« PreviousContinue »
Livy's twenty-first book commences with the second of these wars, which he declares was the most memorable of all that were ever waged, for never were two states more powerful in resources, or more equally matched in strength and in mutual hatred.
Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, had been sworn from his boyhood to be the enemy of Rome, and Livy gives a characteristic account of his wonderful qualities and powers of endurance, combined with cruelty and perfidy, and an utter want of respect either for an oath or for religion. Starting from Spain with a formidable army, including elephants, he crossed the Pyrenees and the Alps, and confronted the Romans in the plains of Piedmont. At the first encounter the Romans were driven back across the Po, and afterwards forced to retreat into Etruria. The following spring Hannibal made his way over the Appenines to the marshes below Florence, losing an eye from the effects of the weather. Here he again routed the Romans near Lake Thrasymene, and extended his march southwards, escaping, on one occasion, from being intercepted, by driving two thousand oxen over the hills at night with pine-torches tied to their horns to give the appearance of a moving army, whilst he drew off his troops in another direction. Great anxiety prevailed at Rome, but no decisive action was fought for more than a year, when the Roman army was almost entirely destroyed or captured on the field of Cannæ, where a bushel of gold rings was collected from the fingers of the fallen knights. Hannibal, however, lost his opportunity by not pushing on at once to Rome, where Livy says the panic was so great that any description would only make it appear less than the reality. The Carthaginians wintered in luxury at Capua; and, after some minor disasters, the spirit of Rome once more rose superior to her misfortunes. They won a great battle in Sardinia, and a still more important one in Spain, which secured them the alliance of the native tribes. At Syracuse, on the death of King Hiero, they took advantage of a revolution in favour of the Carthaginians to invest it by sea and land ; and, although the defences were directed by Archimedes, they surprised the city during a festival of Diana, and the entire island was soon subjugated.
In Italy their whole available force was directed against Capua. Hannibal made a feint of attacking Rome, in the hope of drawing off the investing army, but to no purpose, and then left the Capuans to their fate, all the leading citizens who survived being slaughtered, and the remainder of the inhabitants sold as slaves. Meanwhile matters had not gone smoothly in Spain, but the national honour was nobly retrieved by young Publius Scipio, who took the town of New Carthage ; and, by his courteous treatment of the hostages from other towns whom he found there, gained over their fellow-citizens to his side. Livy especially mentions the case of a beautiful girl, who was honourably restored to her lover and parents, with the money sent for her ransom as a dowry. Still
, the distress in Rome was very severe, and there was disaffection among her allies; but the senators and knights placed their gold and silver plate at the disposal of the treasury, and the sacred reserves were. also employed. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, had crossed the Alps on his way to join him ; but one of the consuls, intercepting the news, succeeded, by a rapid march, in uniting his forces with those of his colleague, and the Carthaginians were utterly defeated at the river Metaurus; on which Hasdrubal rode into a Roman cohort, and fell fighting to the last. This battle was one of those which, had the result been different, would probably have materially altered the drama of the world; and Livy's narrative of the reception of the good news at Rome is most stirring and artistic. The conquest of Spain having been completed by Scipio, he hurried back to Rome, and was elected consul ; but, instead of obtaining the command in Africa, as he hoped, he was retained for four years to watch the movements of Hannibal, who, however, simply held his ground near Bruttium, until, to his intense vexation, he was recalled to Carthage. Scipio then set sail with a picked army for Africa, and commenced his campaign by destroying thirty thousand Carthaginians and sixty thousand Numidians. Upon this, envoys from Carthage sued for peace, and had agreed to most submissive terms, when the truce was broken by the arrival of Hannibal, and the two commanders prepared for battle. The fight was long and
obstinate ; but the Romans were victorious; harder conditions than before were insisted on, and agreed to by Hannibal's advice, and the second Punic war was over.
Rome now came in direct contact with Greece. Philip of Macedon had attacked Rhodes and Pergamos, both of which were in alliance with her, and had treated a remonstrance with defiance. An army was accordingly despatched from Brundusium to Epirus, and in the course of two years the Macedonian power was crushed, -Philip being compelled to surrender all his conquests in Greece and Asia, and to become a vassal of Rome; the conditions of peace being ratified with great pomp at the Isthmian Games in Corinth by the Roman general Flamininus, who included in his triumphal procession, on returning to Rome, a large number of his liberated countrymen, who had been sold as slaves in Greece during the Punic
Antiochus of Syria was next humiliated by the first Roman army that had landed in Asia Minor. In the course of this war Hannibal was denounced as plotting against Rome; and, anticipating a demand for his extradition, he fled from Carthage and accepted a naval command under the Syrian king. He afterwards took refuge in Bithynia, whither Roman vengeance pursued him, but escaped falling into their hands by taking poison, about the same time that his antagonist Scipio was impeached for peculations during his command in Africa. Scipio's brother Lucius was also accused of receiving bribes from Antiochus, and his property confiscated. Livy here remarks that the taint of foreign luxury was brought to Rome by the army returning from Asia, that extravagances of all kinds became the fashion, and cookery was considered a profession, instead of one of the lowest servile offices. He also warns his countrymen against the vices of avarice and display, the ruin of all commonwealths, and tells them that of all kinds of shame the worst is that of frugality and poverty. We also learn that Cato the censor declaimed against the growing corruption of morals, as well as addiction to sorcery, incantation, and secret poisoning, among the
Astrology, and the worship of Cybele, with its abominable rites, had likewise been introduced from Asia.
Philip of Macedon had never really succumbed to the domination of his conquerors, and at last died of remorse for having consented to the murder of his youngest son, who was accused of being a Roman at heart and a traitor to his country. Perseus, his successor, opened negotiations with Carthage, and was suspected of meditating an invasion of Italy; but he failed in his endeavours to form a combination against the Roman power amongst their dependencies in Greece, and had to fight almost singlehanded. Livy notes that many veteran centurions and soldiers at Rome volunteered for the campaign, not for the sake of glory as formerly, but because those who had recently returned from Asia came home rich ;' whilst others complained of being required to serve when past the usual age, and in an inferior rank to that which they had previously held. A glimpse is also obtained into the life of a Roman soldier from the protest of an old officer, whose domestic history is very naturally told.
The war lasted four years; at first the Romans were defeated by the Thracian cavalry; but in a subsequent battle at Pydna the Macedonian phalanx was broken, the victory of the invaders was complete, Perseus was led in chains, with his two sons, before the consuls chariot in his triumph, and the country became a Roman province. Here the Annals of Livy terminate, the remaining books of his history having disappeared.
The truth of several of his statements has been questioned, and he certainly lacked many of the qualifications needed by a national historian. He has, however, left a true impression of the grandeur of Rome, and the steps by which she reached it; whilst his artistic style, and dramatic power of narration, have given to his pages a lasting interest, undiminished by the knowledge that his facts cannot in all cases be accepted as trustworthy.
DIED A.D. 19.
HE principal events of Ovid's career are gathered
from his own works, but all we learn respecting his
personal characteristics is that, though his verses were tainted with immorality, his life was pure. His birthplace was Sulmo, in the north of Italy, and he speaks of its well-watered pastures, its healthfulness, and its fruitful soil. He was of equestrian rank, and says,-'in my family you will find knights through an endless line of ancestry.' He was educated for the profession of an advocate, but he tells us,
• Whate'er I sought to say was still in verse ; and, on the death of his brother, he was allowed to devote himself to his natural taste for poetry. After a tour through Greece and Asia Minor, he held several public offices; but, whilst still a young man, he retired, and joined the brilliant literary circle of the capital, about the time when Mæcenas retired from the court of Augustus. Speaking of the older poets of his day he says, -'In every bard I saw a form divine,' and 'Virgil I did but see.' He mentions Horace in these words, –
• The tuneful Horace held our ears enchained ;'