This being the state of affairs in Spain, Publius Scipio came into his province, having been sent thither by the senate, his command being continued to him after his consulate, with thirty long ships, eight thousand soldiers, and a large importation of provisions.
That fleet, swelled to an enormous size by a multitude of transports, being descried at a distance, entered safe the port of Tarraco, to the great joy of the citizens and allies.
Landing his troops there, Scipio set out and formed a junction with his brother, and thenceforward they prosecuted the war with united courage and counsels.
While the Carthaginians, therefore, were occupied with the Celtiberian war, they promptly crossed the Iberus, and not seeing any enemy, pursue their course to Saguntum; for it was reported that the hostages from every part of Spain, having been consigned to custody, were kept in the citadel of that place under a small guard.
That pledge alone checked the affections of all the people of Spain, which were inclined towards an alliance with the Romans; lest the guilt of their defection should be expiated with the blood of their children.
One man, by a stratagem more subtle than honourable, liberated the Spaniards from this restraint. There was at Saguntum a noble Spaniard, named Abelux, hitherto faithful to the Carthaginians, but now (such are for the most part the dispositions of barbarians) had changed his attachment with fortune;
but considering that a deserter going over to enemies without the betraying of something valuable, would be [p. 790]
looked upon only as a stigmatized and worthless individual, was solicitous to render as great a service as possible to his new confederates.
Having turned over in his mind, then, the various means which, under the favour of fortune, he might employ, in preference to every other, he applied himself to the delivering up of the hostages; concluding that this one thing, above all others, would gain the Romans the friendship of the Spanish chieftains.
But since he knew that the guards of the hostages would do nothing without the authority of Bostar, the governor, he addresses himself with craft to Bostar himself.
Bostar had his camp without the city, just upon the shore, in order to preclude the approach of the Romans from that quarter. He informs him, taken aside to a secret place, and as if uninformed, in what position affairs were:
“That hitherto fear had withheld the minds of the Spaniards to them, because the Romans were at a great distance: that now the Roman camp was on this side the Iberus, a secure fortress and asylum for such as desired a change, that therefore those whom fear could not bind should be attached by kindness and favour.”
When Bostar, in astonishment, earnestly asked him, what sudden gift of so much importance that could be, he replied, “Send back the hostages to their states:
this will be an acceptable boon, privately to their parents, who possess the greatest influence in their respective states, and publicly to the people. Every man wishes to have confidence reposed in him; and confidence reposed generally enforces the fidelity itself.
The office of restoring the hostages to their homes, I request for myself; that I may enhance my project by the trouble bestowed, and that I may add as much value as I can to a service in its own intrinsic nature so acceptable.”
When he had persuaded the man, who was not cunning as compared with Carthaginian minds in general, having gone secretly and by night to the outposts of the enemy, he met with some auxiliary Spaniards; and having been brought by them into the presence of Scipio, he explains what brought him.
Pledges of fidelity having been given and received, and the time and place for delivering the hostages having been appointed, he returns to Saguntum. The following day he spent with Bostar, in taking his commands for effecting the business;
having so arranged it, that he should go by night, in order that he might escape the observation of the enemy, he was dismissed; and awakening the guards of the youths [p. 791]
at the hour agreed upon with them, set out and led them, as if unconsciously, into a snare prepared by his own deceit.
They were brought to the Roman camp, and every thing else respecting the restoration of the hostages was transacted as had been agreed upon with Bostar, and in the same course as if the affair had been carried on in the name of the Carthaginians.
But the favour of the Romans was somewhat greater than that of the Carthaginians would have been in a similar case; for misfortune and fear might have seemed to have softened them, who had been found oppressive and haughty in prosperity.
The Roman, on the contrary, on his first arrival, having been unknown to them before, had begun with an act of clemency and liberality: and Abelux, a man of prudence, did not seem likely to have changed his allies without good cause.
Accordingly all began, with great unanimity, to meditate a revolt; and hostilities would immediately have commenced, had not the winter intervened, which compelled the Romans, and the Carthaginians also, to retire to shelter.