Such was the position of affairs in Spain when Publius Scipio came into the province.1
The senate had prolonged his command after the consulship and had sent him out with thirty2
men-ofwar and eight thousand soldiers and a great convoy of supplies.
This fleet, which the number of cargo-vessels swelled to an enormous size, caused great rejoicing amongst the Romans and their allies, when it was made out in the offing and standing in dropped anchor in the harbour of Tarraco.
There [p. 273]
Scipio disembarked his troops and set out to join3
his brother; and from that time forward they carried on the war with perfect harmony of temper and of purpose.
Accordingly, while the Carthaginians were taken up with the Celtiberian campaign, they lost no time in crossing the Ebro, and seeing nothing of any enemy, marched directly on Saguntum,4
where it was said that hostages from all over Spain were being guarded in the citadel by a small garrison, to whose keeping they had been consigned by Hannibal.
It was this pledge alone that checked the inclination of all the Spanish states to ally themselves with Rome, for fear that the blood of their own children might expiate the guilt of their defection.
From this constraint Spain was released by the machinations —more clever than honest —of one man. Abelux was his name, and he was a noble Spaniard of Saguntum.
Loyal hitherto to the Phoenicians, he had now —as barbarians are for the most part prone to do — altered his allegiance with the alteration in their fortunes. But reflecting that a deserter who went over to the enemy without betraying to them something of great moment was but a single worthless and dishonoured individual, he proposed to benefit his new allies to the utmost extent of his ability.
And considering everything that fortune could put into his power, he inclined for choice to deliver up the hostages, believing that this was the one thing that would most effectively secure for the Romans the friendship of the Spanish leaders.
But since he knew that the men guarding the hostages would do nothing without the orders of [p. 275]
Bostar, the governor, he
artfully approached Bostar5
himself, who was encamped outside the city, on the very shore, to preclude the approach of the Romans from that quarter. Taking him on one side, he explained the situation, as though the other had no knowledge of it.
Fear, he said, had until then kept the Spaniards down, because the Romans were a long way off; now the Roman camp was on this side of the Ebro, a sure stronghold and asylum for any who wished a change; those, accordingly, who were not bound by fear must be secured by kindness and generosity.
When Bostar asked in amazement what this gift could be that should suddenly be of so great value, “Send back the hostages to their homes,” said Abelux.
“That will at once be grateful personally to their parents, who are the people of most consequence in their own states, and to their tribes in general.
Everyone wishes to be trusted: confide in people, and almost always you confirm their confidence in you. The task of restoring the hostages to their homes I request for myself, that I may work, as well as counsel, for the furtherance of my plan, and to an act that is gracious in itself lend such added grace as I am able.”
Once he had brought Bostar round —for his wits were not as sharp as those of most Phoenicians —he departed secretly by night for the enemy's outposts, and encountering certain Spanish auxiliaries, who conducted him to Scipio, disclosed his plan, and when he had given pledges and received them, and had agreed upon a time and place for turning over the hostages, returned to Saguntum.
The following day he spent with Bostar, receiving [p. 277]
instructions how to carry out the enterprise, and6
left him with the understanding that he was to go at night, in order to elude the enemy's sentinels.
At the hour agreed on with the Romans he wakened the boys' custodians, and led them all, as if unwittingly, into the trap prepared by his own treachery. They were then conducted to the Roman camp.
The remainder of the plan for the restoration of the hostages to their friends was carried out, through the agency of Abelux, exactly as he and Bostar had agreed, and everything was done as it would have been if he had been acting in the name of the Carthaginians.
The gratitude which the Romans won under such circumstances was much greater than the Carthaginians would have enjoyed. For the Carthaginians had been found to be harsh and arrogant in the hour of their prosperity, and their gentleness might have appeared as the result of misfortune and timidity; but the Romans on first coming thither —and
till then they were unknown —had begun with an act of clemency and liberality, and Abelux was held to have shown discernment, and not without reason to have changed his friends.
The Spaniards were therefore all with one accord intending to revolt, and would have drawn the sword at once, if winter had not intervened and compelled both Romans and Carthaginians to retire to their quarters.