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Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David


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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Third Punic War








The peace between Carthage and Rome, after the second Punic war, lasted
fifty years, during which the Carthaginians gave the Romans no cause of
complaint. Carthage, in the enjoyment of peace, devoted itself to commerce
and industrial arts, and grew very rich and populous. The government alone
was weak, from the anarchical ascendency of the people, who were lawless
and extravagant.

Their renewed miseries can be traced to Masinissa, who was in close
alliance with the Romans. The Carthaginians endured everything rather than
provoke the hostility of Rome, which watched the first opportunity to
effect their ruin. Having resigned themselves to political degradation,
general cowardice and demoralization were the result.

Masinissa, king of Numidia, made insolent claims on those Phoenician
settlements on the coast of Byzacene, which the Carthaginians possessed
from the earliest times. Scipio was sent to Carthage, to arrange the
difficulty, as arbitrator, and the circumstances were so aggravated that
he could not, with any justice, decide in favor of the king, but declined
to pronounce a verdict, so that Masinissa and Carthage should remain on
terms of hostility. And as Masinissa reigned for fifty years after the
peace, Carthage was subjected to continual vexations. At last a war broke
out between them. Masinissa was stronger than Carthage, but the city
raised a considerable army, and placed it under the conduct of Hasdrubal,
who marched against the perfidious enemy with fifty thousand mercenaries.
The battle was not decisive, but Hasdrubal retreated without securing his
communication with Carthage. His army was cut off, and he sought terms of
peace, which were haughtily rejected, and he then gave hostages for
keeping the peace, and agreed to pay five thousand talents within fifty
years, and acknowledge Masinissa's usurpation. The Romans, instead of
settling the difficulties, instigated secretly Masinissa. And the Roman
commissioners sent to the Senate exaggerated accounts of the resources of
Carthage. The Romans compelled the Carthaginians to destroy their timber
and the materials they had in abundance for building a new fleet. Still
the Senate, having the control of the foreign relations, and having become
a mere assembly of kings, with the great power which the government of
provinces gave to it, was filled with renewed jealousy. Cato never made a
speech without closing with these words: "Carthago est delenda." A blind
hatred animated that vindictive and narrow old patrician, who headed a
party with the avowed object of the destruction of Carthage. And it was
finally determined to destroy the city.

The Romans took the Carthaginians to account for the war with
Masinissa, and not contented with the humiliation of their old rival,
aimed at her absolute ruin, though she had broken no treaties. The
Carthaginians, broken-hearted, sent embassy after embassy, imploring the
Senate to preserve peace, to whom the senators gave equivocal answers. The
situation of Carthage was hopeless and miserable--stripped by Masinissa of
the rich towns of Emporia, and on the eve of another conflict with the
mistress of the world.

Had the city been animated by the spirit which Hannibal had sought
to infuse, she was still capable of a noble defense. She ruled over three
hundred Libyan cities, and had a population of seven hundred thousand. She
had accumulated two hundred thousand stand of arms, and two thousand
catapults. And she had the means to manufacture a still greater amount.
But she had, unfortunately, on the first demand of the Romans, surrendered
these means of defense.

At last Rome declared war, B.C. 149--the wickedest war in which she
ever engaged--and Cato had the satisfaction of seeing, at the age of
eighty-five, his policy indorsed against every principle of justice and
honor. A Roman army landed in Africa unopposed, and the Carthaginians were
weak enough to surrender, not only three hundred hostages from the noblest
families, but the arms already enumerated. Nothing but infatuation can
account for this miserable concession of weakness to strength, all from a
blind confidence in the tender mercies of an unpitying and unscrupulous
foe. Then, when the city was defenseless, the hostages in the hands of the
Romans, and they almost at the gates, it was coolly announced that it was
the will of the Senate that the city should be destroyed.

Too late, the doomed city prepared to make a last stand against an
inexorable enemy. The most violent feelings of hatred and rage, added to
those of despair, at last animated the people of Carthage. It was the same
passion which arrayed Tyre against Alexander, and Jerusalem against Titus.
It was a wild patriotic frenzy which knew no bounds, inspired by the
instinct of self-preservation, and aside from all calculation of success
or failure. As the fall of the city was inevitable, wisdom might have
counseled an unreserved submission. Resistance should have been thought of
before. In fact, Carthage should not have yielded to the first Africanus.
And when she had again become rich and populous, she should have defied
the Romans when their spirit was perceived--should have made a more gallant
defense against Masinissa, and concentrated all her energies for a last
stand upon her own territories. But why should we thus speculate? The doom
of Carthage had been pronounced by the decrees of fate. The fall has all
the mystery and solemnity of a providential event, like the fall of all
empires, like the defeat of Darius by Alexander, like the ruin of
Jerusalem, like the melting away of North American Indians, like the final
overthrow of the "Eternal City" itself.

The desperation of the city in her last conflict proves, however,
that, with proper foresight and patriotism, her fall might have been
delayed, for it took the Romans three years to subdue her. The disarmed
city withstood the attack of the Romans for a period five times as long as
it required Vespasian and Titus to capture Jerusalem. The city resounded
day and night with the labors of men and women on arms and catapults. One
hundred and forty shields, three hundred swords, five hundred spears, and
one thousand missiles were manufactured daily, and even a fleet of one
hundred and fifty ships was built during the siege. The land side of the
city was protected by a triple wall, and the rocks of Cape Camast and Cape
Carthage sheltered it from all attacks by sea, except one side protected
by fortified harbors and quays. Hasdrubal, with the remnant of his army,
was still in the field, and took up his station at Nephesis, on the
opposite side of the lake of Tunis, to harass the besiegers. Masinissa
died at the age of ninety, soon after hostilities began.

The first attack on Carthage was a failure, and the army of the
Consuls Censorinus and Manius Manilius would have been cut to pieces, had
it not been for the the reserve led by Scipio AEmilianus, a grandson of
Africanus, who was then serving as military tribune. He also performed
many gallant actions when Censorinus retired to Rome, leaving the army in
the hands of his incompetent colleague.

The second campaign was equally unsuccessful, under L. Calpurnius
Fiso and L. Mancinus. The slow progress of the war excited astonishment
throughout the world. The suspense of the campaign was intolerable to the
proud spirit of the Romans, who had never dreamed of such resistance. The
eyes of the Romans were then turned to the young hero who alone had thus
far distinguished himself. Although he had not reached the proper age, he
was chosen consul, and the province of Africa was assigned to him. He
sailed with his friends Polybius and Laelius. He was by no means equal to
the elder Scipio, although he was an able general and an accomplished man.
He was ostentatious, envious, and proud, and had cultivation rather than
genius.

When he arrived at Utica, he found the campaign of B.C. 147 opened
in such a way that his arrival saved a great disaster. The admiral
Mancinus had attempted an attack on an undefended quarter, but a desperate
sally of the besieged had exposed him to imminent danger, and he was only
relieved by the timely arrival of Scipio.

The new general then continued the siege with new vigor. His
headquarters were fixed on an isthmus uniting the peninsula of Carthage
with the main-land, from which he attacked the suburb called Megara, and
took it, and shut up the Carthaginians in the old town and ports. The
garrison of the suburb and the army of Hasdrubal retreated within the
fortifications of the city. The Carthaginian leader, to cut off all
retreat, inflicted inhuman barbarities and tortures on all the Roman
prisoners they took. Scipio, meanwhile, intrenched and fortified in the
suburb, cut off all communication between the city and main-land by
parallel trenches, three miles in length, drawn across the whole isthmus.
The communication with the sea being still open, from which the besieged
received supplies, the port was blocked up by a mole of stone ninety-six
feet wide. The besieged worked night and day, and cut a new channel to the
sea, and, had they known how to improve their opportunity, might, with the
new fleet they had constructed, have destroyed that of their enemies,
unprepared for action.

Scipio now resolved to make himself master of the ports, which were
separated from the sea by quays and a weak wall. His battering-rams were
at once destroyed by the Carthaginians. He then built a wall or rampart
upon the quay, to the height of the city wall, and placed upon it four
thousand men to harass the besieged. As the winter rains then set in,
making his camp unhealthy, and the city was now closely invested by sea
and land, he turned his attention to the fortified camp of the enemy at
Nephesis, which was taken by storm, and seventy thousand persons put to
the sword. The Carthaginian army was annihilated.

Meanwhile famine pressed within the besieged city, and Hasdrubal
would not surrender. An attack, led by Laelius, on the market-place, gave
the Romans a foothold within the city, and a great quantity of spoil. One
thousand talents were taken from the temple of Apollo. Preparations were
then made for the attack of the citadel, and for six days there was a
hand-to-hand fight between the combatants amid the narrow streets which
led to the Byrsa. The tall Oriental houses were only taken one by one and
burned, and the streets were cumbered with the dead. The miserable people,
crowded within the citadel, certain now of destruction, then sent a
deputation to Scipio to beg the lives of those who had sought a retreat in
the Byrsa. The request was granted to all but Roman deserters. But out of
the great population of seven hundred thousand, only thirty thousand men
and twenty-five thousand women marched from the burning ruins. Hasdrubal
and the three hundred Roman deserters, certain of no mercy, retired to the
temple of AEsculapius, the heart of the citadel. But the Carthaginian,
uniting pusillanimity with cruelty, no sooner found the temple on fire,
than he rushed out in Scipio's presence, with an olive-branch in his
hands, and abjectly begged for his life, which Scipio granted, after he
had prostrated himself at his feet in sight of his followers, who loaded
him with the bitterest execrations. The wife of Hasdrubal, deserted by the
abject wretch, called down the curses of the gods on the man who had
betrayed his country and deserted at last his family. She then cut the
throats of her children and threw them into the flames, and then leaped
into them herself. The Roman deserters in the same manner perished. The
city was given up to plunder, the inhabitants whose lives were spared were
sold as slaves, and the gold and works of art were carried to Rome and
deposited in the temples.

Such was the fate of Carthage--a doom so awful, that we can not but
feel that it was sent as a chastisement for crimes which had long cried to
Heaven for vengeance. Carthage always was supremely a wicked city. All the
luxurious and wealthy capitals of ancient times were wicked, especially
Oriental cities, as Carthage properly, though not technically, was--founded
by Phoenicians, and a worshiper of the gods of Tyre and Sidon. The Roman
Senate decreed that not only the city, but even the villas of the nobles
in the suburb of Megara, should be leveled with the ground, and the
plowshare driven over the soil devoted to perpetual desolation, and a
curse to the man who should dare to cultivate it or build upon it. For
fourteen days, the fires raged in this once populous and wealthy city, and
the destruction was complete, B.C. 146. So deep-seated was the Roman
hatred of rivals, or States that had been rivals; so dreadful was the
punishment of a wicked city, of which Scipio was made the instrument, not
merely of the Romans, but of Divine providence.

All the great cities of antiquity, which had been seats of luxury
and pride, had now been utterly destroyed--Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, and
Carthage. Corinth was already sacked by Mummius, and Jerusalem was to be
by Titus, and Rome herself was finally to receive a still direr
chastisement at the hands of Goths and Vandals. So Providence moves on in
his mysterious power to bring to naught the grandeur and power of
rebellious nations--rebellious to those mighty moral laws which are as
inexorable as the laws of nature.

The territory on the coast of Zeugitana and Byzantium, which formed the
last possession of Carthage, was erected into the province of Africa, and
the rich plain of that fertile province became more important to Rome for
supplies of corn than even Sicily, which had been the granary of Rome.

Scipio returned to Rome, and enjoyed a triumph more gorgeous than
the great Africanus. He also lived to enjoy another triumph for brilliant
successes in Spain, yet to be enumerated, but was also doomed to lose his
popularity, and to perish by the dagger of assassins.

Rome had now acquired the undisputed dominion of the civilized
world, and with it, the vices of the nations she subdued. A great decline
in Roman morals succeeded these brilliant conquests. Great internal
changes took place. The old distinction of patricians and plebeians had
vanished, and a new nobility had arisen, composed of rich men and of those
whose ancestors had enjoyed curule magistracies. They possessed the
Senate, and had control of the Comitia Centuriata, by the prerogative vote
of the equestrian centuries. A base rabble had grown up, fed with corn and
oil, by the government, and amused by games and spectacles. The old
republican aristocracy was supplanted by a family oligarchy. The vast
wealth which poured into Rome from the conquered countries created
disproportionate fortunes. The votes of the people were bought by the rich
candidates for popular favor. The superstitions of the East were
transferred to the capitol of the world, and the decay in faith was as
marked as the decay in virtue. Chaldaean astrologers were scattered over
Italy, and the gods of all the conquered peoples of the earth were
worshiped at Rome. The bonds of society were loosed, and a state was
prepared for the civil wars which proved even more destructive than the
foreign.





Next: Roman Conquests From The Fall Of Carthage To The Times Of The Gracchi

Previous: The Macedonian And Asiatic Wars



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