Punica (The Second Carthaginian War)
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved
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- Book XVI:1-27 Hannibal retreats to southern Italy
- Book XVI:28-43 Scipio prepares to fight Hanno in Spain
- Book XVI:44-77 The death of Larus
- Book XVI:78-114 Hasdrubal Gisco defeated at Ilipa (206BC)
- Book XVI:115-134 Masinissa defects from Carthage
- Book XVI:135-153 Masinissa enters the Roman camp
- Book XVI:154-169 Scipio agrees to an alliance
- Book XVI:170-183 Scipio seeks Syphax’s aid
- Book XVI:184-228 Syphax addresses Scipio and Gisco
- Book XVI:229-257 Scipio speaks privately to Syphax
- Book XVI:258-276 Syphax allies with Rome
- Book XVI:277-302 Scipio holds celebratory games in Spain
- Book XVI:303-345 The games commence
- Book XVI:346-374 The chariot race
- Book XVI:375-400 Hiberus takes the lead
- Book XVI:401-439 Atlas and Durius struggle
- Book XVI:440-464 Hiberus wins, Scipio presents the prizes
- Book XVI:465-488 The foot-race
- Book XVI:489-526 Eurytus is the winner
- Book XVI:527-556 The sword-fight
- Book XVI:557-599 The games end: Scipio returns to Rome
- Book XVI:600-644 Fabius advises against an African campaign
- Book XVI:645-700 Scipio wins acceptance of his plan
Book XVI:1-27 Hannibal retreats to southern Italy
Grieving over the disaster that had occurred
both to his country and himself, Hannibal left
for southern Italy, and the territory of the Bruttii.
Here, behind his ramparts he nurtured plans for
renewal of the conflict, which he had temporarily
abandoned. So a bull, when turfed from his stall,
and robbed of his dominance of the herd, hides
in the forest, preparing for conflict in a distant,
secret glade: his fierce bellowing fills the woods;
he rushes over steep tracks, topples trees, attacks
the cliffs with his horns in furious anger, while
the herdsmen, looking on from some high hill,
tremble at his readiness to renew the encounter.
Hannibal’s energy might have worn the Romans
down, if all other requirements had been present,
but he was thwarted by his countrymen’s perverse
jealousy. Fresh supplies were denied him, and he
was forced to reign in his ardour and let it wither
in idleness. Yet his deeds had won him respect,
and the fear he inspired by his frequent bloody
victories in the past rendered him as if inviolable,
his life being held sacred. The name of Hannibal
was equivalent to weapons, equipment, and new
recruits. His army, without a common language,
divided by so many rituals and barbaric customs,
remained in step: respect inspired loyalty in defeat.
Nor was it only in Italy that the god of war smiled
on the Romans. Carthage was about to yield Spain,
and be driven from that gold-bearing land: Mago
also was to be deprived of his camp, and he, once
driven by fear, would sail swiftly towards Libya.
Book XVI:28-43 Scipio prepares to fight Hanno in Spain
Behold, Fortune, not content with the favour she
had already shown him, was nurturing another
triumph for Scipio. For Hanno was approaching,
and his host of barbarians with clashing shields,
rousing the native Iberians, though too late. He
possessed no lack of courage, skill or cunning,
but it was Scipio he faced. The Roman general
eclipsed them with a greater force, as the stars
are eclipsed by the moon, and she by the sun’s
light; as Atlas is the king of mountain peaks,
and the Nile the queen of rivers; as the Ocean
is vaster than the lesser seas. Hanno was still
fortifying his camp, in haste, for evening had
begun to spread its unfriendly shadows from
the darkening heavens when Scipio attacked,
and the half-built palisade they had started to
erect was flattened in the sudden rush: heavy
blocks of turf lay heaped over the fallen men,
their mound granting a sepulchre to the dead.
Book XVI:44-77 The death of Larus
Only a single man among the foe showed bravery
worthy of record, and his recognition by posterity.
He was a Cantabrian, Larus, a giant of a man, who
must have inspired fear even when lacking weapons.
He fought with a battle-axe, in the manner of his
people, and though he saw the men about him fall,
though all his comrades were slain, single-handedly
he took the place of the dead. If he met his enemy
head-on, he delighted in fuelling anger by striking
the man on the forehead; if the man was to his left,
he whirled his axe about, dealing sidelong blows;
and if a triumphant foe attacked him from behind,
undismayed he could wield his weapon in reverse,
a warrior to be feared in every way. But Scipio’s
brother Lucius, with a mighty effort, hurled his
spear at Larus, cutting the plume that fluttered
from his leather cap, the aim being high, while
his raised axe drove the spear far away. Then
the Spaniard, spurred on by wild anger, sprang
forward with a shout, striking hard with his
barbarous weapon. Both armies trembled, as
the boss of Scipio’s shield rang to the stroke
of the heavy battle-axe, but Larus paid dearly
for the blow, losing his right hand to Scipio’s
sword, his beloved weapon tight in its grasp.
When this mighty bulwark had fallen, his
ill-fated compatriots turned and fled as one,
scattering over the countryside. It was now
not so much a battle as a scene of ruthless
extinction, here the slaughterers and there
the slaughtered. Behold Hanno, dragged
through their midst, hands bound behind his
back, seeking, in chains, to beg for his life,
(ah, how sweet is life and the light of day!)
Scipio replied: ‘Such are these who demand
to rule us, to whom the sacred people of
warlike Quirinus, and all Rome’s citizens,
must bow! Why renew the war, when you
are so ready to save your life, by servitude?’
Book XVI:78-114 Hasdrubal Gisco defeated at Ilipa (206BC)
Meanwhile a cavalry scout brought the news
that Gisco, unaware of their loss, was marching
swiftly to join the other army. Scipio rushed to
meet him and, seeing the longed-for battle in
his grasp, the enemy speeding to their death,
he raised his eyes to the sky, crying: ‘I ask
no more than this, you gods. Today you bring
the fugitives to battle and I am content. All else,
my men, depends on your courage: forward, I
pray. Behold, my dead father, my dead uncle
are here to rouse your fury. O, my twin gods
of war, be with us, lead onwards for I follow.
Unless my prophetic spirit fails me, you shall
see slaughter, here, now, worthy of your fame.
How long till this war on Spanish soil be over?
When will the day dawn on earth when Carthage
trembles at the sight and sound of my onslaught?
He ended, and the hoarse blare of the trumpets
rang out, while the sky echoed to the thunder
of battle. They met; and though many are those
victims claimed by the angry sea, when Boreas,
Notus, and inexorable Auster, overwhelm ships
and men with their swelling waves; or when
the Dog-Star, Sirius, kindles his deadly fires
and scorches the parched earth with his fierce
heat; no less was the toll achieved by the sword,
by the furious conflict of mortals in that battle.
No upheaval of the earth could cost as many
lives, no deadly wild beasts raging through
their savage glades could work such carnage.
Plains and valleys ran with blood, and their
weapons were blunted. Africans and warlike
Spaniards fell alike. Yet one body of men,
weary, their armour dented, still stood and
fought their ground, and there Gisco wielded
his spear. Nor would the struggle have ended
that day, nor their valour failed, had an arrow
not pierced his mail, scoring the flesh beneath,
leading him to flee. He galloped from the field,
to a secret place then, riding by night along that
coastline, he reached the harbour of Tartessus.
Book XVI:115-134 Masinissa defects from Carthage
A Numidian prince, Masinissa, the right hand man
to Gisco in the battle, was later to achieve fame
by a lengthy alliance with, and loyalty to, Rome.
He was wearily snatching some sleep, persuaded
to it by the darkness, and the hardships of retreat,
when a bright flame was suddenly seen to wreathe
the crown on his head, gently catch his curling hair,
and spread over his shaggy brow. His servants ran
swiftly to quench the flame with water, but his aged
mother took it as an omen from the gods, crying:
‘Be it so, heavenly ones, show favour and fulfil
this portent, May a flame forever light his brow.
My son, have no fear of such signs from above,
let not the sacred fire at your forehead alarm you.
It promises you alliance with the Roman people;
it will grant you a greater kingdom than that your
ancestors ruled, involving your name in Rome’s
destiny.’ So she prophesied, and the young man’s
heart was stirred by so visible a token; nor had
Carthage recognised his valour, though Hannibal
himself at times had seemed no prouder in arms.
Book XVI:135-153 Masinissa enters the Roman camp
Dawn was dispelling the dark clouds from the sky,
and had hardly tinged the faces of Atlas’ daughters,
the Pleiades, with red, when Masinissa made his way
to the Roman camp, still, as yet, that of his enemies.
When he had passed the rampart, he was welcomed
by Scipio with a friendly look, then spoke as follows:
‘A sign from the gods, and a prophecy of my sacred
mother’s, and your great deeds blessed by the gods,
O leader of the Romans, have led me to part from
the Carthaginians, and brought me here, willingly.
If you saw me, O scion of Jove, resisting all your
lightning-bolts, you know I offer now a right hand
worthy of you. I am not acting thus on idle whim,
uncertainty of purpose, fickleness of heart, or hope
of chasing after the rewards of victory; I flee from
treachery, and a nation ever deceitful from the start.
Your campaign in Spain, having reached as far as
the Pillars of Hercules, is now complete; let us then
attack Carthage herself, the mother of war, together.
He who has been ten years the master of Italy, and
sets his scaling ladders against Rome’s walls, must
be driven back by you to Libya, with fire and sword.’
Book XVI:154-169 Scipio agrees to an alliance
So the Numidian leader spoke, then Scipio clasped
his hand saying: ‘If our nation seems impressive to
you in war, we are even more so in our loyalty. So,
dismiss those two-faced allies of yours from your
mind. Great benefit will accrue to you, Masinissa,
to match your noble virtues; Scipio would sooner
be outdone in battle than in a display of gratitude.
As for your advice to carry this warfare to Libya,
time will tell; for such matters are never far from
my thoughts, and the war with Carthage grants me
no rest.’ Then he gave the prince a fine embroidered
cape; and a horse, with purple trappings, he himself
had captured in downing Mago, and of proven spirit;
a golden bowl from which Hasdrubal used to pour
libations to the gods; and also a helmet with a crest.
Once their alliance had been confirmed, Scipio laid
plans for the swift overthrow of Carthage’s citadel.
Book XVI:170-183 Scipio seeks Syphax’s aid
Syphax was the wealthy king of western Numidia,
a man not devoid of virtue; whom his innumerable
tribes looked to for justice, as far as its ocean shore.
He was rich in land, and horses, and those elephants,
huge creatures that spread terror on the battlefield,
with no lack of picked fighting men. Nor were any
richer in gold bars and ivory, or dyed more fleeces
in the Gaetulian vats. Scipio, keen to tap this wealth,
and aware of the risks if Syphax allied with Carthage,
ordered ships to sea, war in Africa already in mind.
When they reached harbour however, Gisco, sailing
the neighbouring coast in anxious flight, appeared
seeking fresh allies for his distressed country, and
to win Syphax’s Numidian army to the Libyan cause.
Book XVI:184-228 Syphax addresses Scipio and Gisco
Syphax’s spirits rose on hearing that the generals of
both nations had arrived in his realm, nations at war,
struggling with all their might to decide which should
rule the world, and ordered them to be made welcome,
while the honour shown to his kingdom gratified him.
He scanned their faces with pleasure, then addressed
Scipio, before the latter had chance to speak: ‘Finest
of the sons of Rome, I welcome you with serene mind
and intense admiration! I recall with pleasure the face
of your father, whom you resemble. For I remember
visiting Cadiz, Hercules’ city, and its isle of Erythia.
I was eager to see the ocean and observe its tides, and
was impressed to find your kin, two mighty Roman
generals, camped on the banks of the Guadalquivir.
They gave me gifts, chosen from the spoils, weapons,
bridles which we had not deployed till then, and bows
not inferior to our javelins. They gave me veterans too,
to train my unruly hordes in your methods of Roman
warfare: yet when I offered the riches of my country in
return, bars of gold and ivory tusks, my offers were in
vain, for each would accept only a sword in a carved
ivory scabbard. Step gladly then beneath my roof, and
since fortune brings me a Carthaginian general, also,
over the waves, hear with equanimity what I now say:
you too Hasdrubal Gisco, who command for Tyrian
Carthage, I beg you, give ear and thought to my words.
Who is unaware of the furious tide of battle that rages
throughout Italy, threating Rome with ruin, and that
for ten years first Sicily then the shores of Spain have
been soaked in Carthaginian blood. Should not these
horrors of conflict end at last and both lay down their
arms? Let you, Libya, and you, Italy, show restraint.
Syphax will not be slow to act loyally towards you,
as peacemaker and mediator.’ Scipio however would
allow him to go no further, explaining the customs
of his people and the power invested in the Senate,
bidding the king forego his expectation in the matter,
the senators alone possessing authority to so decide.
This proved sufficient hint, and the rest of that day
was given over to food and wine, and when the feast
was done they took their rest, freed in the darkness
from the harsh and weighty fetters of state business.
Book XVI:229-257 Scipio speaks privately to Syphax
Now early dawn emerged from her threshold bringing
the new day, as the sun’s horses exchanged their stalls
for the yoke, he not yet mounting his chariot, though
the sea was reddened by his impending flame: Scipio
rose and went calmly to the royal palace. According
to the custom of the country, Syphax kept lion cubs
there, taming them by kindness, and was stroking
their shoulders and the tawny manes as they played,
handling their savage jaws fearlessly. Hearing that
Scipio was present he donned his cape, wielding
the sceptre of his ancient kingdom in his left hand,
while his brow was bound with a white band, his
sword being duly fastened at his side. Then Scipio,
the conqueror of Spain, was summoned and both
the king and his guest took seats of equal honour
in a private room. Scipio spoke first: ‘O Syphax,
whose sceptre is held in reverence, when I had
overcome the Pyrenean tribes, my first and most
important task was to hasten to your kingdom,
undaunted by the wide sea that lay between us.
I ask nothing arduous or dishonourable of your
realm: join heart and soul with Rome and share
in her success. Your Numidian tribes, your land
that stretches to the Syrtes, your ancestral sway
over broad regions, none of these can bring you
greater glory than Roman valour, loyally allied,
and the honour that Rome will pay you. What
more can I say? Be assured, no god looks with
favour on those who attack the armies of Rome.’
Book XVI:258-276 Syphax allies with Rome
Syphax listened, and with a smiling looks, agreed.
Embracing Scipio, he said: ‘Let us confirm omens
of success, and summon the gods, Jupiter Ammon
he of the horned brow, and Jupiter of the Capitol,
to our mutual prayers.’ Swiftly, an altar was built,
and the bull was about to meet the descending axe,
when suddenly the victim burst his bonds and leapt
away in flight from the altar, filling the palace with
his bellowing, startling the servants, dismayed by
his heaving chest and endless roar. And the sacred
band, his ancestral ornament, fell from the king’s
head, leaving his temples bare. Such were the dark
omens granted the doomed monarch by the gods;
all the threatening portents of disaster were there.
And a time would come when Scipio, who now
humbly sought a treaty of alliance, would defeat
this king and oust him from his throne, to lead
him, in triumph, to the temple of the Thunderer.
Now, all being done, Scipio went to the harbour,
and sailed again with a favourable wind for Spain.
Book XVI:277-302 Scipio holds celebratory games in Spain
The people gathered eagerly to meet him, while
the subject Pyrenees sent their various tribes, all
with one purpose; to name and salute Scipio as
their king, knowing no higher tribute than this.
But, gently rejecting their offers as unfitting for
a Roman, explaining the customs of his nation
and the dislike Rome had for the title of king,
he turned to his sole remaining object, given
that all enemies in Spain had been dealt with.
He summoned the Romans and the people of
the Guadalquivir and the Tagus, and addressed
the assembly: ‘Since heaven’s favour allowed
us to drive the Libyans from this extremity of
the world, since they are dead or now haunt
their native sands, so banished from the west,
I am determined to honour the tombs of my
kinsmen who died here, and grant their shades
the peace they demand. Favour me with your
attention and lend me your ears. When the sun
renews his heavenly course a seventh time, let
all who are skilled in arms or chariot-racing,
are fast of foot and eager for a prize, or love
to hurl the javelin through the air, come here
and compete with one another for the glory
of the victor’s crown. I will give fine rewards,
glorious spoil from the Carthaginians’ wealth,
and none will leave without a gift from me.’
So, Scipio’s generosity stirred ambitious minds.
Book XVI:303-345 The games commence
The day of the event arrived, and the open plain
echoed to the sound of a vast crowd, as Scipio,
tears in his eyes, led a memorial procession and
performed token rites of burial. Every Spaniard
and every Roman soldier brought offerings to
cast on the blazing pyre. Scipio, holding cups
filled with milk and with sacred wine, sprinkled
the altars with fragrant flowers. Then he called
on the spirits to rise, recalled, in tears, the glory
of the dead, and did honour to their noble actions.
Then he turned to the race-course, designed to test
the speed of the horses, and began the first contest
of the games. With the starting-gates still barred,
the eager crowd surged to and fro with a roar like
the ocean and, in furious partisanship, fixed their
eye on the barrier behind which the chariots waited.
Now, the signal given, the bolts shot back noisily,
and the first hooves had scarcely flashed in sight
when a wild storm of cries rose to the sky. Leaning
forward like the charioteers, each man studied that
team he favoured, shouting at the swift lead horse.
The ground shook with the spectators’ enthusiasm,
and the intensity robbed every man of his senses.
They pushed forward, driving the teams on with
their cries. A cloud of yellow dust rose from that
sandy soil, veiling the charioteers’ valiant efforts,
and the horses’ progress, in darkness. One man
will back his favourite charioteer, another some
noted lead horse, some trusting in that from their
own country, others the fame of an ancient stud;
one man is full of joyous hope for some novice,
another the green old-age of a well-tried veteran.
Lampon led from the start, a lead-horse bred in
Galicia; the rest behind, he raced through the air,
the chariot flying, as he galloped the course with
huge stride, setting a breeze blowing in his wake.
The crowd roared, thinking that after such a start
the race was won, but those with more experience
of the course, and deeper knowledge, criticised
the charioteer for setting too fast a pace initially,
protesting vainly, from afar, that he had tired his
team with his efforts and held nothing in reserve:
‘Why so fast then, Cyrnus (he being the charioteer),
less whip and a tighter rein!’ But he was deaf, alas,
to their cries and flew on, unsparing of his horses,
forgetting how much ground was yet to be covered.
Book XVI:346-374 The chariot race
Next came Panchates, a lead-horse bred in Asturia,
a chariot-length behind, no more. Conspicuous for
the four white feet and white forehead of his sires,
he was not very tall or handsome but full of fire,
and now his fierce spirit lent him wings, as he sped
over the plain, straining at the reins, seeming to grow
in stature and fly faster as he ran. His charioteer was
Hiberus, dressed in scarlet tunic of a Cinyphian dye.
Third, but neck and neck, ran Pelorus and Caucasus,
the latter a fractious beast that shunned the hand that
patted its flank, but loved to bite and champ the iron
in its mouth till the blood foamed; while the former,
more tractable and obedient to the rein, never swerved
aside taking the chariot with him, but held to the inside
grazing the turning-post. He was noted for the strength
of his neck and his dense rippling mane; strange to say
he had no sire, for Harpe, the mare, conceived him by
the spring breeze, and foaled him among the Vettones.
His chariot was manned by noble Durius; Caucasus
trusting to old Atlas as his driver, came from Aetolian
Tyde, that city founded by Diomede in his wanderings,
while it was said the stallion was bred of a Trojan line,
those horses the hero stole, a bold effort, from Aeneas
by the river Simois. Atlas was last, though with Durius
alongside, racing no faster, so one might have thought
the two were driving peaceably together, keeping level.
Book XVI:375-400 Hiberus takes the lead
With half the distance covered they quickened pace,
and the spirited Panchates, straining to catch the team
ahead, seemed to rear high, about to mount Lampon’s
chariot, striking and rattling it, with out-flung forefeet.
Hiberus, his charioteer, seeing Cyrnus and his Galician
team tiring, and their chariot no longer leaping forward,
while the sweating horses were driven on by frequent
harsh blows of the whip, leaned out above his horses’
heads, and hanging there flicked Panchates, who chafed
at racing behind, calling out to him: ‘On, on, Asturian,
who dare snatch the prize if you are here? Up, fly, glide
over the ground now with all your speed, as if on wings!
Lampon is breathing hard, his strength is gone, he has
nothing left within him to carry to the winning post.’
At this, Panchates leapt onward, as if he were once more
starting from the gate, and Cyrnus, though swerving to
thwart him, and straining to catch him, was left behind.
The earth and sky echoed to the cries of the spectators,
while Panchates ran on in triumph, lifting his head high,
drawing on the other three horses completing the team.
Book XVI:401-439 Atlas and Durius struggle
The trailing charioteers, Atlas and Durius, swerved
about, resorting to cunning; first the one trying to
pass his rival on the left, then the other striving to
overtake on the right, but both failing in their efforts.
Finally, Durius, young and confident, leant forward
and, jerking the reins, drove straight across his rival’s
path, so striking Atlas’ chariot, then overturning it.
Atlas, his age telling, cried out in rightful protest:
‘What now? What wild manner of racing is this?
You’ll kill me and my team.’ As he shouted, he fell
headfirst from his shattered chariot, while the poor
horses too fell sprawling to the ground, as the victor
shook his reins and Pelorus surged up the centre of
the track, leaving Atlas struggling to rise. Cyrnus
and his weary team were soon caught, passed at a
quickening pace, Cyrnus learning too late the merit
of controlling one’s speed at the start. Shouts of
applause from his supporters now drove Durius on.
Pelorus’ head was at the anxious Hiberus’ shoulders,
the charioteer feeling hot foaming breath on his neck.
Durius pressed harder, whipping his team on over
the ground, and not in vain, as, coming on the right,
he was, or seemed to be, neck and neck with his rival.
Full of the prospect of imminent glory he cried out:
‘Now, now is the time, Pelorus, to show you are
born of the west wind. Let horses of common breed
go learn how those sprung of divine seed excel them.
Win, and offer gifts to your sire, and rear him an altar!’
And had he not been deceived, by thoughts of success
and premature delight, into dropping his whip, even
as he spoke, Durius perhaps would have consecrated
the altar so vowed to the west wind. Now, as wretched
as if the victor’s garland had fallen from his head, he
vented his rage against himself, ripping the clothes,
the gold-embroidered garments, from his breast, in
tears, pouring out his complaints to the sky above.
With his whip gone, the horses no longer obeyed,
as he lashed at their backs, in vain, with the reins.
Book XVI:440-464 Hiberus wins, Scipio presents the prizes
Meanwhile Panchates sped on to certain victory,
taking the first prize with head aloft, as a light
breeze rippled the mane at his neck and shoulders,
steeping out proudly he displayed his noble limbs,
and a mighty shout greeted his win. Each charioteer
received a battle-axe with inlaid work in pure silver,
while the respective prizes differed greatly in value.
Hiberus received a swift steed, a not unworthy gift
from the Numidian king; Durius, second in merit,
two goblets gilded with gold of the Tagus, taken
from a vast heap of Carthaginian plunder; while
the third prize, granted to Cyrnus, was the shaggy
hide of a savage lion, and a Carthaginian helmet
with bristling crest; while, Scipio, summoned
Atlas finally to receive a prize, acknowledging
his age, and ill-fortune in having fallen when
his chariot was wrecked. This was a handsome
slave to serve him, and a cap of Spanish leather.
When all was done, Scipio called competitors
to the delights of a foot-race, offering prizes to
rouse their eagerness. ‘Whoever wins this next
competition shall receive the helmet in which
Hasdrubal overawed the armies of Spain; while
the second will take away this sword my father
stripped from Hyempsa’s corpse; while a bull
shall console the runner who comes in third.
The rest must be content with a pair of javelins
each, their metal supplied by the Spanish mines.’
Book XVI:465-488 The foot-race
Two fine youths, Tartessus and Hesperus, showed
themselves, together, amidst the spectators’ cheers.
They were from Cadiz, the noted Phoenician colony;
while next to appear was Baeticus, showing his first
beard; Cordoba gave him his name, after its river,
the Baetis (or Guadalquivir), and the city generously
backed her favourite’s success. Next, Eurytus had
the circuit echoing to acclaim, red-haired but with
flesh as white as snow; Xativa saw his birth, and
he was reared on its high hill, while his parents
were here, loving and anxious, to see him compete.
Lamus and Sicoris, sons of warlike Lleida, came
after, followed by Theron, who drank of the river
Lima, or the Spanish Lethe, which as it flows by
washes its shores with the waters of forgetfulness.
They all waited, poised, leaning forwards, hearts
beating high with the longing for fame, then, on
hearing the trumpet sound, sprang through the air,
swifter than arrows launched from the bow. All
shouted their favourite’s name, eagerly standing
on tiptoe, crying out breathlessly for their choice.
The string of fine runners flew over the plain, and
left not a footprint behind on the sand. Every one
of them young and handsome, swift and worthy.
Book XVI:489-526 Eurytus is the winner
When half the course was run, Eurytus moved in
front, ahead by a little, but not by much. Close
behind was bold Hesperus, no slower, on the heels
of the former. Eurytus was happy to take the lead,
Hesperus was content with hopes of catching him,
so they increased the pace, spirit driving body on,
while their efforts added to their youthful charm.
Behold, Theron, last of the seven, running easily,
now felt he had sufficient wind and, raising his
game, took all by surprise, exerting the strength
he had been husbanding, with a sudden burst of
speed, and setting a breeze behind him. Almost
he seemed like Mercury, flying through the air,
winged sandals on his feet. The spectators stood
amazed, as he passed one runner after another,
till, last before, he now was third, closing fiercely
on Hesperus. Not only Hesperus but Eurytus too,
the favourite to win, seemed startled by his speed.
Tartessus ran fourth, but his efforts would prove
idle if the three in front maintained their distance;
he followed his brother but Theron was between,
the latter’s patience at an end, such that with one
fierce turn of speed he flew over the ground and
overtook Hesperus who was filled with rage. One
rival was left to pass, and the sight of the finish
close at hand spurred on their weary limbs, each
while hope was yet alive, summoning his strength
for a last remaining effort, Theron exhausted from
the struggle, Eurytus gripped by fear at his heart.
Abreast, and racing side by side, they might have
crossed the line together and shared first prize, but
Hesperus, falling behind, grasped the loose hair at
Theron’s snow-white neck, and pulled, such that,
his rival hampered, he passed him joyfully, flying
on in his triumph to claim the victor’s just reward.
He carried off the glittering helm, a splendid gift,
while the others gained their promised prizes too.
A green garland crowned their uncut hair, while
each youth brandished javelins of Spanish steel.
Book XVI:527-556 The sword-fight
A more serious competition between their elders
now ensued, a version of real warfare, with naked
swords at close quarters. These were not convicts
forced to fight as punishment for a life of crime,
rather courage spurred them on, and love of glory.
It was a sight worthy of the Roman sons of Mars,
this recreation of their appointed task. One pair of
twin brothers also met here in an impious struggle
for the sceptre (what crimes have kings not dared
for a throne, what wickedness remains?), though
that vast circle of spectators cursed such madness.
Yet such was the vile custom of their nation, and
the brothers risked their lives for a father’s crown.
They met with the blind fury of men maddened
by a longing for power, and dying together bore
to the shades minds sated with killing. The blades
driven home by both with equal strength, pierced
the guts, wounding them mortally and, as their
furious spirits fled reluctantly with their breath,
the last words they uttered still were curses. In
death their enmity persisted; for when a single
pyre consumed both bodies, the flames refused
to meet but split apart, their ashes refusing to
mingle. Now, the other swordsmen received
their gifts, varying according to their courage
and their skill. Some led away oxen trained
to the plough, others acquired slaves from
among the Moorish captives, hunters skilled
in tracking in the wild. Silver objects were
awarded too, fine clothes from out the spoils,
war-horses and glittering plumed helmets –
all gifted from the defeated Libyans’ plunder.
Book XVI:557-599 The games end: Scipio returns to Rome
Now to end the spectacle, men sought honour
in throwing the javelin, striving to hit the mark.
Burnus, of noble ancestry, came from the banks
of the Tagus where golden sand loads the yellow
waters; Glagus was famous for a throw that could
outpace the wind; Aconteus was a hunter whose
lance the swiftest deer could not evade; Indibilis
had long sought to fight the Romans but was now
allied; and Ilerdes, who shot birds from the clouds,
was a brave man in battle. Burnus hit the mark and
won first prize – a girl skilled in dyeing wool with
Gaetulian purple. Ilerdes, his throw not far behind,
came second, and he won a lad to whom it seemed
but a game to hunt and kill all the deer to be found.
Aconteus was third, and his reward was a pair of
hounds, eager to chase the wild boar with their cry.
Once the awards were made, and approved by wild
applause, Scipio’s brother, with Laelius, both clad
in gleaming purple, gladly proclaimed the names
of the mighty dead, the Scipios’ kin, summoning
the spirits, and hurling their spears as they spoke,
joyfully honouring their sacred ashes and granting
additional glory to the games. Then Scipio, whose
face showed his happiness, rewarded his faithful
comrades with gifts equal to their merits, giving
his brother a breastplate plated with solid gold,
Laelius a pair of swift Asturian harness horses.
Then he rose and threw his conquering spear with
a mighty effort, declaring it a tribute to the dead.
Wondrous to tell, the speeding missile halted in
mid-flight, and rooted itself in the ground before
their very eyes, while branches and leaves grew
suddenly and an oak-tree, formed on the instant,
stood there, casting its spreading shade. Seers,
foretelling the future, cried that Scipio should
expect greater things to come, for the gods had
clearly shown it so, and revealed it by this sign.
After driving the last Carthaginian from the coast,
and avenging his kin and country, Scipio made
his way to Italy, savouring the prediction, while
Fame made of his march a triumphal procession.
There, the nation had no more pressing a desire
than to entrust the very consulship to their young
general, with Libya as his province. But older,
cooler heads, minds averse to the risks of war,
frowned on rash adventure and, cautious in their
fear, shrank from the thought of serious defeat.
Book XVI:600-644 Fabius advises against an African campaign
Thus, when Scipio, as consul, by the power of
his great office opened the debate in the Senate,
and asked that the authority to destroy Carthage
be his, old Fabius opened his aged mouth to say,
in a raised voice: ‘My age and honours are such,
years and glory enough, that I can have no fear
Scipio will consider my opposition to his great
scheme as stemming from jealousy. Fame is
busy enough with my name, and such deeds as
mine need no fresh praise. Yet, as I live, I cannot
fail to do my duty by my country or wrong my
conscience by staying silent. Will you undertake
a fresh campaign in Libya? Is our Italy then free
of the enemy? Is it not enough to defeat Hannibal?
What greater prize do you seek on Africa’s shores?
If fame is the spur that drives us, the field to reap
is here. Fortune has granted you an enemy worthy
of your sword nearer home. Italy’s soil would now
drink the blood of that fierce general, now, at last.
Where would you drag the army and the standards?
First the conflagration in Italy must be quenched.
You would go, and leave a reviving foe behind
you? And like a traitor strip the seven hills of men?
While you are laying waste to Syrtis’ barren sands,
will not this plague descend on Rome, which he
has already viewed, and attack the Capitol, Jove’s
seat, while it retains neither men nor weapons?
What would he not pay to have you relinquish
Rome? Must we then summon you from those
African shores, when the lightning-bolt of war
strikes us, as Fulvius was recalled from Capua?
Conquer at home and purge Italy from war, she
who has mourned her dead for thirteen years!
Yet you must go meet the far-off Garamantes,
and go earn a triumph, against Nasamonians!
The dire straits Italy is in preclude such things.
Your father, who was not slow to add honour
to your house, was on his way, as consul, to
the banks of the Ebro, yet when Hannibal had
crossed the Alps and was descending to attack
us, your father recalled his men, and was first
to place himself zealously in Hannibal’s way.
Are you, as consul, ready to leave a victorious
enemy behind you, hope by that to drive these
Libyans from our land? If he remains calmly
where he is, refusing to follow you and your
force to Libya, you will curse your unseeing
strategy when Rome is taken. Yet if, anxiously,
he uproots his standards, follows your fleet,
will he not be that same Hannibal whose army
you gazed at from the walls of Rome?’ Thus
Fabius spoke, to loud approval from the old.
Book XVI:645-700 Scipio wins acceptance of his plan
Then Scipio answered: ‘When those two noble
generals died, and all of Spain had fallen beneath
Carthage’s yoke, neither you, Fabius, nor any
other of those who share your opinions rushed
to their aid. Young though I was, as I confess,
I faced the storm alone, risking my life, though
the heavens were falling, to draw all danger to
myself. Then my elders called it an error to trust
in a mere lad as general, this same seer calling it
an ill-thought out campaign. I thank and praise
the gods in whose hands lie the Roman people.
This lad too young in years, unaccustomed to war,
not mature enough to fight, this Scipio, recovered
Spain for Rome, and undefeated routed the Punic
host, followed the sun to its setting beyond Atlas,
and expelled the Libyans from the western world;
nor did I withdraw from Spain till I saw Phoebus
sink his chariot in the ocean from Roman shores.
With kings I won alliance. Now only Carthage
remains for my final effort. So Jupiter, father of
the endless centuries declares. Yet, behold, old
men tremble at the thought of Hannibal, unless
their sorry fears are mere pretence, as ending this
long series of disasters would augment my glory!
My sword has now experience of war, my young
strength has grown. Do not manufacture delays;
rather let the destiny the gods reserve for me run
its course, and the shame of past defeat be erased.
Let the glory of avoiding losses be achievement
enough for a cautious Fabius, a Delayer gaining
all by his inaction, yet Mago would not have run
from me, nor Hanno, nor Gisco, nor Hamilcar,
if I had sat idle in camp, and refused all conflict.
If a Carthaginian boy, barely entered on manhood,
can attack the people of Rome, her walls, and our
sacred stream, the yellow Tiber, and devour Italy
in a lengthy conflict, shall we shrink from sending
an army overseas into Libya, to trouble the roofs
of Carthage? Their wide shores have felt no danger,
their lands remain undisturbed, quietly enriched by
peace. Let Carthage feel fear, she for so long feared,
and let her learn that, though Italy is not yet rid of
Hannibal, we have men and arms enough to spare.
Your policy of caution lets him grow old in Italy,
for fifteen years he has dyed our rivers with blood,
but I will bring him, fearful and trembling, to witness
too late his nation’s capital consumed by fire. While
Rome still finds the shameful traces of Hannibal’s
attack upon her walls, shall Carthage, still secure,
hear of our struggles, only, and war with open gates?
May our insolent enemy indeed pound at our citadel
with his Punic battering-rams if he does not before
such time hear the temples of his own gods shudder
to the flames we kindle.’ The Senate was roused at
this and, as destiny decreed, agreed to Scipio’s plan.
Praying that the outcome might be a fortunate one
for Italy, they saw him transport his army overseas.
End of Book XVI of the Punica