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Hannibal's Oath

When, after his final defeat by the Romans, Hannibal had at last quitted his country and was staying at the court of Antiochus, the warlike attitude of the Aetolian league induced the Romans to send ambassadors to Antiochus, that they might be informed of the king's intentions.
B. C. 195
These ambassadors found that Antiochus was inclined to the Aetolian alliance, and was eager for war with Rome; they accordingly paid great court to Hannibal with a view of bringing him into suspicion with the king. And in this they entirely succeeded. As time went on the king became ever more and more suspicious of Hannibal, until at length an opportunity occurred for an explanation of the alienation that had been thus secretly growing up between them.
B. C. 238.
Hannibal then defended himself at great length, but without success, until at last he made the following statement: "When my father was about to go on his Iberian expedition I was nine years old: and as he was offering the sacrifice to Zeus I stood near the altar. The sacrifice successfully performed, my father poured the libation and went through the usual ritual. He then bade all the other worshippers stand a little back, and calling me to him asked me affectionately whether I wished to go with him on his expedition. Upon my eagerly assenting, and begging with boyish enthusiasm to be allowed to go, he took me by the right hand and led me up to the altar, and bade me lay my hand upon the victim and swear that I would never be friends with Rome. So long, then, Antiochus, as your policy is one of hostility to Rome, you may feel quite secure of having in me a most thoroughgoing supporter. But if ever you make terms or friendship with her, then you need not wait for any slander to make you distrust me and be on your guard against me; for there is nothing in my power that I would not do against her."

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    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 35-38, commentary, 35.13
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