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CHAPTER XII

Reply of Censorinus -- "Perfidia plusquam Punica" -- Terrible Plight of Carthage -- Pathetic Speech of Banno -- Reply of Censorinus


[80] So spake the ambassadors. Then Censorinus rose and replied as follows: "Why is it necessary that I should tell you the causes of the war, Carthaginians, when your ambassadors have been at Rome and have learned them from the Senate? What you have stated falsely, that I will refute. The decree itself declared, and we gave you notice in Sicily when we received the hostages, that the rest of the conditions would be made known to you at Utica. For your promptness in sending the hostages and your care in selecting them, you are entitled to praise. If you are sincerely desirous of peace why do you need any arms? Bring all your weapons and engines of war, both public and private, and deliver them to us." When he had thus spoken the ambassadors said that they would comply with this order also, but that they did not know how they could defend themselves against Hasdrubal, whom they had condemned to death, and who was now leading 20,000 men against them, and was already encamped near Carthage. When the consul said that he would take care of Hasdrubal they promised to deliver up their arms. Thereupon Cornelius Scipio Nasica and Cn├Žus Cornelius Hispanus were sent with the ambassadors, and they received complete armor for 200,000 men, besides innumerable javelins and darts, and 2000 catapults for throwing pointed missiles and stones. When they came back it was a remarkable and unparalleled spectacle to behold the vast number of loaded wagons which the enemy themselves brought in. The ambassadors accompanied them, together with numerous senators and other leading men of the city, priests and distinguished persons, who hoped to inspire the consuls with respect or pity for them. They were brought in and stood in their robes before the consuls. Again Censorinus (who was a better speaker than his colleague) rose, and with a stern countenance spoke as follows: --

[81] "Your ready obedience up to this point, Carthaginians, in the matter of the hostages and the arms, is worthy of all praise. In cases of necessity we must not multiply words. Bear bravely the remaining commands of the Senate. Yield Carthage to us, and betake yourselves where you like within your own territory at a distance of at least ten miles from the sea, for we are resolved to raze your city to the ground." While he was yet speaking, the Carthaginians lifted their hands toward heaven with loud cries, and called on the gods as avengers of violated faith. They heaped reproaches on the Romans, as if willing to die, or insane, or determined to provoke the Romans to sacrilegious violence to ambassadors. They flung themselves on the ground and beat it with their hands and heads. Some of them even tore their clothes and lacerated their flesh as though they were absolutely bereft of their senses. After the first frenzy was past there was great silence and prostration as of men lying dead. The Romans were struck with amazement, and the consuls thought it best to bear with men who were overwhelmed at an appalling command until their indignation should subside, for they well knew that great dangers often bring desperate courage on the instant, which time and necessity gradually subdue. This was the case with the Carthaginians, for when the sense of their calamity came over them, during the interval of silence, they ceased their reproaches and began to bewail, with fresh lamentations, their own fate and that of their wives and children, calling them by name, and also their country, as though she could hear their cries like a human being. The priests invoked their temples, and the gods within them, as though they were present, accusing them of being the cause of their destruction. So pitiable was this mingling together of public and private grief that it drew tears from the Romans themselves.

[82] The consuls, although moved to pity by this exhibition of the mutability of human affairs, awaited with stern countenances the end of their lamentations. When their outcries ceased there was another interval of silence, in which they reflected that their city was without arms, that it was empty of defenders, that it had not a ship, not a catapult, not a javelin, not a sword, nor a sufficient number of fighting men, having lost 50,000 a short time ago. They had neither mercenaries, nor friends, nor allies, nor time to procure any. Their enemies were in possession of their children, their arms, and their territory. Their city was besieged by foes provided with ships, infantry, cavalry, and engines, while Masinissa, their other enemy, was on their flank. Seeing the uselessness of lamentation and reproaches they desisted from them, and again began to talk. Banno, surnamed Tigillas, the most distinguished man among them, having obtained permission to speak, said:--

[83] "If it is permitted to repeat what we have already said to you, Romans, we would speak once more, not as though we were contending for rights (since disputation is never timely for the unfortunate), but that you may perceive that pity on your part toward us is not without excuse and not without reason. We were once the rulers of Africa and of the greater part of the sea, and we contended with yourselves for empire. We desisted from this in the time of Scipio, when we gave up to you all the ships and elephants we had. We agreed to pay you tribute and we pay it at the appointed time. Now, in the name of the gods who witnessed the oaths, spare us, respect the oath sworn by Scipio that the Romans and Carthaginians should be allies and friends. We have not violated the treaty. We have no ships, no elephants. The tribute is not in default. On the contrary, we have fought on your side against three kings. You must not take offence at this recital, although we mentioned it before when you demanded our arms. Our calamities make us verbose, and nothing gives more force to an appeal than the terms of a treaty. Nor can we take refuge in anything else than words, since we have given all other power over to you. Such, Romans, were the former conditions, for which Scipio was our surety. Of the present ones you, consuls, are yourselves the doers and the witnesses. You asked hostages, and we gave you our best. You asked for our arms, and you have received them all, which even captured cities do not willingly give up. We had confidence in your habits and your character. Your Senate sent us word, and you confirmed it, when the hostages were demanded, that if they were delivered, Carthage should be left free and autonomous. If it was added that we should endure your further commands it was not to be expected that in the matter of the hostages you would, in your distinct demand, promise that the city should be independent, and then besides the hostages would make a further demand that Carthage itself be destroyed. If it is right for you to destroy it, how can you leave it free and autonomous as you said you would?

[84] "This is what we have to say concerning the former treaties and those made with yourselves. If you do not care to hear it we will omit it altogether and have recourse to prayers and tears, the one refuge of the unfortunate, for which there is ample occasion in the greatness of our calamity. We beseech you, in behalf of an ancient city founded by command of the gods, in behalf of a glory that has become great and a name pervading the whole world, of the many temples it contains and of its gods who have done you no wrong. Do not deprive them of their festivals, solemnities, and sacrifices. Deprive not the dead who have never harmed you, of the offerings which their children bring to their tombs. If you have pity for us (as you say that out of pity you yield us another dwelling-place), spare our shrines, spare our forum, respect the deity who presides over our council, and all else that is dear and precious to the living. What fear can you have of Carthage when you are in possession of our ships and our arms and our hateful elephants? As to a change of dwelling-place (if that is considered in the light of a consolation), it is impracticable for our people, a countless number of whom get their living by the sea, to move into the country.1 We propose an alternative more desirable for us and more glorious for you. Spare the city which has done you no harm, but if you please, kill us, whom you have ordered to move away. In this way you will seem to vent your wrath upon men, not upon temples, gods, tombs, and an innocent city.

[85] "Romans, you desire a good name and reputation for piety in all that you do, and you announce and claim moderation in all your successes and acquisitions. Do not, I implore you in the name of Jove and of your other gods, as well as of those who still preside over Carthage (and may they never remember ill against you or your children), do not tarnish your good name for the first time in your dealings with us. Do not defile your reputation by an act so horrible to do and to hear, and which you will be the first in all history to perform. Greeks and barbarians have waged many wars, and you, Romans, have waged many against other nations, but no one has ever destroyed a city whose people had surrendered before the fight, and delivered up their arms and children, and submitted to every other penalty that could be imposed upon men. Reminding you of the oaths sworn before the gods, of the mutability of the human lot, and the avenging Nemesis that ever lies in wait for the fortunate, we beseech you not to do violence to your own fair record, and not to push our calamities to the last extremity. Or, if you cannot spare our city, grant us time to send another embassy to your Senate to present our petition. Although the intervening time is short, it will bring long agony to us through the uncertainty of the event. It will be all the same to you whether you execute your purposes now or a little later, and in the meantime you will have performed a pious and humane act."

[86] So spake Banno, but the consuls showed by their stern looks that they would yield nothing. When he had ceased, Censorinus replied: "What is the use of repeating what the Senate has ordered? It has issued its decrees and they must be carried out. We have no power to alter the commands already laid upon us. If we were addressing you as enemies, Carthaginians, it would be necessary only to speak and then to use force, but since this is a matter of the common good (somewhat of our own and still more of yours), I have no objection to giving you the reasons, if you may be thus persuaded instead of being coerced. The sea reminds you of the dominion and power you once acquired by means of it. It prompts you to wrong-doing and brings you to grief. By this means you invaded Sicily and lost it again. Then you invaded Spain and were driven out of it. While a treaty was in force you plundered merchants on the sea, and ours especially, and in order to conceal the crime you threw them overboard, until finally you were caught at it, and then you gave us Sardinia by way of penalty. Thus you lost Sardinia also by means of this sea, which always begets a grasping disposition by the very facilities which it offers for gain.2

[87] "In like manner the Athenians, when they became a maritime people, grew mightily, but they fell as suddenly. Naval prowess is like merchants' gains -- a good profit to-day and a total loss to-morrow. You know that those very people whom I have mentioned, when they had extended their sway over the Ionian Sea to Sicily could not restrain their greed until they had lost everything, and were compelled to surrender their harbor and their ships to their enemies, to receive a garrison in their city, to demolish their own long walls, and to become almost exclusively an inland people. And this very thing kept them going a long time. Believe me, Carthaginians, country life, with the joys of agriculture and freedom from danger, is much more wholesome. Although the gains of agriculture are smaller than those of mercantile life, they are surer and a great deal safer. In fact, a maritime city seems to me to be more like a ship than like solid ground, being so tossed about on the waves of trouble and so much exposed to the vicissitudes of life, whereas an inland city enjoys all the security of terra firma. For this reason the ancient seats of empire were generally inland, and in this way those of the Medes, the Assyrians, the Persians, and others became very powerful.

[88] "But I will omit kingly examples, which no longer concern you. Look over your African possessions, where there are numerous inland cities out of the reach of danger, from which you can choose one that you would like to have for neighbors, so that you may no longer be in the presence of the thing that excites you, so that you may lose the memory of the ills that now vex you whenever you cast your eyes upon the sea empty of ships, and call to mind the great fleets you once possessed and the spoils you captured and proudly brought into your harbor, and gorged your dockyards and arsenals. When you behold the barracks of your soldiers, the stables of your horses and elephants, and the storehouses alongside them, all empty, what do these things put into your minds? What else but grief and an intense longing to get them back again if you can? When we recall our departed fortune it is human nature to hope that we may recover it. The healing drug for all evils is oblivion, and this is not possible to you unless you put away the sight. The plainest proof of this is that as often as you obtained forgiveness and peace from us you violated the agreement. If you still yearn for dominion, and bear ill-will toward us who took it away from you, and if you are waiting your opportunity, then of course you have need of this city, this great harbor and its dockyards, and these walls built for the shelter of an army. Why should we spare our captured enemies? If you have abdicated dominion sincerely, not in words only but in fact, and are content with what you possess in Africa, and if you honestly desire peace with us, come now, prove it by your acts. Move into the interior of Africa, which belongs to you, and leave the sea, the dominion of which you have yielded to us.

[89] "Do not pretend that you are grieved for your temples, your shrines, your forum, your tombs. We shall not harm your tombs. You may come and make offerings there, and sacrifice in your temples, as often as you like. The rest, however, we shall destroy. You do not sacrifice to your shipyards nor do you make offerings to your walls. You can provide yourselves with other shrines and temples and a forum in the place you move to, and presently this will be your country; just as you left your old ones in Tyre when you migrated to Africa, and now consider the newly acquired land your country. Understand then, in brief, that we do not make this decision from any ill-will toward you, but in the interest of a lasting peace and of the common security. If you will remember, we caused Alba, not an enemy, but our mother city, to change her abode to Rome for the common good, acting not in a hostile spirit, but receiving them as settlers with due honor, and this proved to be for the advantage of both. But you say you have many work-people who gain their living by the sea. We have thought of this. In order that you might easily have traffic by sea and a convenient importation and exportation of commodities, we have not ordered you to go more than ten miles from the shore, while we, who give the order, are twelve miles from it ourselves. We offer you whatever place you choose to take, and when you have taken it you shall live under your own laws. This is what we told you beforehand, that Carthage should have her own laws if you would obey our commands. We consider you to be Carthage, not the ground and buildings where you live."


1 Literally: "It is impracticable for a seafaring people, a countless number of whom get their living by the sea," etc. Tautology, which weakens the force of an expression in English, gave it additional strength in Greek.

2 Here Censorinus touches the real cause of the expedition. "It was, of course, the commercial monopolists," says Professor Mahaffy, "and not old Cato and his figs, who destroyed Carthage. These horse-leeches of the world could not bear the modest rivalry of either Corinth or Carthage."

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