When he had found the horses ready in the place he had ordered them to be, he crossed by night the territory which they call Byzacium and arrived next day at his castle on the coast between Acylla and Thapsus.
There a ship was waiting for him, manned and equipped. Thus Hannibal left Africa, bewailing his country's fate more often than his own. The same day he reached the island of Cercina.
Since there were in port many Phoenician [p. 405]
vessels, loaded with merchandise, and crowds of1
people came to pay their respects to him as he landed, he bade that the answer be given to their questions that he had been sent on an embassy to Tyre.
Fearing nevertheless that one of these ships might leave at night and take the word to Thapsus or Hadrumetum that he had been seen at Cercina, he ordered preparations made for a sacrifice and the ship-captains and merchants invited to dinner and the sails and yards borrowed from their ships to provide a canopy —it chanced to be midsummer —for the diners on the shore.
The dinner was given that day with all the pomp
the situation and the time permitted, and the feasting was prolonged until late into the night with abundance of wine.
As soon as Hannibal found an opportunity to elude the men who were in the harbour, he set sail. The rest were sound asleep, and when they finally woke
from slumber the next day, still heavy with wine, too late to accomplish anything, they spent some hours with the rigging, carrying it back to the ships, setting it up, and adjusting it.
At Carthage, the crowd of people which was accustomed to visit Hannibal gathered about the doors of his house.
When it was generally known that he could not be found, the crowd rushed to the forum, demanding their foremost citizen;
some said that he had escaped, which was the case, others that he had been murdered at the instigation of the Romans, and this aroused the greater resentment;
one could see the various looks natural in a state made up of men of opposing parties and torn by factional strife; finally word came that he had been seen at Cercina.