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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars 86-90


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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  [86] [149] So spoke Banno, but the consuls showed by their stern looks that they would yield nothing. When he had ceased, [Lucius Marcius] Censorinus replied: "What is the use of repeating what the Senate has ordered? It has issued its decrees and they must be carried out. We have no power to alter the commands already laid upon us. If we were addressing you as enemies, Carthaginians, it would be necessary only to speak and then to use force, but since this is a matter of the common good (somewhat of our own and still more of yours), I have no objection to giving you the reasons, if you may be thus persuaded instead of being coerced.

The sea reminds you of the dominion and power you once acquired by means of it. It prompts you to wrongdoing and brings you to grief. By this means you invaded Sicily and lost it again. Then you invaded Spain and were driven out of it. While a treaty was in force you plundered merchants on the sea, and ours especially, and in order to conceal the crime you threw them overboard, until finally you were caught at it, and then you gave us Sardinia by way of penalty. Thus you lost Sardinia also by means of this sea, which always begets a grasping disposition by the very facilities which it offers for gain.

[87] "In like manner the Athenians, when they became a maritime people, grew mightily, but they fell as suddenly. Naval prowess is like merchants' gains - a good profit today and a total loss tomorrow. You know that those very people whom I have mentioned, when they had extended their sway over the Ionian Sea to Sicily could not restrain their greed until they had lost everything, and were compelled to surrender their harbor and their ships to their enemies, to receive a garrison in their city, to demolish their own Long walls, and to become almost exclusively an inland people. And this very thing kept them going a long time.

Believe me, Carthaginians, country life, with the joys of agriculture and freedom from danger, is much more wholesome. Although the gains of agriculture are smaller than those of mercantile life, they are surer and a great deal safer. In fact, a maritime city seems to me to be more like a ship than like solid ground, being so tossed about on the waves of trouble and so much exposed to the vicissitudes of life, whereas an inland city enjoys all the security of terra firma. For this reason the ancient seats of empire were generally inland, and in this way those of the Medes, the Assyrians, the Persians, and others became very powerful.

[88] "But I will omit kingly examples, which no longer concern you. Look over your African possessions, where there are numerous inland cities out of the reach of danger, from which you can choose one that you would like to have for neighbors, so that you may no longer be in the presence of the thing that excites you, so that you may lose the memory of the ills that now vex you whenever you cast your eyes upon the sea empty of ships, and call to mind the great fleets you once possessed and the spoils you captured and proudly brought into your harbor, and gorged your dockyards and arsenals.

When you behold the barracks of your soldiers, the stables of your horses and elephants, and the storehouses alongside them, all empty, what do these things put into your minds? What else but grief and an intense longing to get them back again if you can? When we recall our departed fortune it is human nature to hope that we may recover it.

The healing drug for all evils is oblivion, and this is not possible to you unless you put away the sight. The plainest proof of this is that as often as you obtained forgiveness and peace from us you violated the agreement. If you still yearn for dominion, and bear ill-will toward us who took it away from you, and if you are waiting your opportunity, then of course you have need of this city, this great harbor and its dockyards, and these walls built for the shelter of an army.

Why should we spare our captured enemies? If you have abdicated dominion sincerely, not in words only but in fact, and are content with what you possess in Africa, and if you honestly desire peace with us, come now, prove it by your acts. Move into the interior of Africa, which belongs to you, and leave the sea, the dominion of which you have yielded to us.

[89] "Do not pretend that you are grieved for your temples, your shrines, your forum, your tombs. We shall not harm your tombs. You may come and make offerings there, and sacrifice in your temples, as often as you like. The rest, however, we shall destroy. You do not sacrifice to your shipyards nor do you make offerings to your walls. You can provide yourselves with other shrines and temples and a forum in the place you move to, and presently this will be your country; just as you left your old ones in Tyre when you migrated to Africa, and now consider the newly acquired land your country.

Understand then, in brief, that we do not make this decision from any ill-will toward you, but in the interest of a lasting peace and of the common security. If you will remember, we caused Alba, not an enemy, but our mother city, to change her abode to Rome for the common good, acting not in a hostile spirit, but receiving them as settlers with due honor, and this proved to be for the advantage of both. But you say you have many work people who gain their living by the sea. We have thought of this. In order that you might easily have traffic by sea and a convenient importation and exportation of commodities, we have not ordered you to go more than ten miles from the shore, while we, who give the order, are twelve miles from it ourselves.

We offer you whatever place you choose to take, and when you have taken it you shall live under your own laws. This is what we told you beforehand, that Carthage should have her own laws if you would obey our commands. We consider you to be Carthage, not the ground and buildings where you live."

[90] Having spoken thus, Censorinus paused. When the Carthaginians, thunderstruck, answered not a word, he added, "All that can be said in the way of persuasion and consolation has been said. The order of the Senate must be carried out, and quickly too. Therefore take your departure, for you are still ambassadors."

When he had thus spoken they were thrust out by the lictors, but as they foresaw what was likely to be done by the people of Carthage, they asked permission to speak again. Being readmitted they said, "We see that your orders are inexorable since you will not even allow us to send an embassy to Rome. Nor can we hope to return to you again, since we shall be slain by the people of Carthage before we have finished speaking to them. We pray you, therefore, not on our account (for we are ready to suffer everything), but on account of Carthage itself, that you will, if possible, strike terror into them so that they may be able to endure this calamity. Advance your fleet to the city while we are returning by the road, so that, seeing and hearing what you have ordered, they may learn to bear it if they can. To this state has dire necessity brought us that we ask you to hasten your ships against our fatherland."

Having spoken thus, they departed, and Censorinus set sail with twenty quinqueremes and cast anchor alongside the city. Some of the ambassadors wandered away from the road, but the greater part moved on in silence.






Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 19




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