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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§31-35


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. His account of the Punic Wars, which deals with the wars in Africa, is fortunately among these better preserved parts.

The translation was made by Horace White; footnotes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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A beardless Hannibal on a coin by Hannibal.
A beardless Melqart on a coin
of Hannibal  (©!!)
[§31] [203] The Carthaginians, depressed by their ill success, chose Hannibal as their commanding general and sent an admiral with ships to hasten his coming. At the same time they sent ambassadors to [proconsul Publius Cornelius] to negotiate for peace, thinking to gain one of two things, either peace or a delay until Hannibal should arrive.

Scipio consented to an armistice, and having thus gained sufficient supplies for his army allowed them to send their ambassadors to Rome. They did so, but they were received there as enemies and required to lodge outside the walls.

When the Senate gave them audience, they asked pardon. Some of the senators adverted to the faithlessness of the Carthaginians, and told how often they had made treaties and broken them, and what injuries Hannibal had inflicted on the Romans and their allies in Spain and Italy. Others represented that the Carthaginians were not more in need of peace than themselves, Italy being exhausted by so many wars; and they showed how much danger was to be feared from the great armies moving together against Scipio, that of Hannibal from Italy, that of Mago from Liguria, and that of Hanno at Carthage.

[§32] The Senate was not able to agree, but sent counselors to Scipio with whom he should advise, and then do whatever he should deem best. Scipio made peace with the Carthaginians on these terms: That Mago should depart from Liguria forthwith, and that hereafter the Carthaginians should hire no mercenaries; that they should not keep more than thirty long galleys; that they should restrict themselves to the territory within the 'Phoenician trenches'; that they should surrender to the Romans all captives and deserters, and that they should pay 6,000 talents of silver within a certain time; also that Massinissa should have the kingdom of the Massylians and as much of the dominion of Syphax as he could take.[1]

Having made this agreement, ambassadors on both sides set sail, some to Rome to take the oaths of the consuls, and others from Rome to Carthage to receive those of the Carthaginian magistrates. The Romans gave to Massinissa, as a reward for his alliance, a crown of gold, a signet ring of gold, a chair of ivory, a purple robe, a horse with gold trappings, and a suit of armor.

[§33] In the meantime Hannibal set sail for Africa against his will, knowing the untrustworthy character of the people of Carthage, their bad faith toward their magistrates, and their general recklessness. He did not believe that a treaty would be made, and if made he well knew that it would not last long. He landed at the city of Hadrumetum, in Africa, and began to collect grain and buy horses. He made an alliance with the chief of a Numidian tribe called the Areacidae. He slew with arrows 4,000 horsemen who had come to him as deserters. These had formerly been Syphax's men and afterward Massinissa's, and he suspected them. He gave their horses to his own army. Mesotulus, another chieftain, came to him with 1,000 horse; also Verminia, another son of Syphax, who ruled the greater part of his father's dominions.

He gained some of Massinissa's towns by surrender and some by force. He took the town of Narce by stratagem in this way. Dealing in their market he sent to them as to friends, and when he thought the time had come to spring the trap he sent in a large number of men carrying concealed daggers, and ordered them not to do any harm to the traders until the trumpet should sound, and then to set upon all they met, and hold the gates for him. In this way was Narce taken.

[§34] The common people of Carthage, although the treaty had been so lately concluded, and Scipio was still there, and their own ambassadors had not yet returned from Rome, plundered some of Scipio's stores that had been driven into the port of Carthage by a storm, and put the carriers in chains, in spite of the threats of their own council and of their admonitions not to violate the treaty so recently made. The people found fault with the treaty, and said that hunger was more dangerous to them than treaty-breaking.

Scipio did not deem it best to renew the war after the treaty, but he demanded reparation as from friends who were in the wrong. The people attempted to seize his messengers, intending to hold them until their own ambassadors should return from Rome, but Hanno the Great and Hasdrubal Eriphus [the Kid] rescued them from the mob and sent them away in two galleys.

Some others, however, sent word to Hasdrubal, the admiral, who was moored near the promontory of Apollo, that when the escort should leave them he should set upon Scipio's galleys. This he did, and some of the messengers were killed with arrows. The others were wounded, and the rowers darted into the harbor of their own camp and sprang from the ship which was just being seized. So narrowly did they escape being taken prisoners.

[§35] When the Romans at home learned these things they ordered the Carthaginian ambassadors, who were still there treating for peace, to depart immediately as enemies. They accordingly set sail, and were driven by a tempest to Scipio's camp. To his admiral, who asked what he should do with them, Scipio said: "We shall not imitate Carthaginian bad faith; send them away unharmed."

When the Carthaginian Senate learned this they chided the people for the contrast between their behavior and Scipio's, and advised them to beg Scipio to adhere to the agreement and to accept reparation for the Carthaginian wrong-doing. But the people had been finding fault with the Senate a long time for their ill success, because they had not sufficiently foreseen what was for their advantage, and being pushed on by demagogues and excited by vain hopes, they summoned Hannibal and his army.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 8
Note 1:
Scipio was in a hurry to finish the war, because his term as proconsul was about to expire. In the end, his speed was unnecessary because his term was prolonged.
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