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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§56-60


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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  [§56] [202/201] The remaining Carthaginians, hearing that a large quantity of provisions had been stored by Hannibal at a certain place, sent a number of transports and warships thither, being resolved, if they could obtain food, to continue the war and to endure everything rather than accept servitude to the Romans. But after a storm had shattered their ships, despairing of everything, they accused the gods of conspiring against them, assented to the agreement with [proconsul Publius Cornelius] Scipio, and sent an embassy to Rome. Scipio also sent counselors to confirm the agreement.

It was said that Scipio was moved by two considerations. He thought that peace would be for the advantage of the city. He knew also that the consul, Gaius Cornelius Lentulus, would grasp at his command, and he was not willing that another should reap the glory of bringing the war to an end. At all events he enjoined upon his messengers to say that if there should be delay at Rome he would conclude peace himself.

[§57] There was great rejoicing at Rome that this mighty city, which had brought so many calamities upon them and had been the second or third in the leadership of the world, had been completely vanquished. But there were differences of opinion as to what should be done. Some were exceedingly bitter toward the Carthaginians. Others had pity on them, thinking that this was a more becoming attitude to take respecting other people's misfortunes.

One of Scipio's friends rose and said: "Gentlemen, this is not so much a question of saving Carthage as it is of preserving our faith with the gods and our reputation among men - lest it be said that we, who have so often charged the Carthaginians with cruelty, behave with greater cruelty than they, and that we, who always exercise moderation in small matters, neglect it wholly in large ones, which, on account of their very magnitude, cannot escape notice. The deed will be sounded through all the earth, now and hereafter, if we destroy this famous city, former mistress of the seas, ruler of so many islands, and of the whole expanse of water, and more than half of Africa, and which in contests with ourselves has exhibited such wonderful success and power. While they were in arms it was necessary to fight them; now that they have fallen they should be spared, just as athletes refrain from striking a fallen antagonist, and as many wild beasts spare the enemies they have thrown down.

It is fitting, in the hour of success, to beware of the indignation of the gods and of the envy of mankind. If we consider closely what they have done to us, that is itself a most fearful example of the fickleness of fortune, that they are now asking us simply to save them from destruction, they who have been able to inflict so many and so great evils upon us, and not long ago were contending on even terms with us for the possession of Sicily and Spain. But, for these things they have already been punished. For their later transgressions blame the pangs of hunger, the most painful suffering that can afflict mankind, a torture that may easily dethrone the reasoning powers of men.

[§58] "I do not speak for the Carthaginians; that would not be fitting. Nor do I forget that they violated other treaties before those which are now under review. What our fathers did in like circumstances (and by which means they arrived at the summit of fortune) I will recall to your minds for you know them already. Although the neighboring peoples round about us often revolted and were continually breaking treaties, our ancestors did not disdain them - the Latins, the Etruscans, the Sabines, for example. Afterward, the Aequi, the Volsci, the Campanians, also our neighbors, and various other peoples of Italy, committed a breach of their treaties, and our fathers met it magnanimously. Moreover, the Samnite race, after betraying friendship and agreements three times and waging the most desperate war against us for eighty years, were not destroyed, nor were those others who called Pyrrhus into Italy. Nor did we destroy those Italians who lately joined forces with Hannibal, not even the Bruttians, who remained with him to the last. We took from them a part of their lands and allowed them to keep the remainder. Thus it was esteemed both generous to them and useful to us not to exterminate a whole race, but to bring them into a better state of mind.

[§59] "Why, in dealing with the Carthaginians, should we change our nature, in the exercise of which we have until now so greatly prospered? Is it because their city is large? That is the very reason why it ought to be spared. Is it because they have often violated their treaties with us? So have other nations, almost all of them. Is it because they are now to be subjected to a light punishment? They are to lose all their ships but ten. They are to give up their elephants, which constitute so large a part of their strength. They are to pay 10,000 Euboean talents. They are to yield all the cities and territories outside of the Phoenician trenches, and they are forbidden to enlist soldiers. What they took from us when pressed by hunger they are to restore, although they are still hungry. As to all doubtful matters, Scipio, the man who fought against them, is the judge. I praise Scipio the rather for the magnitude and multitude of these things. I think you ought to spare them considering the invidiousness and the mutability of human affairs. They still have (until the treaty is ratified) an abundance of ships and elephants, and Hannibal, that most skillful captain, who still has an army; also Mago, who is leading another considerable force of Celts and Ligurians; also Vermina, the son of Syphax, is allied with them, and other Numidian tribes. They have also a great many slaves. If they despair of pardon from you they will use all these things with a lavish hand. Nothing is more dangerous than desperation in battles, in which also the divine will is both uncertain and vengeful.

[§60] "It seems that Scipio was apprehensive of these things when he communicated his own opinion to us, saying that if we delayed he would conclude peace himself. It is reasonable to suppose, too, that he can form a better judgment than ourselves, since the one who presides over the whole business can have the best view of it. If we reject his advice we shall give pain to that ardent patriot, that renowned general, who urged us to carry the war into Africa when we were not in favor of it; and when he could not obtain an army from us, raised it himself, and there achieved for us a success far beyond our expectations. It is astonishing that you who entered upon this war so sluggishly in the beginning, should now prosecute it so fiercely and to such extremity.

If anyone agrees to this, but fears lest the Carthaginians should break faith again, I answer that it is more likely that they now perceive the necessity of keeping their agreements because they have suffered so much from former violations of them, and that they will observe the claims of religion all the more since their impiety has led only to their ruin.

It is not consistent to despise the Carthaginians as being powerless, and in the same breath to fear lest they should have power to rebel. It will be easier for us to keep watch over them, that they do not become too great hereafter, than to destroy them now. They will fight with desperation now, but hereafter they will always be held in check by their fears. Besides, they will have plenty of troubles without us, for all their neighbors, angered by their former tyranny, will press upon them, and Massinissa, our most faithful ally, will always be there lying in wait for them.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 13
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