to waste their time on
these speculations as long as they remain at war with us!" Pyrrhus, at
this, was struck by the spirit and noble disposition of Fabricius, and
longed more than ever to make Rome his friend instead of his enemy. He
begged him to arrange terms of peace, and after they were concluded to
come and live with him as the first of his friends and officers.

[Footnote 55: I have translated the above passages almost literally from
the Greek. Yet I am inclined to think that Arnold has penetrated the
true meaning, and shows us the reason for Fabricius' exclamation when he
states the Epicurean philosophy, as expounded by Cineas, to be "that war
and state affairs were but toil and trouble, and that the wise man
should imitate the blissful rest of the gods, who, dwelling in their own
divinity, regarded not the vain turmoil of this lower world."]

Fabricius is said to have quietly answered: "That, O King, will not be
to your advantage; for those who now obey you, and look up to you, if
they had any experience of me, would prefer me to you for their king."
Pyrrhus was not angry at this speech, but spoke to all his friends about
the magnanimous conduct of Fabricius, and intrusted the prisoners to him
alone, on the condition that, if the senate refused to make peace, they
should be allowed to embrace their friends, and spend the festival of
the Saturnalia with them, and then be sent back to him. And they were
sent back after the Saturnalia, for the senate decreed that any of them
who remained behind should be put to death.

After this, when C. Fabricius was consul, a man came into his camp
bringing a letter from King Pyrrhus' physician, in which he offered to
poison the King if he could be assured of a suitable reward for his
services in thus bringing the war to an end without a blow. Fabricius,
disgusted at the man's treachery, brought his colleague to share his
views, and in haste sent off a letter to Pyrrhus, bidding him be on his
guard. The letter ran as follows: "Caius Fabricius and Quintus AEmilius,
the Roman consuls, greet King Pyrrhus. You appear to be a bad judge both
of your friends and of your enemies. You will perceive, by reading the
enclosed letter which has been sent to us, that you are fighting against
good and virtuous men, and trusting to wicked and treacherous ones. We
do not give you this information out of any love we bear you, but for
fear that we might be charged with having assassinated you and be
thought to have brought the war to a close by treachery because we could
not do so by manhood."

Pyrrhus on receiving this letter, and discovering the plot against his
life, punished his physician, and, in return for the kindness of
Fabricius and the Romans, delivered up their prisoners without ransom,
and sent Cineas a second time to arrange terms of peace. However, the
Romans refused to receive their prisoners back without ransom, being
unwilling either to receive a favor from their enemy or to be rewarded
for having abstained from treachery toward him, but set free an equal
number of Tarentines and Samnites, and sent them to him. As to terms of
peace, they refused to entertain the question unless Pyrrhus first
placed his entire armament on board the ships in which it came, and
sailed back to Epirus with it.

As it was now necessary that Pyrrhus should fight another battle, he
advanced with his army to the city of Asculum, and attacked the Romans.
Here he was forced to fight on rough ground, near the swampy banks of a
river, where his elephants and cavalry were of no service, and he was
forced to attack with his phalanx. After a drawn battle, in which many
fell, night parted the combatants. Next day Pyrrhus manoeuvred so as to
bring the Romans fairly into the plain, where his elephants could act
upon the enemy's line. He occupied the rough ground on either side,
placed many archers and slingers among his elephants, and advanced with
his phalanx in close order and irresistible strength.

The Romans, who were unable on the level ground to practise the
bush-fighting and skirmishing of the previous day, were compelled to
attack the phalanx in front. They endeavored to force their way through
that hedge of spears before the elephants could come up, and showed
marvellous courage in hacking at the spears with their swords, exposing
themselves recklessly, careless of wounds or death. After a long
struggle, it is said that they first gave way at the point where Pyrrhus
was urging on his soldiers in person, though the defeat was chiefly due
to the weight and crushing charge of the elephants. The Romans could not
find any opportunity in this sort of battle for the display of their
courage, but thought it their duty to stand aside and save themselves
from a useless death, just as they would have done in the case of a wave
of the sea or an earthquake coming upon them. In the flight to their
camp, which was not far off, Hieronymus says that six thousand Romans
perished, and that in Pyrrhus' commentaries his loss is stated at three
thousand five hundred and five.

Dionysius, on the other hand, does not admit that there were two battles
at Asculum, or that the Romans suffered a defeat, but tells us that they
fought the whole of one day until sunset, and then separated, Pyrrhus
being wounded in the arm by a javelin, and the Samnites having plundered
his baggage. He also states the total loss on both sides to be above
fifteen thousand.

The armies separated after the battle, and it is said that Pyrrhus, when
congratulated on his victory by his friends, said in reply: "If we win
one more such victory over the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined." For
a large part of the force which he had brought with him had perished,
and very nearly all his friends and officers, and there were no more to
send for at home.


B.C. 264-219-149


(The three Punic wars stand out in history as a mighty "duel _a
l'outrance_" [a fight to the death], as Victor Hugo says, in the final
scene of which Rome, having herself been brought near to defeat, "rises
again, uses the limits of her strength in a last blow, throws herself on
Carthage, and effaces her from the world."

Jealousy and antagonism had long existed between Rome and Carthage, but
it was the preeminence of the African city which held Roman ambition in
check and for generations deferred the final struggle. But when at last
Rome had acquired the strength she needed in order to assert her
rivalry, it was only a question of actual preparation, and the first
cause of quarrel was sure to be seized upon by either party, especially
by the growing and haughty Italian Power.

The immediate object of contention was the island of Sicily, lying
between the territory of Rome and that of Carthage. In Sicily the First
Punic War, lasting about twenty-three years, was mainly carried on by
the Romans with success, while on the sea Carthage for a long time
maintained superiority.

During the intervals between the Punic wars two things appear with
striking force in the history of these events--the passive strength and
recuperative power of Carthage, which enabled her to return again and
again to the struggle from almost crushing defeat, and the marvellous
development of resources and aggressive vigor on the part of Rome, in
whose case the rise of powerful individual leaders more than offset the
weight of long-accumulated energies, supplemented as these were by the
genius and achievement of great Carthaginian warriors.

The wars progressed in a spirit of deadly hatred, constantly intensified
on both sides, and the Roman determination, of which Cato was the
mouthpiece, that Carthage must be destroyed, met its stubborn answer in
the endeavors of the Carthaginians to turn this vengeance against Rome

Carthage had been mistress of the world, the richest and most powerful
of cities. Her naval supremacy alone had sufficed to secure her safety
and superiority over all rivals or possible combinations of force. But
the strength of her government lay not so much in her people, or even in
her statesmen and soldiers, as in her men of wealth. A political
establishment founded upon such supports was peculiarly liable to all
the dangers of corruption and of public ignorance and apathy in the
conduct of affairs. These causes appear conspicuously in the history of
the Punic wars, as contributing largely to the overthrow and final
extinguishment of Carthage, which left to her successful rival the open
way to universal dominion.

The account of Florus presents in a style at once comprehensive and
succinct a splendid narrative of these wars, with their decisive and
world-changing events.)


The victor-people of Italy, having now spread over the land as far as
the sea, checked its course for a little, like a fire, which, having
consumed the woods lying in its track, is stopped by some intervening
river. But soon after, seeing at no great distance a rich prey, which
seemed in a manner detached and torn away from their own Italy, they
were so inflamed with a desire to possess it that, since it could
neither be joined to their country by a mole or bridge, they resolved
that it should be secured by arms and war, and reunited, as it were, to
their continent. And behold! as if the Fates themselves opened a way for
them, an opportunity was not wanting, for Messana, a city of Sicily in
alliance with them, happened then to make a complaint concerning the
tyranny of the Carthaginians.

As the Romans coveted Sicily, so likewise did the people of Carthage;
and both at the same time, with equal desires and equal forces,
contemplated the attainment of the empire of the world. Under the
pretext, therefore, of assisting their allies, but in reality being
allured by the prey, that rude people, that people sprung from
shepherds, and merely accustomed to the land, made it appear, though the
strangeness of the attempt startled them (yet such confidence is there
in true courage), that to the brave it is indifferent whether a battle
be fought on horseback or in ships, by land or by sea.

It was in the consulship of Appius Claudius that they first ventured
upon that strait which has so ill a name from the strange things related
of it, and so impetuous a current. But they were so far from being
affrighted, that they regarded the violence of the rushing tide as
something in their favor, and, sailing forward immediately and without
delay, they defeated Hiero, king of Syracuse, with so much rapidity that
he owned he was conquered before he saw the enemy. In the consulship of
Duilius and Cornelius, they likewise had courage to engage at sea, and
then the expedition used in equipping the fleet was a presage of
victory; for within sixty days after the timber was felled, a navy of a
hundred and sixty ships lay at anchor; so that the vessels did not seem
to have been made by art, but the trees themselves appeared to have been
turned into ships by the aid of the gods. The aspect of the battle, too,
was wonderful; as the heavy and slow ships of the Romans closed with the
swift and nimble barks of the enemy. Little availed their naval arts,
such as breaking off the oars of a ship, and eluding the beaks of the
enemy by turning aside; for the grappling-irons and other instruments,
which, before the engagement, had been greatly derided by the enemy,
were fastened upon their ships, and they were compelled to fight as on
solid ground. Being victorious, therefore, at Liparae, by sinking and
scattering the enemy's fleet, they celebrated their first naval triumph.
And how great was the exultation at it! Duilius, the commander, not
content with one day's triumph, ordered, during all the rest of his
life, when he returned from supper, lighted torches to be carried, and
flutes to play, before him, as if he would triumph every day. The loss
in this battle was trifling, in comparison with the greatness of the
victory; though the other consul, Cornelius Asina, was cut off, being
invited by the enemy to a pretended conference, and put to death; an
instance of Carthaginian perfidy.

Under the dictatorship of Calatinus, the Romans expelled almost all the
garrisons of the Carthaginians from Agrigentum, Drepanum, Panormus,
Eryx, and Lilybaeum. Some alarm was experienced at the forest of
Camarina, but we were rescued by the extraordinary valor of Calpurnius
Flamma, a tribune of the soldiers, who, with a choice troop of three
hundred men, seized upon an eminence occupied by the enemy, to our
annoyance, and so kept them in play till the whole army escaped; thus,
by eminent success, equalling the fame of Thermopylae and Leonidas,
though our hero was indeed more illustrious, inasmuch as he escaped and
outlived so great an effort, notwithstanding he wrote nothing with his

In the consulship of Lucius Cornelius Scipio, when Sicily was become as
a suburban province of the Roman people, and the war was spreading
farther, they crossed over into Sardinia, and into Corsica, which lies
near it. In the latter they terrified the natives by the destruction of
the city of Olbia, in the former by that of Aleria; and so effectually
humbled the Carthaginians, both by land and sea, that nothing remained
to be conquered but Africa itself. Accordingly, under the leadership of
Marcus Atilius Regulus, the war passed over into Africa. Nor were there
wanting some on the occasion who mutinied at the mere name and dread of
the Punic sea, a tribune named Mannius increasing their alarm; but the
general, threatening him with the axe if he did not obey, produced
courage for the voyage by the terror of death. They then hastened their
course by the aid of winds and oars, and such was the terror of the
Africans at the approach of the enemy that Carthage was almost surprised
with its gates opened.

The first prize taken in the war was the city of Clypea, which juts out
from the Carthaginian shore as a fortress or watch-tower. Both this and
more than three hundred fortresses besides were destroyed. Nor had the
Romans to contend only with men, but with monsters also; for a serpent
of vast size, born, as it were, to avenge Africa, harassed their camp on
the Bagrada. But Regulus, who overcame all obstacles, having spread the
terror of his name far and wide, having killed or taken prisoners a
great number of the enemy's force, and their captains themselves, and
having despatched his fleet, laden with much spoil and stored with
materials for a triumph, to Rome, proceeded to besiege Carthage itself,
the origin of the war, and took his position close to the gates of it.
Here fortune was a little changed; but it was only that more proofs of
Roman fortitude might be given, the greatness of which was generally
best shown in calamities. For the enemy applying for foreign assistance,
and Lacedaemon having sent them Xanthippus as a general, we were
defeated by a captain so eminently skilled in military affairs. It was
then that by an ignominious defeat, such as the Romans had never before
experienced, their most valiant commander fell alive into the enemy's
hands. But he was a man able to endure so great a calamity; as he was
neither humbled by his imprisonment at Carthage nor by the deputation
which he headed to Rome; for he advised what was contrary to the
injunctions of the enemy, and recommended that no peace should be made,
and no exchange of prisoners admitted. Even by his voluntary return to
his enemies, and by his last sufferings, whether in prison or on the
cross, the dignity of the man was not at all obscured. But being
rendered, by all these occurrences, even more worthy of admiration, what
can be said of him but that, when conquered, he was superior to his
conquerors, and that, though Carthage had not submitted, he triumphed
over Fortune herself?

The Roman people were now much keener and more ardent to revenge the
fate of Regulus than to obtain victory. Under the consul Metellus,
therefore, when the Carthaginians were growing insolent, and when the
war had returned into Sicily, they gave the enemy such a defeat at
Panormus that they thought no more of that island. A proof of the
greatness of this victory was the capture of about a hundred elephants,
a vast prey, even if they had taken that number, not in war, but in
hunting.[56] Under the consulship of Appius Claudius, they were
overcome, not by the enemy, but by the gods themselves, whose auspices
they had despised, their fleet being sunk in that very place where the
consul had ordered the chickens to be thrown overboard, because he was
warned by them not to fight. Under the consulship of Marcus Fabius
Buteo, they overthrew, near AEgimurus, in the African sea, a fleet of the
enemy which was just sailing for Italy. But, oh! how great materials for
a triumph were then lost by a storm, when the Roman fleet, richly laden
with spoil, and driven by contrary winds, covered with its wreck the
coasts of Africa and the Syrtes, and of all the islands lying amid those
seas! A great calamity! But not without some honor to this eminent
people, from the circumstance that their victory was intercepted only by
a storm, and that the matter for their triumph was lost only by a
shipwreck. Yet, though the Punic spoils were scattered abroad, and
thrown up by the waves on every promontory and island, the Romans still
celebrated a triumph. In the consulship of Lutatius Catulus, an end was
at last put to the war near the islands named AEgates. Nor was there any
greater fight during this war; for the fleet of the enemy was laden with
provisions, troops, towers, and arms; indeed, all Carthage, as it were,
was in it; a state of things which proved its destruction, as the Roman
fleet, on the contrary, being active, light, free from encumbrance, and
in some degree resembling a land-camp, was wheeled about by its oars
like cavalry in a battle by their reins; and the beaks of the vessels,
directed now against one part of the enemy and now against another,
presented the appearance of living creatures. In a very short time,
accordingly, the ships of the enemy were shattered to pieces, and filled
the whole sea between Sicily and Sardinia with their wrecks. So great,
indeed, was the victory that there was no thought of demolishing the
enemy's city; since it seemed superfluous to pour their fury on towers
and walls, when Carthage had already been destroyed at sea.

[Footnote 56: "A vast prey--not in war, but in hunting." The sense is,
it would have been a considerable capture if he had taken these hundred
elephants, not in battle, but in hunting, in which more are often


After the first Carthaginian war there was scarcely a rest of four
years, when there was another war, inferior, indeed, in length of time,
for it occupied but eighteen years, but so much more terrible, from the
direfulness of its havoc, that if anyone compares the losses on both
sides, the people that conquered was more like one defeated. What
provoked this noble people was that the command of the sea was forced
from them, that their islands were taken, and that they were obliged to
pay tribute which they had before been accustomed to impose. Hannibal,
when but a boy, swore to his father, before an altar, to take revenge on
the Romans; nor was he backward to execute his oath. Saguntum,
accordingly, was made the occasion of a war; an old and wealthy city of
Spain, and a great but sad example of fidelity to the Romans. This city,
though granted, by the common treaty, the special privilege of enjoying
its liberty, Hannibal, seeking pretences for new disturbances, destroyed
with his own hands and those of its inhabitants, in order that, by an
infraction of the compact, he might open a passage for himself into

Among the Romans there is the highest regard to treaties, and
consequently, on hearing of the siege of an allied city, and
remembering, too, the compact made with the Carthaginians, they did not
at once have recourse to arms, but chose rather to expostulate on legal
grounds. In the mean time the Saguntines, exhausted with famine, the
assaults of machines, and the sword, and their fidelity being at last
carried to desperation, raised a vast pile in the market-place, on which
they destroyed, with fire and sword, themselves, their wives and
children, and all that they possessed. Hannibal, the cause of this great
destruction, was required to be given up. The Carthaginians hesitating
to comply, Fabius, who was at the head of the embassy, exclaimed: "What
is the meaning of this delay? In the fold of this garment I carry war
and peace; which of the two do you choose?" As they cried out "War,"
"Take war, then," he rejoined, and, shaking out the fore-part of his
toga in the middle of the senate house, as if he really carried war in
its folds, he spread it abroad, not without awe on the part of the

The sequel of the war was in conformity with its commencement; for, as
if the last imprecations of the Saguntines, at their public
self-immolation and burning of the city, had required such obsequies to
be performed to them, atonement was made to their _manes_ by the
devastation of Italy, the reduction of Africa, and the destruction of
the leaders and kings who engaged in that contest. When once, therefore,
that sad and dismal force and storm of the Punic War had arisen in
Spain, and had forged, in the fire of Saguntum, the thunderbolt long
before intended for the Romans, it immediately burst, as if hurried
along by resistless violence, through the middle of the Alps, and
descended, from those snows of incredible altitude, on the plains of
Italy, as if it had been hurled from the skies. The violence of its
first assault burst, with a mighty sound, between the Po and the
Ticinus. There the army under Scipio was routed; and the general
himself, being wounded, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy,
had not his son, then quite a boy, covered his father with his shield,
and rescued him from death. This was the Scipio who grew up for the
conquest of Africa, and who was to receive a name from its ill-fortune.

To Ticinus succeeded Trebia, where, in the consulship of Sempronius, the
second outburst of the Punic War was spent. On that occasion, the crafty
enemy, having chosen a cold and snowy day, and having first warmed
themselves at their fires, and anointed their bodies with oil, conquered
us, though they were men that came from the south and a warm sun, by the
aid (strange to say!) of our own winter.

The third thunderbolt of Hannibal fell at the Trasimene lake, when
Flaminius was commander. There also was employed a new stratagem of
Carthaginian subtlety; for a body of cavalry, being concealed by a mist
rising from the lake, and by the osiers growing in the fens, fell upon
the rear of the Romans as they were fighting. Nor can we complain of the
gods; for swarms of bees settling upon the standards, the reluctance of
the eagles to move forward, and a great earthquake that happened at the
commencement of the battle--unless, indeed, it was the tramping of horse
and foot, and the violent concussion of arms, that produced this
trembling of the ground--had forewarned the rash leader of approaching

The fourth and almost mortal wound of the Roman Empire was at Cannae, an
obscure village of Apulia; which, however, became famous by the
greatness of the defeat, its celebrity being acquired by the slaughter
of forty thousand men. Here the general, the ground, the face of heaven,
the day, indeed, all nature conspired together for the destruction of
the unfortunate army. For Hannibal, the most artful of generals, not
content with sending pretended deserters among the Romans, who fell upon
their rear as they were fighting, but having also noted the nature of
the ground in those open plains, where the heat of the sun is extremely
violent, the dust very great, and the wind blows constantly, and as it
were statedly, from the east, drew up his army in such a position that,
while the Romans were exposed to all these inconveniences, he himself,
having heaven, as it were, on his side, fought with wind, dust, and sun
in his favor. Two vast armies, in consequence, were slaughtered till the
enemy were satiated, and till Hannibal said to his soldiers, "Put up
your swords." Of the two commanders, one escaped, the other was slain;
which of them showed the greater spirit is doubtful. Paulus was ashamed
to survive; Varrodid not despair. Of the greatness of the slaughter the
following proofs may be noticed: that the Aufidus was for some time red
with blood; that a bridge was made of dead bodies, by order of Hannibal,
over the torrent of Vergellus, and that two _modii_ of rings were sent
to Carthage, and the equestrian dignity estimated by measure.

It was afterward not doubted but that Rome might have seen its last day,
and that Hannibal, within five days, might have feasted in the Capitol,
if--as they say that Adherbal, the Carthaginian, the son of Bomilcar,
observed--"he had known as well how to use his victory as how to gain
it." But at that crisis, as is generally said, either the fate of the
city that was to be empress of the world, or his own want of judgment,
and the influence of deities unfavorable to Carthage, carried him in a
different direction. When he might have taken advantage of his victory,
he chose rather to seek enjoyment from it, and, leaving Rome, to march
into Campania and to Tarentum, where both he and his army soon lost
their vigor, so that it was justly remarked that "Capua proved a Cannae
to Hannibal"; since the sunshine of Campania and the warm springs of
Baiae subdued--who could have believed it?--him who had been unconquered
by the Alps and unshaken in the field. In the mean time the Romans began
to recover and to rise, as it were, from the dead. They had no arms, but
they took them down from the temples; men were wanting, but slaves were
freed to take the oath of service; the treasury was exhausted, but the
senate willingly offered their wealth for the public service, leaving
themselves no gold but what was contained in their children's
_bullae_[57] and in their own belts and rings. The knights followed their
example, and the common people that of the knights; so that when the
wealth of private persons was brought to the public treasury--in the
consulship of Laevinus and Marcellus--the registers scarcely sufficed to
contain the account of it, or the hands of the clerks to record it.

[Footnote 57: A sort of ornament suspended from the necks of children,
which, among the wealthy, was made of gold. It was in the shape of a
bubble on water, or, as Pliny says, of a heart.]

But how can I sufficiently praise the wisdom of the centuries in the
choice of magistrates, when the younger sought advice from the elder as
to what consuls should be created? They saw that against an enemy so
often victorious, and so full of subtlety, it was necessary to contend,
not only with courage, but with his own wiles. The first hope of the
empire now recovering, and, if I may use the expression, coming to life
again, was Fabius, who found a new mode of conquering Hannibal, which
was, _not to fight_. Hence he received that new name, so salutary to the
commonwealth, of _Cunctator_, or Delayer. Hence too it happened that he
was called by the people _the shield of the empire_. Through the whole
of Samnium, and through the Falerian and Gauran forests, he so harassed
Hannibal that he who could not be reduced by valor was weakened by
delay. The Romans then ventured, under the command of Claudius
Marcellus, to engage him; they came to close quarters with him, drove
him out of his dear Campania, and forced him to raise the siege of Nola.
They ventured likewise, under the leadership of Sempronius Gracchus, to
pursue him through Lucania, and to press hard upon his rear as he
retired; though they then fought him (sad dishonor!) with a body of
slaves, for to this extremity had so many disasters reduced them, but
they were rewarded with liberty, and from slaves they made them Romans.

O amazing confidence in the midst of so much adversity! O extraordinary
courage and spirit of the Roman people in such oppressive and
distressing circumstances! At a time when they were uncertain of
preserving their own Italy, they yet ventured to look to other
countries; and when the enemy were at their throat, flying through
Campania and Apulia, and making an Africa in the middle of Italy, they
at the same time both withstood that enemy and dispersed their arms over
the earth into Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain.

Sicily was assigned to Marcellus, and did not long resist his efforts;
for the whole island was conquered in the conquest of one city.
Syracuse, its great and, till that period, unconquered capital, though
defended by the genius of Archimedes, was at last obliged to yield. Its
triple wall and three citadels, its marble harbor and the celebrated
fountain of Arethusa, were no defence to it, except so far as to procure
consideration for its beauty when it was conquered.

Sardinia Gracchus reduced; the savageness of the inhabitants, and the
vastness of its Mad Mountains--for so they are called--availed it
nothing. Great severity was exercised upon its cities, and upon Caralis,
the city of its cities, that a nation, obstinate and regardless of
death, might at least be humbled by concern for the soil of its country.

Into Spain were sent the two Scipios, Cnaeus, and Publius, who wrested
almost the whole of it from the Carthaginians; but, being surprised by
the artifices of Punic subtlety, they again lost it, even after they had
slaughtered the enemy's forces in great battles. The wiles of the
Carthaginians cut off one of them by the sword as he was pitching his
camp, and the other by surrounding him with lighted fagots after he had
made his escape into a tower. But the other Scipio, to whom the Fates
had decreed so great a name from Africa, being sent with an army to
revenge the death of his father and uncle, recovered all that warlike
country of Spain, so famous for its men and arms, that seminary of the
enemy's force, that instructress of Hannibal, from the Pyrenean
mountains--the account is scarcely credible--to the Pillars of Hercules
and the ocean, whether with greater speed or good fortune is difficult
to decide; how great was his speed, four years bear witness; how
remarkable his good fortune, even one city proves, for it was taken on
the same day in which siege was laid to it, and it was an omen of the
conquest of Africa that Carthage in Spain was so easily reduced. It is
certain, however, that what most contributed to make the province submit
was the eminent virtue of the general, who restored to the barbarians
certain captive youths and maidens of extraordinary beauty, not allowing
them even to be brought into his sight, that he might not seem, even by
a single glance, to have detracted from their virgin purity.

These actions the Romans performed in different parts of the world, yet
were they unable, notwithstanding, to remove Hannibal, who was lodged in
the heart of Italy. Most of the towns had revolted to the enemy, whose
vigorous commander used even the strength of Italy against the Romans.
However, we had now forced him out of many towns and districts. Tarentum
had returned to our side; and Capua, the seat, home, and second country
of Hannibal, was again in our hands; the loss of which caused the Punic
leader so much affliction that he then directed all his force against

O people worthy of the empire of the world, worthy of the favor and
admiration of all, not only men, but gods! Though they were brought into
the greatest alarm, they desisted not from their original design; though
they were concerned for their own city, they did not abandon their
attempts on Capua; but, part of their army being left there with the
consul Appius, and part having followed Flaccus to Rome, they fought
both at home and abroad at the same time. Why then should we wonder that
the gods themselves, the gods, I say--nor shall I be ashamed[58] to
admit it--again opposed Hannibal as he was preparing to march forward
when at three miles' distance from Rome. For, at every movement of his
force, so copious a flood of rain descended, and such a violent storm of
wind arose, that it was evident the enemy was repulsed by divine
influence, and the tempest proceeded, not from heaven, but from the
walls of the city and the Capitol. He therefore fled and departed, and
withdrew to the farthest corner of Italy, leaving the city in a manner
adored. It is but a small matter to mention, yet sufficiently indicative
of the magnanimity of the Roman people, that during those very days in
which the city was besieged, the ground which Hannibal occupied with his
camp was offered for sale at Rome, and, being put up to auction,
actually found a purchaser. Hannibal, on the other side, wished to
imitate such confidence, and put up for sale the bankers' houses in the
city; but no buyer was found; so that it was evident that the Fates had
their presages.

[Footnote 58: Why should he be ashamed to admit that Rome was saved by
the aid of the gods? To receive assistance from the gods was a proof of
merit. The gods help those who help themselves, says the proverb. When
he says that the gods "_again_ opposed Hannibal," he seems to refer to
what he said above in speaking of the battle of Cannae, that the
deities, averse to Carthage, prevented Hannibal from marching at that
time to Rome.]

But as yet nothing had been effectually accomplished by so much valor,
or even through such eminent favor from the gods; for Hasdrubal, the
brother of Hannibal, was approaching with a new army, new strength, and
every fresh requisite for war. There had doubtless been an end of Rome,
if that general had united himself with his brother; but Claudius Nero,
in conjunction with Livius Salinator, overthrew him as he was pitching
his camp. Nero was at that time keeping Hannibal at bay in the farthest
corner of Italy; while Livius had marched to the very opposite quarter,
that is, to the very entrance and confines of Italy; and of the ability
and expedition with which the consuls joined their forces--though so
vast a space, that is, the whole of Italy where it is longest, lay
between them--and defeated the enemy with their combined strength, when
they expected no attack, and without the knowledge of Hannibal, it is
difficult to give a notion. When Hannibal, however, had knowledge of the
matter, and saw his brother's head thrown down before his camp, he
exclaimed, "I perceive the evil destiny of Carthage." This was his first
confession of that kind, not without a sure presage of his approaching
fate; and it was now certain, even from his own acknowledgment, that
Hannibal might be conquered. But the Roman people, full of confidence
from so many successes, thought it would be a noble enterprise to subdue
such a desperate enemy in his own Africa. Directing their whole force,
therefore, under the leadership of Scipio, upon Africa itself, they
began to imitate Hannibal, and to avenge upon Africa the sufferings of
their own Italy. What forces of Hasdrubal (good gods!), what armies of
Syphax, did that commander put to flight! How great were the camps of
both that he destroyed in one night by casting firebrands into them! At
last, not at three miles distance, but by a close siege, he shook the
very gates of Carthage itself. And thus he succeeded in drawing off
Hannibal when he was still clinging to and brooding over Italy. There
was no more remarkable day, during the whole course of the Roman Empire,
than that on which those two generals, the greatest of all that ever
lived, whether before or after them, the one the conqueror of Italy, and
the other of Spain, drew up their forces for a close engagement. But
previously a conference was held between them concerning conditions of
peace. They stood motionless awhile in admiration of each other. When
they could not agree on a peace, they gave the signal for battle. It is
certain, from the confession of both, that no troops could have been
better drawn up, and no fight more obstinately maintained. This Hannibal
acknowledged concerning the army of Scipio, and Scipio concerning that
of Hannibal. But Hannibal was forced to yield, and Africa became the
prize of the victory; and the whole earth soon followed the fate of


The third war with Africa was both short in its duration--for it was
finished in four years--and, compared with those that preceded it, of
much less difficulty; as we had to fight not so much against troops in
the field as against the city itself; but it was far the greatest of the
three in its consequences, for in it Carthage was at last destroyed. And
if anyone contemplates the events of the three periods, he will
understand that the war was begun in the first, greatly advanced in the
second, and entirely finished in the third.

The cause of this war was that Carthage, in violation of an article in
the treaty, had once fitted out a fleet and army against the Numidians,
and had frequently threatened the frontiers of Masinissa. But the Romans
were partial to this good king, who was also their ally.

When the war had been determined upon, they had to consider about the
end of it. Cato, even when his opinion was asked on any other subject,
pronounced, with implacable enmity, that Carthage should be destroyed.
Scipio Nasica gave his voice for its preservation, lest, if the fear of
the rival city were removed, the exultation of Rome should grow
extravagant. The senate decided on a middle course, resolving that the
city should only be removed from its place; for nothing appeared to them
more glorious than that there should be a Carthage which should not be
feared. In the consulship of Manlius and Censorinus, therefore, the
Roman people having attacked Carthage, but giving them some hopes of
peace, burned their fleet, which they voluntarily delivered up, in sight
of the city. Having next summoned the chief men, they commanded them to
quit the place if they wished to preserve their lives. This requisition,
from its cruelty, so incensed them that they chose rather to submit to
the utmost extremities. They accordingly bewailed their necessities
publicly, and shouted with one voice _to arms_; and a resolution was
made to resist the enemy by every means in their power; not because any
hope of success was left, but because they had rather their birthplace
should be destroyed by the hands of the enemy than by their own. With
what spirit they resumed the war may be understood from the facts that
they pulled down their roofs and houses for the equipment of a new
fleet; that gold and silver, instead of brass and iron, were melted in
their forges for the construction of arms; and that the women parted
with their hair to make cordage for the engines of war.

Under the command of the consul Mancinus, the siege was warmly conducted
both by land and sea. The harbor was dismantled of its works, and a
first, second, and even third wall taken, while nevertheless the Byrsa,
which was the name of the citadel, held out like another city. But
though the destruction of the place was thus very far advanced, it was
the name of the Scipios only that seemed fatal to Africa. The
Government, accordingly, applying to another Scipio, desired from him a
termination of the war. This Scipio, the son of Paulus Macedonicus, the
son of the great Africanus had adopted as an honor to his family, and,
as it appeared, with this destiny, that the grandson should overthrow
the city which the grandfather had shaken. But as the bites of dying
beasts are wont to be most fatal, so there was more trouble with
Carthage half-ruined than when it was in its full strength. The Romans
having shut the enemy up in their single fortress, had also blockaded
the harbor; but upon this they dug another harbor on the other side of
the city, not with a design to escape, but because no one supposed that
they could even force an outlet there. Here a new fleet, as if just
born, started forth; and, in the mean while, sometimes by day and
sometimes by night, some new mole, some new machine, some new band of
desperate men perpetually started up, like a sudden flame from a fire
sunk in ashes. At last, their affairs becoming desperate, forty thousand
men, and (what is hardly credible) with Hasdrubal at their head,
surrendered themselves. How much more nobly did a woman behave, the wife
of the general, who, taking hold of her two children, threw herself from
the top of her house into the midst of the flames, imitating the queen
that built Carthage. How great a city was then destroyed is shown, to
say nothing of other things, by the duration of the fire, for the flames
could scarcely be extinguished at the end of seventeen days; flames
which the enemy themselves had raised in their houses and temples, that,
since the city could not be rescued from the Romans, all matter for
triumph might at least be burned.


B.C. 207


(During the closing years of the Second Punic War the resources of the
Romans were drained to such an extent as to bring great disheartenment
to their rulers and generals. Under the stress of financial
difficulties, the cost of living greatly increased, and the State was
compelled to resort to loans of various kinds, and to levy upon citizens
of means for the pay of seamen. This scheme for raising Roman "ship
money" was one of the most significant indications of the extreme weight
resting upon the republic in the prosecution of this arduous war. A war
with Sicily was fortunately terminated, releasing some additional force
for employment against the Carthaginians; but for some time little
headway was made by the Roman commanders, and when, in B.C. 207, the
people were called upon to elect consuls, their affairs were still in a
condition which caused serious anxiety. The consuls chosen in that year
were Marcus Livius and Caius Claudius Nero, and without delay they went
to take command in southern Italy, which the Carthaginians under
Hannibal, though not in much strength, had invaded.

But when, later in the season, Hasdrubal crossed the Alps from the north
to join his brother, Hannibal, the aspect of the war became still more
grave in the eyes of the Romans. Hasdrubal solicited the support of the
Gauls, but to little purpose. Meanwhile Hannibal made skilful use of his
small forces in eluding the consul Nero; but the capture by the Romans
of despatches from Hasdrubal disclosed his plans, and Nero at once
formed his own for intercepting him. The result was that Nero and Livius
joined their forces in Hasdrubal's front, and to the Carthaginian they
offered immediate battle. Hasdrubal attempted a retreat, but was
compelled to give battle on the banks of the Metaurus. Of this, one of
the "decisive battles of the world," Creasy has left an authoritative
and graphic account, which here follows. The part of the consul Nero in
the campaign is thus remarked upon by Lord Byron:

"The consul Nero, who made the unequalled march which deceived Hannibal
and deceived Hasdrubal, thereby accomplished an achievement almost
unrivalled in military annals. The first intelligence of his return, to
Hannibal, was the sight of Hasdrubal's head thrown into his camp. When
Hannibal saw this, he exclaimed, with a sigh, that 'Rome would now be
the mistress of the world.' To this victory of Nero's it might be owing
that his imperial namesake reigned at all. But the infamy of the one has
eclipsed the glory of the other. When the name of Nero is heard, who
thinks of the consul? But such are human things.")

About midway between Rimini and Ancona a little river falls into the
Adriatic, after traversing one of those districts of Italy in which a
vain attempt has lately been made to revive, after long centuries of
servitude and shame, the spirit of Italian nationality and the energy of
free institutions. That stream is still called the Metauro, and wakens
by its name the recollections of the resolute daring of ancient Rome,
and of the slaughter that stained its current two thousand and
sixty-three years ago, when the combined consular armies of Livius and
Nero encountered and crushed near its banks the varied hosts which
Hannibal's brother was leading from the Pyrenees, the Rhone, the Alps,
and the Po, to aid the great Carthaginian in his stern struggle to
annihilate the growing might of the Roman republic, and make the Punic
power supreme over all the nations of the world.

The Roman historian,[59] who termed that struggle the most memorable of
all wars that ever were carried on, wrote in no spirit of exaggeration;
for it is not in ancient, but in modern history that parallels for its
incidents and its heroes are to be found. The similitude between the
contest which Rome maintained against Hannibal, and that which England
was for many years engaged in against Napoleon, has not passed
unobserved by recent historians. "Twice," says Arnold, "has there been
witnessed the struggle of the highest individual genius against the
resources and institutions of a great nation, and in both cases the
nation has been victorious. For seventeen years Hannibal strove against
Rome; for sixteen years Napoleon Bonaparte strove against England: the
efforts of the first ended in Zama; those of the second in Waterloo."

[Footnote 59: Livy.]

One point, however, of the similitude between the two wars has scarcely
been adequately dwelt on; that is, the remarkable parallel between the
Roman general who finally defeated the great Carthaginian, and the
English general who gave the last deadly overthrow to the French
Emperor. Scipio and Wellington both held for many years commands of high
importance, but distant from the main theatres of warfare. The same
country was the scene of the principal military career of each. It was
in Spain that Scipio, like Wellington, successively encountered and
overthrew nearly all the subordinate generals of the enemy before being
opposed to the chief champion and conqueror himself. Both Scipio and
Wellington restored their countrymen's confidence in arms when shaken by
a series of reverses, and each of them closed a long and perilous war by
a complete and overwhelming defeat of the chosen leader and the chosen
veterans of the foe.

Nor is the parallel between them limited to their military characters
and exploits. Scipio, like Wellington, became an important leader of the
aristocratic party among his countrymen, and was exposed to the
unmeasured invectives of the violent section of his political
antagonists. When, early in the last reign, an infuriated mob assaulted
the Duke of Wellington in the streets of the English capital on the
anniversary of Waterloo, England was even more disgraced by that outrage
than Rome was by the factious accusations which demagogues brought
against Scipio, but which he proudly repelled on the day of trial by
reminding the assembled people that it was the anniversary of the battle
of Zama. Happily, a wiser and a better spirit has now for years pervaded
all classes of our community, and we shall be spared the ignominy of
having worked out to the end the parallel of national ingratitude.
Scipio died a voluntary exile from the malevolent turbulence of Rome.
Englishmen of all ranks and politics have now long united in
affectionate admiration of our modern Scipio; and even those who have
most widely differed from the duke on legislative or administrative
questions, forget what they deem the political errors of that
time-honored head, while they gratefully call to mind the laurels that
have wreathed it.

Scipio at Zama trampled in the dust the power of Carthage, but that
power had been already irreparably shattered in another field, where
neither Scipio nor Hannibal commanded. When the Metaurus witnessed the
defeat and death of Hasdrubal, it witnessed the ruin of the scheme by
which alone Carthage could hope to organize decisive success--the scheme
of enveloping Rome at once from the north and the south of Italy by two
chosen armies, led by two sons of Hamilcar. That battle was the
determining crisis of the contest, not merely between Rome and Carthage,
but between the two great families of the world, which then made Italy
the arena of their oft-renewed contest for preeminence.

The French historian, Michelet, whose _Histoire Romaine_ would have been
invaluable if the general industry and accuracy of the writer had in any
degree equalled his originality and brilliancy, eloquently remarks: "It
is not without reason that so universal and vivid a remembrance of the
Punic wars has dwelt in the memories of men. They formed no mere
struggle to determine the lot of two cities or two empires; but it was a
strife on the event of which depended the fate of two races of mankind,
whether the dominion of the world should belong to the Indo-Germanic or
to the Semitic family of nations. Bear in mind that the first of these
comprises, besides the Indians and the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans,
and the Germans. In the other are ranked the Jews and the Arabs, the
Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. On the one side is the genius of
heroism, of art, and legislation; on the other is the spirit of
industry, of commerce, of navigation.

"The two opposite races have everywhere come into contact, everywhere
into hostility. In the primitive history of Persia and Chaldaea, the
heroes are perpetually engaged in combat with their industrious and
perfidious neighbors. The struggle is renewed between the Phoenicians
and the Greeks on every coast of the Mediterranean. The Greek supplants
the Phoenician in all his factories, all his colonies in the East: soon
will the Roman come, and do likewise in the West. Alexander did far more
against Tyre than Shalmaneser or Nebuchadnezzar had done. Not content
with crushing her, he took care that she never should revive; for he
founded Alexandria as her substitute, and changed forever the track of
the commerce of the world. There remained Carthage--the great Carthage,
and her mighty empire--mighty in a far different degree than Phoenicia's
had been. Rome annihilated it. Then occurred that which has no parallel
in history--an entire civilization perished at one blow--banished, like
a falling star. The _Periplus_ of Hanno, a few coins, a score of lines
in Plautus, and, lo, all that remains of the Carthaginian world!

"Many generations must needs pass away before the struggle between the
two races could be renewed; and the Arabs, that formidable rear-guard of
the Semitic world, dashed forth from their deserts. The conflict between
the two races then became the conflict of two religions. Fortunate was
it that those daring Saracenic cavaliers encountered in the East the
impregnable walls of Constantinople, in the West the chivalrous valor of

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