Ancient history



I. Amilcar, surnamed Barcas, was son of Hannibal and citizen of Carthage. Towards the end of the first Punic War, he was appointed, still very young, general of the army of Sicily. Until then the Carthaginians had suffered only setbacks on land and sea. As soon as he arrived, they began to support each other. He never retreated before the enemy, and never allowed himself to be surprised. Several times, on the contrary, he knew how to take advantage of the opportunity and gained the advantage. Although the Carthaginians had lost everything in Sicily, he defended the city of Eryx so vigorously that it did not seem that war had been waged in the province. However, the Carthaginian fleet was destroyed near the Egates Islands by the consul Caius Lutatius. The Carthaginians resolved to put an end to the war, and entrusted Amilcar with the negotiations. Despite his enthusiasm for war, he had to give in to circumstances:Carthage was exhausted and could no longer fight against the Romans. But, in making peace, he intended, as soon as matters took a more favorable turn, to recommence the war, and to fight the Romans until he destroyed them or was overwhelmed by them. He displayed great pride in the negotiations. Catulus declaring to him that he would conclude nothing, unless the garrison of Eryx would lay down their arms while evacuating Sicily, he replied that, in spite of the abasement of his fatherland, he would rather die than return to Carthage covered of such reproach; that he would never hand over to enemies the arms he had received to fight them. This firmness stopped the pretensions of Catulus.

II. Back in his homeland, Amilcar found her in a very different state from that in which he expected to see her again. The length of the war, the disasters which had followed it, had kindled discord there which seemed destined to annihilate it. Never had Carthage found itself in such a terrible situation up to the moment of its ruin. Troubles began with the revolt of mercenaries who had served against the Romans. These soldiers, twenty thousand in number, raised all of Africa. They went so far as to besiege the city, which they filled with terror. The Carthaginians were seen imploring the protection of the Romans. They got it; but in the end, reduced to despair, they named Amilcar general. The city was besieged by more than a hundred thousand men. However numerous this army was, it could not hold out against Amilcar, who drove it far from the walls, and knew how to lock it up in defiles where hunger destroyed more than iron. He brought back to duty the towns which had revolted, particularly Utica and Hippo, the two strongest in the region. This is not enough for him; he pushed back the limits of the empire and restored peace to all of Africa, to such an extent that one would never have said that the war had just devastated it.

III. These expeditions ended so happily, giving confidence to Amilcar. Still an enemy of the Romans, he thought only of starting the war again; but a pretext was needed:to find it, he caused himself to be given the command of the army of Spain. He took his nine-year-old son Hannibal there, and young Asdrubal, whom he was accused of loving like a woman; for so great a man could not want slanderers, Asdrubal being as remarkable for his beauty as for his birth. The rumors that had been spread caused the magistrate charged with supervising morals to forbid him to be with Amilcar. But Amilcar gave him his daughter, Carthaginian mores not allowing the son-in-law to be forbidden the company of his father-in-law. I have spoken of this Asdrubal only because he had the command after the death of Amilcar, and he distinguished himself by his exploits. It was he who began to corrupt the morals of the Carthaginians by his largesse. When he was assassinated, Hannibal took command of the army.

IV. However Amilcar, having crossed the sea, lands in Spain, and, seconded by fortune, obtains great successes there. He subjugated the most powerful and warlike nations, and enriched all of Africa with horses, arms, men and money. He was about to carry the war to Italy, when he was killed in a fight against the Vettons, nine years after his arrival in Spain. It is to his constant hatred against the Romans that the Second Punic War must be attributed:for his son Hannibal, continually excited by him, would have preferred to die than not to measure himself against the Romans.

Translation by M. Kermoysan, Nisard edition, Paris (1841)

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