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THE SECOND PUNIC WAR. 218-202 B.C.
regarded the peace with Rome in 241 B.c. as likely to'
JL prove lasting. Carthage had, no doubt, long been divided into two parties, the one eager for political reform, the other striving to retain the close oligarchical constitution. These two parties were now further rent asunder by the cry for war and the demand for peace. To the latter, or peace-party, belonged the gerusia and Council of a Hundred, under the leadership of Hanno; to this party the timorous and indolent, the worshipers of money and place, naturally attached themselves. The war-party found its chief support in the democratic leaders and military officers, among whom Hasdrubal and Hamilcar were preeminent; the wisest, most far-seeing, and most patriotic Carthaginians lent their aid to this section of the state. The successful conclusion of "the war against the revolted Numidians, while it made clear to all the genius of Hamilcar Barca, brought out in odious contrast the miserable incapacity of Hanno, and the utterly corrupt and pernicious character of the ruling oligarchy. Great prominence was thus given to the patriotic party, and, although political reform was impracticable, while Rome was all-powerful and gave her countenance to the treacherous oligarchs, important changes were effected in the military system of Carthage. Hanno was deposed from his command, and Hamilcar was nominated commander-in-chief of all Africa for an indefinite period. He could only be recalled by the vote of the popular assembly, and the choice of a successor was made to depend, not on the magisterial board at home, but on the decision of the officers serving in the army. Apparently Hamilcar was invested with these dictatorial powers for the purpose of superintending the border-warfare with the Numidians; but we shall see what a different view he took of the charge committed to him.
The task set Hamilcar of saving the state by means of the army was calculated to try to the uttermost the abilities of that 238-226 B.C.
great man. Not only had he to construct an army out of poor material, and to pay his mercenaries out of an ill-supplied chest, but he had also, as leader of a party, to please and delude in turn the venal multitude at home, whose fickle devotion he knew but too well how to appraise. Although still a young man, Hamilcar possibly foreboded his premature fate, and, ere he left Carthage, he bound his son Hannibal, then nine years of age, by the most solemn oath to swear eternal enmity to Rome, and thus transmitted to his children his schemes, his genius, and his hatred. At the head of a strong army, and accompanied by a fleet under his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, Hamilcar marched westwards, apparently against the Libyans in that quarter; suddenly, without any authority from the government, he crossed over into Spain, and there laid the foundations of the Spanish kingdom of the Barcides. Of his personal achievements we have no details, save that Cato the Elder, on seeing the still fresh traces of his work, exclaimed that no king was worthy to be named by the side of Hamilcar Barca. After nine years of constant war with the Spanish native tribes, when he was beginning to see the result of all his labors, he fell fighting, in 228 B.c.
For the next eight years his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, carried on his plans in the same spirit. The adroit statesmanship of Hasdrubal consolidated the Carthaginian kingdom in Spain which the generalship of Hamilcar had founded. The fairest regions of Spain, the southern and eastern coasts, became Carthaginian provinces; towns were founded, chief of which was Cartagena, on the only good harbor on the south coast, whose silver mines, then first discovered, a century later produced a yearly yield of more than $1,800,000. The revenues of the province not only paid for the maintenance of the army, but enabled Hasdrubal to remit a large sum to Carthage every year. The revival of commerce, which thus recouped in Spain what it had lost in Sicily and Sardinia, was in itself a sufficient reason for the non-interference of the home government with the plans of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal.
We must ascribe the inaction of Rome during such a long period of brilliant Carthaginian successes to the ignorance of the Romans, who knew very little of so remote a country as Spain, and who, no doubt, at first regarded with contempt the reports furnished them by their spies in Carthage. In 226 B.c., however, the senate warned Hasdrubal not to pass the Ebro, and received into alliance the two Greek towns on the east coast of Spain, 226-219 B.C.
Saguntum and Emporiae; by fixing this limit to the Carthaginian advance the Romans intended to secure a basis of operations in the country between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, should occasion arise for their active interference in Spain. The delay of the Romans in beginning the second Punic war was due to many causes, but chiefly to their inability to form a true conception of the great scheme which the family of Barca was pursuing with such success. The policy of the Romans was always more remarkable for tenacity, cunning, and consistency than for grandeur of conception or power of rapid organization.
So far fortune had smiled on the Carthaginians. It was not fated that Hasdrubal should attempt to realize the dream of his great predecessor. In 220 B.c. he fell by an assassin's hand, and his place was filled by Hannibal, the eldest son of Hamilcar, then In his twenty-ninth year. Despite his youth, the man thus chosen by his comrades-in-arms was fully worthy of their confidence. Nature had bestowed upon him gifts both mental and physical, which were no mean qualifications for his mighty task; education and association had completed nature's work. Brought up from his infancy to cherish thoughts of vengeance on Rome, trained as a soldier in early youth under his father's eye, already highly distinguished, as the commander of the Spanish cavalry, alike for personal bravery and for the higher qualities of a leader, Hannibal was specially fitted to carry out the great projects of his father. Anger, envy, and meanness have written his history, but have not been able to mar the pure and noble image which it presents. Combining in rare perfection discretion and enthusiasm, caution and energy, Hannibal was marked in a peculiar degree by the Phoenician characteristic of inventive craftiness. Every page of the history of the period attests his genius as a general, and his gifts as a statesman were, after the peace with Rome, no less conspicuously displayed in the reform of the Carthaginian constitution, and in the unparalleled influence which, as a foreign exile, he exercised in the cabinets of the Eastern potentates. The power which he wielded over men is shown by his incomparable control over an army of various nations and many tongues—an army which never, in the worst times, mutinied against him. He was a great man; wherever he went he riveted the eyes of all.
Hannibal resolved at once to begin the war, while the Celts in Italy were still unsubdued, and while a war between Rome and
Antigonus Doson, the far-seeing ruler of Macedonia, seemed imminent. Unfortunately the death of the latter reduced Macedonia to silence; while the death of Hasdrubal had again brought the peace-party in Carthage to the helm of the state. But Hannibal was not to be deterred by the opposition of the miserable politicians at home. Having in vain tried to provoke the people of Saguntum to break the peace, he attacked the town in 219 B.c. on the pretext that the Saguntines were oppressing a native tribe subject to Carthage. The authorities at home, whose sanction Hannibal had purposely refused to wait for, did not dare to oppose the war thus begun. Owing to the supineness of the Romans, who were engaged in war with the Illyrian brigands, Saguntum fell after a siege of eight months, and the rich spoils sent home to Carthage roused the people to such a pitch of enthusiasm that they accepted the challenge of war from the Roman envoys, who had been sent to demand the surrender of Hannibal, in the spring of 218 B.C.
Hannibal intrusted the safety of Spain to his younger brother, Hasdrubal, and sent home about 20,000 men to defend Africa. The fleet remained in Spain to secure the communications between that country and Africa. Two smaller fleets were dispatched, the one to ravage the coast of Italy, the other to attempt to surprise Lilybaeum, and to renew the war in Sicily. Hannibal himself, relying on the enmity of the Celts and Ligurians to Rome, determined to make northern Italy the meeting-place, where all foes of Rome might unite and aid him in the achievement of his great enterprise. It is not clear why he chose the land-route, the old pathway of Celtic hordes, in preference to that by sea; for neither the maritime supremacy of the Romans nor their league with Massilia, could have prevented a landing at Genoa.
In the spring of 218 B.C., with a force of 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants, he set out from Cartagena to cross the Ebro, and he inspired all his soldiers with enthusiasm by pointing out the main plan and object of his undertaking. Distracted by the unexpected nature of the danger which threatened them, the Romans seem to have been but little prepared with a settled plan of war, and to have fatally delayed both in aiding Saguntum and in meeting Hannibal on the Ebro; the losses inflicted on Hannibal by the native tribes, when he forced the passage of that river, show clearly where the Romans ought to have first opposed him. Part of his troops he left behind to secure the newly 218 B.C
won country between the Ebro and the Pyrenees, part he sent home on reaching that chain of mountains; with the rest, amounting to 50,000 infantry and 9000 cavalry, all veterans, he crossed the Pyrenees, nor did he meet with any serious resistance until he reached the Rhone, opposite Avignon; there he was met by a levy of the Celts, but, outwitting them, he crossed the river before the arrival of the consul, Publius Cornelius Scipio, who had delayed at Massilia, and reached the Alps m safety. He had the choice of three routes in crossing this mighty barrier. The coast-route was, however, out of the question, as it was not only barred by the Romans, but would also have taken him away from his destination. The remaining two routes at that time consisted of the pass of the Cottian Alps (Mont Genevre), which, though shorter, passes through a difficult and poor mountain country, and of the pass of the Graian Alps (the little St. Bernard). This, though longer, is far the easiest to traverse; and the route by this pass leads through the broadest and most fertile of the Alpine valleys; moreover, the Celts favorable to Hannibal inhabited the country on the Italian side of the little St. Bernard, while the Cottian pass led directly into the territory of the Taurini, a Celtic tribe at feud with the Insubres, who were Hannibal's allies. Thus every circumstance tended to make Hannibal choose the pass of the Graian Alps.1
The march along the Rhone toward the valley of the upper Isere, through the rich country of the Allobroges, brought the Carthaginian army, after sixteen uneventful days, to the foot of the Alps, and there the first dangers were encountered from some cantons of the Allobroges, who made constant assaults on the army during its ascent of the first Alpine chain, and during the descent of the precipitous path that trends sheer down to the lake of Bourget. A welcome rest in the fertile valley of Chambery gave Hannibal time to repair his losses in beasts of burden and horses. Marching up the Isere, the army now entered the territory of the Ceutrones, whose courteous hospitality did but mask their coming treachery. On reaching the narrow track that led to the summit of the St. Bernard, Hannibal found the pass occupied on both sides, and in the rear, by the perfidious Ceutrones. His forethought in
1 Various geographical questions connected with Hannibal's campaigns, such as the route followed through the Alps and later on through the Apennines, the details of the battles of Trebia, Trasimene, Cannae, etc., are still unsettled and matters of much dispute.