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A slight and doubtful pretext was, therefore, sufficient to plunge the two nations into war. The Carthaginians had seized the citadel of Messana, under pretense of aiding the Mamertines against Hi'ero of Syracuse. The Romans had recently punished the buccaneers of Rhegium for precisely the same crime which the "Sons of Mars" had committed at Messana, but when the latter sought their aid against both Syracusans and Carthaginians, the temptation was too great; they accepted the disreputable alliance, and invaded Sicily with 20,000 men.
90. Having gained possession of Messana, they kept it for their own. The combined forces of Syracuse and Carthage, besieging the place, were defeated by Claudius, the consul; and Hiero, being distrustful of his African allies, returned home. The next year he made peace with the Romans, and continued until his death, nearly half a century later, their faithful friend and ally. Most of the Greek cities in Sicily followed his example. Hannibal, * son of Gisco, the Carthaginian general, could no longer meet the Romans in the field, but shut himself up in Agrigentum and was besieged. Hanno, attempting to relieve him, was decisively defeated; the city was taken, and its people were sold as slaves.
Hannibal, who escaped to Panor'mus (Palermo) with most of his troops, now carried the war upon the sea, and ravaged the defenseless coasts of Italy with a fleet of sixty vessels. The next year his lieutenant, Boo'des, with a naval detachment, met the consul, Scipio, at Lip'ara, and captured his whole squadron. Hannibal then set out with fifty ships. to ravage the coasts of Italy again. But the Romans, wisely learning from their enemies, were now prepared to meet them on their own element. A Carthaginian quin'quereme (a vessel with five rows of oars) had been cast ashore on the coast of Bruttium. It was used as a model, and the Romans, who previously had had nothing greater than triremes, possessed, within two months, one hundred first-class war vessels. While the ships were building, the crews were trained on shore to their peculiar and complicated motions. In the very first encounter, Hannibal was defeated; in the second, off Mylee, he lost fifty vessels, among them his magnificent flag-ship, which had formerly belonged to Pyrrhus.
91. In 259 B. C., Sardinia and Corsica were attacked, and the town of Aleʼria taken by the Romans. The following year, another great naval victory was gained off Ec'nomus, in Sicily; and the consuls, Manlius and Regulus, invaded Africa. They captured and fortified the town of Clypea, which they made their headquarters, and then proceeded to lay waste the lands of Carthage with fire and sword. The beautiful villas of the nobles
N. B. Not the great Hannibal, who was son of Hamilcar, and hero of the Second Punic War. "Punic" is only another form of the adjective Phoenician, but is applied especially to the people of Carthage.
and merchants afforded inestimable spoils; and 20,000 persons, many of whom were of exalted rank, and accustomed to all the refinements of wealth, were dragged away as slaves.
In the winter, Manlius returned to Rome with half the army and all the plunder, while Regulus remained to prosecute the war. He defeated the Carthaginian generals, captured their camp, and overran the country at pleasure. More than three hundred walled villages or towns were taken. In vain the judges and nobles of Carthage cast their children into the brazen arms of Moloch, whence they rolled into the fiery furnace burning always before him. The hideous idol was not appeased, and the Roman general was equally implacable. To all embassies he refused peace, except on such intolerable terms that even disastrous war seemed better.
92. At the darkest moment, relief arrived in the person of a Spartan general, Xanthippus, who came with a body of Greek mercenaries. His military fame and the evident wisdom of his counsels inspired such confidence, that he was put in the place of the incompetent Punic commanders. With his 4,000 Greeks, added to the Carthaginian infantry and 100 elephants, he defeated and captured Regulus, and wholly destroyed the Roman army. A still more terrible disaster befell the fleet which had been sent to bring away the shattered remnants of the forces from Africa. A violent storm came on, and the southern coast of Sicily was strewn with the remains of 260 vessels and 100,000 men, B. C. 255.
The Romans, though nearly driven to despair of the republic, never relaxed their exertions, but equipped a new fleet, with which, the following year, they captured the important town of Panormus. This fleet was wrecked, B. C. 253, and the next two years were full of discouragements; but, in 250 B. C., a brilliant victory, won at Panormus by the proconsul Metellus, tended to restore the balance of the opposing forces. A hundred elephants, taken alive, were exhibited in the triumph of Metellus.
93. For the next eight years, the advantage was usually with the Carthaginians. Hamilcar Barca, the father of the great Hannibal, ravaged the coasts of Italy, and the Romans had no leader of equal genius to oppose to him. At last they rallied all their forces to put an end to the war. The wealthier citizens at their own expense fitted out a fleet of 200 ships, and the consul Luta'tius gained a decisive victory among the islands west of Sicily. This reverse, following twenty-three years of exhausting war, so disheartened the Carthaginians, that they agreed to abandon Sicily and all the neighboring islands, to pay 2,000 talents, and release all the Roman prisoners without ransom.
94. The First Punic War had lasted nearly twenty-four years, B. C. 264-241 inclusive. Rome emerged from it a great naval power, able to
meet on equal terms the well-trained mariners who had hitherto ruled the western Mediterranean. Foreseeing that the struggle must be renewed, both parties spent the twenty-three years which followed in strenuous preparations. Rome seized upon Sardinia and Corsica; and Carthage, absorbed and weakened by a revolt of her mercenary troops, was compelled to submit, and even to pay a heavy fine for having presumed to remonstrate.
These islands, with Sicily, were placed under proconsular government, the system by which Rome afterward managed all her vast foreign possessions. The two consuls, on completing their year of office, divided the "provinces" between them by lot or agreement, and each held in his own, both military and civil control, while the finances were managed by quæstors responsible only to the Senate. When the provinces became numerous, the greater number were governed by pro-prætors. One-tenth of the whole produce of these conquered countries was claimed by Rome, beside a duty of five per cent on all imports and exports.
95. By the request of the western Greeks, Rome exerted her new naval power in clearing the Adriatic of the Illyrian pirates, who were ravaging its coasts and destroying its commerce. Their queen, Teuta, seized the Roman embassadors who were first sent into her country, killed two and imprisoned the third. In the war which immediately followed, she lost the greater part of her dominions, and was compelled to keep her corsairs within stricter limits for the future, beside paying a yearly tribute to her conquerors. In gratitude for this important service, the Romans were admitted to equal rights with the Hellenic race in the Isthmian Games and the Eleusinian Mysteries, B. C. 228.
96. While thus asserting her power in the Greek peninsula, Rome desired to extend her Italian dominion to its natural limit in the Alpine range. The Gauls were not slow in taking the alarm. Obtaining fresh forces from their kinsmen beyond the mountains, they advanced into central Italy, and, overrunning Etruria, threatened Rome again as in the days of Brennus. Three armies were quickly in the field to oppose them; and though one was routed, another, under the consul Emil'ius, aided by Regulus, who had unexpectedly arrived from Sardinia, gained a decisive victory which nearly destroyed the Gallic host. Within three years all Cisalpine Gaul submitted to Rome, B. C. 222. Mediola'num and Comum (Milan and Como), as well as Placen'tia, Parma, Modeʼna, Man'tua, Verona, and Brix'ia, were occupied by Roman colonies, connected with the capital by the great military road called the Flaminian Way, and its continuations.
Son of the Regulus who invaded Africa (3 91), and who fell a victim to Carthaginian vengeance.
97. Carthage, meanwhile, had yielded only from necessity, and for a time, to the superior power of Rome. A large majority of her citizens were for renewing the war at the earliest possible moment; and to recruit her power and wealth, Hamilcar had devoted all his energies to the conquest of the Spanish peninsula, B. C. 236-228. After his death, his son-in-law, Has'drubal, organized and developed the resources of the country by building towns, encouraging trade and tillage, training the, native tribes into efficient soldiers, and working the newly discovered silver mines, which, beside paying all the expenses of the province, were rapidly filling up the home treasury. Rome, with her command of the sea, secured from fear of invasion, saw without uneasiness the prosperity of her rival. But an item which no one could have foreseen, the genius of Hannibal, was now to be added to the resources of Carthage.
98. At nine years of age he had accompanied his father into Spain, and before the altar of his country's gods had taken a solemn oath of eternal and unrelenting enmity to Rome. The oath of the child had not been forgotten by the youth. At the age of eighteen he fought by his father's side in the battle where Hamilcar was slain; and during the following eight years of Hasdrubal's administration, that general intrusted his young brother-in-law with the command of most of his military enterprises. Upon the death of Hasdrubal, the army by acclamation placed Hannibal at its head, and the government at home neither could nor would annul the appointment.
Having confirmed his power in Spain by two years' war against the native tribes, Hannibal deliberately sought the quarrel with Rome to which he had devoted his life. The Greek city of Saguntum had placed itself under the protection of Rome. It was attacked by Hannibal, and taken after an obstinate defense of eight months. The Romans sent to Carthage to demand the surrender of the young general for this breach of the treaty. The reply was a declaration of war.
99. Leaving his brother Hasdrubal in charge of Spain, Hannibal prepared for a bolder movement than the Romans had foreseen. He knew that the great mountain-barrier of the Alps had already often been traversed by the Gauls, and he relied upon finding able guides among this people, who were mostly friendly to Carthage. He resolved, therefore, on the hitherto unprecedented feat of leading an army from Spain into Italy by land. Having offered, during the winter, solemn sacrifices and prayers for success, at the distant shrine of the Tyrian Hercules at Gades, he set forth from Carthagena, in the spring of 218 B. C., with an army of 90,000 foot, 12,000 horse, and a considerable number of elephants. The Spanish tribes between the Ebro and the Pyrenees were yet to be overcome. They resisted bravely, but were subdued, and a force of 11,000 men was left to hold them in subjection.
100. Having passed the Pyrenees, Hannibal advanced through friendly tribes of Gauls to the Rhone, which he crossed near the modern town of Orange, gaining an advance of three days upon the army of Scipio, the consul, who had intended to stop him. The passage of the Alps, with such a force, was one of the greatest military achievements of ancient times. The higher mountains were already obstructed by the snows of early autumn; hostile tribes contested his passage in narrow and dangerous defiles; and in two fierce battles, the army of Hannibal narrowly escaped total destruction. When, after fifteen days of toilsome and dangerous marching, he emerged into the plain of the Po, it was with scarcely more than one-fourth of the great army which had accompanied him from Carthagena.
101. The Insubrian Gauls welcomed Hannibal as their deliverer from the hated power of Rome. After a short period of rest in their hospitable country, he sought Scipio, and totally routed his forces in a battle on the Ticinus. By a still greater victory on the Tre'bia, over the forces of the two consuls (Dec., 218 B. C.), Hannibal became master of northern Italy. All the Gauls who had wavered now hastened to join his standard; but the gain from this quarter was balanced by the irreparable loss of his elephants, and the severe suffering of his African and Spanish troops from the unwonted coldness of the winter.
In the spring of 217 B. C., he crossed the Apennines, and traversed the marshes of the Arno, a passage of tremendous difficulty, in which many of his beasts of burden perished. Again seeking battle, Hannibal passed the army of Flaminius at Arretium, and laid waste the country toward Peru'sia, thus provoking the consul to follow. When he had drawn the Roman army into a most perilous position, between precipitous cliffs and the Lake Thrasymene, he let loose his Gauls and Numidians to the attack. The defeat of the Romans was overwhelming: thousands were forced into the lake; thousands fell by the sword, among whom was Flaminius himself; and 15,000 prisoners remained in the hands of the enemy.
102. A panic seized Rome; the conqueror was instantly expected at her gates, and Fabius was elected dictator with unlimited powers. But Hannibal had sought to detach the Italian allies from Rome, by releasing without ransom all their prisoners whom he had taken. Wishing to give time for the disunion to take effect, he turned aside into Apulia, where he rested and recruited his troops worn by so many hardships.
It was already proved in three battles that the Carthaginian was irresistible in the field. The policy of Fabius, therefore, was to avoid a general engagement, while he annoyed and weakened his enemy by cutting off his foraging parties, and otherwise harassing his march. In vain Hannibal crossed the Apennines into the rich Campanian fields, plundering and destroying the crops; he could neither capture a town nor entice