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The Longest and Harshest War in History

When this treaty was sent to Rome the people refused to accept it, but sent ten commissioners to examine into the business. Upon their arrival they made no change in the general terms of the treaty, but they introduced some slight alterations in the direction of increased severity towards Carthage. Thus they reduced the time allowed for the payment of the indemnity by one half; they added a thousand talents to the sum demanded; and extended the evacuation of Sicily to all islands lying between Sicily and Italy.

Such were the conditions on which the war was ended, after

Greatness of the war.
lasting twenty-four years continuously. It was at once the longest, most continuous, and most severely contested war known to us in history. Apart from the other battles fought and the preparations made, which I have described in my previous chapters, there were two sea-fights, in one of which the combined numbers of the two fleets exceeded five hundred quinqueremes, in the other nearly approached seven hundred. In the course of the war, counting what were destroyed by shipwreck, the Romans lost seven hundred quinqueremes, the Carthaginians five hundred. Those therefore who have spoken with wonder of the sea-battles of an Antigonus, a Ptolemy, or a Demetrius, and the greatness of their fleets, would we may well believe have been overwhelmed with astonishment at the hugeness of these proportions if they had had to tell the story of this war.1 If, further, we take into consideration the superior size of the quinqueremes, compared with the triremes employed by the Persians against the Greeks, and again by the Athenians and Lacedaemonians in their wars with each other, we shall find that never in the whole history of the world have such enormous forces contended for mastery at sea.

These considerations will establish my original observation, and show the falseness of the opinion entertained by certain Greeks. It was not by mere chance or without knowing what they were doing that the Romans struck their bold stroke for universal supremacy and dominion, and justified their boldness by its success. No: it was the natural result of discipline gained in the stern school of difficulty and danger.

1 ἱστορήσαντας. There seems no need to give this word the unusual sense of narratum legere here, as some do.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 33.24
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), LEGA´TUS
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