The declaration of war and the war itself reached the Carthaginians by the same messenger. He brought the vote of the Senate, and told them that the fleet had already sailed. They were astounded, and in despair for want of ships and by the recent loss of so many young men. They had neither allies, nor mercenaries, nor supplies for enduring a siege, nor anything else in readiness for this sudden and unheralded war. They knew that they could not prevail against the Romans and Masinissa combined. They sent another embassy to Rome with full powers to settle the difficulty on any terms they could. The Senate was convened and it told them that if, within thirty days, the Carthaginians would give to the consuls, who were still in Sicily, three hundred children of their noblest families as hostages, and would obey their orders in other respects, the freedom and autonomy of Carthage should be preserved and that they should retain their lands in Africa. This was voted in public, and they gave the resolution to the ambassadors to carry to Carthage; but they sent word privately to the consuls that they should carry out their secret instructions.
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THE PUNIC WARS
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