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The Beginning of the Outbreak

When the whole army had mustered at Sicca, and Hanno,
The beginning of the outbreak, B. C. 241.
now appointed general in Libya, far from satisfying these hopes and the promises they had received, talked on the contrary of the burden of the taxes and the embarrassment of the public finances; and actually endeavoured to obtain from them an abatement even from the amount of pay acknowledged to be due to them; excited and mutinous feelings at once began to manifest themselves. There were constant conferences hastily got together, sometimes in separate nationalities, sometimes of the whole army; and there being no unity of race or language among them, the whole camp became a babel of confusion, a scene of inarticulate tumult, and a veritable revel of misrule. For the Carthaginians being always accustomed to employ mercenary troops of miscellaneous nationalities, in securing that an army should consist of several different races, act wisely as far as the prevention of any rapid combinations for mutiny, or difficulty on the part of the commanders in overawing insubordination, are concerned: but the policy utterly breaks down when an outburst of anger, or popular delusion, or internal dissension, has actually occurred; for it makes it impossible for the commander to soothe excited feelings, to remove misapprehensions, or to show the ignorant their error. Armies in such a state are not usually content with mere human wickedness; they end by assuming the ferocity of wild beasts and the vindictiveness of insanity.

This is just what happened in this case. There were in the army Iberians and Celts, men from Liguria and the Balearic Islands, and a considerable number of half-bred Greeks, mostly deserters and slaves; while the main body consisted of Libyans. Consequently it was impossible to collect and address them en masse, or to approach them with this view by any means whatever. There was no help for it: the general could not possibly know their several languages; and to make a speech four or five times on the same subject, by the mouths of several interpreters, was almost more impossible, if I may say so, than that. The only alternative was for him to address his entreaties and exhortations to the soldiers through their officers. And this Hanno continually endeavoured to do. But there was the same difficulty with them. Sometimes they failed to understand what he said: at others they received his words with expressions of approval to his face, and yet from error or malice reported them in a contrary sense to the common soldiers. The result was a general scene of uncertainty, mistrust, and misunderstanding. And to crown all, they took it into their heads that the Carthaginian government had a design in thus sending Hanno to them: that they purposely did not send the generals who were acquainted with the services they had rendered in Sicily, and who had been the authors of the promises made to them; but had sent the one man who had not been present at any of these transactions. Whether that were so or not, they finally broke off all negotiations with Hanno; conceived a violent mistrust of their several commanders; and in a furious outburst of anger with the Carthaginians started towards the city, and pitched their camp about a hundred and twenty stades from Carthage, at the town of Tunes, to the number of over twenty thousand.

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