Accordingly Hannibal, having settled in his own mind to go forward and advance on Italy, called the soldiers together and worked on their feelings with alternate chiding and encouragement.
He marvelled, he said, what sudden terror had [p. 87]
invaded breasts that had ever been dauntless. For1
these many years they had been victorious in war, nor had they quitted Spain until all the tribes and territories which lay between two distant seas were in the power of the Carthaginians.
Then, indignant that the Roman People should demand that whoever had laid siege to Saguntum be surrendered up to them, as though to expiate a felony, they had crossed the Ebro, in order to wipe out the Roman name and liberate the world.
The march had not then seemed long to any of them, though they meant to advance from the setting to the rising sun;
but now, when they could see that they had measured off the greater part of it;2
when they had made their way, through the fiercest tribes, over the Pyrenees; when they had crossed the Rhone —that mighty river —in the teeth of so many thousand Gauls, overcoming, too, the violence of the stream itself; when the Alps, the other side of which was in Italy, were in full sight;
—were they halting now, as though exhausted, at the very gates of their enemies?
What else did they think that the Alps were but high mountains? They might fancy them higher than the ranges of the Pyrenees; but surely no lands touched the skies or were impassable to man. The Alps indeed were inhabited, were tilled, produced and supported living beings; their defiles were practicable for armies.
Those very ambassadors whom they beheld had not crossed the Alps in the air on wings. Even the ancestors of these men had not been natives of Italy, but had lived there as foreign settlers, and had often crossed these very Alps in [p. 89]
great companies, with their children and their wives,3
in the manner of emigrants.4
For armed soldiers, taking nothing with them but the instruments of war, what could be impassable or insurmountable? To capture Saguntum, what dangers or what hardships had they not endured for eight long months?
Now that Rome, the capital of the world,5
was their objective, could anything seem so painful or so difficult as to delay
their enterprise? Had Gauls once captured that which the Phoenician despaired of approaching? Then let them yield in spirit and manhood to a race which they had so often vanquished in the course of the last few days, or look to end their march in the field6
that lay between the Tiber and the walls of Rome.