Hannibal Fugitive and an Exile

On a given day, therefore, he ordered all the galleys to be got together in the bay opposite to the city of Carthage, and to be burned. There were five hundred of them, so that they constituted a large fleet, and covered a large expanse of the water. A vast concourse of people assembled upon the shores to witness the grand conflagration. The emotion which such a spectacle was of itself calculated to excite was greatly heightened by the deep but stifled feelings of resentment and hate which agitated every Carthaginian breast. The Romans, too, as they gazed upon the scene from their encampment on the shore, were agitated as well, though with different emotions. Their faces beamed with an expression of exultation and triumph as they saw the vast masses of flame and columns of smoke ascending from the sea, proclaiming the total and irretrievable ruin of Carthaginian pride and power. Having thus fully accomplished his work, Scipio set sail for Rome. All Italy had been filled with the fame of his exploits in thus destroying the ascendancy of Hannibal. The city of Rome had now nothing more to fear from its great enemy. He was shut up, disarmed, and helpless, in his own native state, and the terror which his presence in Italy had inspired had passed forever away. The whole population of Rome, remembering the awful scenes of consternation and terror which the city had so often endured, regarded Scipio as a great deliverer. They were eager to receive and welcome him on his arrival. When the time came and he approached the city, vast throngs went out to meet him. The authorities formed civic processions to welcome him. They brought crowns, and garlands, and flowers, and hailed his approach with loud and prolonged acclamations of triumph and joy. They gave him the name of Africanus, in honor of his victories. This was a new honor-giving to a conqueror the name of the country that he had subdued; it was invented specially as Scipio’s reward, the deliverer who had saved the empire from the greatest and most terrible danger by which it had ever been assailed.

Hannibal, though fallen, retained still in Carthage some portion of his former power. The glory of his past exploits still invested his character with a sort of halo, which made him an object of general regard, and he still had great and powerful friends. He was elevated to high office, and exerted himself to regulate and improve the internal affairs of the state. In these efforts he was not, however, very successful. The historians say that the objects which he aimed to accomplish were good, and that the measures for effecting them were, in themselves, judicious; but, accustomed as he was to the authoritative and arbitrary action of a military commander in camp, he found it hard to practice that caution and forbearance, and that deference for the opinion of others, which are so essential as means of influencing men in the management of the civil affairs of a commonwealth. He made a great many enemies, who did every thing in their power, by plots and intrigues, as well as by open hostility, to accomplish his ruin. His pride, too, was extremely mortified and hum bled by an occurrence which took place very soon after Scipio’s return to Rome. There was some occasion of war with a neighboring African tribe, and Hannibal headed some forces which were raised in the city for the purpose, and went out to prosecute it. The Romans, who took care to have agents in Carthage to keep them acquainted with all that occurred, heard of this, and sent word to Carthage to warn the Carthaginians that this was contrary to the treaty, and could not be allowed. The government, not willing to incur the risk of another visit from Scipio, sent orders to Hannibal to abandon the war and return to the city. Hannibal was compelled to submit; but after having been accustomed, as he had been, for many years, to bid defiance to all the armies and fleets which Roman power could, with their utmost exertion, bring against him, it must have been very hard for such a spirit as his to find itself stopped and conquered now by a word. All the force they could command against him, even at the very gates of their own city, was once impotent and vain. Now, a mere message and threat, coming across the distant sea, seeks him out in the remote deserts of Africa, and in a moment deprives him of all his power.