HANNIBAL’S life was like an April day. Its brightest glory was in the morning. The setting of his sun was darkened by clouds and showers. Although for fifteen years the Roman people could find no general capable of maintaining the field against him, Scipio conquered him at last, and all- his brilliant conquests ended, as Hanno had predicted, only in placing his country in a far worse condition than before. In fact, as long as the Carthaginians confined their energies to useful industry, and to the pursuits of commerce and peace, they were prosperous, and they increased in wealth, and influence, and honor every year. Their ships went every where, and were every where welcome. All the shores of the Mediterranean were visited by their merchants, and the comforts and the happiness of many nations and tribes were promoted by the very means which they took to swell their own riches and fame. All might have gone on so for centuries longer, had not military heroes arisen with appetites for a more piquant sort of glory. Hannibal’s father was one of the foremost of these. He began by conquests in Spain and encroachments on the Roman jurisdiction. He inculcated the same feelings of ambition and hate in Hannibal’s mind which burned in his own. For many years, the policy which they led their countrymen to pursue was successful. From being useful and welcome visitors to all the world, they became the masters and the curse of a part of it. So long as Hannibal remained superior to any Roman general that could be brought against him, he went on conquering. But at last Scipio arose, a greater than Hannibal. The tide was then turned, and all the vast conquests of half a century were wrested away by the same violence, bloodshed, and misery with which they had been acquired.
We have described the exploits of Hannibal, in making these conquests, in detail, while those of Scipio, in wresting them away, have been passed over very briefly, as this is intended as a history of Hannibal, and not of Scipio. Still, Scipio’s conquests were made by slow degrees, and they consumed a long period of time. He was but about eighteen years of age at the battle of Canna, soon after which his campaigns began and he was thirty when he was made consul, just before his going into Africa. He was thus fifteen or eighteen years in taking down the vast superstructure of power which Hannibal had raised, working in regions away from Hannibal and Carthage during all this time, as if leaving the great general and the great city for the last. He was, however, so successful in what he did, that when, at length, he advanced to the attack of Carthage, every thing else was gone. The Carthaginian power had become a mere hollow shell, empty and vain, which required only one great final blow to effect its absolute demolition. In fact, so far spent and gone were all the Carthaginian resources that the great city had to summon the great general to its aid the moment it was threatened, and Scipio destroyed them both together.
And yet Scipio did not proceed so far as literally and actually to destroy them. He spared Hannibal’s life, and he allowed the city to stand; but the terms and conditions of peace which he exacted were such as to put an absolute and perpetual end to Carthaginian dominion. By these conditions, the Carthaginian state was allowed to continue free and independent, and even to retain tike government of such territories in Africa as they possessed before the war; but all their foreign possessions were taken away; and even in respect to Africa, their jurisdiction was limited and curtailed by very hard restrictions. Their whole navy was to be given to the Romans except ten small ships of three banks of oars, which Scipio thought the government would need for the purposes of civil administration. These they were allowed to retain. Scipio did not say what he should do with the remainder of the fleet: it was to be unconditionally surrendered to him. Their elephants of war were also to be all given up, and they were to be bound not to train any more. They were not to appear at all as a military power in any other quarter of the world but Africa, and they were not to make war in Africa except by previously making known the occasion for it to the Roman people, and obtaining their permission. They were also to pay to the Romans a very large annual tribute for fifty years.There was great distress and perplexity in the Carthaginian councils while they were debating these cruel terms. Hannibal was in favor of accepting them. Others opposed. They thought it would be better still to continue the struggle, hopeless as it was, than to submit to terms so ignominious and fatal.
Hannibal was present at these debates, but he found himself now in a very different position from that which he had been occupying for thirty years as a victorious general at the head of his army. He had been accustomed there to control and direct every; king. In his councils of war, no one spoke but at his invitation, and no opinion was expressed but such as he was willing to hear. In the Carthaginian senate, however, he found the case very different. There, opinions were freely expressed, as in a debate among equals, Hannibal taking his place among the rest, and counting only as one. And yet the spirit of authority and command which he had been so long accustomed to exercise, lingered still, and made him very impatient and uneasy under contradiction. In fact, as one of the speakers in the senate was rising to animadvert upon and oppose Hannibal’s views, he undertook to pull him down and silence him by force. This proceeding awakened immediately such expressions of dissatisfaction and displeasure in the assembly as to show him very clearly that the time for such domineering was gone. He had, however, the good sense to express the regret he soon felt at having so far forgotten the duties of his new position, and to make an ample apology. The Carthaginians decided at length to accede to Scipio’s terms of peace. The first installment of the tribute was paid. The elephants and the ships were surrendered. After a few days, Scipio announced his determination not to take the ships away with him, but to destroy them there. Perhaps this was because he thought the ships would be of little value to the Romans, on account of the difficulty of manning them. Ships, of course, are useless without seamen, and many nations in modern times, who could easily build a navy, are debarred from doing it, because their population does not furnish sailors in sufficient numbers to man and navigate it. It was probably, in part, on this account that Scipio decided not to take the Carthaginian ships away, and perhaps he also wanted to show to Carthage and to the world that his object in taking possession of the national property of his foes was not to enrich his own country by plunder, but only to deprive ambitious soldiers of the power to compromise any longer the peace and happiness of mankind by expeditions for conquest and power. However this may be, Scipio determined to destroy the Carthaginian fleet, and not to convey it away.