HANNIBAL [B.C. 28o B.C. 28o]
HANNIBAL was a Carthaginian general. He acquired his great distinction
as a warrior by his desperate contests with the Romans.
Rome and Carthage grew up together on opposite sides of the
Mediterranean Sea. For about a hundred years they waged against each
other most dreadful wars. There were three of these wars.
Rome was successful in the end, and Carthage was entirely destroyed.
There was no real cause for any disagreement between
these two nations. Their hostility to each other was mere rivalry and
spontaneous hate. They spoke a different language; they had a different
origin; and they lived on opposite sides of the same sea. So they hated
and devoured each other.
Those who have read the history of Alexander the
Great, in this series, will recollect the difficulty he experienced in
besieging and subduing Tyre, a great maritime city, situated about two
miles from the shore, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Carthage was originally founded by a colony from this city of Tyre, and
it soon became a great commercial and maritime power like its mother.
The Carthaginians built ships, and with them explored all parts of the
Mediterranean Sea. They visited all the nations on these coasts,
purchased the commodities they had to sell, carried them to other
nations, and sold them at great advances. They soon began to grow rich
and powerful. They hired soldiers to fight their battles, and began to
take possession of the islands of the Mediterranean, and, in some
instances, of points on the main land. For example, in Spain some of
their ships, going there, found that the natives had silver and gold,
which they obtained from veins of ore near the surface of the ground. At
first the Carthaginians obtained this gold and silver by selling the
natives commodities of various kinds, which they had procured in other
countries; paying, of course, to the producers only a very small price
compared with what they required the Spaniards to hay them. Finally,
they took possession of that part of Spain where the mines were
situated, and worked the mines themselves. They dug deeper; they
employed skillful engineers to make pumps to raise the water, which
always accumulates in mines, and prevents their being worked to any
great depth unless the miners have a considerable degree of scientific
and mechanical skill. They founded a city here, which they called New
Carthage-Nova Carthago. They fortified and garrisoned this city, and
made it the center of their operations in Spain, This city is called
Carthagena to this day.
Thus the Carthaginians did every thing by power of
money. They extended their operations in every direction, each new
extension bringing in new treasures, and increasing their means of
extending them more. They had, besides the merchant vessels which
belonged to private individuals, great ships of war belonging to the
state. These vessels were called galleys, and were rowed by oarsmen,
tier above tier, there being sometimes four and five banks of oars. They
had armies, too, drawn from different countries, in various troops,
according as different nations ex celled in the different modes of
warfare. For instance. the Numidians, whose country extended in the
neighborhood of Carthage, on the African coast, were famous for their
horsemen. There were great plains in Numidia, and good grazing, and it
was, consequently, one of those countries in which horses and horsemen
naturally thrive. On the other hand, the natives of the Balearic Isles,
now called Majorca, Minorca, and Ivica, were famous for their skill as
slingers. So the Carthaginians, in making up their forces, would hire
bodies of cavalry in Numidia, and of slingers in the Balearic Isles;
and, for reasons analogous, they got excellent infantry in Spain.
The tendency of the various nations to adopt and
cultivate different modes of warfare was far greater, in those ancient
times, than now. The Balearic Isles, in fact, received their name from
the Greek word ballein, which means to throw with a sling. The youth
there were trained to perfection in the use of this weapon from a very
early age. It is said that mothers used to practice the plan of putting
the bread for their boys' breakfast on the branches of trees, high above
their heads, and not allow them to have their food to eat until they
could bring it down with a stone thrown from a sling.
Thus the Carthaginian power became greatly extended.
The whole government, however, was exercised by a small body of wealthy
and aristocratic families at home. It was very much such a government"
as that of England is at the present day, only the aristocracy of
England is based on ancient birth and landed property, whereas in
Carthage it depended commercial greatness, combined, it is true, with
hereditary family distinction. The aristocracy of Carthage controlled
and governed every thing. None but its own sons could ordinarily obtain
office or power. Vic great mass of inhabitants were kept in a state of
servitude and vassalage. This state of things operated then, as it does
now in England, very unjustly and hardly for those who were thus
debased; but the result was-and in this respect the analogy with England
still holds good-that a very efficient and energetic government was
created. The government of an oligarchy makes sometimes a very rich and
powerful state, but a discontented and unhappy people.
Let the reader now turn to the map and find the place
of Carthage upon it. Let him imagine a great and rich city there, with
piers, and docks, and extensive warehouses for the commerce, and
temples, and public edifices of splendid architecture, for the religious
and civil service of the state, and elegant mansions and palaces for the
wealthy aristocracy, and walls and towers for the defense of the whole.
Let him then imagine a bacl: country, extending for some hundred miles
into the interior of Africa, fertile and highly cultivated, producing
great stores of corn, and wine, and rich fruits of every description.
Let him then look at the islands of Sicily, of Corsica, and Sardinia,
and the Baleares, and conceive of them as rich and prosperous countries,
and all under the Carthaginian rule. Look, also, at the coast of Spain;
see, in imagination, the city of Carthagena, with its fortifications,
and its army, and the gold and silver mines, with thousands and
thousands of slaves toiling in them. Imagine fleets of ships going
continually along the shores of the Mediterranean, from country to
country, cruising back and forth to Tyre, to Cyprus, to Egypt, to
Sicily, to Spain, carrying corn, and flax, and purple dyes, and spices,
and perfumes, and precious stones, and ropes and sails for ships. and
gold and silver, and then periodically returning to Carthage, to add the
profits they had made to the vast treasures of wealth already
accumulated there. Let the reader imagine all this with the map before
him, so as to have a distinct conception of the geographical relations
of the localities, and he will have a pretty correct idea of the
Carthaginian power at the time it commenced its dreadful conflicts with
Rome itself was very differently situated. Rome had
been built by some wanderers from Troy, and it grew, for a long time,
silently and slowly, by a sort of internal principle of life and energy.
One region after another of the Italian peninsula was merged in the
Roman state. They formed a population which was, in the main, stationary
and agricultural. They tilled the fields; they hunted the wild beasts;
they raised great flocks and herds. They seem to have been a race-a sort
of variety of the human species -possessed of a very refined and
superior organization, which, in its development, gave rise to a
character of firmness, energy, and force, both of body and mind, which
has justly excited the admiration of mankind. The Carthaginians had
sagacity-the Romans called it cunning-and activity, enterprise and
wealth. Their rivals, on the other hand, were characterized by genius,
courage, and strength, giving rise to a certain calm and indomitable
resolution arid energy, which has since, in every age, been strongly
associated, in the minds of men, with the very word Roman.