The History Of Rome, Book III by Theodor Mommsen

of 7-bit ASCII code, adopts the following orthographic conventions: 1) Except for Greek, all literally cited non-English words that do not refer to texts cited as academic references, words that in the source manuscript appear italicized, are rendered with a single preceding, and a single following dash; thus, -xxxx-. 2) Greek words, first transliterated into
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of 7-bit ASCII code, adopts the following orthographic conventions:

1) Except for Greek, all literally cited non-English words that do not refer to texts cited as academic references, words that in the source manuscript appear italicized, are rendered with a single preceding, and a single following dash; thus, -xxxx-.

2) Greek words, first transliterated into Roman alphabetic equivalents, are rendered with a preceding and a following double- dash; thus, –xxxx–. Note that in some cases the root word itself is a compound form such as xxx-xxxx, and is rendered as –xxx-xxx–

3) Simple unideographic references to vocalic sounds, single letters, or alphabeic dipthongs; and prefixes, suffixes, and syllabic references are represented by a single preceding dash; thus, -x, or -xxx.

4) Ideographic references, referring to signs of representation rather than to content, are represented as -“id:xxxx”-. “id:” stands for “ideograph”, and indicates that the reader should form a picture based on the following “xxxx”; which may be a single symbol, a word, or an attempt at a picture composed of ASCII characters. For example, –“id:GAMMA gamma”– indicates an uppercase Greek gamma-form followed by the form in lowercase. Some such exotic parsing as this is necessary to explain alphabetic development because a single symbol may have been used for a number of sounds in a number of languages, or even for a number of sounds in the same language at different times. Thus, “-id:GAMMA gamma” might very well refer to a Phoenician construct that in appearance resembles the form that eventually stabilized as an uppercase Greek “gamma” juxtaposed to one of lowercase. Also, a construct such as –“id:E” indicates a symbol that with ASCII resembles most closely a Roman uppercase “E”, but, in fact, is actually drawn more crudely.

5) Dr. Mommsen has given his dates in terms of Roman usage, A.U.C.; that is, from the founding of Rome, conventionally taken to be 753 B. C. The preparer of this document, has appended to the end of each volume a table of conversion between the two systems.

The History Of Rome


Theodor Mommsen

Translated With The Sanction Of The Author


William Purdie Dickson, D.D., LL.D.
Professor Of Divinity In The University Of Glasgow

A New Edition Revised Throughout And Embodying Recent Additions


From The Union Of Italy To The Subjugation Of Carthage And The Greek States


The War Between Rome And Carthage Concerning Sicily

The Extension Of Italy To Its Natural Boundaries

Hamilcar And Hannibal

The War Under Hannibal To The Battle Of Cannae

The War Under Hannibal From Cannae To Zama

The West From The Peace Of Hannibal To The Close Of The Third Period

The Eastern States And The Second Macedonian War

The War With Antiochus Of Asia

The Third Macedonian War

The Government And The Governed

The Management Of Land And Of Capital

Faith And Manners

Literature And Art


From The Union Of Italy To The Subjugation Of Carthage And The Greek States

Arduum res gestas scribere.


Chapter I


The Phoenicians

The Semitic stock occupied a place amidst, and yet aloof from, the nations of the ancient classical world. The true centre of the former lay in the east, that of the latter in the region of the Mediterranean; and, however wars and migrations may have altered the line of demarcation and thrown the races across each other, a deep sense of diversity has always severed, and still severs, the Indo- Germanic peoples from the Syrian, Israelite, and Arabic nations. This diversity was no less marked in the case of that Semitic people which spread more than any other in the direction of the west–the Phoenicians. Their native seat was the narrow border of coast bounded by Asia Minor, the highlands of Syria, and Egypt, and called Canaan, that is, the “plain.” This was the only name which the nation itself made use of; even in Christian times the African farmer called himself a Canaanite. But Canaan received from the Hellenes the name of Phoenike, the “land of purple,” or “land of the red men,” and the Italians also were accustomed to call the Canaanites Punians, as we are accustomed still to speak of them as the Phoenician or Punic race.

Their Commerce

The land was well adapted for agriculture; but its excellent harbours and the abundant supply of timber and of metals favoured above all things the growth of commerce; and it was there perhaps, where the opulent eastern continent abuts on the wide-spreading Mediterranean so rich in harbours and islands, that commerce first dawned in all its greatness upon man. The Phoenicians directed all the resources of courage, acuteness, and enthusiasm to the full development of commerce and its attendant arts of navigation, manufacturing, and colonization, and thus connected the east and the west. At an incredibly early period we find them in Cyprus and Egypt, in Greece and Sicily, in Africa and Spain, and even on the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. The field of their commerce reached from Sierra Leone and Cornwall in the west, eastward to the coast of Malabar. Through their hands passed the gold and pearls of the East, the purple of Tyre, slaves, ivory, lions’ and panthers’ skins from the interior of Africa, frankincense from Arabia, the linen of Egypt, the pottery and fine wines of Greece, the copper of Cyprus, the silver of Spain, tin from England, and iron from Elba. The Phoenician mariners brought to every nation whatever it could need or was likely to purchase; and they roamed everywhere, yet always returned to the narrow home to which their affections clung.

Their Intellectual Endowments

The Phoenicians are entitled to be commemorated in history by the side of the Hellenic and Latin nations; but their case affords a fresh proof, and perhaps the strongest proof of all, that the development of national energies in antiquity was of a one-sided character. Those noble and enduring creations in the field of intellect, which owe their origin to the Aramaean race, do not belong primarily to the Phoenicians. While faith and knowledge in a certain sense were the especial property of the Aramaean nations and first reached the Indo-Germans from the east, neither the Phoenician religion nor Phoenician science and art ever, so far as we can see, held an independent rank among those of the Aramaean family. The religious conceptions of the Phoenicians were rude and uncouth, and it seemed as if their worship was meant to foster rather than to restrain lust and cruelty. No trace is discernible, at least in times of clear historical light, of any special influence exercised by their religion over other nations. As little do we find any Phoenician architecture or plastic art at all comparable even to those of Italy, to say nothing of the lands where art was native. The most ancient seat of scientific observation and of its application to practical purposes was Babylon, or at any rate the region of the Euphrates. It was there probably that men first followed the course of the stars; it was there that they first distinguished and expressed in writing the sounds of language; it was there that they began to reflect on time and space and on the powers at work in nature: the earliest traces of astronomy and chronology, of the alphabet, and of weights and measures, point to that region. The Phoenicians doubtless availed themselves of the artistic and highly developed manufactures of Babylon for their industry, of the observation of the stars for their navigation, of the writing of sounds and the adjustment of measures for their commerce, and distributed many an important germ of civilization along with their wares; but it cannot be demonstrated that the alphabet or any other of those ingenious products of the human mind belonged peculiarly to them, and such religious and scientific ideas as they were the means of conveying to the Hellenes were scattered by them more after the fashion of a bird dropping grains than of the husbandman sowing his seed. The power which the Hellenes and even the Italians possessed, of civilizing and assimilating to themselves the nations susceptible of culture with whom they came into contact, was wholly wanting in the Phoenicians. In the field of Roman conquest the Iberian and the Celtic languages have disappeared before the Romanic tongue; the Berbers of Africa speak at the present day the same language as they spoke in the times of the Hannos and the Barcides.

Their Political Qualities

Above all, the Phoenicians, like the rest of the Aramaean nations as compared with the Indo-Germans, lacked the instinct of political life –the noble idea of self-governing freedom. During the most flourishing times of Sidon and Tyre the land of the Phoenicians was a perpetual apple of contention between the powers that ruled on the Euphrates and on the Nile, and was subject sometimes to the Assyrians, sometimes to the Egyptians. With half its power Hellenic cities would have made themselves independent; but the prudent men of Sidon calculated that the closing of the caravan-routes to the east or of the ports of Egypt would cost them more than the heaviest tribute, and so they punctually paid their taxes, as it might happen, to Nineveh or to Memphis, and even, if they could not avoid it, helped with their ships to fight the battles of the kings. And, as at home the Phoenicians patiently bore the oppression of their masters, so also abroad they were by no means inclined to exchange the peaceful career of commerce for a policy of conquest. Their settlements were factories. It was of more moment in their view to deal in buying and selling with the natives than to acquire extensive territories in distant lands, and to carry out there the slow and difficult work of colonization. They avoided war even with their rivals; they allowed themselves to be supplanted in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and the east of Sicily almost without resistance; and in the great naval battles, which were fought in early times for the supremacy of the western Mediterranean, at Alalia (217) and at Cumae (280), it was the Etruscans, and not the Phoenicians, that bore the brunt of the struggle with the Greeks. If rivalry could not be avoided, they compromised the matter as best they could; no attempt was ever made by the Phoenicians to conquer Caere or Massilia. Still less, of course, were the Phoenicians disposed to enter on aggressive war. On the only occasion in earlier times when they took the field on the offensive–in the great Sicilian expedition of the African Phoenicians which ended in their defeat at Himera by Gelo of Syracuse (274)–it was simply as dutiful subjects of the great-king and in order to avoid taking part in the campaign against the Hellenes of the east, that they entered the lists against the Hellenes of the west; just as their Syrian kinsmen were in fact obliged in that same year to share the defeat of the Persians at Salamis(1).

This was not the result of cowardice; navigation in unknown waters and with armed vessels requires brave hearts, and that such were to be found among the Phoenicians, they often showed. Still less was it the result of any lack of tenacity and idiosyncrasy of national feeling; on the contrary the Aramaeans defended their nationality with the weapons of intellect as well as with their blood against all the allurements of Greek civilization and all the coercive measures of eastern and western despots, and that with an obstinacy which no Indo- Germanic people has ever equalled, and which to us who are Occidentals seems to be sometimes more, sometimes less, than human. It was the result of that want of political instinct, which amidst all their lively sense of the ties of race, and amidst all their faithful attachment to the city of their fathers, formed the most essential feature in the character of the Phoenicians. Liberty had no charms for them, and they lusted not after dominion; “quietly they lived,” says the Book of Judges, “after the manner of the Sidonians, careless and secure, and in possession of riches.”


Of all the Phoenician settlements none attained a more rapid and secure prosperity than those which were established by the Tyrians and Sidonians on the south coast of Spain and the north coast of Africa– regions that lay beyond the reach of the arm of the great-king and the dangerous rivalry of the mariners of Greece, and in which the natives held the same relation to the strangers as the Indians in America held to the Europeans. Among the numerous and flourishing Phoenician cities along these shores, the most prominent by far was the “new town,” Karthada or, as the Occidentals called it, Karchedon or Carthago. Although not the earliest settlement of the Phoenicians in this region, and originally perhaps a dependency of the adjoining Utica, the oldest of the Phoenician towns in Libya, it soon outstripped its neighbours and even the motherland through the incomparable advantages of its situation and the energetic activity of its inhabitants. It was situated not far from the (former) mouth of the Bagradas (Mejerda), which flows through the richest corn district of northern Africa, and was placed on a fertile rising ground, still occupied with country houses and covered with groves of olive and orange trees, falling off in a gentle slope towards the plain, and terminating towards the sea in a sea-girt promontory. Lying in the heart of the great North-African roadstead, the Gulf of Tunis, at the very spot where that beautiful basin affords the best anchorage for vessels of larger size, and where drinkable spring water is got close by the shore, the place proved singularly favourable for agriculture and commerce and for the exchange of their respective commodities–so favourable, that not only was the Tyrian settlement in that quarter the first of Phoenician mercantile cities, but even in the Roman period Carthage was no sooner restored than it became the third city in the empire, and even now, under circumstances far from favourable and on a site far less judiciously chosen, there exists and flourishes in that quarter a city of a hundred thousand inhabitants. The prosperity, agricultural, mercantile, and industrial, of a city so situated and so peopled, needs no explanation; but the question requires an answer–in what way did this settlement come to attain a development of political power, such as no other Phoenician city possessed?

Carthage Heads The Western Phoenicians In Opposition To The Hellenes

That the Phoenician stock did not even in Carthage renounce its policy of passiveness, there is no lack of evidence to prove. Carthage paid, even down to the times of its prosperity, a ground-rent for the space occupied by the city to the native Berbers, the tribe of the Maxyes or Maxitani; and although the sea and the desert sufficiently protected the city from any assault of the eastern powers, Carthage appears to have recognized–although but nominally–the supremacy of the great- king, and to have paid tribute to him occasionally, in order to secure its commercial communications with Tyre and the East.

But with all their disposition to be submissive and cringing, circumstances occurred which compelled these Phoenicians to adopt a more energetic policy. The stream of Hellenic migration was pouring ceaselessly towards the west: it had already dislodged the Phoenicians from Greece proper and Italy, and it was preparing to supplant them also in Sicily, in Spain, and even in Libya itself. The Phoenicians had to make a stand somewhere, if they were not willing to be totally crushed. In this case, where they had to deal with Greek traders and not with the great-king, submission did not suffice to secure the continuance of their commerce and industry on its former footing, liable merely to tax and tribute. Massilia and Cyrene were already founded; the whole east of Sicily was already in the hands of the Greeks; it was full time for the Phoenicians to think of serious resistance. The Carthaginians undertook the task; after long and obstinate wars they set a limit to the advance of the Cyrenaeans, and Hellenism was unable to establish itself to the west of the desert of Tripolis. With Carthaginian aid, moreover, the Phoenician settlers on the western point of Sicily defended themselves against the Greeks, and readily and gladly submitted to the protection of the powerful cognate city.(2) These important successes, which occurred in the second century of Rome, and which saved for the Phoenicians the south- western portion of the Mediterranean, served of themselves to give to the city which had achieved them the hegemony of the nation, and to alter at the same time its political position. Carthage was no longer a mere mercantile city: it aimed at the dominion of Libya and of a part of the Mediterranean, because it could not avoid doing so. It is probable that the custom of employing mercenaries contributed materially to these successes. That custom came into vogue in Greece somewhere about the middle of the fourth century of Rome, but among the Orientals and the Carians more especially it was far older, and it was perhaps the Phoenicians themselves that began it By the system of foreign recruiting war was converted into a vast pecuniary speculation, which was quite in keeping with the character and habits of the Phoenicians.

The Carthaginian Dominion In Africa

It was probably the reflex influence of these successes abroad, that first led the Carthaginians to change the character of their occupation in Africa from a tenure of hire and sufferance to one of proprietorship and conquest. It appears to have been only about the year 300 of Rome that the Carthaginian merchants got rid of the rent for the soil, which they had hitherto been obliged to pay to the natives. This change enabled them to prosecute a husbandry of their own on a great scale. From the outset the Phoenicians had been desirous to employ their capital as landlords as well as traders, and to practise agriculture on a large scale by means of slaves or hired labourers; a large portion of the Jews in this way served the merchant-princes of Tyre for daily wages. Now the Carthaginians could without restriction extract the produce of the rich Libyan soil by a system akin to that of the modern planters; slaves in chains cultivated the land–we find single citizens possessing as many as twenty thousand of them. Nor was this all. The agricultural villages of the surrounding region–agriculture appears to have been introduced among the Libyans at a very early period, probably anterior to the Phoenician settlement, and presumably from Egypt–were subdued by force of arms, and the free Libyan farmers were transformed into fellahs, who paid to their lords a fourth part of the produce of the soil as tribute, and were subjected to a regular system of recruiting for the formation of a home Carthaginian army. Hostilities were constantly occurring with the roving pastoral tribes (–nomades–) on the borders; but a chain of fortified posts secured the territory enclosed by them, and the Nomades were slowly driven back into the deserts and mountains, or were compelled to recognize Carthaginian supremacy, to pay tribute, and to furnish contingents. About the period of the first Punic war their great town Theveste (Tebessa, at the sources of the Mejerda) was conquered by the Carthaginians. These formed the “towns and tribes (–ethne–) of subjects,” which appear in the Carthaginian state-treaties; the former being the non-free Libyan villages, the latter the subject Nomades.


To this fell to be added the sovereignty of Carthage over the other Phoenicians in Africa, or the so-called Liby-phoenicians. These included, on the one hand, the smaller settlements sent forth from Carthage along the whole northern and part of the north-western coast of Africa–which cannot have been unimportant, for on the Atlantic seaboard alone there were settled at one time 30,000 such colonists –and, on the other hand, the old Phoenician settlements especially numerous along the coast of the present province of Constantine and Beylik of Tunis, such as Hippo afterwards called Regius (Bona), Hadrumetum (Susa), Little Leptis (to the south of Susa)–the second city of the Phoenicians in Africa–Thapsus (in the same quarter), and Great Leptis (Lebda to the west of Tripoli). In what way all these cities came to be subject to Carthage–whether voluntarily, for their protection perhaps from the attacks of the Cyrenaeans and Numidians, or by constraint–can no longer be ascertained; but it is certain that they are designated as subjects of the Carthaginians even in official documents, that they had to pull down their walls, and that they had to pay tribute and furnish contingents to Carthage. They were not liable however either to recruiting or to the land-tax, but contributed a definite amount of men and money, Little Leptis for instance paying the enormous sum annually of 365 talents (90,000 pounds); moreover they lived on a footing of equality in law with the Carthaginians, and could marry with them on equal terms.(3) Utica alone escaped a similar fate and had its walls and independence preserved to it, less perhaps from its own power than from the pious feeling of the Carthaginians towards their ancient protectors; in fact, the Phoenicians cherished for such relations a remarkable feeling of reverence presenting a thorough contrast to the indifference of the Greeks. Even in intercourse with foreigners it is always “Carthage and Utica” that stipulate and promise in conjunction; which, of course, did not preclude the far more important “new town” from practically asserting its hegemony also over Utica. Thus the Tyrian factory was converted into the capital of a mighty North -African empire, which extended from the desert of Tripoli to the Atlantic Ocean, contenting itself in its western portion (Morocco and Algiers) with the occupation, and that to some extent superficial, of a belt along the coast, but in the richer eastern portion (the present districts of Constantine and Tunis) stretching its sway over the interior also and constantly pushing its frontier farther to the south. The Carthaginians were, as an ancient author significantly expresses it, converted from Tyrians into Libyans. Phoenician civilization prevailed in Libya just as Greek civilization prevailed in Asia Minor and Syria after the campaigns of Alexander, although not with the same intensity. Phoenician was spoken and written at the courts of the Nomad sheiks, and the more civilized native tribes adopted for their language the Phoenician alphabet;(4) to Phoenicise them completely suited neither the genius of the nation nor the policy of Carthage.

The epoch, at which this transformation of Carthage into the capital of Libya took place, admits the less of being determined, because the change doubtless took place gradually. The author just mentioned names Hanno as the reformer of the nation. If the Hanno is meant who lived at the time of the first war with Rome, he can only be regarded as having completed the new system, the carrying out of which presumably occupied the fourth and fifth centuries of Rome.

The flourishing of Carthage was accompanied by a parallel decline in the great cities of the Phoenician mother-country, in Sidon and especially in Tyre, the prosperity of which was destroyed partly by internal commotions, partly by the pressure of external calamities, particularly of its sieges by Salmanassar in the first, Nebuchodrossor in the second, and Alexander in the fifth century of Rome. The noble families and the old firms of Tyre emigrated for the most part to the secure and flourishing daughter-city, and carried thither their intelligence, their capital, and their traditions. At the time when the Phoenicians came into contact with Rome, Carthage was as decidedly the first of Canaanite cities as Rome was the first of the Latin communities.

Naval Power Of Carthage

But the empire of Libya was only half of the power of Carthage; its maritime and colonial dominion had acquired, during the same period, a not less powerful development.


In Spain the chief station of the Phoenicians was the primitive Tyrian settlement at Gades (Cadiz). Besides this they possessed to the west and east of it a chain of factories, and in the interior the region of the silver mines; so that they held nearly the modern Andalusia and Granada, or at least the coasts of these provinces. They made no effort to acquire the interior from the warlike native nations; they were content with the possession of the mines and of the stations for traffic and for shell and other fisheries; and they had difficulty in maintaining their ground even in these against the adjoining tribes. It is probable that these possessions were not properly Carthaginian but Tyrian, and Gades was not reckoned among the cities tributary to Carthage; but practically, like all the western Phoenicians, it was under Carthaginian hegemony, as is shown by the aid sent by Carthage to the Gaditani against the natives, and by the institution of Carthaginian trading settlements to the westward of Gades. Ebusus and the Baleares, again, were occupied by the Carthaginians themselves at an early period, partly for the fisheries, partly as advanced posts against the Massiliots, with whom furious conflicts were waged from these stations.


In like manner the Carthaginians already at the end of the second century of Rome established themselves in Sardinia, which was utilized by them precisely in the same way as Libya. While the natives withdrew into the mountainous interior of the island to escape from bondage as agricultural serfs, just as the Numidians in Africa withdrew to the borders of the desert, Phoenician colonies were conducted to Caralis (Cagliari) and other important points, and the fertile districts along the coast were turned to account by the introduction of Libyan cultivators.


Lastly in Sicily the straits of Messana and the larger eastern half of the island had fallen at an early period into the hands of the Greeks; but the Phoenicians, with the help of the Carthaginians, retained the smaller adjacent islands, the Aegates, Melita, Gaulos, Cossyra–the settlement in Malta especially was rich and flourishing–and they kept the west and north-west coast of Sicily, whence they maintained communication with Africa by means of Motya and afterwards of Lilybaeum and with Sardinia by means of Panormus and Soluntum. The interior of the island remained in the possession of the natives, the Elymi, Sicani, and Siceli. After the further advance of the Greeks was checked, a state of comparative peace had prevailed in the island, which even the campaign undertaken by the Carthaginians at the instigation of the Persians against their Greek neighbours on the island (274) did not permanently interrupt, and which continued on the whole to subsist till the Attic expedition to Sicily (339-341). The two competing nations made up their minds to tolerate each other, and confined themselves in the main each to its own field.

Maritime Supremacy
Rivalry With Syracuse

All these settlements and possessions were important enough in themselves; but they were of still greater moment, inasmuch as they became the pillars of the Carthaginian maritime supremacy. By their possession of the south of Spain, of the Baleares, of Sardinia, of western Sicily and Melita, and by their prevention of Hellenic colonies on the east coast of Spain, in Corsica, and in the region of the Syrtes, the masters of the north coast of Africa rendered their sea a closed one, and monopolized the western straits. In the Tyrrhene and Gallic seas alone the Phoenicians were obliged to admit the rivalry of other nations. This state of things might perhaps be endured, so long as the Etruscans and the Greeks served to counterbalance each other in these waters; with the former, as the less dangerous rivals, Carthage even entered into an alliance against the Greeks. But when, on the fall of the Etruscan power–a fall which, as is usually the case in such forced alliances, Carthage had hardly exerted all her power to avert–and after the miscarriage of the great projects of Alcibiades, Syracuse stood forth as indisputably the first Greek naval power, not only did the rulers of Syracuse naturally begin to aspire to dominion over Sicily and lower Italy and at the same time over the Tyrrhene and Adriatic seas, but the Carthaginians also were compelled to adopt a more energetic policy. The immediate result of the long and obstinate conflicts between them and their equally powerful and infamous antagonist, Dionysius of Syracuse (348-389), was the annihilation or weakening of the intervening Sicilian states–a result which both parties had an interest in accomplishing–and the division of the island between the Syracusans and Carthaginians. The most flourishing cities in the island–Selinus, Himera, Agrigentum, Gela, and Messana–were utterly destroyed by the Carthaginians in the course of these unhappy conflicts: and Dionysius was not displeased to see Hellenism destroyed or suppressed there, so that, leaning for support on foreign mercenaries enlisted from Italy, Gaul and Spain, he might rule in greater security over provinces which lay desolate or which were occupied by military colonies. The peace, which was concluded after the victory of the Carthaginian general Mago at Kronion (371), and which subjected to the Carthaginians the Greek cities of Thermae (the ancient Himera), Segesta, Heraclea Minoa, Selinus, and a part of the territory of Agrigentum as far as the Halycus, was regarded by the two powers contending for the possession of the island as only a temporary accommodation; on both sides the rivals were ever renewing their attempts to dispossess each other. Four several times–in 360 in the time of Dionysius the elder; in 410 in that of Timoleon; in 445 in that of Agathocles; in 476 in that of Pyrrhus–the Carthaginians were masters of all Sicily excepting Syracuse, and were baffled by its solid walls; almost as often the Syracusans, under able leaders, such as were the elder Dionysius, Agathocles, and Pyrrhus, seemed equally on the eve of dislodging the Africans from the island. But more and more the balance inclined to the side of the Carthaginians, who were, as a rule, the aggressors, and who, although they did not follow out their object with Roman steadfastness, yet conducted their attack with far greater method and energy than the Greek city, rent and worn out by factions, conducted its defence. The Phoenicians might with reason expect that a pestilence or a foreign -condottiere- would not always snatch the prey from their hands; and for the time being, at least at sea, the struggle was already decided:(5) the attempt of Pyrrhus to re-establish the Syracusan fleet was the last. After the failure of that attempt, the Carthaginian fleet commanded without a rival the whole western Mediterranean; and their endeavours to occupy Syracuse, Rhegium, and Tarentum, showed the extent of their power and the objects at which they aimed. Hand in hand with these attempts went the endeavour to monopolize more and more the maritime commerce of this region, at the expense alike of foreigners and of their own subjects; and it was not the wont of the Carthaginians to recoil from any violence that might help forward their purpose. A contemporary of the Punic wars, Eratosthenes, the father of geography (479-560), affirms that every foreign mariner sailing towards Sardinia or towards the Straits of Gades, who fell into the hands of the Carthaginians, was thrown by them into the sea; and with this statement the fact completely accords, that Carthage by the treaty of 406 (6) declared the Spanish, Sardinian, and Libyan ports open to Roman trading vessels, whereas by that of 448,(7) it totally closed them, with the exception of the port of Carthage itself, against the same.

Constitution Of Carthage

Aristotle, who died about fifty years before the commencement of the first Punic war, describes the constitution of Carthage as having changed from a monarchy to an aristocracy, or to a democracy inclining towards oligarchy, for he designates it by both names. The conduct of affairs was immediately vested in the hands of the Council of Ancients, which, like the Spartan gerusia, consisted of the two kings nominated annually by the citizens, and of twenty-eight gerusiasts, who were also, as it appears, chosen annually by the citizens. It was this council which mainly transacted the business of the state-making, for instance, the preliminary arrangements for war, appointing levies and enlistments, nominating the general, and associating with him a number of gerusiasts from whom the sub-commanders were regularly taken; and to it despatches were addressed. It is doubtful whether by the side of this small council there existed a larger one; at any rate it was not of much importance. As little does any special influence seem to have belonged to the kings; they acted chiefly as supreme judges, and they were frequently so named (shofetes, -praetores-). The power of the general was greater. Isocrates, the senior contemporary of Aristotle, says that the Carthaginians had an oligarchical government at home, but a monarchical government in the field; and thus the office of the Carthaginian general may be correctly described by Roman writers as a dictatorship, although the gerusiasts attached to him must have practically at least restricted his power and, after he had laid down his office, a regular official reckoning–unknown among the Romans–awaited him. There existed no fixed term of office for the general, and for this very reason he was doubtless different from the annual king, from whom Aristotle also expressly distinguishes him. The combination however of several offices in one person was not unusual among the Carthaginians, and it is not therefore surprising that often the same person appears as at once general and shofete.


But the gerusia and the magistrates were subordinate to the corporation of the Hundred and Four (in round numbers the Hundred), or the Judges, the main bulwark of the Carthaginian oligarchy. It had no place in the original constitution of Carthage, but, like the Spartan ephorate, it originated in an aristocratic opposition to the monarchical elements of that constitution. As public offices were purchasable and the number of members forming the supreme board was small, a single Carthaginian family, eminent above all others in wealth and military renown, the clan of Mago,(8) threatened to unite in its own hands the management of the state in peace and war and the administration of justice. This led, nearly about the time of the decemvirs, to an alteration of the constitution and to the appointment of this new board. We know that the holding of the quaestorship gave a title to admission into the body of judges, but that the candidate had nevertheless to be elected by certain self-electing Boards of Five (Pentarchies); and that the judges, although presumably by law chosen from year to year, practically remained in office for a longer period or indeed for life, for which reason they are usually called “senators” by the Greeks and Romans. Obscure as are the details, we recognize clearly the nature of the body as an oligarchical board constituted by aristocratic cooptation; an isolated but characteristic indication of which is found in the fact that there were in Carthage special baths for the judges over and above the common baths for the citizens. They were primarily intended to act as political jurymen, who summoned the generals in particular, but beyond doubt the shofetes and gerusiasts also when circumstances required, to a reckoning on resigning office, and inflicted even capital punishment at pleasure, often with the most reckless cruelty. Of course in this as in every instance, where administrative functionaries are subjected to the control of another body, the real centre of power passed over from the controlled to the controlling authority; and it is easy to understand on the one hand how the latter came to interfere in all matters of administration–the gerusia for instance submitted important despatches first to the judges, and then to the people –and on the other hand how fear of the control at home, which regularly meted out its award according to success, hampered the Carthaginian statesman and general in council and action.


The body of citizens in Carthage, though not expressly restricted, as in Sparta, to the attitude of passive bystanders in the business of the state, appears to have had but a very slight amount of practical influence on it In the elections to the gerusia a system of open corruption was the rule; in the nomination of a general the people were consulted, but only after the nomination had really been made by proposal on the part of the gerusia; and other questions only went to the people when the gerusia thought fit or could not otherwise agree. Assemblies of the people with judicial functions were unknown in Carthage. The powerlessness of the citizens probably in the main resulted from their political organization; the Carthaginian mess- associations, which are mentioned in this connection and compared with the Spartan Pheiditia, were probably guilds under oligarchical management. Mention is made even of a distinction between “burgesses of the city” and “manual labourers,” which leads us to infer that the latter held a very inferior position, perhaps beyond the pale of law.

Character Of The Government

On a comprehensive view of its several elements, the Carthaginian constitution appears to have been a government of capitalists, such as might naturally arise in a burgess-community which had no middle class of moderate means but consisted on the one hand of an urban rabble without property and living from hand to mouth, and on the other hand of great merchants, planters, and genteel overseers. The system of repairing the fortunes of decayed grandees at the expense of the subjects, by despatching them as tax-assessors and taskwork-overseers to the dependent communities–that infallible token of a rotten urban oligarchy–was not wanting in Carthage; Aristotle describes it as the main cause of the tried durability of the Carthaginian constitution. Up to his time no revolution worth mentioning had taken place in Carthage either from above or from below. The multitude remained without leaders in consequence of the material advantages which the governing oligarchy was able to offer to all ambitious or necessitous men of rank, and was satisfied with the crumbs, which in the form of electoral corruption or otherwise fell to it from the table of the rich. A democratic opposition indeed could not fail with such a government to emerge; but at the time of the first Punic war it was still quite powerless. At a later period, partly under the influence of the defeats which were sustained, its political influence appears on the increase, and that far more rapidly than the influence of the similar party at the same period in Rome; the popular assemblies began to give the ultimate decision in political questions, and broke down the omnipotence of the Carthaginian oligarchy. After the termination of the Hannibalic war it was even enacted, on the proposal of Hannibal, that no member of the council of a Hundred could hold office for two consecutive years; and thereby a complete democracy was introduced, which certainly was under existing circumstances the only means of saving Carthage, if there was still time to do so. This opposition was swayed by a strong patriotic and reforming enthusiasm; but the fact cannot withal be overlooked, that it rested on a corrupt and rotten basis. The body of citizens in Carthage, which is compared by well-informed Greeks to the people of Alexandria, was so disorderly that to that extent it had well deserved to be powerless; and it might well be asked, what good could arise from revolutions, where, as in Carthage, the boys helped to make them.

Capital And Its Power In Carthage

From a financial point of view, Carthage held in every respect the first place among the states of antiquity. At the time of the Peloponnesian war this Phoenician city was, according to the testimony of the first of Greek historians, financially superior to all the Greek states, and its revenues were compared to those of the great-king; Polybius calls it the wealthiest city in the world. The intelligent character of the Carthaginian husbandry–which, as was the case subsequently in Rome, generals and statesmen did not disdain scientifically to practise and to teach–is attested by the agronomic treatise of the Carthaginian Mago, which was universally regarded by the later Greek and Roman farmers as the fundamental code of rational husbandry, and was not only translated into Greek, but was edited also in Latin by command of the Roman senate and officially recommended to the Italian landholders. A characteristic feature was the close connection between this Phoenician management of land and that of capital: it was quoted as a leading maxim of Phoenician husbandry that one should never acquire more land than he could thoroughly manage. The rich resources of the country in horses, oxen, sheep, and goats, in which Libya by reason of its Nomad economy perhaps excelled at that time, as Polybius testifies, all other lands of the earth, were of great advantage to the Carthaginians. As these were the instructors of the Romans in the art of profitably working the soil, they were so likewise in the art of turning to good account their subjects; by virtue of which Carthage reaped indirectly the rents of the “best part of Europe,” and of the rich–and in some portions, such as in Byzacitis and on the lesser Syrtis, surpassingly productive–region of northern Africa. Commerce, which was always regarded in Carthage as an honourable pursuit, and the shipping and manufactures which commerce rendered flourishing, brought even in the natural course of things golden harvests annually to the settlers there; and we have already indicated how skilfully, by an extensive and evergrowing system of monopoly, not only all the foreign but also all the inland commerce of the western Mediterranean, and the whole carrying trade between the west and east, were more and more concentrated in that single harbour.

Science and art in Carthage, as afterwards in Rome, seem to have been mainly dependent on Hellenic influences, but they do not appear to have been neglected. There was a respectable Phoenician literature; and on the conquest of the city there were found rich treasures of art–not created, it is true, in Carthage, but carried off from Sicilian temples–and considerable libraries. But even intellect there was in the service of capital; the prominent features of its literature were chiefly agronomic and geographical treatises, such as the work of Mago already mentioned and the account by the admiral Hanno of his voyage along the west coast of Africa, which was originally deposited publicly in one of the Carthaginian temples, and which is still extant in a translation. Even the general diffusion of certain attainments, and particularly of the knowledge of foreign languages,(9) as to which the Carthage of this epoch probably stood almost on a level with Rome under the empire, forms an evidence of the thoroughly practical turn given to Hellenic culture in Carthage. It is absolutely impossible to form a conception of the mass of capital accumulated in this London of antiquity, but some notion at least may be gained of the sources of public revenue from the fact, that, in spite of the costly system on which Carthage organized its wars and in spite of the careless and faithless administration of the state property, the contributions of its subjects and the customs-revenue completely covered the expenditure, so that no direct taxes were levied from the citizens; and further, that even after the second Punic war, when the power of the state was already broken, the current expenses and the payment to Rome of a yearly instalment of 48,000 pounds could be met, without levying any tax, merely by a somewhat stricter management of the finances, and fourteen years after the peace the state proffered immediate payment of the thirty-six remaining instalments. But it was not merely the sum total of its revenues that evinced the superiority of the financial administration at Carthage. The economical principles of a later and more advanced epoch are found by us in Carthage alone of all the more considerable states of antiquity. Mention is made of foreign state-loans, and in the monetary system we find along with gold and silver mention of a token-money having no intrinsic value–a species of currency not used elsewhere in antiquity. In fact, if government had resolved itself into mere mercantile speculation, never would any state have solved the problem more brilliantly than Carthage.

Comparison Between Carthage And Rome
In Their Economy

Let us now compare the respective resources of Carthage and Rome. Both were agricultural and mercantile cities, and nothing more; art and science had substantially the same altogether subordinate and altogether practical position in both, except that in this respect Carthage had made greater progress than Rome. But in Carthage the moneyed interest preponderated over the landed, in Rome at this time the landed still preponderated over the moneyed; and, while the agriculturists of Carthage were universally large landlords and slave-holders, in the Rome of this period the great mass of the burgesses still tilled their fields in person. The majority of the population in Rome held property, and was therefore conservative; the majority in Carthage held no property, and was therefore accessible to the gold of the rich as well as to the cry of the democrats for reform. In Carthage there already prevailed all that opulence which marks powerful commercial cities, while the manners and police of Rome still maintained at least externally the severity and frugality of the olden times. When the ambassadors of Carthage returned from Rome, they told their colleagues that the relations of intimacy among the Roman senators surpassed all conception; that a single set of silver plate sufficed for the whole senate, and had reappeared in every house to which the envoys had been invited. The sneer is a significant token of the difference in the economic conditions on either side.

In Their Constitution

In both the constitution was aristocratic; the judges governed in Carthage, as did the senate in Rome, and both on the same system of police-control. The strict state of dependence in which the governing board at Carthage held the individual magistrate, and the injunction to the citizens absolutely to refrain from learning the Greek language and to converse with a Greek only through the medium of the public interpreter, originated in the same spirit as the system of government at Rome; but in comparison with the cruel harshness and the absolute precision, bordering on silliness, of this Carthaginian state- tutelage, the Roman system of fining and censure appears mild and reasonable. The Roman senate, which opened its doors to eminent capacity and in the best sense represented the nation, was able also to trust it, and had no need to fear the magistrates. The Carthaginian senate, on the other hand, was based on a jealous control of administration by the government, and represented exclusively the leading families; its essence was mistrust of all above and below it, and therefore it could neither be confident that the people would follow whither it led, nor free from the dread of usurpations on the part of the magistrates. Hence the steady course of Roman policy, which never receded a step in times of misfortune, and never threw away the favours of fortune by negligence or indifference; whereas the Carthaginians desisted from the struggle when a last effort might perhaps have saved all, and, weary or forgetful of their great national duties, allowed the half-completed building to fall to pieces, only to begin it in a few years anew. Hence the capable magistrate in Rome was ordinarily on a good understanding with his government; in Carthage he was frequently at decided feud with his masters at home, and was forced to resist them by unconstitutional means and to make common cause with the opposing party of reform.

In The Treatment Of Their Subject

Both Carthage and Rome ruled over communities of lineage kindred with their own, and over numerous others of alien race. But Rome had received into her citizenship one district after another, and had rendered it even legally accessible to the Latin communities; Carthage from the first maintained her exclusiveness, and did not permit the dependent districts even to cherish a hope of being some day placed upon an equal footing. Rome granted to the communities of kindred lineage a share in the fruits of victory, especially in the acquired domains; and sought, by conferring material advantages on the rich and noble, to gain over at least a party to her own interest in the other subject states. Carthage not only retained for herself the produce of her victories, but even deprived the most privileged cities of their freedom of trade. Rome, as a rule, did not wholly take away independence even from the subject communities, and imposed a fixed tribute on none; Carthage despatched her overseers everywhere, and loaded even the old-Phoenician cities with a heavy tribute, while her subject tribes were practically treated as state-slaves. In this way there was not in the compass of the Carthagino-African state a single community, with the exception of Utica, that would not have been politically and materially benefited by the fall of Carthage; in the Romano-Italic there was not one that had not much more to lose than to gain in rebelling against a government, which was careful to avoid injuring material interests, and which never at least by extreme measures challenged political opposition to conflict. If Carthaginian statesmen believed that they had attached to the interests of Carthage her Phoenician subjects by their greater dread of a Libyan revolt and all the landholders by means of token-money, they transferred mercantile calculation to a sphere to which it did not apply. Experience proved that the Roman symmachy, notwithstanding its seemingly looser bond of connection, kept together against Pyrrhus like a wall of rock, whereas the Carthaginian fell to pieces like a gossamer web as soon as a hostile army set foot on African soil. It was so on the landing of Agathocles and of Regulus, and likewise in the mercenary war; the spirit that prevailed in Africa is illustrated by the fact, that the Libyan women voluntarily contributed their ornaments to the mercenaries for their war against Carthage. In Sicily alone the Carthaginians appear to have exercised a milder rule, and to have attained on that account better results. They granted to their subjects in that quarter comparative freedom in foreign trade, and allowed them to conduct their internal commerce, probably from the outset and exclusively, with a metallic currency; far greater freedom of movement generally was allowed to them than was permitted to the Sardinians and Libyans. Had Syracuse fallen into Carthaginian hands, their policy would doubtless soon have changed. But that result did not take place; and so, owing to the well-calculated mildness of the Carthaginian government and the unhappy distractions of the Sicilian Greeks, there actually existed in Sicily a party really friendly to the Phoenicians; for example, even after the island had passed to the Romans, Philinus of Agrigentum wrote the history of the great war in a thoroughly Phoenician spirit. Nevertheless on the whole the Sicilians must, both as subjects and as Hellenes, have been at least as averse to their Phoenician masters as the Samnites and Tarentines were to the Romans.

In Finance

In a financial point of view the state revenues of Carthage doubtless far surpassed those of Rome; but this advantage was partly neutralized by the facts, that the sources of the Carthaginian revenue–tribute and customs–dried up far sooner (and just when they were most needed) than those of Rome, and that the Carthaginian mode of conducting war was far more costly than the Roman.

In Their Military System

The military resources of the Romans and Carthaginians were very different, yet in many respects not unequally balanced. The citizens of Carthage still at the conquest of the city amounted to 700,000, including women and children,(10) and were probably at least as numerous at the close of the fifth century; in that century they were able in case of need to set on foot a burgess-army of 40,000 hoplites. At the very beginning of the fifth century, Rome had in similar circumstances sent to the field a burgess-army equally strong;(11) after the great extensions of the burgess-domain in the course of that century the number of full burgesses capable of bearing arms must at least have doubled. But far more than in the number of men capable of bearing arms, Rome excelled in the effective condition of the burgess- soldier. Anxious as the Carthaginian government was to induce its citizens to take part in military service, it could neither furnish the artisan and the manufacturer with the bodily vigour of the husbandman, nor overcome the native aversion of the Phoenicians to warfare. In the fifth century there still fought in the Sicilian armies a “sacred band” of 2500 Carthaginians as a guard for the general; in the sixth not a single Carthaginian, officers excepted, was to be met with in the Carthaginian armies, e. g. in that of Spain. The Roman farmers, again, took their places not only in the muster- roll, but also in the field of battle. It was the same with the cognate races of both communities; while the Latins rendered to the Romans no less service than their own burgess-troops, the Liby- phoenicians were as little adapted for war as the Carthaginians, and, as may easily be supposed, still less desirous of it, and so they too disappeared from the armies; the towns bound to furnish contingents presumably redeemed their obligation by a payment of money. In the Spanish army just mentioned, composed of some 15,000 men, only a single troop of cavalry of 450 men consisted, and that but partly, of Liby-phoenicians. The flower of the Carthaginian armies was formed by the Libyan subjects, whose recruits were capable of being trained under able officers into good infantry, and whose light cavalry was unsurpassed in its kind. To these were added the forces of the more or less dependent tribes of Libya and Spain and the famous slingers of the Baleares, who seem to have held an intermediate position between allied contingents and mercenary troops; and finally, in case of need, the hired soldiery enlisted abroad. So far as numbers were concerned, such an army might without difficulty be raised almost to any desired strength; and in the ability of its officers, in acquaintance with arms, and in courage it might be capable of coping with that of Rome. Not only, however, did a dangerously long interval elapse, in the event of mercenaries being required, ere they could be got ready, while the Roman militia was able at any moment to take the field, but –which was the main matter–there was nothing to keep together the armies of Carthage but military honour and personal advantage, while the Romans were united by all the ties that bound them to their common fatherland. The Carthaginian officer of the ordinary type estimated his mercenaries, and even the Libyan farmers, very much as men in modern warfare estimate cannon-balls; hence such disgraceful proceedings as the betrayal of the Libyan troops by their general Himilco in 358, which was followed by a dangerous insurrection of the Libyans, and hence that proverbial cry of “Punic faith,” which did the Carthaginians no small injury. Carthage experienced in full measure all the evils which armies of fellahs and mercenaries could bring upon a state, and more than once she found her paid serfs more dangerous than her foes.

The Carthaginian government could not fail to perceive the defects of this military system, and they certainly sought to remedy them by every available means. They insisted on maintaining full chests and full magazines, that they might at any time be able to equip mercenaries. They bestowed great care on those elements which among the ancients represented the modern artillery–the construction of machines, in which we find the Carthaginians regularly superior to the Siceliots, and the use of elephants, after these had superseded in warfare the earlier war-chariots: in the casemates of Carthage there were stalls for 300 elephants. They could not venture to fortify the dependent cities, and were obliged to submit to the occupation of the towns and villages as well as of the open country by any hostile army that landed in Africa–a thorough contrast to the state of Italy, where most of the subject towns had retained their walls, and a chain of Roman fortresses commanded the whole peninsula. But on the fortification of the capital they expended all the resources of money and of art, and on several occasions nothing but the strength of its walls saved the state; whereas Rome held a political and military position so secure that it never underwent a formal siege. Lastly, the main bulwark of the state was their war-marine, on which they lavished the utmost care. In the building as well as in the management of vessels the Carthaginians excelled the Greeks; it was at Carthage that ships were first built of more than three banks of oars, and the Carthaginian war-vessels, at this period mostly quinqueremes, were ordinarily better sailors than the Greek; the rowers, all of them public slaves, who never stirred from the galleys, were excellently trained, and the captains were expert and fearless. In this respect Carthage was decidedly superior to the Romans, who, with the few ships of their Greek allies and still fewer of their own, were unable even to show themselves in the open sea against the fleet which at that time without a rival ruled the western Mediterranean.

If, in conclusion, we sum up the results of this comparison of the resources of the two great powers, the judgment expressed by a sagacious and impartial Greek is perhaps borne out, that Carthage and Rome were, when the struggle between them began, on the whole equally matched. But we cannot omit to add that, while Carthage had put forth all the efforts of which intellect and wealth were capable to provide herself with artificial means of attack and defence, she was unable in any satisfactory way to make up for the fundamental wants of a land army of her own and of a symmachy resting on a self-supporting basis. That Rome could only be seriously attacked in Italy, and Carthage only in Libya, no one could fail to see; as little could any one fail to perceive that Carthage could not in the long run escape from such an attack. Fleets were not yet in those times of the infancy of navigation a permanent heirloom of nations, but could be fitted out wherever there were trees, iron, and water. It was clear, and had been several times tested in Africa itself, that even powerful maritime states were not able to prevent enemies weaker by sea from landing. When Agathocles had shown the way thither, a Roman general could follow the same course; and while in Italy the entrance of an invading army simply began the war, the same event in Libya put an end to it by converting it into a siege, in which, unless special accidents should intervene, even the most obstinate and heroic courage must finally succumb.

Notes For Chapter I

1. II. IV. Victories Of Salamis And Himera, And Their Effects

2. I. X. Phoenicians And Italians In Opposition To The Hellenes

3. The most precise description of this important class occurs in the Carthaginian treaty (Polyb. vii. 9), where in contrast to the Uticenses on the one hand, and to the Libyan subjects on the other, they are called –ol Karchedonion uparchoi osoi tois autois nomois chrontai–. Elsewhere they are spoken of as cities allied (–summachides poleis–, Diod. xx. 10) or tributary (Liv. xxxiv. 62; Justin, xxii. 7, 3). Their -conubium- with the Carthaginians is mentioned by Diodorus, xx. 55; the -commercium- is implied in the “like laws.” That the old Phoenician colonies were included among the Liby-phoenicians, is shown by the designation of Hippo as a Liby-phoenician city (Liv. xxv. 40); on the other hand as to the settlements founded from Carthage, for instance, it is said in the Periplus of Hanno: “the Carthaginians resolved that Hanno should sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules and found cities of Liby-phoenicians.” In substance the word “Liby-phoenicians” was used by the Carthaginians not as a national designation, but as a category of state-law. This view is quite consistent with the fact that grammatically the name denotes Phoenicians mingled with Libyans (Liv. xxi. 22, an addition to the text of Polybius); in reality, at least in the institution of very exposed colonies, Libyans were frequently associated with Phoenicians (Diod. xiii. 79; Cic. pro Scauro, 42). The analogy in name and legal position between the Latins of Rome and the Liby-phoenicians of Carthage is unmistakable.

4. The Libyan or Numidian alphabet, by which we mean that which was and is employed by the Berbers in writing their non-Semitic language –one of the innumerable alphabets derived from the primitive Aramaean one–certainly appears to be more closely related in several of its forms to the latter than is the Phoenician alphabet; but it by no means follows from this, that the Libyans derived their writing not from Phoenicians but from earlier immigrants, any more than the partially older forms of the Italian alphabets prohibit us from deriving these from the Greek. We must rather assume that the Libyan alphabet has been derived from the Phoenician at a period of the latter earlier than the time at which the records of the Phoenician language that have reached us were written.

5. II. VII. Decline Of The Roman Naval Power

6. II. VII. Decline Of The Roman Naval Power

7. II. VII. The Roman Fleet

8. II. IV. Etrusco-Carthaginian Maritime Supremacy

9. The steward on a country estate, although a slave, ought, according to the precept of the Carthaginian agronome Mago (ap. Varro, R. R. i. 17), to be able to read, and ought to possess some culture. In the prologue of the “Poenulus” of Plautus, it is said of the hero of the title:-

-Et is omnes linguas scit; sed dissimulat sciens Se scire; Poenus plane est; quid verbit opus’t-?

10. Doubts have been expressed as to the correctness of this number, and the highest possible number of inhabitants, taking into account the available space, has been reckoned at 250,000. Apart from the uncertainty of such calculations, especially as to a commercial city with houses of six stories, we must remember that the numbering is doubtless to be understood in a political, not in an urban, sense, just like the numbers in the Roman census, and that thus all Carthaginians would be included in it, whether dwelling in the city or its neighbourhood, or resident in its subject territory or in other lands. There would, of course, be a large number of such absentees in the case of Carthage; indeed it is expressly stated that in Gades, for the same reason, the burgess-roll always showed a far higher number than that of the citizens who had their fixed residence there.

11. II. VII. System Of Government, note

Chapter II

The War Between Rome And Carthage Concerning Sicily

State Of Sicily

For upwards of a century the feud between the Carthaginians and the rulers of Syracuse had devastated the fair island of Sicily. On both sides the contest was carried on with the weapons of political proselytism, for, while Carthage kept up communications with the aristocratic-republican opposition in Syracuse, the Syracusan dynasts maintained relations with the national party in the Greek cities that had become tributary to Carthage. On both sides armies of mercenaries were employed to fight their battles–by Timoleon and Agathocles, as well as by the Phoenician generals. And as like means were employed on both sides, so the conflict had been waged on both with a disregard of honour and a perfidy unexampled in the history of the west. The Syracusans were the weaker party. In the peace of 440 Carthage had still limited her claims to the third of the island to the west of Heraclea Minoa and Himera, and had expressly recognized the hegemony of the Syracusans over all the cities to the eastward. The expulsion of Pyrrhus from Sicily and Italy (479) left by far the larger half of the island, and especially the important Agrigentum, in the hands of Carthage; the Syracusans retained nothing but Tauromenium and the south-east of the island.

Campanian Mercenaries

In the second great city on the east coast, Messana, a band of foreign soldiers had established themselves and held the city, independent alike of Syracusans and Carthaginians. These new rulers of Messana were Campanian mercenaries. The dissolute habits that had become prevalent among the Sabellians settled in and around Capua,(1) had made Campania in the fourth and fifth centuries–what Aetolia, Crete, and Laconia were afterwards–the universal recruiting field for princes and cities in search of mercenaries. The semi-culture that had been called into existence there by the Campanian Greeks, the barbaric luxury of life in Capua and the other Campanian cities, the political impotence to which the hegemony of Rome condemned them, while yet its rule was not so stern as wholly to withdraw from them the right of self-disposal–all tended to drive the youth of Campania in troops to the standards of the recruiting officers. As a matter of course, this wanton and unscrupulous selling of themselves here, as everywhere, brought in its train estrangement from their native land, habits of violence and military disorder, and indifference to the breach of their allegiance. These Campanians could see no reason why a band of mercenaries should not seize on their own behalf any city entrusted to their guardianship, provided only they were in a position to hold it–the Samnites had established their dominion in Capua itself, and the Lucanians in a succession of Greek cities, after a fashion not much more honourable.


Nowhere was the state of political relations more inviting for such enterprises than in Sicily. Already the Campanian captains who came to Sicily during the Peloponnesian war had insinuated themselves in this way into Entella and Aetna. Somewhere about the year 470 a Campanian band, which had previously served under Agathocles and after his death (465) took up the trade of freebooters on their own account, established themselves in Messana, the second city of Greek Sicily, and the chief seat of the anti-Syracusan party in that portion of the island which was still in the power of the Greeks. The citizens were slain or expelled, their wives and children and houses were distributed among the soldiers, and the new masters of the city, the Mamertines or “men of Mars,” as they called themselves, soon became the third power in the island, the north-eastern portion of which they reduced to subjection in the times of confusion that succeeded the death of Agathocles. The Carthaginians were no unwilling spectators of these events, which established in the immediate vicinity of the Syracusans a new and powerful adversary instead of a cognate and ordinarily allied or dependent city. With Carthaginian aid the Mamertines maintained themselves against Pyrrhus, and the untimely departure of the king restored to them all their power.

Hiero Of Syracuse
War Between The Syracusans And The Mammertines

It is not becoming in the historian either to excuse the perfidious crime by which the Mamertines seized their power, or to forget that the God of history does not necessarily punish the sins of the fathers to the fourth generation. He who feels it his vocation to judge the sins of others may condemn the human agents; for Sicily it might be a blessing that a warlike power, and one belonging to the island, thus began to be formed in it–a power which was already able to bring eight thousand men into the field, and which was gradually putting itself in a position to take up at the proper time and on its own resources that struggle against the foreigners, to the maintenance of which the Hellenes, becoming more and more unaccustomed to arms notwithstanding their perpetual wars, were no longer equal.

In the first instance, however, things took another turn. A young Syracusan officer, who by his descent from the family of Gelo and his intimate relations of kindred with king Pyrrhus as well as by the distinction with which he had fought in the campaigns of the latter, had attracted the notice of his fellow-citizens as well as of the Syracusan soldiery–Hiero, son of Hierocles–was called by military election to command the army, which was at variance with the citizens (479-480). By his prudent administration, the nobility of his character, and the moderation of his views, he rapidly gained the hearts of the citizens of Syracuse–who had been accustomed to the most scandalous lawlessness in their despots–and of the Sicilian Greeks in general. He rid himself–in a perfidious manner, it is true–of the insubordinate army of mercenaries, revived the citizen- militia, and endeavoured, at first with the title of general, afterwards with that of king, to re-establish the deeply sunken Hellenic power by means of his civic troops and of fresh and more manageable recruits. With the Carthaginians, who in concert with the Greeks had driven king Pyrrhus from the island, there was at that time peace. The immediate foes of the Syracusans were the Mamertines. They were the kinsmen of those hated mercenaries whom the Syracusans had recently extirpated; they had murdered their own Greek hosts; they had curtailed the Syracusan territory; they had oppressed and plundered a number of smaller Greek towns. In league with the Romans who just about this time were sending their legions against the Campanians in Rhegium, the allies, kinsmen, and confederates in crime of the Mamertines,(2) Hiero turned his arms against Messana. By a great victory, after which Hiero was proclaimed king of the Siceliots (484), he succeeded in shutting up the Mamertines within their city, and after the siege had lasted some years, they found themselves reduced to extremity and unable to hold the city longer against Hiero on their own resources. It is evident that a surrender on stipulated conditions was impossible, and that the axe of the executioner, which had fallen upon the Campanians of Rhegium at Rome, as certainly awaited those of Messana at Syracuse. Their only means of safety lay in delivering up the city either to the Carthaginians or to the Romans, both of whom could not but be so strongly set upon acquiring that important place as to overlook all other scruples. Whether it would be more advantageous to surrender it to the masters of Africa or to the masters of Italy, was doubtful; after long hesitation the majority of the Campanian burgesses at length resolved to offer the possession of their sea-commanding fortress to the Romans.

The Mammertines Received Into The Italian Confederacy

It was a moment of the deepest significance in the history of the world, when the envoys of the Mamertines appeared in the Roman senate. No one indeed could then anticipate all that was to depend on the crossing of that narrow arm of the sea; but that the decision, however it should go, would involve consequences far other and more important than had attached to any decree hitherto passed by the senate, must have been manifest to every one of the deliberating fathers of the city. Strictly upright men might indeed ask how it was possible to deliberate at all, and how any one could even think of suggesting that the Romans should not only break their alliance with Hiero, but should, just after the Campanians of Rhegium had been punished by them with righteous severity, admit the no less guilty Sicilian accomplices to the alliance and friendship of the state, and thereby rescue them from the punishment which they deserved. Such an outrage on propriety would not only afford their adversaries matter for declamation, but must seriously offend all men of moral feeling. But even the statesman, with whom political morality was no mere phrase, might ask in reply, how Roman burgesses, who had broken their military oath and treacherously murdered the allies of Rome, could be placed on a level with foreigners who had committed an outrage on foreigners, where no one had constituted the Romans judges of the one or avengers of the other? Had the question been only whether the Syracusans or Mamertines should rule in Messana, Rome might certainly have acquiesced in the rule of either. Rome was striving for the possession of Italy, as Carthage for that of Sicily; the designs of the two powers scarcely then went further. But that very circumstance formed a reason why each desired to have and retain on its frontier an intermediate power–the Carthaginians for instance reckoning in this way on Tarentum, the Romans on Syracuse and Messana–and why, if that course was impossible, each preferred to see these adjacent places given over to itself rather than to the other great power. As Carthage had made an attempt in Italy, when Rhegium and Tarentum were about to be occupied by the Romans, to acquire these cities for itself, and had only been prevented from doing so by accident, so in Sicily an opportunity now offered itself for Rome to bring the city of Messana into its symmachy; should the Romans reject it, it was not to be expected that the city would remain independent or would become Syracusan; they would themselves throw it into the arms of the Phoenicians. Were they justified in allowing an opportunity to escape, such as certainly would never recur, of making themselves masters of the natural tete de pont between Italy and Sicily, and of securing it by means of a brave garrison on which they could, for good reasons, rely? Were they justified in abandoning Messana, and thereby surrendering the command of the last free passage between the eastern and western seas, and sacrificing the commercial liberty of Italy? It is true that other objections might be urged to the occupation of Messana besides mere scruples of feeling and of honourable policy. That it could not but lead to a war with Carthage, was the least of these; serious as was such a war, Rome might not fear it. But there was the more important objection that by crossing the sea the Romans would depart from the purely Italian and purely continental policy which they had hitherto pursued; they would abandon the system by which their ancestors had founded the greatness of Rome, to enter upon another system the results of which no one could foretell. It was one of those moments when calculation ceases, and when faith in men’s own and in their country’s destiny alone gives them courage to grasp the hand which beckons to them out of the darkness of the future, and to follow it no one knows whither. Long and seriously the senate deliberated on the proposal of the consuls to lead the legions to the help of the Mamertines; it came to no decisive resolution. But the burgesses, to whom the matter was referred, were animated by a lively sense of the greatness of the power which their own energy had established. The conquest of Italy encouraged the Romans, as that of Greece encouraged the Macedonians and that of Silesia the Prussians, to enter upon a new political career. A formal pretext for supporting the Mamertines was found in the protectorate which Rome claimed the right to exercise over all Italians. The transmarine Italians were received into the Italian confederacy;(3) and on the proposal of the consuls the citizens resolved to send them aid (489).

Variance Between Rome And Carthage
Carthaginians In Messana
Messana Seized By The Romans
War Between The Romans And The Carthaginians And The Syracusans

Much depended on the way in which the two Sicilian powers, immediately affected by this intervention of the Romans in the affairs of the island, and both hitherto nominally in alliance with Rome, would regard her interference. Hiero had sufficient reason to treat the summons, by which the Romans required him to desist from hostilities against their new confederates in Messana, precisely in the same way as the Samnites and Lucanians in similar circumstances had received the occupation of Capua and Thurii, and to answer the Romans by a declaration of war. If, however, he remained unsupported, such a war would be folly; and it might be expected from his prudent and moderate policy that he would acquiesce in what was inevitable, if Carthage should be disposed for peace. This seemed not impossible. A Roman embassy was now (489) sent to Carthage, seven years after the attempt of the Phoenician fleet to gain possession of Tarentum, to demand explanations as to these incidents.(4) Grievances not unfounded, but half-forgotten, once more emerged–it seemed not superfluous amidst other warlike preparations to replenish the diplomatic armoury with reasons for war, and for the coming manifesto to reserve to themselves, as was the custom of the Romans, the character of the party aggrieved. This much at least might with entire justice be affirmed, that the respective enterprises on Tarentum and Messana stood upon exactly the same footing in point of design and of pretext, and that it was simply the accident of success that made the difference. Carthage avoided an open rupture. The ambassadors carried back to Rome the disavowal of the Carthaginian admiral who had made the attempt on Tarentum, along with the requisite false oaths: the counter-complaints, which of course were not wanting on the part of Carthage, were studiously moderate, and abstained from characterizing the meditated invasion of Sicily as a ground for war. Such, however, it was; for Carthage regarded the affairs of Sicily –just as Rome regarded those of Italy–as internal matters in which an independent power could allow no interference, and was determined to act accordingly. But Phoenician policy followed a gentler course than that of threatening open war. When the preparations of Rome for sending help to the Mamertines were at length so far advanced that the fleet formed of the war-vessels of Naples, Tarentum, Velia, and Locri, and the vanguard of the Roman land army under the military tribune Gaius Claudius, had appeared at Rhegium (in the spring of 490), unexpected news arrived from Messana that the Carthaginians, having come to an understanding with the anti-Roman party there, had as a neutral power arranged a peace between Hiero and the Mamertines; that the siege had in consequence been raised; and that a Carthaginian fleet lay in the harbour of Messana, and a Carthaginian garrison in the citadel, both under the command of admiral Hanno. The Mamertine citizens, now controlled by Carthaginian influence, informed the Roman commanders, with due thanks to the federal help so speedily accorded to them, that they were glad that they no longer needed it. The adroit and daring officer who commanded the Roman vanguard nevertheless set sail with his troops. But the Carthaginians warned the Roman vessels to retire, and even made some of them prizes; these, however, the Carthaginian admiral, remembering his strict orders to give no pretext for the outbreak of hostilities, sent back to his good friends on the other side of the straits. It almost seemed as if the Romans had compromised themselves as uselessly before Messana, as the Carthaginians before Tarentum. But Claudius did not allow himself to be deterred, and on a second attempt he succeeded in landing. Scarcely had he arrived when he called a meeting of the citizens; and, at his wish, the Carthaginian admiral also appeared at the meeting, still imagining that he should be able to avoid an open breach. But the Romans seized his person in the assembly itself; and Hanno and the Phoenician garrison in the citadel, weak and destitute of a leader, were pusillanimous enough, the former to give to his troops the command to withdraw, the latter to comply with the orders of their captive general and to evacuate the city along with him. Thus the tete de pont of the island fell into the hands of the Romans. The Carthaginian authorities, justly indignant at the folly and weakness of their general, caused him to be executed, and declared war against the Romans. Above all it was their aim to recover the lost place. A strong Carthaginian fleet, led by Hanno, son of Hannibal, appeared off Messana; while the fleet blockaded the straits, the Carthaginian army landing from it began the siege on the north side. Hiero, who had only waited for the Carthaginian attack to begin the war with Rome, again brought up his army, which he had hardly withdrawn, against Messana, and undertook the attack on the south side of the city.

Peace With Hiero

But meanwhile the Roman consul Appius Claudius Caudex had appeared at Rhegium with the main body of his army, and succeeded in crossing on a dark night in spite of the Carthaginian fleet. Audacity and fortune were on the side of the Romans; the allies, not prepared for an attack by the whole Roman army and consequently not united, were beaten in detail by the Roman legions issuing from the city; and thus the siege was raised. The Roman army kept the field during the summer, and even made an attempt on Syracuse; but, when that had failed and the siege of Echetla (on the confines of the territories of Syracuse and Carthage) had to be abandoned with loss, the Roman army returned to Messana, and thence, leaving a strong garrison behind them, to Italy. The results obtained in this first campaign of the Romans out of Italy may not quite have corresponded to the expectations at home, for the consul had no triumph; nevertheless, the energy which the Romans displayed in Sicily could not fail to make a great impression on the Sicilian Greeks. In the following year both consuls and an army twice as large entered the island unopposed. One of them, Marcus Valerius Maximus, afterwards called from this campaign the “hero of Messana” (-Messalla-), achieved a brilliant victory over the allied Carthaginians and Syracusans. After this battle the Phoenician army no longer ventured to keep the field against the Romans; Alaesa, Centuripa, and the smaller Greek towns generally fell to the victors, and Hiero himself abandoned the Carthaginian side and made peace and alliance with the Romans (491). He pursued a judicious policy in joining the Romans as soon as it appeared that their interference in Sicily was in earnest, and while there was still time to purchase peace without cessions and sacrifices. The intermediate states in Sicily, Syracuse and Messana, which were unable to follow out a policy of their own and had only the choice between Roman and Carthaginian hegemony, could not but at any rate prefer the former; because the Romans had very probably not as yet formed the design of conquering the island for themselves, but sought merely to prevent its being acquired by Carthage, and at all events Rome might be expected to substitute a more tolerable treatment and a due protection of commercial freedom for the tyrannizing and monopolizing system that Carthage pursued. Henceforth Hiero continued to be the most important, the steadiest, and the most esteemed ally of the Romans in the island.

Capture Of Agrigentum

The Romans had thus gained their immediate object. By their double alliance with Messana and Syracuse, and the firm hold which they had on the whole east coast, they secured the means of landing on the island and of maintaining–which hitherto had been a very difficult matter–their armies there; and the war, which had previously been doubtful and hazardous, lost in a great measure its character of risk. Accordingly, no greater exertions were made for it than for the wars in Samnium and Etruria; the two legions which were sent over to the island for the next year (492) sufficed, in concert with the Sicilian Greeks, to drive the Carthaginians everywhere into their fortresses. The commander-in-chief of the Carthaginians, Hannibal son of Gisgo, threw himself with the flower of his troops into Agrigentum, to defend to the last that most important of the Carthaginian inland cities. Unable to storm a city so strong, the Romans blockaded it with entrenched lines and a double camp; the besieged, who numbered 50,000 soon suffered from want of provisions. To raise the siege the Carthaginian admiral Hanno landed at Heraclea, and cut off in turn the supplies from the Roman besieging force. On both sides the distress was great. At length a battle was resolved on, to put an end to the state of embarrassment and uncertainty. In this battle the Numidian cavalry showed itself just as superior to the Roman horse as the Roman infantry was superior to the Phoenician foot; the infantry decided the victory, but the losses even of the Romans were very considerable. The result of the successful struggle was somewhat marred by the circumstance that, after the battle, during the confusion and fatigue of the conquerors, the beleaguered army succeeded in escaping from the city and in reaching the fleet. The victory was nevertheless of importance; Agrigentum fell into the hands of the Romans, and thus the whole island was in their power, with the exception of the maritime fortresses, in which the Carthaginian general Hamilcar, Hanno’s successor in command, entrenched himself to the teeth, and was not to be driven out either by force or by famine. The war was thenceforth continued only by sallies of the Carthaginians from the Sicilian fortresses and their descents on the Italian coasts.

Beginning Of The Maritime War
The Romans Build A Fleet

In fact, the Romans now for the first time felt the real difficulties of the war. If, as we are told, the Carthaginian diplomatists before the outbreak of hostilities warned the Romans not to push the matter to a breach, because against their will no Roman could even wash his hands in the sea, the threat was well founded. The Carthaginian fleet ruled the sea without a rival, and not only kept the coast towns of Sicily in due obedience and provided them with all necessaries, but also threatened a descent upon Italy, for which reason it was necessary in 492 to retain a consular army there. No invasion on a large scale occurred; but smaller Carthaginian detachments landed on the Italian coasts and levied contributions on the allies of Rome, and what was worst of all, completely paralyzed the commerce of Rome and her allies. The continuance of such a course for even a short time would suffice entirely to ruin Caere, Ostia, Neapolis, Tarentum, and Syracuse, while the Carthaginians easily consoled themselves for the loss of the tribute of Sicily with the contributions which they levied and the rich prizes of their privateering. The Romans now learned, what Dionysius, Agathocles, and Pyrrhus had learned before, that it was as difficult to conquer the Carthaginians as it was easy to beat them in the field. They saw that everything depended on procuring a fleet, and resolved to form one of twenty triremes and a hundred quinqueremes. The execution, however, of this energetic resolution was not easy. The representation originating in the schools of the rhetoricians, which would have us believe that the Romans then for the first time dipped their oars in water, is no doubt a childish tale; the mercantile marine of Italy must at this time have been very extensive, and there was no want even of Italian vessels of war. But these were war-barks and triremes, such as had been in use in earlier times; quinqueremes, which under the more modern system of naval warfare that had originated chiefly in Cartilage were almost exclusively employed in the line, had not yet been built in Italy. The measure adopted by the Romans was therefore much as if a maritime state of the present day were to pass at once from the building of frigates and cutters to the building of ships of the line; and, just as in such a case now a foreign ship of the line would, if possible, be adopted as a pattern, the Romans referred their master shipbuilders to a stranded Carthaginian -penteres- as a model No doubt the Romans, had they wished, might have sooner attained their object with the aid of the Syracusans and Massiliots; but their statesmen had too much sagacity to desire to defend Italy by means of a fleet not Italian. The Italian allies, however, were largely drawn upon both for the naval officers, who must have been for the most part taken from the Italian mercantile marine, and for the sailors, whose name (-socii navales-) shows that for a time they were exclusively furnished by the allies; along with these, slaves provided by the state and the wealthier families were afterwards employed, and ere long also the poorer class of burgesses. Under such circumstances, and when we take into account, as is but fair, on the one hand the comparatively low state of shipbuilding at that time, and on the other hand the energy of the Romans, there is nothing incredible in the statement that the Romans solved within a year the problem–which baffled Napoleon–of converting a continental into a maritime power, and actually launched their fleet of 120 sail in the spring of 494. It is true, that it was by no means a match for the Carthaginian fleet in numbers and efficiency at sea; and these were points of the greater importance, as the naval tactics of the period consisted mainly in manoeuvring. In the maritime warfare of that period hoplites and archers no doubt fought from the deck, and projectile machines were also plied from it; but the ordinary and really decisive mode of action consisted in running foul of the enemy’s vessels, for which purpose the prows were furnished with heavy iron beaks: the vessels engaged were in the habit of sailing round each other till one or the other succeeded in giving the thrust, which usually proved decisive. Accordingly the crew of an ordinary Greek trireme, consisting of about 200 men, contained only about 10 soldiers, but on the other hand 170 rowers, from 50 to 60 on each deck; that of a quinquereme numbered about 300 rowers, and soldiers in proportion.

The happy idea occurred to the Romans that they might make up for what their vessels, with their unpractised officers and crews, necessarily lacked in ability of manoeuvring, by again assigning a more considerable part in naval warfare to the soldiers. They stationed at the prow of each vessel a flying bridge, which could be lowered in front or on either side; it was furnished on both sides with parapets, and had space for two men in front. When the enemy’s vessel was sailing up to strike the Roman one, or was lying alongside of it after the thrust had been evaded, the bridge on deck was suddenly lowered and fastened to its opponent by means of a grappling- iron: this not only prevented the running down, but enabled the Roman marines to pass along the bridge to the enemy’s deck and to carry it by assault as in a conflict on land. No distinct body of marines was formed, but land troops were employed, when required, for this maritime service. In one instance as many as 120 legionaries fought in each ship on occasion of a great naval battle; in that case however the Roman fleet had at the same time a landing-army on board.

In this way the Romans created a fleet which was a match for the Carthaginians. Those err, who represent this building of a Roman fleet as a fairy tale, and besides they miss their aim; the feat must be understood in order to be admired. The construction of a fleet by the Romans was in very truth a noble national work–a work through which, by their clear perception of what was needful and possible, by ingenuity in invention, and by energy in resolution and in execution, they rescued their country from a position which was worse than at first it seemed.

Naval Victory At Mylae

The outset, nevertheless, was not favourable to the Romans. The Roman admiral, the consul Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, who had sailed for Messana with the first seventeen vessels ready for sea (494), fancied, when on the voyage, that he should be able to capture Lipara by a coup de main. But a division of the Carthaginian fleet stationed at Panormus blockaded the harbour of the island where the Roman vessels rode at anchor, and captured the whole squadron along with the consul without a struggle. This, however, did not deter the main fleet from likewise sailing, as soon as its preparations were completed, for Messana. On its voyage along the Italian coast it fell in with a Carthaginian reconnoitring squadron of less strength, on which it had the good fortune to inflict a loss more than counterbalancing the first loss of the Romans; and thus successful and victorious it entered the port of Messana, where the second consul Gaius Duilius took the command in room of his captured colleague. At the promontory of Mylae, to the north-west of Messana, the Carthaginian fleet, that advanced from Panormus under the command of Hannibal, encountered the Roman, which here underwent its first trial on a great scale. The Carthaginians, seeing in the ill-sailing and unwieldy vessels of the Romans an easy prey, fell upon them in irregular order; but the newly invented boarding-bridges proved their thorough efficiency. The Roman vessels hooked and stormed those of the enemy as they came up one by one; they could not be approached either in front or on the sides without the dangerous bridge descending on the enemy’s deck. When the battle was over, about fifty Carthaginian vessels, almost the half of the fleet, were sunk or captured by the Romans; among the latter was the ship of the admiral Hannibal, formerly belonging to king Pyrrhus. The gain was great; still greater the moral effect of the victory. Rome had suddenly become a naval power, and held in her hand the means of energetically terminating a war which threatened to be endlessly prolonged and to involve the commerce of Italy in ruin.

The War On The Coasts Of Sicily And Sardinia

Two plans were open to the Romans. They might attack Carthage on the Italian islands and deprive her of the coast fortresses of Sicily and Sardinia one after another–a scheme which was perhaps practicable through well-combined operations by land and sea; and, in the event of its being accomplished, peace might either be concluded with Carthage on the basis of the cession of these islands, or, should such terms not be accepted or prove unsatisfactory, the second stage of the war might be transferred to Africa. Or they might neglect the islands and throw themselves at once with all their strength on Africa, not, in the adventurous style of Agathocles, burning their vessels behind them and staking all on the victory of a desperate band, but covering with a strong fleet the communications between the African invading army and Italy; and in that case a peace on moderate terms might be expected from the consternation of the enemy after the first successes, or, if the Romans chose, they might by pushing matters to an extremity compel the enemy to entire surrender.

They chose, in the first instance, the former plan of operations. In the year after the battle of Mylae (495) the consul Lucius Scipio captured the port of Aleria in Corsica–we still possess the tombstone of the general, which makes mention of this deed–and made Corsica a naval station against Sardinia. An attempt to establish a footing in Ulbia on the northern coast of that island failed, because the fleet wanted troops for landing. In the succeeding year (496) it was repeated with better success, and the open villages along the coast were plundered; but no permanent establishment of the Romans took place. Nor was greater progress made in Sicily. Hamilcar conducted the war with energy and adroitness, not only by force of arms on sea and land, but also by political proselytism. Of the numerous small country towns some every year fell away from the Romans, and had to be laboriously wrested afresh from the Phoenician grasp; while in the coast fortresses the Carthaginians maintained themselves without challenge, particularly in their headquarters of Panormus and in their new stronghold of Drepana, to which, on account of its easier defence by sea, Hamilcar had transferred the inhabitants of Eryx. A second great naval engagement off the promontory of Tyndaris (497), in which both parties claimed the victory, made no change in the position of affairs. In this way no progress was made, whether in consequence of the division and rapid change of the chief command of the Roman troops, which rendered the concentrated management of a series of operations on a small scale exceedingly difficult, or from the general strategical relations of the case, which certainly, as the science of war then stood, were unfavourable to the attacking party in general,(5) and particularly so to the Romans, who were still on the mere threshold of scientific warfare. Meanwhile, although the pillaging of the Italian coasts had ceased, the commerce of Italy suffered not much less than it had done before the fleet was built.

Attack On Africa
Naval Victory Of Ecnomus

Weary of a course of operations without results, and impatient to put an end to the war, the senate resolved to change its system, and to assail Carthage in Africa. In the spring of 498 a fleet of 330 ships of the line set sail for the coast of Libya: at the mouth of the river Himera on the south coast of Sicily it embarked the army for landing, consisting of four legions, under the charge of the two consuls Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Volso, both experienced generals. The Carthaginian admiral suffered the embarkation of the enemy’s troops to take place; but on continuing their voyage towards Africa the Romans found the Punic fleet drawn up in order of battle off Ecnomus to protect its native land from invasion. Seldom have greater numbers fought at sea than were engaged in the battle that now ensued. The Roman fleet: of 330 sail contained at least 100,000 men in its crews, besides the landing army of about 40,000; the Carthaginian of 350 vessels was manned by at least an equal number; so that well-nigh three hundred thousand men were brought into action on this day to decide the contest between the two mighty civic communities. The Phoenicians were placed in a single widely-extended line, with their left wing resting on the Sicilian coast. The Romans arranged themselves in a triangle, with the ships of the two consuls as admirals at the apex, the first and second squadrons drawn out in oblique line to the right and left, and a third squadron, having the vessels built for the transport of the cavalry in tow, forming the line which closed the triangle. They thus bore down in close order on the enemy. A fourth squadron placed in reserve followed more slowly. The wedge-shaped attack broke without difficulty the Carthaginian line, for its centre, which was first assailed, intentionally gave way, and the battle resolved itself into three separate engagements. While the admirals with the two squadrons drawn up on the wings pursued the Carthaginian centre and were closely engaged with it, the left wing of the Carthaginians drawn up along the coast wheeled round upon the third Roman squadron, which was prevented by the vessels which it had in tow from following the two others, and by a vehement onset in superior force drove it against the shore; at the same time the Roman reserve was turned on the open sea, and assailed from behind, by the right wing of the Carthaginians. The first of these three engagements was soon at an end; the ships of the Carthaginian centre, manifestly much weaker than the two Roman squadrons with which they were engaged, took to flight. Meanwhile the two other divisions of the Romans had a hard struggle with the superior enemy; but in close fighting the dreaded boarding-bridges stood them in good stead, and by this means they succeeded in holding out till the two admirals with their vessels could come up. By their arrival the Roman reserve was relieved, and the Carthaginian vessels of the right wing retired before the superior force. And now, when this conflict had been decided in favour of the Romans, all the Roman vessels that still could keep the sea fell on the rear of the Carthaginian left wing, which was obstinately following up its advantage, so that it was surrounded and almost all the vessels composing it were taken. The losses otherwise were nearly equal. Of the Roman fleet 24 sail were sunk; of the Carthaginian 30 were sunk, and 64 were taken.

Landing Of Regulus In Africa

Notwithstanding its considerable loss, the Carthaginian fleet did not give up the protection of Africa, and with that view returned to the gulf of Carthage, where it expected the descent to take place and purposed to give battle a second time. But the Romans landed, not on the western side of the peninsula which helps to form the gulf, but on the eastern side, where the bay of Clupea presented a spacious harbour affording protection in almost all winds, and the town, situated close by the sea on a shield-shaped eminence rising out of the plain, supplied an excellent defence for the harbour. They disembarked the troops without hindrance from the enemy, and established themselves on the hill; in a short time an entrenched naval camp was constructed, and the land army was at liberty to commence operations. The Roman troops ranged over the country and levied contributions: they were able to send as many as 20,000 slaves to Rome. Through the rarest good fortune the bold scheme had succeeded at the first stroke, and with but slight sacrifices: the end seemed attained. The feeling of confidence that in this respect animated the Romans is evinced by the resolution of the senate to recall to Italy the greater portion of the fleet and half of the army; Marcus Regulus alone remained in Africa with 40 ships, 15,000 infantry, and 500 cavalry. Their confidence, however, was seemingly not overstrained. The Carthaginian army, which was disheartened, did not venture forth into the plain, but waited to sustain discomfiture in the wooded defiles, in which it could make no use of its two best arms, the cavalry and the elephants. The towns surrendered -en masse-; the Numidians rose in insurrection, and overran the country far and wide. Regulus might hope to begin the next campaign with the siege of the capital, and with that view he pitched his camp for the winter in its immediate vicinity at Tunes.

Vain Negotiations For Peace

The spirit of the Carthaginians was broken: they sued for peace. But the conditions which the consul proposed–not merely the cession of Sicily and Sardinia, but the conclusion of an alliance on unequal terms with Rome, which would have bound the Carthaginians to renounce a war-marine of their own and to furnish vessels for the Roman wars –conditions which would have placed Carthage on a level with Neapolis and Tarentum, could not be accepted, so long as a Carthaginian army kept the field and a Carthaginian fleet kept the sea, and the capital stood unshaken.

Preparations Of Carthage

The mighty enthusiasm, which is wont to blaze up nobly among Oriental nations, even the most abased, on the approach of extreme peril–the energy of dire necessity–impelled the Carthaginians to exertions, such as were by no means expected from a nation of shopkeepers. Hamilcar, who had carried on the guerilla war against the Romans in Sicily with so much success, appeared in Libya with the flower of the Sicilian troops, which furnished an admirable nucleus for the newly-levied force. The connections and gold of the Carthaginians, moreover, brought to them excellent Numidian horsemen in troops, and also numerous Greek mercenaries; amongst whom was the celebrated captain Xanthippus of Sparta, whose talent for organization and strategical skill were of great service to his new masters.(6) While the Carthaginians were thus making their preparations in the course of the winter, the Roman general remained inactive at Tunes. Whether it was that he did not anticipate the storm which was gathering over his head, or that a sense of military honour prohibited him from doing what his position demanded–instead of renouncing a siege which he was not in a condition even to attempt, and shutting himself up in the stronghold of Clupea, he remained with a handful of men before the walls of the hostile capital, neglecting even to secure his line of retreat to the naval camp, and neglecting to provide himself with –what above all he wanted, and what might have been so easily obtained through negotiation with the revolted Numidian tribes –a good light cavalry. He thus wantonly brought himself and his army into a plight similar to that which formerly befell Agathocles in his desperate adventurous expedition.

Defeat Of Regulus

When spring came (499), the state of affairs had so changed, that now the Carthaginians were the first to take the field and to offer battle to the Romans. It was natural that they should do so, for everything depended on their getting quit of the army of Regulus, before reinforcements could arrive from Italy. The same reason should have led the Romans to desire delay; but, relying on their invincibleness in the open field, they at once accepted battle notwithstanding their inferiority of strength–for, although the numbers of the infantry on both sides were nearly the same, their 4000 cavalry and 100 elephants gave to the Carthaginians a decided superiority–and notwithstanding the unfavourable nature of the ground, the Carthaginians having taken up their position in a broad plain presumably not far from Tunes. Xanthippus, who on this day commanded the Carthaginians, first threw his cavalry on that of the enemy, which was stationed, as usual, on the two flanks of the line of battle; the few squadrons of the Romans were scattered like dust in a moment before the masses of the enemy’s horse, and the Roman infantry found itself outflanked by them and surrounded. The legions, unshaken by their apparent danger, advanced to attack the enemy’s line; and, although the row of elephants placed as a protection in front of it checked the right wing and centre of the Romans, the left wing at any rate, marching past the elephants, engaged the mercenary infantry on the right of the enemy, and overthrew them completely. But this very success broke up the Roman ranks. The main body indeed, assailed by the elephants in front and by the cavalry on the flanks and in the rear, formed square, and defended itself with heroic courage, but the close masses were at length broken and swept away. The victorious left wing encountered the still fresh Carthaginian centre, where the Libyan infantry prepared a similar fate for it. From the nature of the ground and the superior numbers of the enemy’s cavalry, all the combatants in these masses were cut down or taken prisoners; only two thousand men, chiefly, in all probability, the light troops and horsemen who were dispersed at the commencement, gained–while the Roman legions stood to be slaughtered–a start sufficient to enable them with difficulty to reach Clupea. Among the few prisoners was the consul himself, who afterwards died in Carthage; his family, under the idea that he had not been treated by the Carthaginians according to the usages of war, wreaked a most revolting vengeance on two noble Carthaginian captives, till even the slaves were moved to pity, and on their information the tribunes put a stop to the shameful outrage.(7)

Evacuation Of Africa

When the terrible news reached Rome, the first care of the Romans was naturally directed to the saving of the force shut up in Clupea. A Roman fleet of 350 sail immediately started, and after a noble victory at the Hermaean promontory, in which the Carthaginians lost 114 ships, it reached Clupea just in time to deliver from their hard-pressed position the remains of the defeated army which were there entrenched. Had it been despatched before the catastrophe occurred, it might have converted the defeat into a victory that would probably have put an end to the Punic wars. But so completely had the Romans now lost their judgment, that after a successful conflict before Clupea they embarked all their troops and sailed home, voluntarily evacuating that important and easily defended position which secured to them facilities for landing in Africa, and abandoning their numerous African allies without protection to the vengeance of the Carthaginians. The Carthaginians did not neglect the opportunity of filling their empty treasury, and of making their subjects clearly understand the consequences of unfaithfulness. An extraordinary contribution of 1000 talents of silver (244,000 pounds) and 20,000 oxen was levied, and the sheiks in all the communities that had revolted were crucified; it is said that there were three thousand of them, and that this revolting atrocity on the part of the Carthaginian authorities really laid the foundation of the revolution which broke forth in Africa some years later. Lastly, as if to fill up the measure of misfortune to the Romans even as their measure of success had been filled before, on the homeward voyage of the fleet three- fourths of the Roman vessels perished with their crews in a violent storm; only eighty reached their port (July 499). The captains had foretold the impending mischief, but the extemporised Roman admirals had nevertheless given orders to sail.

Recommencement Of The War In Sicily

After successes so immense the Carthaginians were able to resume their offensive operations, which had long been in abeyance. Hasdrubal son of Hanno landed at Lilybaeum with a strong force, which was enabled, particularly by its enormous number of elephants–amounting to 140 –to keep the field against the Romans: the last battle had shown that it was possible to make up for the want of good infantry to some extent by elephants and cavalry. The Romans also resumed the war in Sicily; the annihilation of their invading army had, as the voluntary evacuation of Clupea shows, at once restored ascendency in the senate to the party which was opposed to the war in Africa and was content with the gradual subjugation of the islands. But for this purpose too there was need of a fleet; and, since that which had conquered at Mylae, at Ecnomus, and at the Hermaean promontory was destroyed, they built a new one. Keels were at once laid down for 220 new vessels of war–they had never hitherto undertaken the building of so many simultaneously–and in the incredibly short space of three months they were all ready for sea. In the spring of 500 the Roman fleet, numbering 300 vessels mostly new, appeared on the north coast of Sicily; Panormus, the most important town in Carthaginian Sicily, was acquired through a successful attack from the seaboard, and the smaller places there, Soluntum, Cephaloedium, and Tyndaris, likewise fell into the hands of the Romans, so that along the whole north coast of the island Thermae alone was retained by the Carthaginians. Panormus became thenceforth one of the chief stations of the Romans in Sicily. The war by land, nevertheless, made no progress; the two armies stood face to face before Lilybaeum, but the Roman commanders, who knew not how to encounter the mass of elephants, made no attempt to compel a pitched battle.

In the ensuing year (501) the consuls, instead of pursuing sure advantages in Sicily, preferred to make an expedition to Africa, for the purpose not of landing but of plundering the coast towns. They accomplished their object without opposition; but, after having first run aground in the troublesome, and to their pilots unknown, waters of the Lesser Syrtis, whence they with difficulty got clear again, the fleet encountered a storm between Sicily and Italy, which cost more than 150 ships. On this occasion also the pilots, notwithstanding their representations and entreaties to be allowed to take the course along the coast, were obliged by command of the consuls to steer straight from Panormus across the open sea to Ostia.

Suspension Of The Maritime War
Roman Victory At Panormus

Despondency now seized the fathers of the city; they resolved to reduce their war-fleet to sixty sail, and to confine the war by sea to the defence of the coasts, and to the convoy of transports. Fortunately, just at this time, the languishing war in Sicily took a more favourable turn. In the year 502, Thermae, the last point which the Carthaginians held on the north coast, and the important island of Lipara, had fallen into the hands of the Romans, and in the following year (summer of 503) the consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus achieved a brilliant victory over the army of elephants under the walls of Panormus. These animals, which had been imprudently brought forward, were wounded by the light troops of the Romans stationed in the moat of the town; some of them fell into the moat, and others fell back on their own troops, who crowded in wild disorder along with the elephants towards the beach, that they might be picked up by the Phoenician ships. One hundred and twenty elephants were captured, and the Carthaginian army, whose strength depended on these animals, was obliged once more to shut itself up in its fortresses. Eryx soon fell into the hands of the Romans (505), and the Carthaginians retained nothing in the island but Drepana and Lilybaeum. Carthage a second time offered peace; but the victory of Metellus and the exhaustion of the enemy gave to the more energetic party the upper hand in the senate.

Siege Of Lilybaeum

Peace was declined, and it was resolved to prosecute in earnest the siege of the two Sicilian cities and for this purpose to send to sea once more a fleet of 200 sail. The siege of Lilybaeum, the first great and regular siege undertaken by Rome, and one of the most obstinate known in history, was opened by the Romans with an important success: they succeeded in introducing their fleet into the harbour of the city, and in blockading it on the side facing the sea. The besiegers, however, were not able to close the sea completely. In spite of their sunken vessels and their palisades, and in spite of the most careful vigilance, dexterous mariners, accurately acquainted with the shallows and channels, maintained with swift-sailing vessels a regular communication between the besieged in the city and the Carthaginian fleet in the harbour of Drepana. In fact after some time a Carthaginian squadron of 50 sail succeeded in running into the harbour, in throwing a large quantity of provisions and a reinforcement of 10,000 men into the city, and in returning unmolested. The besieging land army was not much more fortunate. They began with a regular attack; machines were erected, and in a short time the batteries had demolished six of the towers flanking the walls, so that the breach soon appeared to be practicable. But the able Carthaginian commander Himilco parried this assault by giving orders for the erection of a second wall behind the breach. An attempt of the Romans to enter into an understanding with the garrison was likewise frustrated in proper time. And, after a first sally made for the purpose of burning the Roman set of machines had been repulsed, the Carthaginians succeeded during a stormy night in effecting their object. Upon this the Romans abandoned their preparations for an assault, and contented themselves with blockading the walls by land and water. The prospect of success in this way was indeed very remote, so long as they were unable wholly to preclude the entrance of the enemy’s vessels; and the army of the besiegers was in a condition not much better than that of the besieged in the city, because their supplies were frequently cut off by the numerous and bold light cavalry of the Carthaginians, and their ranks began to be thinned by the diseases indigenous to that unwholesome region. The capture of Lilybaeum, however, was of sufficient importance to induce a patient perseverance in the laborious task, which promised to be crowned in time with the desired success.

Defeat Of The Roman Fleet Before Drepana Annililation Of The Roman Transport Fleet

But the new consul Publius Claudius considered the task of maintaining