Silius Italicus

Punica (The Second Carthaginian War)

Book XI

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved

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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