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Hannibal Defies the Romans

But the people of Saguntum kept sending ambassadors
Saguntum appeals to Rome. Winter of B. C. 220-219.
to Rome, partly because they foresaw what was coming, and trembled for their own existence, and partly that the Romans might be kept fully aware of the growing power of the Carthaginians in Iberia. For a long time the Romans disregarded their words: but now they sent out some commissioners to see what was going on. Just at that time Hannibal had finished the conquests which he intended for that season, and was going into winter quarters at the New Town again, which was in a way the chief glory and capital town of the Carthaginians in Iberia. He found there the embassy from Rome, granted them an interview, and listened to the message with which they were charged. It was a strong injunction to him to leave Saguntum alone, as being under the protection of Rome; and not to cross the Iber, in accordance with the agreement come to in the time of Hasdrubal.
Hannibal's defiance.
To this Hannibal answered with all the heat of youth, inflamed by martial ardour, recent success, and his long-standing hatred of Rome. He charged the Romans with having a short time before, when on some political disturbances arising in the town they had been chosen to act as arbitrators, seized the opportunity to put some of the leading citizens to death; and he declared that the Carthaginians would not allow the Saguntines to be thus treacherously dealt with, for it was the traditional policy of Carthage to protect all persons so wronged. At the same time he sent home for instructions as to what he was to do "in view of the fact that the Saguntines were injuring certain of their subject allies." And altogether he was in a state of unreasoning anger and violent exasperation, which prevented him from availing himself of the real causes for war, and made him take refuge in pretexts which would not admit of justification, after the manner of men whose passions master all considerations of equity. How much better it would have been to demand of Rome the restoration of Sardinia, and the remission of the tribute, which she had taken an unfair opportunity to impose on pain of a declaration of war. As it was, he said not a word of the real cause, but alleged the fictitious one of the matter of Saguntum; and so got the credit of beginning the war, not only in defiance of reason, but still more in defiance of justice. The Roman ambassadors, finding that there must undoubtedly be a war, sailed to Carthage to enter the same protest before the people there. They expected, however, that they would have to fight not in Italy, but in Iberia, and that they would have Saguntum as a base of operations.

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