The Second Punic War

They determined, therefore, to send a second embassy to Carthage, with a view of making one more self-effort to preserve peace before actually commencing hostilities. They accordingly selected five men from Won- the most influential citizens of the state-men of venerable age and of great public consideration and commissioned them to proceed to Carthage and once more whether it was the deliberate and final decision of the Carthaginian senate to avow and sustain the action of Hannibal. This solemn embassage set sail. They arrived at Carthage. They appeared before the senate. They argued their cause, but it was, of course, to deaf and unwilling ears. The Carthaginian orators replied to them, each side attempting. to throw the blame of the violation of the treaty with the other. It was a solemn hour, for the peace of the world, the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, and the continued happiness or the desolation and ruin of vast regions of country, depended on the issue of the debate. Unhappily, the breach was only widened by the discussion. ‚ÄúVery well,” said the roman commissioners, at last, “we offer you peace or war, which do you choose?” “Whichever you please”, replied the Carthaginians; “decide for yourselves.” “War, then,” said the Romans, “since it must be so.” The conference was broken up, and the ambassadors returned to Rome.

They returned, however, by the way of Spain. Their object in doing this was to negotiate with the various kingdoms and tribes in Spain and in France, through which Hannibal would have to march in invading Italy, and endeavor to induce them to take sides with the Romans. They were too late, however, for Hannibal had contrived to extend and establish his influence in that entire region too strongly to be. shaken; so that, on one pretext or another, the Roman proposals were all rejected. There was one powerful tribe, for example, called the Volciani. The ambassadors, in the presence of the great council of the Volciani_ made known to them the probability of war, and invited them to ally themselves with the Romans. The Volciani rejected the proposition with a sort of scorn. “We see,” said they, “from the fate of Saguntum, what is to be expected to result from an alliance with the Romans. After leaving that city defenseless and alone in its struggle against such terrible danger, it is in vain to ask other nations to trust to your protection. If you wish for new allies, it will be best for you to go where the story of Saguntum is not known.” This answer of the VoIciani was applauded by the other nations of Spain, as far as it was known, and the Roman ambassadors, despairing of success in that country, went on into Gaul, which is the name by which the country now called France is known in ancient history.

On reaching a certain place which was a central point of influence and power in Gaul, the Roman commissioners convened a great martial council there. The spectacle presented by this assembly was very imposing, for the warlike counselors came to the meeting armed completely and in the most formidable manner, as if they were coming to a battle instead of a consultation and debate. The venerable ambassadors laid the subject before them. They descanted largely on the power and greatness of the Romans, and on the certainty that they should conquer in the approaching contest, and they invited the Gauls to espouse their cause and to rise in arms and intercept Hannibal’s passage through their country, if he should attempt to affect one.

The assembly could hardly be induced to hear the ambassadors through; and, as soon as they had finished their address, the whole council broke forth into cries of dissent and displeasure, and even into shouts of derision. Order was at length restored, and the officers, whose duty it was to express the sentiments of the assembly, gave for their reply that the Gains had never received any thing but violence and injuries from Rome, or any thing but kindness .and good-will from Carthage; and that they had no idea of being guilty of the folly of bringing the impending; storm of Hannibal’s hostility upon their own heads, merely for the sake of averting it from their ancient and implacable foes. Thus the ambassadors were every where repulsed. They found no friendly disposition toward the Roman power till they had crossed the Rhone.

Hannibal began now to form his plans, in a very deliberate and cautious manner, for a march into Italy. He knew well that this was an expedition of such magnitude and duration as to require beforehand the most careful and well-considered arrangements, both for the forces which were to go, and for the states and communities which were to remain. The winter was coming on. His first measure was to dismiss a large portion of his forces, that they might visit their homes. He told them that he was intending some great designs for the ensuing spring, which might take them to a great distance, and keep them for a long time absent from Spain, and he would, accordingly, give them the intervening time to visit their families and their homes, and to arrange their affairs. This act of kind consideration and confidence renewed the attachment of the soldiers to their commander, and they returned to his camp in the spring not only with new strength and vigor, but with redoubled attachment to the service in which they were engaged.

Hannibal, after sending home his soldiers, retired himself to New Carthage, which, as will be seen by the map, is farther west than Saguntum, where he went into winter quarters, and devoted himself to the maturing of his designs. Besides the necessary preparations for his own march, he had to provide for the government of the countries that he should leave. He devised various and ingenious plans to prevent the danger of insurrections and rebellions while he was gone. One was, to organize an army for Spain out of soldiers drawn from Africa, while the troops which were to be employed to garrison Carthage, and to sustain the government there, were taken from Spain. By thus changing the troops of the two countries, each country was controlled by a foreign soldiery, who were more likely to be faithful in their obedience to their commanders, and less in danger of sympathizing with the populations which they were respectively employed to control, than if each had been retained in its own native land.