« PreviousContinue »
eventually to arise between Rome and Carthage for the possession of Sicily, and between Rome and Macedonia for the sovereignty of the Adriatic coasts, were doubtless foreshadowed even then, and
may well have suggested an alliance with Egypt. The new struggles which were preparing on all sides could not but influence each other; and Rome, as mistress of Italy, could not fail to be drawn into the wide arena, which the victories and projects of Alexander the Great had marked out as the field of conflict to his sucCessors.
CARTHAGE. 500-264 B.C.
WE now turn our eyes to a race of people widely differing from any in Italy in nature and origin, vis., the Carthaginians. Belonging to the great Semitic race, which has ever, as though from some instinctive sense of its wide diversity, kept itself severed from the European nations, Carthage was one of the numerous settlements of the enterprising Phoenicians. This particular branch of the Semitic stock issued forth from its native land of Canaan or " the plain," and spread further west than any other people of the same race. Utilizing to the full the excellent harbors, and the bountiful supply of timber and metals of their own country, the Phoenicians early attained an unrivaled position in the ancient world as the pioneers of commerce, navigation, manufacture, and colonization. In the most remote times we find them in Cyprus and Egypt, Greece and Sicily, Africa and Spain, and even on the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. The field of their commerce reached from Sierra Leone and Cornwall in the west, eastward to the coast of Malabar.
But the one-sided character that marks the development of the great nations of antiquity is especially visible in the case of the Phoenicians. We cannot ascribe to them the credit of having originated any of the intellectual or scientific discoveries which have been the glory of other members of the Semitic family. Their religious conceptions were gross and barbarous; their art was not comparable to that of Italy, still less to that of Greece; their knowledge of astronomy and chronology, of the alphabet, of weights and measures, was derived from Babylon. No doubt, in their commercial dealings, the Phoenicians spread valuable germs of civilization, but rather as a bird dropping grain than a husbandman sowing seed. They never civilized and assimilated to themselves the nations with which they came into contact.
Moreover, politically, the Phoenicians were, like the rest of 537-474 B.C.
their race, without the ennobling idea of self-governed freedom. A policy of conquest was never in their eyes to be compared with a policy of commerce. Their colonies were factories. The power to trade with natives was bought too dear if it entailed constant war and the interruption of peaceful barter. Thus they allowed themselves to be supplanted in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and the east of Sicily, almost without resistance; and in the great naval battles at Alalia in 537 B.C., and at Cumae in 474 B.C., for the supremacy of the western Mediterranean, the brunt of the struggle with the Greeks fell upon the Etruscans, and not on the Phoenicians. In the great Sicilian expedition, which ended in their defeat at Himera by Gelo of Syracuse in 480 B.C., the African Phoenicians only took the field as subjects of the Great King, and to avoid being obliged to aid him in the East instead of the West. This was not from want of courage or national spirit; indeed, the tenacity and obstinacy with which the race has ever held to its feelings and prejudices as a nation far exceeds the pertinacity of any European people: it was rather due to their want of political instinct and of the love of liberty. No Phoenician settlements attained a more rapid and secure prosperity than those established by the cities of Tyre and Sidon on the south coast of Spain and the north coast of Africa. Here they were out of the reach of the Great King and of Greek rivals, and held the same relation to the natives as the Europeans held to the American Indians. Although not the earliest settlement, by far the most prominent was Karthada, "the new town," or Carthage. Situated near the mouth of the river Bagradas, which flows through the richest corn district in North Africa, on rising ground which slopes gently towards the plain and ends in a seagirt promontory, commanding the great roadstead of North Africa, the Gulf of Tunis, Carthage owed its sudden rise to preeminence even more to the natural advantages of its situation than to the character of its inhabitants. Even when restored, Carthage at once became the third city in the Roman empire; and in our day, on a far worse site, and under far less favorable conditions, a city exists in that district, whose inhabitants number one hundred thousand. We need no explanation, then, of the commercial prosperity of ancient Carthage; but we must answer the question raised by its development of political power, a development never attained by any other Phoenician city.
At the outset Carthage pursued the usual passive policy of