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The Credibility of Fabius Pictor

Now the Roman annalist Fabius asserts that the cause of the Hannibalian war, besides the injury inflicted upon Saguntum, was the encroaching and ambitious spirit of Hasdrubal. "Having secured great power in Iberia, he returned to Libya with the design of destroying the constitution and reducing Carthage to a despotism. But the leading statesmen, getting timely warning of his intention, banded themselves together and successfully opposed him. Suspecting this Hasdrubal retired from Libya, and thenceforth governed Iberia entirely at his own will without taking any account whatever of the Carthaginian Senate. This policy had had in Hannibal from his earliest youth a zealous supporter and imitator; and when he succeeded to the command in Iberia he continued it: and accordingly, even in the case of this war with Rome, was acting on his own authority and contrary to the wish of the Carthaginians; for none of the men of note in Carthage approved of his attack upon Saguntum." This is the statement of Fabius, who goes on to say, that "after the capture of that city an embassy arrived in Carthage from Rome demanding that Hannibal should be given up on pain of a declaration of war."

Now what answer could Fabius have given if we had put the following question to him? "What better chance or opportunity could the Carthaginians have had of combining justice and interest? According to your own account they disliked the proceeding of Hannibal: why did they not submit to the demands of Rome by surrendering the author of the injury; and thus get rid of the common enemy of the state without the odium of doing it themselves, and secure the safety of their territory by ridding themselves of the threatened war—all of which they could have effected by merely passing a decree?" If this question were put, I say, it would admit of no answer. The fact is that, so far from doing anything of the sort, they maintained the war in accordance with Hannibal's policy for seventeen years; and refused to make terms until, at the end of a most determined struggle, they found their own city and persons in imminent danger of destruction.

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