Punica (The Second Carthaginian War)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved
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- Book XI:1-27 Defections from Rome after Cannae
- Book XI:28-54 Capua and its corruption
- Book XI:55-121 Capua challenges Roman authority
- Book XI:122-154 Virrius rouses the Capuans to defect
- Book XI:155-189 Decius opposes the defection
- Book XI:190-224 Hannibal enters Capua (216BC)
- Book XI:225-258 Decius is sent off to Carthage
- Book XI:259-287 Hannibal is feted in Capua
- Book XI:288-302 Teuthras sings the origin of Capua’s name
- Book XI:303-350 Perolla proposes to fight Hannibal
- Book XI:351-368 His father Pacuvius dissuades him
- Book XI:369-384 Decius finds sanctuary
- Book XI:385-409 Venus instructs her Cupids
- Book XI:410-439 Hannibal and his men are seduced by luxury
- Book XI:440-482 Teuthras sings of Orpheus and others
- Book XI:483-541 Mago reports to Carthage
- Book XI:542-553 Mago reproaches Hanno
- Book XI:554-600 Hanno responds
- Book XI:601-611 The Carthaginian Senate backs Mago
Book XI:1-27 Defections from Rome after Cannae
Now let me tell of those who defected to Hannibal
and the Carthaginians after Rome’s signal disaster
on the Apulian plain: for none stay loyal for long
when Fortune proves fickle. Alas, all too ready to
take sides against the vulnerable, the states openly
vied in emulation to ally with Carthage, the treaty
breaker. The Samnites were the most eager to fuel
ancient feuds, and revive their hatred on occasion;
next the Bruttians, waverers whose late repentance
saved them from disaster; and then the treacherous
Apulians unreliable in war; the Hirpini also, restless
and indecisive, who had no reason to break the faith.
It was as if foul contagion spread plague everywhere.
From Campania, the towns of Atella and Calatia sent
soldiers to Hannibal’s camp, fear prevailing over duty.
Taranto, proud and fickle, founded by Phalantus, also
threw off the Roman yoke. Lofty Crotone opened her
gates in friendship, as the scions of Myskelus learned
how to bow their necks to the barbarians from Africa.
A like madness gripped the Locrians. And that region
of low-lying coast, where Magna Graecia, with walls
the Argives built, borders the Ionian Sea, was drawn
by Libyan success, her victories in war, and swore to
serve in battle under the dread Carthaginians. So too
the boastful Celts, dwellers by the River Po, pursued
their ancient grievances against Rome in her distress,
and hastened, in full strength, to join the Punic enemy.
Book XI:28-54 Capua and its corruption
While it might seem just for the Celts or the Boii to
resurrect their impious quarrels, who would believe
that Capuans would act as foolishly as the Senones,
and that the city of Trojan Capys would associate
itself with that barbarous leader of the Numidians?
Who would credit it now with the times so changed!
Yet luxury and idleness nurturing frantic debauchery,
their shameless behaviour, and an unworthy respect
for wealth and wealth alone, enervated the indolent
people of a city freed from the bonds of law. Their
atrocious pride, above all, brought about their fall.
Nor did they lack means to indulge their pleasures:
no people of Italy (for such was their good fortune)
possessed more gold and silver; even the men wore
robes dyed with Tyrian purple, their lavish banquets
began at noon, and dawn found them at their revels,
and their manner of living was stained by every vice.
Then their senators oppressed the people, the masses
united in hatred of the senate, and the clash of views
engendered sedition. Meanwhile the old, themselves
even more corrupt, outdid the headstrong foolishness
of the young. Men of humble birth and obscure origin
were not ashamed to expect and demand office over
others, grasping at the reins of the dying state. It was
their ancient custom too to enliven their feasts with
fights to the death, dreadful contests accompanying
their banquets, such that the combatants often fell
dead over the cups, while the tables streamed blood.
Book XI:55-121 Capua challenges Roman authority
Pacuvius, whose name was not unknown to crime
added to the situation by cleverly turning the minds
of the citizens to the Carthaginian cause, urging that
they demand the very thing he knew Rome would
never grant, an equal share for Capua in the highest
offices of state, with the rods being held alternately.
And if the Romans refused them the mutual title to
the curule chair and their own set of axes, then one
who would seek revenge for that rejection, namely
Hannibal, was waiting nearby, and obvious to all.
They then elected envoys who hastened to carry
the message. Virrius was the leader, an eloquent
speaker but of obscure birth and second to none
in rousing a mob. He set out the disloyal ravings
of a foolish people to a full session of the Roman
Senate, but even before the proposal had yet been
considered, before his swelling rhetoric had filled
his hearers’ ears, a unanimous cry of angry refusal
rose from the whole gathering, while each senator
denounced him individually till the Curia shook
with their competing voices. Then Torquatus rose,
his severity of aspect rivalling that of his noble
ancestor. ‘Alas Capua, are you so thoughtless as
to enter the city Romulus founded, bringing such
proposals? A city that Hannibal and the forces of
Carthage dare not attack, despite Cannae? Has
the history of that envoy of the Latins who spoke
the like on the Capitol never reached your ears?
Without a word being said, never a voice raised,
the man who offered so insolent a message was
flung headlong from the doors of the temple, his
body hurtling down with such force that he was
shattered against the pitiless rocks. So he atoned
for his insolence as Jupiter watched, and he paid
the penalty of death for his impious words. I am
a scion of the consul who expelled that orator
from Jove’s house, and defended the Capitol
though unarmed!’ Raging mad, and shaking
his fist in the envoys’ faces he prepared to
repeat his ancestor’s actions, and seeing him
threatening to rise to actual violence, Fabius
now spoke forcefully also: ‘Shamelessness
on a grand scale! Behold, one consul’s seat
stands empty, deprived of Paullus by war’s
tempest; which of you do you seek to set
there? Whom do you propose to fill his place?
Are you, Virrius, chosen now before all others
blessed by the Senate, summoned yourself to
don the purple robe equating you with Brutus,
the first of all our consuls? Go, madman, go
where you intend; let treacherous Carthage
grant you your consulship!’ No sooner had
he done, than Claudius Marcellus, groaning,
unable to contain his anger, wild with fury,
exclaimed in wrath: ‘Varro, our consul, are
you so stunned by the whirlwinds of war
that dull acceptance grips your mind and
you can endure these illusions of madmen?
Will you not drive them from the Curia
instantly, send them scurrying to the city
gates, and teach these perverted creatures
the power of a consul elected by Romans?
A drunken mob, doomed to perish, I warn
you: leave Rome swiftly! A general with
his army will grant you the answer you
deserve before your own walls, as fitting!
Then the House rose as one, threatening
the envoys loudly, while the Capuans left
at once, Virrius, with the name of Hannibal
on his lips, roused to indignation by such a
fierce rebuff. Then Fulvius Flaccus (whose
foresight assured him of future glory, and
who saw Capua’s ruin in his mind’s eye)
cried: ‘Never again shall you enter Quirinus’
sacred house, not even if you were to take
Hannibal captive and drag him here in chains.
Go then, I pray you, where all madness leads.’
The envoys returned in haste to Capua, with
these threats as the Senate’s fierce response.
Book XI:122-154 Virrius rouses the Capuans to defect
(Almighty Jove, is it right to hide Capua’s future
in total darkness? For a happier day will arrive
when Rome will duly appoint a consul born
in Capua, and bestow the rods long forcibly
withheld, freely and willingly, on the brave
descendants of her ancient foe. One penalty
for their ancestors’ insolence shall remain in
place however, Capua will be inhibited from
sending voters to Rome before a new Carthage
does so.) But now, Virrius, cunningly mingling
truths and lies, proclaimed what the Roman
Senate had said and done, and sounded a fatal
note of bloody war before his troubled hearers.
The frenzied citizens demanded armour, arms
and Hannibal; and pouring in from every side
invited the Carthaginians to enter their city.
They praised young Hannibal’s mighty deeds,
how he had crossed the Alpine passes, pierced
that mountain range that reached the sky, and
rivalled Hercules’ glory; how he had blocked
the River Po with piles of corpses, then dyed
Lake Trasimene crimson with Roman blood;
had brought the Trebia eternal fame, and sent
the Roman generals, Paullus and Flaminius
to the shades. There was the earlier sacking
of Saguntum too, the transit of the Pyrenees
the crossing of the Ebro, and the sacrifices
his father had offered when he had sworn
the son to wage war on Rome. He alone, they
cried, had remained impervious to missiles
when so many generals had been killed, or
routed. ‘Shall Capua,’ they asked, ‘when
a gift of the gods allows us to join forces
with this hero, in alliance, shall she indeed
endure the disdain and the casual insolence
of a weakened nation, and be ruled by a state
that denies us rods of consulship and equal
rights, as if we were slaves? Indeed, Rome
considers Varro worthier of a consul’s title,
that the purple robe might glorify his flight!’
Book XI:155-189 Decius opposes the defection
Ranting like this, they prepared to send envoys,
selected by lot, to forge alliance with Carthage.
But Decius Magius, Capua’s only glory at that
moment, undaunted, was true to his brave heart.
Admitted to the assembly, his entry unavoidable,
he spoke as follows; ‘Citizens, will you violate
our fathers’ treaties, joining in friendship with
one whom the gods condemn as an oath-breaker?
How you have strayed from the path of loyalty!
It is thought a great thing among great nations
and great men to keep the faith in adverse times.
Now is the time to fight alongside Rome, now
is the time for our army to raise the standards,
while all is perilous and her wounds beg relief.
This is the time for aid, when good fortune is in
abeyance, and stern Fortune calls on us to assist.
It is scarcely honourable to noble minds to court
favour only from success. Support Rome. I know
those godlike hearts and minds will never yield
to disaster: they can, I believe, endure Cannae
and Lake Trasimene and Paullus’ noble death.
They it was who drove the enemy from our city
to save Capua from Samnite tyranny. They it
was, who when that threat was over, granted
our rights, and ended the First Samnite War.
Who are these allies you would gain? What of
those you would lose? Am I, of Trojan blood,
I, to whom our founder Capys, kin to mighty
Iulus, bequeathed the sacred rites and a name
derived from Jove, to join with barely human
Nasimonians, and Garamantians as cruel and
savage as wild beasts, and pitch a tent among
the Marmaricans? Must I accept as leader one
whose sword replaces justice and sworn oaths,
whose whole praise derives from bloodshed?
Decius does not so confuse right and wrong
as to be capable of such an action. Nature is
not so grudging as to deny us her great gift,
that the gates of death stand ever open: we
have the power to leave a life of dishonour.’
Such his speech, though falling on deaf ears.
Book XI:190-224 Hannibal enters Capua (216BC)
For the group of elected envoys forged a treaty
with Hannibal. He sent a large force of Autololes
forward, who arrived to great noise and confusion;
he himself travelling swiftly over the plain with
the main body. Decius cried: ‘Now, citizens, now
is the hour and the moment; rally to me while my
avenging arm delivers an action worthy of Capua
and myself as leader: lay these barbarians low. Let
each be eager to grasp glory for himself. If he tries
to enter, block the gate with our dead, and purge
our error with the sword; such bloody work alone
can cleanse hearts stained with guilt.’ He spoke in
vain, none welcoming his speech, while Hannibal
heard of his hostile words and desperate intention.
Mind filled with anger, Hannibal ordered a select
band of men to bring the obstinate Decius to him,
at his camp outside the walls. There, unyielding
and unmoved, stood naked virtue, a breast filled
with loyalty and love of justice, greater than all
Capua; and, frowning at the general’s menaces,
he even attacked him with bitter words. Then
Hannibal, shouting loudly, rebuked this Capuan
who defied all those Punic swords and standards:
‘Now, after Paullus and Flaminius, it seems I am
opposed by Decius the madman who wishes to
fight with me and find honour and glory in death.
Grasp the standards, captains, advance swiftly!
Let us see whether Capua defies him and opens
her gates to me, as the Alpine passes opened
at the start of our campaign, whose cliffs reach
the sky, and which only Hercules trod before.’
His face suffused with blood, his remaining
eye glowed with fiery anger, his lips foamed,
and the gasping breath from his lungs showed
the ominous fury within. So he entered Capua,
accompanied by the senators and by a crowd
of citizens rushing to gaze on the general’s face,
while Hannibal stormed and vented his anger.
Book XI:225-258 Decius is sent off to Carthage
Yet Decius’ spirit was roused by imminent risk,
and he saw the time had come when unarmed he
might win more glory than this unbeaten general.
He made no attempt to escape, nor hide behind
locked doors, but lived in an openly fearless way,
as freely as if Hannibal had never entered the city,
until a fierce band of soldiers seized him and set
him before the seated Hannibal, who thundered
at him in an angry speech from his high throne:
‘Do you alone intend to prop up that falling city
and call Rome back from the dead? O madman!
Is it you who will snatch from me such a gift of
the gods? Did they preserve me to be conquered
by useless Decius, by Decius the coward, weaker
than any woman born on our Carthaginian shore?
Why should I bear insult? Go, my men, wrap this
hero in the chains he merits.’ So he spoke and his
stream of abuse continued. So the lion roars in
triumphant rage as he springs among the cattle
and grips one by the neck, driving in his claws
so as to leverage his great weight, biting at that
panting creature, as he hangs from its shoulder.
Yet, as they chained him, Decius, cried: ‘Do it
and swiftly (what is more fitting to celebrate
Hannibal’s entry): show the true value of this
sad alliance! Decius will make a fine victim,
it would scarcely be right to placate one who
delights in human blood with the usual oxen.
Is this friendship? Is this alliance? He has not
even entered senate-house or temple as yet,
but already this eager tyrant seeks to fill our
prison-cells. Come, follow a fine beginning
with more such deeds! Among the shades, I
shall hear news of you lost in Capua’s ruin!’
No more words were allowed. His head was
covered with a black cloth while he, defiant,
was dragged away, the Capuans looking on.
Book XI:259-287 Hannibal is feted in Capua
Now the exultant general’s heart was at last
at peace, and he turned his delighted gaze,
serenely, towards the city roofs and temples,
asking a host of things: who founded Capua;
how many men might arm; how much coin
in silver or bronze was available for the war;
how skilled were their horsemen, and lastly
the numbers comprising their current infantry.
They pointed out their lofty citadel, and spoke
of the Stellatian plain and of its rich harvests.
Meanwhile Phoebus was steering his weary
steeds down the sky to their goal, as Hesperus
gradually infused his swift path with shadow.
The Capuans celebrated their customary feast,
at tables with regal fare, throughout the city.
Hannibal himself, adorned like a god, treated
with divine respect, and clothed in resplendent
purple was seated in the place of high honour.
Various companies served him; some serving
the food, some tending the fires, some pouring
wine in due order, with others carrying dishes.
Heavy gold cups, chased in relief in ancient
times, gleamed on the tables. Flames dispelled
the dark, the high vault hummed with the noise
of movement, and the Carthaginian warriors,
unused to such banqueting, drank in those
unknown splendours with astonished gaze.
Hannibal himself stayed silent while eating,
disdaining the feast’s excess and the horde
of servants ministering to the loaded tables;
until, his appetite satisfied, Bacchus’ gift
had softened his harsh mood: then he looked
more cheerful, laying aside his heaviest cares.
Book XI:288-302 Teuthras sings the origin of Capua’s name
Teuthras of Cumae played on the Euboean lyre;
his singing charmed ears used to the harsh blare
of the fierce war-trumpet. For he sang of Chaos,
of the dark starless mass of a world where dawn
never broke, a world without light. Then he told
how a god had parted the deep expanse of water
and located the mass of land at its very centre,
and granted the gods high Olympus to dwell in.
He sang of the chaste centuries of Father Saturn,
then of Jupiter who delighted in furtive amours
and his union with Atlas’ daughter Electra, who
bore him Dardanus, a worthy son of the divine,
who in turn gave Jove a grandson, Ericthonius
of high descent; of the long succession through
Tros, and Ilus, to Assaracus and Capys, second
to none in deeds of glory; and so of how Capys
bequeathed his name to Capua. All the citizens
applauded, as did all the Carthaginian warriors.
Hannibal was first to pour out a solemn libation
in honour of the name, the rest of the audience
following, drenching the tables before them, in
the usual fashion, and growing heated with wine.
Book XI:303-350 Perolla proposes to fight Hannibal
So the Carthaginians, gathered there, took pleasure
in the feast, but I must tell of a Capuan youth (for
I cannot ignore your aims, Perolla, and must speak
of that plan, which though imperfect, showed your
noble character). Not disarmed by the wine’s potency,
indeed unaffected by drink, he silently contemplated
the virtuous idea of fighting Hannibal and killing him.
More admirable still, he was Pacuvius’ son but had
rejected his father’s treachery. When his father left
the feast, being sated by its many courses, and went
slowly from the room, Perolla followed, and reaching
a quiet place at the rear of the hall, where he could
reveal his intent, and bold design, he said: ‘Listen
to something worthy of Capua and our family,’ then
drew back his robe to show the sword at his side. ‘I
intend to end the war thus, sever Hannibal’s head
and carry it to the Capitol in triumph. This sword
will sanctify an alliance that treachery has stained.
If your old eyes cannot bear to watch, if you shrink
from an act too daring for your declining years, then
hold to the safety of your house, let me perform it.
You think Hannibal great, ranked equal to the gods,
but oh how much greater your son’s fame will prove
than this Punic chieftain’s!’ His eyes darted fire, and
already in his mind he struck the blow, but his father
who could scarcely bear to hear of so dreadful a plan,
at once fell to the ground trembling, kissing his son’s
feet in terror again and again. ‘By the life left in me,’
he cried: ‘by a father’s right, and by your life, dearer
my son than my own, I beg you to abandon your plan,
lest a guest’s table be defiled, the wine-cups steeped
in blood, and all the feast destroyed by a deadly duel.
Can you defeat a man whom no city-wall or army has
withstood as yet, facing that stern brow and fiery gaze?
Can you survive the lightning flashing from those eyes,
when the sight of your sword summons that fierce cry
that routs whole armies in the field? If you think that
while feasting he is disarmed, think again: he is armed
with immortal glory won by endless war and slaughter.
If you face him, Cannae, Trebia, the dead of Trasimene,
the mighty shade of Paullus will rise up before your eyes.
What? Will his officers and fellow guests who sit feasting
not defend him in that event? Forgo your purpose, I beg
of you, abandon a design that you cannot survive whole.
Do not Decius’ cruel chains teach you to calm yourself?’
Book XI:351-368 His father Pacuvius dissuades him
So Pacuvius spoke, but, seeing his son still on fire with
the desire for glory and deaf to the risk, he cried: ‘I will
beg no more, so return to the feast, let us hasten, it is my
throat now you must pierce with your blade, not those
of the Carthaginians who fight to protect their general.
If you seek to attack Hannibal, then you must drive your
sword through my entrails. Do not scorn my old age, I
will interpose my body and by dying wrest from your
hand that blade you refuse to sheath.’ And his tears fell
profusely: thus heaven’s high design reserved Hannibal
for Scipio and war; nor would fate grant so great a deed
to a foreign hand. Finest of men in his wrath, and worthy
of achieving his great purpose, yet what glory Perolla
lost by abandoning his plan, so noble in its intent! Yet
both hurried back to their seats, smoothed their troubled
brows, till sleep dissolved the company’s happy feast.
Book XI:369-384 Decius finds sanctuary
Now Hannibal was at work almost before day sought
to reveal Phaethon’s steeds, the sun’s chariot gleaming
as it rose through the waves. He ordered proud Mago
to return to the Carthaginian citadel, and report their
general’s actions to the senate. All the spoils stripped
from the dead in the fierce war, and chosen prisoners
went too, as offerings to the gods for success in battle.
Alas, Decius was another of Hannibal’s concerns, also
sent to Carthage, to be held till the general returned
and could sate his wrath, but Jupiter on high took pity
on his undeserved sufferings and diverted his vessel
to Cyrene, the ancient city of Battus. Then Ptolemy,
the Macedonian Pharaoh of Egypt, saved him from
the menace of his captors, freeing him of his chains.
Not long after, that same land, which saved his life,
received his bones, to rest inviolate in a quiet grave.
Book XI:385-409 Venus instructs her Cupids
Meanwhile Venus seized this welcome opportunity
to destroy the Carthaginians’ discipline through
insidious excess, in debauchery taming their wild
hearts. She told her Cupids to shoot their deceitful
arrows at random, stirring unseen fires in them all.
Then, smiling sweetly, told the lads: ‘Juno full of
her victories may despise us (no wonder, for who
are we to her): her power is great, her arm strong,
while we launch our tentative shafts from childish
bows, and no blood escapes the wounds they deal.
But pray, my little band, begin; now is the moment
for you to help me, and inflame the Carthaginians
with your hidden darts. You must seduce an army,
with amorousness and too much wine and slumber,
that neither the sword nor flame nor war’s free rein
could shatter. Let luxury win Hannibal’s heart by
stealth; let him feel no shame at lying full length
on some embroidered couch, nor refuse to drench
his hair in Assyrian perfume. Let one who boasted
of sleeping beneath the wintry sky, prefer to spend
his nights under a warm roof; and let that warrior
who, fully armed, ate on horseback as he galloped,
now yield his unwarlike days to the god of wine.
Then, full of drink after the feasting, let him joy
in the lyre, and pass his nights in drowsy sleep
or spend them, wakefully, subject to my powers.’
Book XI:410-439 Hannibal and his men are seduced by luxury
Once Venus had ended, her playful band flexed
their snowy wings and flew down from the sky.
Each Moorish warrior felt the fiery blow of their
arrows, as the shower of darts melted their hearts.
They called for delicacies, wine, and yet another
sweet song from the Pierian lyre. No fierce steed
now sweats on the open plain; no bared arm hurls
the lance afar. Drowsy with sleep, they bathe their
limbs in baths of hot water, their valour sapped by
insidious luxury. Hannibal himself, breathed upon
by a deceiving Cupid, piles high the festive meats,
and tastes again the hospitality of his willing hosts,
until, jaded, he lapses from his inborn virtue, that
mind poisoned by an unseen arrow. Capua is now
his second home, equally honoured and called by
him another Carthage, while that spirit which his
victory left whole is ruined by vice’s allurements.
For the Capuans’ lust and luxury knew no bounds;
they embellished them by various means, strove
to distinguish their feasts with performing arts,
as Memphis on the Nile always echoes to its
Phrygian flute, and equals Canopus in revelry.
Now Teuthras, with voice and lyre, delighted
Hannibal, filling his ears with sweet music,
and, seeing the general marvel at the sounding
strings, Teuthras began, gradually, to display
the finest beauties of that Aonian instrument,
and sang in harmony with the melody so that
his voice surpassed the swan as it relinquishes
its life. Here then was the tale out of many that
he chose as most likely to disarm his audience:
Book XI:440-482 Teuthras sings of Orpheus and others
‘The natives of Greece heard the tortoise-shell
resound long ago and, wonderful to tell, the lyre
had power to draw stones and raise them of their
own accord to form city walls. So Amphion built
that wall round Thebes, summoning towers to rise,
the stone lifting itself on high to the player’s note.
And Arion’s lyre calmed the stormy sea, charmed
the seals, and drew Proteus along, in all his forms,
while Arion was borne upon the dolphin’s back.
Then the instrument Cheiron the Centaur loved
shaped heroic minds, Achilles’ spirit, in a cave
on Mount Pelion. When Cheiron struck the strings,
it also calmed the angry sea, the wrath of Avernus.
Yet the chords Orpheus played beside the Thracian
Strymon, worthy of heaven, being heard by gods
above and the shades below, shone bright among
the stars. Even his mother, Calliope, and all her
choir of sister Muses, marvelled at such music.
Neither Mount Pangaeus nor Haemus sacred to
Mars, nor the far bounds of Thrace remained
at rest, but trees, beasts, hills and mountains
followed him, while the wild birds forgot their
sweet nests, and, halting in mid-flight, hovered,
suspended in the unmoving air. Moreover when
the Argo would not take to the water, knowing
only land as yet, the sea, at Thessalian Pagasae,
summoned by his lyre obeyed the call and rose
to that sacred vessel’s stern. And with that lyre
Orpheus charmed the dark kingdom, Acheron’s
sounding flames, and halted Sisyphus’ stone.
Oh the cruel madness of the wild Bacchantes,
the Ciconian and Getic women, and Rhodope
condemned by the gods! Hebrus now bore his
severed head to the sea, with banks laid bare.
Then as, still singing, it was swept along by
the rushing waters, all at once, sea-creatures
rose from the waves, and over all the deep
they leapt at the murmur of that voice.’ So
Teuthras, devotee of Castalia and the Muses,
moved warriors’ hard hearts with his music.
Book XI:483-541 Mago reports to Carthage
Meanwhile Mago had been carried to Libyan
shores by gentle breezes. Wreathed with laurel,
his vessel reached harbour, where the glittering
spoils on her high prow gleamed over the water.
Then the shouts of the sailors, which had long
echoed over the sea, filled the shore with sound;
while the oarsmen leaning smartly on their oars
made the sea foam with those hundred blades.
Not slow to show their joy, the populace waded
into the waves, the crowd, elated, hailing good
news with rapturous applause. Hannibal was
hailed to high heaven: the women on all sides,
the crowd of children, summoned to rejoice,
the aged, senate and people alike, celebrated
his worthiness for divine honours and for
the sacrifice of oxen. So Mago returned to
Carthage, entering the gates that rang to his
brother’s fame. Then the Senate gathered in
haste, the House filling with a great throng.
Mago prayed to the gods in the manner of
his ancestors then said: ‘I bring you news
of a mighty victory. That strength on which
Italy relied is broken, and I myself played no
small part. The gods favoured us in the battle.
There is a land, that is named after Aetolian
Diomede and long ago possessed by Daunus,
where the Aufidus runs swiftly over all those
moist plains, and spoils the harvest with its
flooding; later it meets the Adriatic waves
and thrusts the resounding waters seawards.
There Paullus, a name honoured in Latium,
and Varro, the Roman generals in the field,
advanced when the dark of night had scarce
dispersed, the far-off gleam of their weapons
adding a further brightness to the rising sun.
We marched swiftly from the camp to meet
them, my brother driven by a fierce desire
for battle. Earth shook and the heavens rang
with that encounter. Then our leader, without
rival in war, filled the river and plain with
piles of corpses. I saw all Italy turn tail before
one man, at the fierce sound and fury of that
onset. I saw cowardly Varro thrown down his
weapons and ride quickly from the field. And
I saw you, brave Paullus, fall, pierced through
and through, on the bodies of your comrades.
That day’s slaughter has avenged our losses
at the Aegatian Isles, and our slavish treaty.
We could not hope for more than the gods
have granted. Another day such as that and
Carthage shall rule alone over other nations,
and command the world. As witness to their
defeat behold the tokens their nobles wore on
their left hands.’ Then he poured out, before
their wondering eyes, those glittering golden
rings, and that great pile confirmed the truth
of his words. Then he continued: ‘It only
remains for us to overturn the foundations
of a ruined Rome, level her to the ground.
Come, refresh our numbers, weakened by
events; open your generous hands and buy
us mercenaries. Our elephants, the terror of
the Romans, are now few, our supplies fail.’
Book XI:542-553 Mago reproaches Hanno
While speaking he directed fierce looks at
Hanno, whose wicked mind had long been
stirred to bitter opposition by Hannibal’s
growing fame, saying: ‘Will you approve
our actions now? Was I not right to refuse
Roman domination? Would you still vote
as before, to surrender Hannibal to them?
Unhappy man, let that heart all black with
envy’s poison, filled with bile, be altered,
softened now by so many glorious trophies.
Behold, the hand, his hand, that you wished
to yield to Roman torture, has filled rivers,
lakes and shores, and the wide plains with
Roman blood.’ So Mago spoke, while his
hearers’ unconcealed support cheered him.
Book XI:554-600 Hanno responds
Stirred by jealousy and anger, Hanno then
responded: ‘Such wild abuse from a foolish
youth hardly surprises, since he is proud by
nature, and his brother’s disposition clearly
evidenced in the idle venom of his tongue.
He need not think I have changed or will
desist, for I propose we sue for peace now,
lay down our weapons stained by breaking
the treaty, now, and avoid destructive war.
And weigh well indeed yourselves what he
asks, I beg; no other decision is open to us.
Arms, men, gold, ships, supplies and even
elephants he demands. He could not ask for
more in defeat! We have drenched the soil
of Italy with Roman blood, Latium is laid
low in the field. So let us allay our fears,
noble victor, and enjoy our lives at home.
Let us not exhaust these houses so often
decimated by war’s insatiable demands.
Now I declare, even now (yet may this
prophecy prove false, I pray, and my
mind be victim to a mere delusion) that
the fatal day is near. I am familiar with
their stubborn hearts, and I foresee an
anger born of defeat. You I fear, Cannae,
only you! Lower the standards, and go sue
swiftly for peace, indeed, demand, a treaty:
it will not be granted. Their resentment will
bring, believe me, greater destruction than
they have suffered; the victor grants peace
more readily than the defeated. Tell us then,
you who announce these great triumphs so
proudly and fill ignorant ears with a froth
of words, tell us why that brother of yours,
that equal of Mars, the like of whom has
never been seen on earth, tell us why he
has never as yet set eyes on the walls of
Rome! Must we then tear lads from their
mothers’ arms and make them fight, lads
still unfit to carry heavy armour? Must we,
at his command, build a thousand ships,
search all Libya for elephants, so that this
Hannibal can prolong his power, fight on
for years, and rule us till the day he dies?
Do not, when we are encircled by hidden
nets, despoil your houses of those dear to
you; limit their power, these generals, cap
their resources. Peace is the best of things
human beings are allowed to know; peace
is greater than a thousand triumphs; peace
has the power to guarantee our safety, and
grant equality to citizens; let us then recall
peace to the citadel of Carthage, cleansing
the stain of perfidy from your city, Dido.
If Hannibal has such desire for war, if he
persists, despite his countrymen’s request,
in refusing to sheathe the sword, I exhort
you to deny the madman supplies, and I
move that Mago report such to his brother.’
Book XI:601-611 The Carthaginian Senate backs Mago
He would have added more (for he had not
said enough to assuage his feelings) but now
spontaneous dissent assailed him, the body
of senators crying out: ‘Shall we desert, in
this hour of victory, Hannibal, the glory of
Libya, invincible in battle, merely because
he incites your anger? Shall we refuse to
send him supplies? Must one man’s envy
bar us from a dominion already won?’ So
they readily voted means to further the war,
and showed the absent general their favour,
in the presence of his emissary. And though
an envy born of malice had thus sought to
disparage Hannibal’s immortal deeds, and
deny the aid needed to augment his fame,
they also vowed to send supplies to Spain.
End of Book XI of the Punica