Hannibal’s design of going first to Carthage with his Syrian army was doubtless induced by his desire to put down the party of his enemies there, and to restore the power to his adherents and partisans. In order to prepare the way the more effectually for this, he sent a secret messenger to Carthage, while his negotiations with Antiochus were going on, to make known to his friends there the new hopes which he began to cherish, and the new designs which he had formed. He knew that his enemies in Carthage would be watching very carefully for any such communication; he therefore wrote no letters, and committed nothing to paper which, on being discovered, might betray him. He explained, however, all his plans very fully to his messenger, and gave him minute and careful instructions as to his manner of communicating them.
The Carthaginian authorities were indeed watching very vigilantly, and intelligence was brought to them by their spies, of the arrival of this stranger. They immediately took measures for arresting him. The messenger, who was himself as vigilant as they, got intelligence of this in his secret lurking-place in the city, and determined immediately to fly. He, however, first prepared some papers and placards, which he posted up in public places, in which he proclaimed that Hannibal was far from considering himself finally conquered; that he was, on the contrary, forming new plans for putting down his enemies in Carthage, resuming his former ascendancy there, and carrying fire and sword again into the Roman territories; and, in the mean time, he urged the friends of Hannibal in Carthage to remain faithful and true to his cause. The messenger, after posting his placards, fled from the city in the night, and went back to Hannibal. Of course, the occurrence produced considerable excitement in the city. It aroused the anger and resentment of Hannibal’s enemies, and awakened new encouragement and hope in the hearts of his friends. Further than this, however, it led to no immediate results. The power of the party which was opposed to Hannibal was too firmly established at Carthage to be very easily shaken. They sent information to Rome of the coming of Hannibal’s emissary to Carthage, and of the result of his mission, and then every thing went on as before.
In the mean time, the Romans, when they learned where Hannibal had gone, sent two or three commissioners there to confer with the Syrian government in respect to their intentions and plans, and watch the movements of Hannibal. It was said that Scipio himself was joined to this embassy, and that he actually met Hannibal at Ephesus, and had several personal interviews and conversations with him there. Some ancient historian gives a particular account of one of these interviews, in which the conversation turned, as it naturally would do between two such distinguished commanders, on military greatness and glory.
Scipio asked Hannibal whom he considered the greatest military hero that had ever lived. Hannibal gave the palm to Alexander the Great, because he had penetrated, with comparatively a very small number of Macedonian troops, into such remote regions, conquered such vast armies, and brought so boundless an empire under his sway. Scipio then asked him who he was inclined to place next to Alexander. He said Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus was a Grecian, who crossed the Adriatic Sea, and made war, with great success, against the Romans. Hannibal said that he gave the second rank to Pyrrhus because he systematized and perfected the art of war, and also because he had the power of awakening a feeling of personal attachment to himself on the part of all his soldiers, and even of the inhabitants of the countries that he conquered, beyond any other general that ever lived. Scipio then asked Hannibal who came next in order, and he replied that he should give the third rank to himself. “And if,” added he, “I had conquered Scipio, I should consider myself as standing above Alexander, Pyrrhus, and all the generals that the world ever produced.”