Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quote: The Carthaginian Who Said No to War

from Livy's Ab Urbe Condita. Book 21.

Translation by Bruce J. Butterfield

21.3 ... The soldiers led the way by bringing the young Hannibal forthwith to the palace and proclaiming him their commander-in-chief amidst universal applause. Their action was followed by the plebs. Whilst little more than a boy, Hasdrubal had written to invite Hannibal to come to him in Spain, and the matter had actually been discussed in the senate. The Barcines wanted Hannibal to become familiar with military service; Hanno, the leader of the opposite party, resisted this. "Hasdrubal's request," he said, "appears a reasonable one, and yet I do not think we ought to grant it" This paradoxical utterance aroused the attention of the whole senate. 

He continued: "The youthful beauty which Hasdrubal surrendered to Hannibal's father he considers he has a fair claim to ask for in return from the son. It ill becomes us, however, to habituate our youths to the lust of our commanders, by way of military training. Are we afraid that it will be too long before Hamilcar's son surveys the extravagant power and the pageant of royalty which his father assumed, and that there will be undue delay in our becoming the slaves of the despot to whose son-in-law our armies have been bequeathed as though they were his patrimony? I, for my part, consider that this youth ought to be kept at home and taught to live in obedience to the laws and the magistrates on an equality with his fellow-citizens; if not, this small fire will some day or other kindle a vast conflagration." 

21.4 Hanno's proposal received but slight support, though almost all the best men in the council were with him, but as usual, numbers carried the day against reason. 

21.10 The result was that, beyond being received and heard by the Carthaginian senate, the embassy found its mission a failure. Hanno alone, against the whole senate, spoke in favour of observing the treaty, and his speech was listened to in silence out of respect to his personal authority, not because his hearers approved of his sentiments. He appealed to them in the name of the gods, who are the witnesses and arbiters of treaties, not to provoke a war with Rome in addition to the one with Saguntum. "I urged you," he said, "and warned you not to send Hamilcar's son to the army. That man's spirit, that man's offspring cannot rest; as long as any single representative of the blood and name of Barca survives our treaty with Rome will never remain unimperilled.

You have sent to the army, as though supplying fuel to the fire, a young man who is consumed with a passion for sovereign power, and who recognises that the only way to it lies in passing his life surrounded by armed legions and perpetually stirring up fresh wars. It is you, therefore, who have fed this fire which is now scorching you. 

Your armies are investing Saguntum, which by the terms of the treaty they are forbidden to approach; before long the legions of Rome will invest Carthage, led by the same generals under the same divine guidance under which they avenged our breach of treaty obligations in the late war. Are you strangers to the enemy, to yourselves, to the fortunes of each nation? That worthy [ed: irony!] commander of yours refused to allow ambassadors who came from allies, on behalf of allies, to enter his camp, and set at naught the law of nations. Those men, repulsed from a place to which even an enemy's envoys are not refused access, have come to us; they ask for the satisfaction which the treaty prescribes; they demand the surrender of the guilty party in order that the State may clear itself from all taint of guilt. The slower they are to take action, the longer they are in commencing war, so much the more persistence and determination, I fear, will they show when war has begun. 

Remember the Aegates and Eryx, and all you had to go through for four-and-twenty years. This boy was not commanding then, but his father, Hamilcar - a second Mars as his friends would have us believe. But we broke the treaty then as we are breaking it now; we did not keep our hands off Tarentum or, which is the same thing, off Italy then any more than we are keeping our hands off Saguntum now, and so gods and men combined to defeat us, and the question in dispute, namely, which nation had broken the treaty, was settled by the issue of the war, which, like an impartial judge, left the victory on the side which was in the right. It is against Carthage that Hannibal is now bringing up his vineae and towers, it is Carthage whose walls he is shaking with his battering rams. The ruins of Saguntum - would that I might prove a false prophet - will fall on our heads, and the war which was begun with Saguntum will have to be carried on with Rome.

"'Shall we then surrender Hannibal?' some one will say. I am quite aware that as regards him my advice will have little weight, owing to my differences with his father, but whilst I was glad to hear of Hamilcar's death, for if he were alive we should already be involved in war with Rome, I feel nothing but loathing and detestation for this youth, the mad firebrand who is kindling this war. Not only do I hold that he ought to be surrendered as an atonement for the broken treaty, but even if no demand for his surrender were made I consider that he ought to be deported to the farthest corner of the earth, exiled to some spot from which no tidings of him, no mention of his name, could reach us, and where it would be impossible for him to disturb the welfare and tranquillity of our State. This then is what I propose: 'That a commission be at once despatched to Rome to inform the senate of our compliance with their demands, and a second to Hannibal ordering him to withdraw his army from Saguntum and then surrendering him to the Romans in accordance with the terms of the treaty, and I also propose that a third body of commissioners be sent to make reparation to the Saguntines.'"

21. 11 When Hanno sat down no one deemed it necessary to make any reply, so completely was the senate, as a body, on the side of Hannibal. They accused Hanno of speaking in a tone of more uncompromising hostility than Flaccus Valerius, the Roman envoy, had assumed. 

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