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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§61-65


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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  [§61] [202] [During the debate in the Senate, one of Scipio's friends spoke, and continued:] "If any one is disposed to treat all these considerations lightly, and is only thinking how he may succeed to Scipio's command and turn it to his own advantage, trusting that the favors of fortune will attend him to the end, what are we going to do with the city after we have taken it - supposing we do take it? Shall we destroy it utterly because they seized some of our grain and ships, which they are ready to give back, together with many other things? If we do not do this (having regard to the indignation of the gods and the censures of men) shall we give it to Massinissa? Although he is our friend, it is best not to make him too strong. It should rather be considered a public advantage to the Romans that the two should be at strife with each other. Is it said that we might collect rent from their land? The expense of military protection would eat up the rent, for we should need a strong force to ward off so many surrounding tribes, all of them uncivilized. Can we plant colonies in the midst of such a host of Numidians? They would always be exposed to the depredations of these powerful barbarians, and if they should conquer them they might hereafter become objects of fear and jealousy to us, possessing a country so much more fruitful than ours. All of which things, it seems to me, Scipio clearly discerned when he advised us to yield to the prayers of the Carthaginians. Let us then grant their request and that of our general."

[§62] When he had thus spoken, Publius Cornelius, a relative of [Gaius] Cornelius Lentulus, who was then consul and who expected to be Scipio's successor, replied thus: "In war, gentlemen, the only thing to be considered is, what is advantageous. We are told that this city is still powerful. So much the more ought we to be on our guard against treachery joined to power, and to crush the power since we cannot extinguish the treachery. No time can be better chosen to free ourselves from all fear of the Carthaginians than the present, when they are weak and stripped of everything, and before they grow again to their former proportions.

Not that I would deny the claims of justice, but I do not think that we can be accused of want of moderation toward the Carthaginians, who in their days of prosperity were unjust and insolent to everybody, but have become suppliants in adversity, and will immediately break away from the new treaty if they have a chance. They have neither respect for treaties nor regard for their oaths - these people whom the gentleman thinks we ought to spare, in order that we may avoid the indignation of the gods and the censures of men.

I think that the gods themselves have brought Carthage into this plight in order to punish for their former impiety those who in Sicily, in Spain, in Italy, and in Africa itself, with us and with all others, were always making covenants and breaking their oaths, and committing outrage and savagery. Of these things I will give you some foreign examples before I speak of those that concern ourselves, in order that you may know that all men will rejoice over the Carthaginians if they are brought to condign punishment.

[§63] The people of Saguntum, a noble city of Spain, in league with themselves and friendly to us, they slaughtered to the last man, although they had given no offense. Those of Nuceria, a town subject to us, surrendered to them under a sworn agreement that they might depart with two garments each. They shut the senators of Nuceria up in a bathroom and suffocated them with heat. Then they shot the common people with arrows as they were going away. After entering into a treaty with the Senate of Acerra they threw them into wells and buried them alive. Our consul, Marcus Cornelius, they lured by false oaths to an interview with their general, who pretended to be sick. They seized him and carried him prisoner from Sicily into Africa with twenty-two of our ships. They put our other general, [Gaius Atilius] Regulus, to death with torture after he had gone back to them in accordance with his oath. The acts perpetrated by Hannibal himself in war, stratagem and perjury, against our cities and armies, and at last against his own allies, destroying their cities and slaughtering their soldiers serving with him, it would take too long to enumerate. In a word, 400 of our towns were depopulated by him. He cast our men, whom he had taken prisoners, into ditches and rivers, making bridges of their bodies to pass over. He had them trodden under foot by elephants. He made them fight with each other, brothers against brothers and fathers against sons. And just now, while they were here treating for peace, and calling the gods to witness, and taking oaths, and while their ambassadors were still among us, they seized our ships in Africa and put our men in chains. To such a pitch of madness have they been brought by the practice of cruelty.

[§64] "What pity, therefore, or what moderation is due from others to these Carthaginians, who have never exercised moderation or clemency in anything, and who, as Scipio says, would have expunged the very name of Rome if they had vanquished us? But good faith, you say, and the right hand are reliable. How so? What treaty, what oath, have they not trampled under foot? We should not imitate them, the gentleman says. What treaty can we violate when we have not yet made any? But we should not imitate their cruelty, he says. Ought we to make the most cruel people in the world our friends and allies? Neither of these things is desirable.

Let them surrender at discretion, as is the custom of the vanquished, as many others have surrendered to us. Then we shall see what we will do, and whatever we accord to them they shall take in the light of a favor and not of a bargain. There is this difference between the two plans. As long as we treat with them they will violate the treaties as they have heretofore, always making some excuse that they were overreached. They will always find plausible grounds for dispute. But when they surrender at discretion, and we take away their arms, and when their persons are in our possession and they see that there is nothing they can call their own, their spirits will be tamed and they will welcome whatever we allow them to have, as a gratuity bestowed by others. If Scipio thinks differently you have the two opinions to choose from. If he is going to make peace with the Carthaginians without you, what is the need of his sending any word to you? For my part, I have given you the opinion which I hold to be for the advantage of the city, as to judges who are really going to exercise a judgment on the matter in hand."

[§65] After Publius had spoken, the Senate took a vote on the question, and the majority agreed with Scipio. Thus a third treaty was made between the Romans and the Carthaginians. Scipio deemed it best to urge this policy upon the Romans, either for the reasons mentioned above, or because he considered it a sufficient success for Rome to have taken the supremacy away from Carthage. There are some who think that in order to preserve the Roman discipline he wished to keep a neighbor and rival as a perpetual menace, so that they might never become intoxicated with success and careless by reason of the greatness of their prosperity. That Scipio had this feeling, [Marcus Porcius] Cato, not long after, publicly declared to the Romans when he reproached them for undue severity toward the Rhodians.

When Scipio had concluded the treaty, he sailed from Africa to Italy with his whole army, and made a triumphal entry into Rome more glorious than that of any of his predecessors.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 14
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