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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§76-80


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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  [§76] [149] The declaration of war and the war itself reached the Carthaginians by the same messenger. He brought the vote of the Senate, and told them that the fleet had already sailed. They were astounded, and in despair for want of ships and by the recent loss of so many young men. They had neither allies, nor mercenaries, nor supplies for enduring a siege, nor anything else in readiness for this sudden and unheralded war. They knew that they could not prevail against the Romans and Massinissa combined. They sent another embassy to Rome with full powers to settle the difficulty on any terms they could. The Senate was convened and it told them that if, within thirty days, the Carthaginians would give to the consuls, who were still Sicily, three hundred children of their noblest families as hostages, and would obey their orders in other respects, the freedom and autonomy of Carthage should be preserved and that they should retain their lands in Africa. This was voted in public, and they gave the resolution to the ambassadors to carry to Carthage; but they sent word privately to the consuls that they should carry out their secret instructions.

[§77] The Carthaginians had some suspicion of this Senate resolution, since there was no security given for the return of the hostages. Nevertheless, the danger was so great that they could omit nothing in which hope could be placed. So, anticipating the appointed time, they sent their children into Sicily, amid the tears of the parents, the kindred, and especially the mothers, who clung to their little ones with frantic cries and seized hold of the ships and of the officers who were taking them away, even holding the anchors and tearing the ropes, and throwing their arms around the sailors in order to prevent the ships from moving; some of them even swam out far into the sea beside the ships, shedding tears and gazing at their children. Some of them tore out their hair on the shore and smote their breasts in the extremity of their grief. It seemed to them that they were giving hostages only nominally, but were really giving up the city, when they surrendered their children without any fixed conditions. Many of them predicted, with lamentations, that it would profit the city nothing to have delivered up their children. Such were the scenes that took place in Carthage when the hostages were sent away. When the consuls received them in Sicily they sent them to Rome, and said to the Carthaginians that they would give them further information at Utica in reference to the ending of the war.

[§78] Crossing to the latter place they pitched the camp for their infantry at the same place where that of [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Africanus] had formerly been. The fleet remained in the harbor of Utica.

When the ambassadors came there from Carthage the consuls placed themselves on a high seat, with the chief officers and military tribunes standing near, and the whole army drawn up on either side with arms glistening and standards erect, in order that the ambassadors might be impressed in this way with the strength of the expedition. When the consuls had proclaimed silence by the trumpet, a herald told the Carthaginian envoys to come forward, and they advanced through the long camp, but did not draw near to the place where the consuls sat, because they were fenced off by a rope.

The consuls then ordered them to tell what they wanted. The envoys then told a various and pitiful tale about the former agreements between the Romans and themselves, about the antiquity of Carthage, its size and power, and its wide dominion on land and sea. They said that they did not mention these things in a boasting way, this was no fit occasion for boasting, "but that you, Romans (they said), may be moved to moderation and clemency by the example of our sudden change of fortune. The bravest are those who pity the fallen, and they may cherish confidence in their own continued prosperity in proportion as they do nothing to the injury of others. Such a course will be worthy of you, Romans, and of that reverent spirit which you, of all men, most profess.

[§79] "But even if we had met ruthless enemies we have suffered enough. Our leadership on land and sea has been taken from us; we delivered our ships to you, and we have not built others; we have abstained from the hunting and possession of elephants. We have given you, both before and now, our noblest hostages, and we have paid tribute to you regularly, we who had always been accustomed to receive it from others. These things were satisfactory to your fathers, with whom we had been at war. They entered into an agreement with us that we should be friends and allies, and we took the same oath together to observe the agreement. And they, with whom we had been at war, observed the agreement faithfully afterward.

But you, with whom we have never come to blows, what part of the treaty do you accuse us of violating, that you vote for war so suddenly, and march against us without even declaring it? Have we not paid the tribute? Have we any ships, or any hateful elephants? Have we not been faithful to you from that time to this? Are we not to be pitied for the recent loss of 50,000 men by hunger?

But we have fought against Massinissa, you say. He was always grabbing our property, and we endured all things on your account. While holding, all the time and contrary to right, the very ground on which he was nurtured and educated, he seized other lands of ours around Emporium, and after taking that he invaded still others, until the peace which we made with you was broken. If this is an excuse for the war, we condemned those who resisted him, and we sent our ambassadors to you to make the necessary explanations, and afterwards others empowered to make a settlement on any terms you pleased. What need is there of a fleet, an expedition, an army against men who do not acknowledge that they have done wrong, but who, nevertheless, put themselves entirely in your hands?

That we are not deceiving you, and that we will submit ungrudgingly to whatever penalty you impose, we demonstrated plainly when we sent, as hostages, the children of our noblest families, demanded by you, as soon as the decree of your Senate ordered us to do so, not even waiting the expiration of the thirty days. It was a part of this decree that if we would deliver the hostages Carthage should remain free under her own laws and in the enjoyment of her possessions."

[§80] So spoke the ambassadors. Then [consul Lucius Marcius] Censorinus rose and replied as follows: "Why is it necessary that I should tell you the causes of the war, Carthaginians, when your ambassadors have been at Rome and have learned them from the Senate? What you have stated falsely, that I will refute. The decree itself declared, and we gave you notice in Sicily when we received the hostages, that the rest of the conditions would be made known to you at Utica. For your promptness in sending the hostages and your care in selecting them, you are entitled to praise. If you are sincerely desirous of peace why do you need any arms? Bring all your weapons and engines of war, both public and private, and deliver them to us."

When he had thus spoken the ambassadors said that they would comply with this order also, but that they did not know how they could defend themselves against Hasdrubal, whom they had condemned to death, and who was now leading 20,000 men against them, and was already encamped near Carthage. When the consul said that he would take care of Hasdrubal they promised to deliver up their arms.

Thereupon [Publius] Cornelius Scipio Nasica [Serapio] and Gnaeus Cornelius Hispanus were sent with the ambassadors, and they received complete armor for 200,000 men, besides innumerable javelins and darts, and 2,000 catapults for throwing pointed missiles and stones. When they came back it was a remarkable and unparalleled spectacle to behold the vast number of loaded wagons which the enemy themselves brought in. The ambassadors accompanied them, together with numerous senators and other leading men of the city, priests and distinguished persons, who hoped to inspire the consuls with respect or pity for them. They were brought in and stood in their robes before the consuls. Again Censorinus (who was a better speaker than his colleague) rose, and with a stern countenance spoke as follows:

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 17
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