« PreviousContinue »
“Twice in history has there been witnessed the struggle of the highest individual genius against the resources and institutions of a great nation; and in both cases the nation has been victorious. For seventeen years Hannibal strove against Rome ; for sixteen years Napoleon Bonaparte strove against England; the efforts of the first ended in Zama, those of the second in Waterloo.' Arnold's Rome, iii. 63.
'From New Carthage to the plains of Cannae Hannibal's march resembled a mighty torrent, which, rushing along irresistible and undivided, fixes our attention on to the one line of its course; all other sights and sounds in the landscape are forgotten, while we look on the rush of the vast volume of waters and listen to their deep and ceaseless roar. But from Cannae onwards the character of the scene changes. The single torrent joined by a hundred lesser streams, has now swelled into a wide flood, overwhelming the whole valley; and the principal object of our interest is the one rock now islanded amid the waters, and on which they dash furiously on every side, as though they must needs sweep it away. But the rock stands unshaken ; the water becomes feebler ; and the streams are again divided ; and the flood shrinks; and the rock rises higher and higher; and the danger is passed away. Ibid. 145.
The first Punic War had started the Roman merchants on a policy which could only end in the total reduction of either Rome or Carthage. When the great Italian republic, fresh from the punishment of the Rhegian garrison, took under its protection the Mamertines, the absurdity of the position was patent to every one. Polybius imagines that the people, oppressed by debt, were anxious for war to enrich themselves. If so, they reckoned very falsely. The Carthaginians were masters of the sea. They had not a single ship of war. In any case the struggle must be a severe one to the generation which declared war. But in all probability the Roman equites saw that sooner or later they must cross swords with the · London of antiquity' and they did not wish Messana to pass out of their own hands meanwhile.
The Carthaginians were a commercial people, like the English; but, unlike the English, they were dead to all feelings of honour in political life. Their highest offices went to the highest bidder. Added to this they were unwarlike and regarded money as a means of dispensing with personal military service. They therefore employed mercenaries, but, as their generals were not also magistrates, they were able, unlike the Romans, to keep on the same commander for any number of years. It is hardly necessary to follow the stages of the first Punic War (264-241). At first the Carthaginian fleet carried everything before it, till the Romans built a fleet and their general Regulus was even able to carry on a campaign in Africa. At last he was taken and his army destroyed; the Romans lost two fleets by storms; and the war was again confined to Sicily. Roman patriotism determined to build a third fleet, and with this fleet was at last established Roman ascendancy on the sea. After the battle of the Aegates Islands, Sicily was given up and became a Roman province. Carthage was obliged to pay an enormous fine and could only bide her time, if ever she wished to get her revenge. The story of the patience with which the noble family of the Barcidae established a Carthaginian empire in Spain, is