Hannibal at Saguntum

The weapons of warfare in those ancient days were entirely different from those which are now employed, and there was one, described by an ancient historian as used by the Saguntines at this siege, which might almost come under the modern denomination of firearms. It was called the falarica. It was a sort of javelin, consisting of a shaft of wood, with a long point of iron. This point was said to be three feet long. This javelin was to be thrown at the enemy either from the hand of the soldier or by an engine. The leading peculiarity of it was, however, that, near to the pointed end, there were wound around the wooden shaft long bands of tow, which were saturated with pitch and other combustibles, and this inflammable band was set on fire just before the javelin was thrown. As the missile flew on its way, the wind fanned the flames, and made them burn so fiercely, that when the javelin struck the shield of the soldier opposing it, it could not be pulled out, and the shield itself had to be thrown down and abandoned.

While the inhabitants of Saguntum were vainly endeavoring to defend themselves against their terrible enemy by these and similar means, their ambassadors, not knowing that the city had been attacked, had reached Rome, and had laid before the Roman senate their fears that the city would be attacked, unless they adopted vigorous and immediate measures to prevent it. The Romans resolved to send ambassadors to Hannibal to demand of him what his intentions were, and to warn him against any acts of hostility against Saguntum. When these Roman ambassadors arrived on the coast, near to Saguntum, they found that hostilities had commenced, and that the city was hotly besieged. They were at a loss to know what to do.

It is better for a rebel not to hear an order which he is determined beforehand not to obey. Hannibal, with an adroitness which the Carthaginians called sagacity, and the Romans treachery and cunning, determined not to see these messengers. He sent word to them, at the shore, that they must not attempt to come to his camp, for the country was in such a disturbed condition that it would not be safe for them to land; and besides, he could not receive or attend to them, for he was too much pressed with the urgency of his military works to have any time to spare for debates and negotiations.

Hannibal knew that the ambassadors, being thus repulsed, and having found, too, that the war had broken out, and that Saguntum was actually beset and besieged by Hannibal’s armies, would proceed immediately to Carthage to demand satisfaction there. ale knew, also, that Hanno and his party would very probably espouse the cause of the Romans, and endeavor to arrest his designs. He accordingly sent his ‘own ambassadors to Carthage, to exert an influence In his favor in the Carthaginian senate, and endeavor to urge them to reject the claims of the Romans, and allow the war between Rome and Carthage to break out again.