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- The Young Carthaginian - 2/62 -
In the depth of winter his father had made him pass the nights uncovered and almost without clothing in the cold. He had bathed in the icy water of the torrents from the snow clad hills, and had been forced to keep up with the rapid march of the light armed troops in pursuit of the Iberians. He was taught to endure long abstinence from food and to bear pain without flinching, to be cheerful under the greatest hardships, to wear a smiling face when even veteran soldiers were worn out and disheartened.
"It is incumbent upon us, the rulers and aristocracy of this great city, my son, to show ourselves superior to the common herd. They must recognize that we are not only richer and of better blood, but that we are stronger, wiser, and more courageous than they. So, only, can we expect them to obey us, and to make the sacrifices which war entails upon them. It is not enough that we are of pure Phoenician blood, that we come of the most enterprising race the world has ever seen, while they are but a mixed breed of many people who have either submitted to our rule or have been enslaved by us.
"This was well enough in the early days of the colony when it was Phoenician arms alone that won our battles and subdued our rivals. In our days we are few and the populace are many. Our armies are composed not of Phoenicians, but of the races conquered by us. Libya and Numidia, Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain, all in turn conquered by us, now furnish us with troops.
"Carthage is a mighty city, but it is no longer a city of Phoenicians. We form but a small proportion of the population. It is true that all power rests in our hands, that from our ranks the senate is chosen, the army officered, and the laws administered, but the expenses of the state are vast. The conquered people fret under the heavy tributes which they have to pay, and the vile populace murmur at the taxes.
"In Italy, Rome looms greater and more powerful year by year. Her people are hardy and trained to arms, and some day the struggle between us and her will have to be fought out to the death. Therefore, my son, it behooves us to use every effort to make ourselves worthy of our position. Set before yourself the example of your cousin Hannibal, who, young as he is, is already viewed as the greatest man in Carthage. Grudge no hardship or suffering to harden your frame and strengthen your arms.
"Some day you too may lead armies in the field, and, believe me, they will follow you all the better and more cheerfully if they know that in strength and endurance, as well as in position, their commander is the foremost man in his army."
Malchus had been an apt pupil, and had done justice to the pains which his father had bestowed upon him and to the training he had undergone. He could wield the arms of a man, could swim the coldest river, endure hardship and want of food, traverse long distances at the top of his speed, could throw a javelin with unerring aim, and send an arrow to the mark as truly as the best of the Libyan archers.
"The sun is going down fast, father," the lad said, "the shadows are lengthening and the heat is declining."
"We have only your word for the decline of the heat, Malchus," one of the younger men laughed; "I feel hotter than ever. This is the fifteenth time that you have been to the door of the tent during the last half hour. Your restlessness is enough to give one the fever."
"I believe that you are just as eager as I am, Adherbal," the boy replied laughing. "It's your first lion hunt as well as mine, and I am sure you are longing to see whether the assault of the king of beasts is more trying to the nerves than that of the Iberian tribesmen."
"I am looking forward to it, Malchus, certainly," the young man replied; "but as I know the lions will not quit their coverts until after nightfall, and as no efforts on my part will hasten the approach of that hour, I am well content to lie quiet and to keep myself as cool as may be."
"Your cousin is right," the general said, "and impatience is a fault, Malchus. We must make allowances for your impatience on the present occasion, for the lion is a foe not to be despised, and he is truly as formidable an antagonist when brought to bay as the Iberians on the banks of the Ebro -- far more so than the revolted tribesmen we have been hunting for the past three weeks."
"Giscon says nothing," Adherbal remarked; "he has a soul above even the hunting of lions. I warrant that during the five hours we have been reclining here his thoughts have never once turned towards the hunt we are going to have tonight."
"That is true enough," Giscon said, speaking for the first time. "I own that my thoughts have been of Carthage, and of the troubles that threaten her owing to the corruption and misgovernment which are sapping her strength."
"It were best not to think too much on the subject, Giscon," the general said; "still better not to speak of it. You know that I lament, as you do, the misgovernment of Carthage, and mourn for the disasters which have been brought upon her by it. But the subject is a dangerous one; the council have spies everywhere, and to be denounced as one hostile to the established state of things is to be lost."
"I know the danger," the young man said passionately. "I know that hitherto all who have ventured to raise their voices against the authority of these tyrants have died by torture -- that murmuring has been stamped out in blood. Yet were the danger ten times as great," and the speaker had risen now from his couch and was walking up and down the tent, "I could not keep silent. What have our tyrants brought us to? Their extravagance, their corruption, have wasted the public funds and have paralyzed our arms. Sicily and Sardinia have been lost; our allies in Africa have been goaded by their exactions again and again into rebellion, and Carthage has more than once lately been obliged to fight hard for her very existence. The lower classes in the city are utterly disaffected; their earnings are wrung from them by the tax gatherers. Justice is denied them by the judges, who are the mere creatures of the committee of five. The suffetes are mere puppets in their hands. Our vessels lie unmanned in our harbours, because the funds which should pay the sailors are appropriated by our tyrants to their own purposes. How can a Carthaginian who loves his country remain silent?"
"All you say is true, Giscon," the general said gravely, "though I should be pressed to death were it whispered in Carthage that I said so; but at present we can do nothing. Had the great Hamilcar Barca lived I believe that he would have set himself to work to clear out this Augean stable, a task greater than that accomplished by our great hero, the demigod Hercules; but no less a hand can accomplish it. You know how every attempt at revolt has failed; how terrible a vengeance fell on Matho and the mercenaries; how the down trodden tribes have again and again, when victory seemed in their hands, been crushed into the dust.
"No, Giscon, we must suffer the terrible ills which you speak of until some hero arises -- some hero whose victories will bind not only the army to him, but will cause all the common people of Carthage -- all her allies and tributaries -- to look upon him as their leader and deliverer.
"I have hopes, great hopes, that such a hero may be found in my nephew, Hannibal, who seems to possess all the genius, the wisdom, and the talent of his father. Should the dream which he cherished, and of which I was but now speaking to you, that of leading a Carthaginian army across the Ebro, over the Apennines, through the plains of lower Gaul, and over the Alps into Italy, there to give battle to the cohorts of Rome on their own ground, -- should this dream be verified I say, should success attend him, and Rome be humbled to the dust, then Hannibal would be in a position to become the dictator of Carthage, to overthrow the corrupt council, to destroy this tyranny -- misnamed a republic -- and to establish a monarchy, of which he should be the first sovereign, and under which Carthage, again the queen of the world, should be worthy of herself and her people. And now let us speak of it no more. The very walls have ears, and I doubt not but even among my attendants there are men who are spies in the pay of the council. I see and lament as much as any man the ruin of my country; but, until I see a fair hope of deliverance, I am content to do the best I can against her enemies, to fight her battles as a simple soldier."
There was silence in the tent. Malchus had thrown himself down on his couch, and for a time forgot even the approaching lion hunt in the conversation to which he had listened.
The government of Carthage was indeed detestable, and was the chief cause both of the misfortunes which had befallen her in the past, and of the disasters which were in the future to be hers. The scheme of government was not in itself bad, and in earlier and simpler times had acted well. Originally it had consisted of three estates, which answered to the king, lords, and commons. At the head of affairs were two suffetes chosen for life. Below them was the senate, a very numerous body, comprising all the aristocracy of Carthage. Below this was the democracy, the great mass of the people, whose vote was necessary to ratify any law passed by the senate.
In time, however, all authority passed from the suffetes, the general body of the senate and the democracy, into the hands of a committee of the senate, one hundred in number, who were called the council, the real power being invested in the hands of an inner council, consisting of from twenty to thirty of the members. The deliberations of this body were secret, their power absolute. They were masters of the life and property of every man in Carthage, as afterwards were the council of ten in the republic of Venice. For a man to be denounced by his secret enemy to them as being hostile to their authority was to ensure his destruction and the confiscation of his property.
The council of a hundred was divided into twenty subcommittees, each containing five members. Each of these committees was charged with the control of a department -- the army, the navy, the finances, the roads and communications, agriculture, religion, and the relations with the various subject tribes, the more important departments being entirely in the hands of the members of the inner council of thirty.
The judges were a hundred in number. These were appointed by the council, and were ever ready to carry out their behest, consequently justice in Carthage was a mockery. Interest and intrigue were
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