The suffetes were the supreme executive officers of the Carthaginian commonwealth. The government was, as has been remarked before, a sort of aristocratic republic, and republics are always very cautious about intrusting power, even executive power, to any one man. As Rome had two consuls, reigning jointly, On. France, after her first revolution, a Directory of five, so the Carthaginians chose annually two suffetes, they were called at Carthage, though the Roman writers call them indiscriminately suffetes, consuls, and kings. Hannibal was now advanced to this dignity; two that, in conjunction with his colleague, he held the supreme civil authority at Carthage, besides being invested with the command of the vast and victorious army in Spain. When news of these events-the siege and destruction of Saguntum, the rejection of the demands of the Roman ambassadors, and the vigorous preparations making by the Carthaginians for war-reached Rome, the whole city was thrown into consternation. The senate and the people held tumultuous and disorderly assemblies, in which the events which had occurred, and the course of proceeding which it was incumbent on the Romans to take, were discussed with much excitement and clamor. The Romans were, in fact, afraid of the Carthaginians. The campaigns of Hannibal in Spain had impressed the people with a strong sense of the remorseless and terrible energy of his character; they at once concluded that his plans would be formed for marching into Italy, and they even anticipated the danger of his bringing the war up to a the very gates of the city, so as to threaten them with the destruction which he had brought upon Saguntum. The event showed how justly they appreciated his character.
Since the conclusion of the first Punic war, there had been peace between the Romans and Carthaginians for about a quarter of a century. During all this time both nations had been advancing in wealth and power, but the Carthaginians had made much more rapid progress than the Romans. The Romans had, indeed, been very successful at the onset in the former war, but in the end the Carthaginians had proved themselves their equal. They seemed, therefore, to dread now a fresh encounter with these powerful fees, led on, as they were now to be, by such a commander as Hannibal.