At this time the Romans began their struggles oversea; previously they had had no experience at all in naval matters. They now became seamen and crossed over to the islands and to other divisions of the mainland. The first people with whom they warred were the Carthaginians. These were in no whit inferior to them in wealth or in the excellence of their land; they were trained in naval science to a high degree of efficiency, were equipped with cavalry forces, infantry, and elephants, ruled the Africans, and held possession both of Sardinia and the greater part of Sicily; as a result they had conceived hopes of subjugating Italy. Various factors contributed to increase their self-confidence, but they were especially proud by reason of their position of independence, since they elected their king under the title of a yearly office and not for permanent rule; and feeling that their efforts were expended in their own behalf, they were brimful of enthusiasm.
The causes responsible for the dispute between the two were on the side of the Romans, that the Carthaginians had assisted the Tarentines, on the side of the Carthaginians, that Romans had made a treaty of friendship with Hiero. But these they merely put forth as excuses, as those are inclined to do who in reality are seeking their own advantage but are ashamed to be thought to be doing so. The truth is otherwise. As a matter of fact, the Carthaginians, who had long been powerful, and the Romans, who were now growing rapidly stronger, kept viewing each other with jealousy; and they were led into war partly by the desire of continually acquiring more in accordance with the instinct of the majority of mankind, most active when they are most successful and partly also by fear. Both sides alike thought that one sure salvation for their own possessions lay in obtaining also those of the others. If there had been no other reason, it was most difficult, nay, impossible, for two peoples who were free, powerful, and proud, and separated from each other by a very short distance, so to speak, considering the quickness of the voyage, to rule alien tribes and yet be willing to keep their hands off each other. But a chance incident of the following nature broke their truce and plunged them into war.
The conflict nominally concerned Messana and Sicily, but in reality both sides perceived that from this beginning the struggle would involve their own country as well; and they thought that the island, lying, as it did, between them, would furnish to the side that conquered it a safe base for operations against the other party.
Gaius Claudius came to the meeting, and among other remarks which he made to tempt them declared that the object of his presence was to free the city, since the Romans had no need of Messana; and that he would immediately sail away, as soon as he had set their affairs in order. Next he commanded the Carthaginians also either to withdraw, or, if they had any just plea to offer, to submit to arbitration. Now when not one of the Mamertines, by reason of fear, opened his lips, and the Carthaginians, since they were occupying the city by force, paid little heed to him, he stated that in the silence of both sides he had sufficient evidence. On the part of the invaders it showed that they were in the wrong, since they would have justified themselves if their purposes were at all honest; and on the part of the Mamertines, that they desired freedom, since they would have been quite free to speak, had they chosen the side of the Carthaginians, especially as there was a force of the latter present. Furthermore he promised that he would aid them, both on account of their Italian origin and on account of the request for assistance what they had made.
Gaius Claudius lost some of his triremes and with difficulty got back to safety. Neither he nor the Romans in the City, however, relaxed their attempts to master the sea because they had been worsted when first making trial of it, although this is the ordinary course that people pursue who fail in their first undertaking and think that they can never again succeed, viewing the past in the light of an omen. On the contrary, they applied themselves to the sea with even greater zeal, chiefly because they were ambitious and did not wish to appear to have been diverted from their purpose by the disaster.
Hanno was in no wise disposed to make light of the war, and wished, in case it were bound to occur, to throw the responsibility at least for breaking the truce upon the other man, for fear it might be thought that he himself was taking the initiative. Accordingly, he sent back to him the ships and the captives, and urged him to agree to peace; moreover he advised him not to meddle with the sea.
When Claudius would listen to nothing, he uttered an arrogant and outrageous threat. For he declared that he would never allow the Romans even to wash their hands in the sea; yet he lost not only the sea but also Messana not much later.
Claudius, finding the Mamertines gathered at the harbor, called an assembly of their number and made the announcement: "I have no need of arms, but leave it with yourselves to decide everything." By this means he persuaded them to send for Hanno; and when Hanno was unwilling to come down, he denounced him vigorously, inveighing against him and declaring that if the other had even the slightest right on his side, he would certainly have come to a conference with him, and would not persist in occupying the city by force.
The consul Claudius exhorted the soldiers moreover to be of good cheer and not to be cast down over the defeat of the tribune. He showed them that victories fall to the lot of the better-equipped, but that their own valor was far better than the skill of their opponents. They would soon acquire the science of seafaring, whereas the Carthaginians would never have bravery equal to theirs. For skill was something that could be obtained in a short time by men who gave their minds to it, and could be mastered by practice; but bravery, in case it were lacking in a man's nature, could never be furnished by instruction.
The Africans, taking courage as if they had conquered not through the nature of their position, but by their own valor, sallied forth. But Claudius made them so fearful that they did not even peep out of the camp.
The reasons alleged for the war were on the side of the Romans, that the Carthaginians had assisted the Tarentines, on the side of the Carthaginians, that Romans had made a treaty of friendship with Hiero. The truth was, however, that they were viewing each other with jealousy and thought that the only salvation for their own possessions lay in the possibility of obtaining also those of the others. While they were thus disposed, a certain incident broke the truce and provoked them to war. It was of the following nature.
The Mamertines, who had once conducted a colony from Campania to Messana, were now being besieged by Hiero, and they called upon the Romans as a nation of kindred blood. The latter readily voted to aid them, knowing that in case the Mamertines should not secure an alliance with them, they would have recourse to the Carthaginians; and then the Carthaginians would master all Sicily, and from there cross over into Italy. For this island is such a short distance away from the mainland that the story goes that it was itself once a part of the mainland. So the island, thus lying off Italy, seemed to invite the Carthaginians to lay claim also to the land over opposite, could they but occupy Sicily first; and the possession of Messana assured to its masters the control of the strait also.
Though the Romans voted to assist the Mamertines, they did not promptly come to their aid because of various hindrances that occurred. Hence the Mamertines, under the spur of necessity, called upon the Carthaginians. These effected peace with Hiero both for themselves and for those who had invoked their aid, so as to prevent the Romans from crossing into the island; and under the leadership of Hanno they kept guard over the strait and the city. Meantime Gaius Claudius, a military tribune, sent ahead with a few ships by Appius Claudius, had arrived at Rhegium. But to sail across was more than he dared, for he saw that the Carthaginian fleet was far larger. So he embarked in a skiff and landed at Messana, where he talked to the Mamertines as long as the time permitted. When the Carthaginians spoke in opposition, he returned without accomplishing anything at the time; but later, ascertaining that the Mamertines were at odds, they did not wish to submit to the Romans, and yet were weary of the Carthaginians, he sailed over again. Among other remarks which he made to tempt them he declared that the object of his presence was to fee the city, and that as soon as their affairs could be set in order, he would sail away. He also commanded the Carthaginians either to withdraw, or, if they had any just plea, to offer it. Now when not one of the Mamertines, by reason of fear, opened his lips, and the Carthaginians, who they were occupying the city by force, paid no heed to him, he said: "The silence on both sides affords sufficient evidence. On the part of the invaders it shows that they are in the wrong, since they would have justified themselves if their purposes were at all honest; and on the part of the Mamertines, that they covet freedom, since they would have spoken freely if they had espoused the cause of the Carthaginians." And he promised to aid them. At this a tumult of applause arose from the Mamertines. He then sailed back to Rhegium, and a little later forced a passage across with his entire fleet. However, partly because of the numbers and skill of the Carthaginians, but chiefly owing to the violence of the current and to a storm that suddenly came up, he lost some of his triremes and barely succeeded in getting back safely to Rhegium with the remainder.
However, the Romans did not avoid the sea because of their defeat. Claudius proceeded to repair his ships, while Hanno, wishing to throw the responsibility for breaking the truce upon the Romans, sent to Claudius the captured triremes and was restoring the captives; and he urged him to agree to peace. When the other would listen to nothing, he threatened that he would never permit the Romans even to wash their hands in the sea. But Claudius, now that he had become acquainted with the strait, watched for a time when the current and the wind both bore from Italy toward Sicily, and then sailed to the island, encountering no opposition. So, discovering the Mamertines at the harbor, he convened an assembly and talked to them, finally persuading them to send for Hanno; for the latter had already become suspicious of their movements and had established himself on the citadel, which he was guarding. Now Hanno was unwilling to come down, but fearing that the Mamertines might allege injustice on his part and revolt, he finally entered the assembly. After many words had been spoken to no purpose by both sides, one of the Romans seized him and, with the approval of the Mamertines, threw him into prison.
Thus, under compulsion, Hanno left Messana entirely. The Carthaginians punished him, and sent a herald to the Romans bidding them leave Messana and depart from all of Sicily by a given day; they also set an army in motion. And when the Romans paid no heed, they put to death the mercenaries serving with them who were from Italy, and made an assault upon Messana, accompanied by Hiero. They besieged the city and kept guard over the strait, to prevent any troops or provisions from being conveyed to the foe. The consul learned of this when he was already close at hand; and finding numerous Carthaginians disposed at various points about the harbor under pretence of carrying on trade, he resorted to deception in order to get safely across the strait, and thus succeeded in anchoring off Sicily by night. His place of landing was not far from the camp of Hiero, and he joined battle without delay, thinking that his sudden appearance would be most likely to inspire the enemy with fear. When they came out to withstand the attack, the Roman cavalry was worsted but the heavy-armed infantry prevailed. Hiero retired temporarily to the mountains and later to Syracuse.
When Hiero had retired, the Mamertines recovered courage because of the presence of Claudius. Claudius therefore assailed the Carthaginians, who were now isolated, and attacked their rampart, which was situated on a kind of peninsula. For on the one side the sea enclosed it, and on the other some marshes, difficult to traverse. At the neck of this peninsula, the only entrance and a very narrow one, a cross wall had been built. In an attempt to carry this point by force the Romans fared badly and withdrew under a shower of missiles. The Africans then took courage and sallied out, pursuing the fugitives, as they thought them, beyond the narrow strip of land. Thereupon the Romans wheeled about, routed them, and killed many, so that they did not issue from the camp again, at least so long as Claudius was in Messana.
For it usually happens that those who are in dread of something as a result of calculation are successful because of their precaution against it, whereas those who are bold through lack of foresight are ruined because of their unguarded state.
Moderation both obtains victories and preserves them after they are won, whereas license can prevail against nothing, and if it ever should be fortunate in any matter, very easily destroys it. And even if it perchance preserves some conquest, it grows worse by the very fact of undeserved further fortune, and so far from being benefited by its success, is itself actually ruined. Moreover, all boldness that is not in accord with reason is prone to unreasoning fear. Calculation, bringing with it resolution strengthened by forethought and hope rendered reliable by its own trustworthiness, does not allow one to be either dejected or presumptuous. Unreasoning impulse, on the other hand, often elates men in the midst of good fortune and brings them low in disasters, possessing, as it does, no support, but always accommodating itself to the chance event.
But since he hesitated to force the entrance, he left a garrison behind in Messana, and turned his attention to Syracuse and Hiero. He made assaults upon the city, and the inhabitants would now and then come out to battle. Each side was sometimes victorious and sometimes defeated. One day the consul got into a confined position and would have been captured, had he not, before being surrounded, sent to Hiero an invitation to agree to certain terms. When the man came with whom he was to conclude the terms, he kept falling back unobtrusively, while conversing with him, until he had retired to safety. But the city could not easily be taken, and a siege was impracticable, because of the scarcity of provisions and because of disease in the army. Claudius accordingly withdrew; but the Syracusans followed and held communication with his scattered troops, and they would have made a truce, if Hiero also had been willing to agree to terms. The consul left behind a garrison in Messana and sailed back to Rhegium.
Now that Etruscan unrest had come to a standstill and affairs in Italy were perfectly peaceful, whereas the Carthaginian power was becoming ever greater, the Romans ordered both the consuls to make an expedition into Sicily. Valerius Maximus and Otacilius Crassus consequently crossed over, and in their progress through the island together and separately they won many towns by voluntary submission. When they had gained the majority of the places, they set out for Syracuse. Hiero, in terror, sent a herald to them with offers: he was ready to restore the cities of which they had been deprived, to prom money, and to liberate the prisoners. On these terms he obtained peace, for the consuls thought they could subjugate the Carthaginians more easily with his help. After reaching an agreement with him they turned their attention to the remaining cities garrisoned by the Carthaginians. Now from all the others they were repulsed, but Segesta they took without resistance; for its inhabitants because of their relationship with the Romans they declare they are descended for Aeneas slew the Carthaginians and joined the Roman alliance.
Now the consuls on account of the winter departed for Rhegium, while the Carthaginians conveyed most of their army to Sardinia with the intention of attacking Rome from that quarter. They would thus either drive them out of Sicily altogether or would render them weaker after they had crossed over there. Yet they achieved neither the one object nor the other. The Romans both kept guard over their own land and sent a respectable force to Sicily with Postumius Albinus and Quintus Aemilius. On arriving in Sicily the consuls set out for Agrigentum, and there besieged Hannibal, the son of Gisgo. The people of Carthage, when apprised of it, sent Hanno with a powerful force to aid him in the warfare. So this leader came to Heraclea, not far from Agrigentum, and engaged in the war. A number of battles followed, though not important ones. At first Hanno challenged the consuls to fight, then later on the Romans challenged him. For as long as the Romans had an abundance of food they did not venture to contend against a superior force, and were hoping to get possession of the city by famine; but when they began to encounter a shortage of grain, they became eager to run risks, while Hanno now showed hesitation, since their eagerness led him to suspect that he might be ambushed. Everybody, therefore, saw fit to court the Romans as easy victors, and Hiero, too, who thus far had co-operated with them reluctantly, now sent them grain, so that even the consuls took heart again.
Hanno now undertook to bring on a battle, in the expectation that Hannibal would fall upon the Romans in the rear, assailing them from the wall. The consuls learned his plan, but remained inactive, and Hanno in scorn approached their intrenchments; and they sent some men to lie in ambush behind him. When now, toward evening, he fearlessly and contemptuously led a charge, the Romans joined battle with him both from ambush and palisade, and wrought a great slaughter of the enemy and of the elephants besides. Hannibal had in the meantime assailed the Roman tents, but was repulsed by the men guarding them. As for Hanno, he abandoned his camp and escaped to Heraclea. Hannibal then formed a plan to steal away from Agrigentum by night, and did in his own case elude observation; the rest, however, were recognised and were killed, some by the Romans, and many by the Agrigentines. For all that, the people of Agrigentum did not obtain pardon, but their wealth was plundered and they themselves were all sold.
On account of the winter the consuls retired to Messana. The Carthaginians were angry with Hanno and sent out in his stead Hamilcar, the son of Barca, a man superior in generalship to all his countrymen with the exception of Hannibal, his son. Hamilcar himself guarded Sicily and sent Hannibal as admiral to ravage the coast regions of Italy and so draw the consuls to his vicinity. Yet he did not accomplish his object, for they posted guards all along the coast, and then proceeded to Sicily. They effected nothing worthy of record, however. Now Hamilcar, becoming afraid that his Gallic mercenaries, who were offended because he had not given them full pay, might go over to the Romans, brought about their destruction. He sent them to take charge of one of the cities under Roman sway, assuring them that it was in course of being betrayed, and giving them permission to plunder it; he then sent to the consuls pretended deserters to give them advance information of the coming of the Gauls. Hence all the Gauls were ambushed and destroyed; many of the Romans also perished.
After the consuls had departed home, Hamilcar sailed to Italy and ravaged the land and also won over some cities in Sicily. On learning of this the Romans gathered a fleet and put one of the consuls, Gaius Duilius, in command of it, while they sent his colleague, Gaius Gnaeus Cornelius, to Sicily. The latter, neglecting the war on land, which had fallen to his lot, sailed with the ships which he had to Lipara, on the understanding that it was to be betrayed to him; but this was a ruse on the part of the Carthaginians. When, therefore, he put in to Lipara, Bodes, the lieutenant of Hannibal, closed in on him. But as Gaius made preparations to defend himself, Bodes, fearing the Romans' desperation, invited them to discuss terms; and having persuaded them to do so, he took the consul and military tribunes, who supposed they were to meet the admiral, on board his own trireme. Now these men he sent to Carthage; and he captured the rest without their so much as lifting a weapon.
Then Hannibal continued the ravaging of Italy, while Hamilcar made a campaign against Segesta, where the Romans had most of their infantry. Gaius Caecilius, a military tribune, was endeavoring to assist them, but Hamilcar waylaid him and slaughtered many of his followers. The people of Rome, learning of this, at once sent out the praetor urbanus and incited Duilius to haste.
The Romans and Carthaginians, when they joined in naval combat, were well matched in the number of ships and in their own enthusiasm. For both sides were then for the first time entering a naval engagement with equal equipment, and they hoped that it would decide the whole war. Sicily lay before their eyes as the prize, and they were contending in a matter of servitude or dominion, resolved not to be beaten, lest they experience the former, but to conquer and obtain the latter. One side, however, surpassed in the experience possessed by the crews of its triremes, since they had long been masters of the sea; and the other was superior in the strength of its marines and in their daring, since the recklessness and audacity of their fighting were in direct ratio to their inexperience in naval affairs. For in matters of experience practically all men make exact calculations and feel some reluctance, even when their judgment approves a particular course; but in the case of the untried they are unreasonably bold, and are drawn into the conflict through lack of due consideration.
The Carthaginians because of their defeat by the Romans in the sea-fight came near putting Hannibal to death. It is a natural tendency of practically all people who send out armies on any mission to claim credit for the advantages gained, but to chare the defeats upon their leaders; and the Carthaginians were very ready to punish those who failed in any enterprise. Hannibal, however, was afraid, and immediately after the defeat inquired of them, just as if the business were still untouched, whether they bade him risk a sea-fight or not. When they declared in the affirmative, as he had of course expected, because they prided themselves on having such a superior navy, he added, by the mouths of the same messengers: "I, then, have done no wrong, for I went into the engagement with the same hopes as you. The decision was within my power, but not the fortune of the battle."
Duilius, on coming to Sicily, learned that the ships of the Carthaginians were inferior to his own in stoutness and size, but excelled in the speed of their rowing and in the variety of their manoeuvres. Therefore he fitted out his triremes with mechanical devices, anchors, grappling-irons attached to long poles, and other such contrivances, in order that by hurling these upon the hostile ships they might bind them fast to their own vessels, and then by crossing over into them might come to blows with the Carthaginians and engage them just as in an infantry battle. When the Carthaginians began the fight with the Roman ships, they sailed round and round them, plying the oars rapidly, and would make sudden attacks. So for a time the conflict was evenly matched; later the Romans got the upper hand and not only sent many of the enemy to the bottom, but also captured many. Hannibal conducted the fight from a boat of seven banks of oars, but when this became entangled with a trireme, fearing capture, he hastily left the seven-banked boat, and boarding another ship, effected his escape.
This was the outcome, then, of the naval battle, and much spoil was taken. The Carthaginians would have put Hannibal to death on account of the defeat, if he had not immediately inquired of them, just as if the business were still untouched, whether they bade him risk a sea-fight or not. When they agreed that he ought to fight, since they prided themselves upon having a superior navy, he added: "I, then, have done no wrong, for I went into the engagement with the same hopes as you. The decision was within my power, but not the fortune of the battle." So he saved his life, but was deprived of his command.
Duilius, taking the infantry along with him also, rescued the people of Segesta Hamilcar would not even venture to come to blows with him and strengthened the loyalty of the other friendly settlements; and he returned to Rome at the close of the summer season. Upon his departure Hamilcar fortified the place called Drepanum (it is a convenient harbor), deposited there the objects of greatest value, and transferred to it all the people of Eryx. The latter city, because it was a strong position, he razed to the ground, to prevent the Romans from seizing it and making it a base of operations for the war. He captured several cities, too, some by force and some by betrayal; and if Gaius Florus, who was wintering there, had not restrained him, he would have subjugated the whole of Sicily.
Lucius Scipio, his colleague, made a campaign against Sardinia and against Corsica. These islands are situated in the Tyrrhenian sea and lie so near together that from a distance they seem to be one. His first landing place was Corsica. There he captured by force Aleria, its chief city, and subdued the other places without difficulty. While sailing toward Sardinia he descried a Carthaginian fleet and directed his course toward it. The enemy fled before a battle could be joined, and he came to the city of Olbia. There the Carthaginians put in an appearance with their ships, and Scipio, becoming frightened, since his infantry was insufficient for battle, set sail for home.
At this time various captives serving in the city, together with the Samnites, who had come in considerable numbers to man the fleet, agreed to form a conspiracy against Rome. Herius Potilius, the leader of the auxiliary force, found it out and pretended to be of like mind with them, in order that he might fully inform himself in regard to what they had determined upon. But being unable to reveal their plans, since all the Samnites were around him, he persuaded them to gather in the Forum at a time when the senate was meeting and denounce him on the ground that they were being wronged in the matter of the grain which they were receiving. This they did; and when he was sent for as being the cause of the tumult, he revealed the plot to the senators. For the moment they merely dismissed the conspirators, after they had become quiet; but at night all of those who owned slaves arrested some of them. And in this way the entire conspiracy was overthrown.
The following summer the Romans and the Carthaginians fought in Sicily and Sardinia at the same time. Somewhat later Atilius Latinus [Calatinus] went to Sicily, and finding the city of Mutistratus besieged by Florus, he made use of the other's troops. When he made assaults upon the circuit of the wall, the natives, with the help of Carthaginians, defended themselves vigorously at first, but when the women and children were moved to tears and laments, they abandoned resistance. The Carthaginians passed out secretly at night and at daybreak the natives voluntarily swung the gates open. The Romans went in and proceeded to slaughter them all, till Atilius made proclamation that the remainder of the booty and the inhabitants would belong to whoever captured them. Thereafter they spared the lives of the remaining captives, and after pillaging the city burned it to the ground.
Thence they proceeded heedlessly against Camarina and came into a region where an ambuscade had already been set; and they would have been utterly destroyed, had not Marcus Calpurnius, a military tribune, retrieved the disaster by his cleverness. He saw that just one of the surrounding hills had been left unoccupied, by reason of its steepness, and he asked the consul for three hundred heavy-armed men, with whom he hastened to that point. His purpose was to make the enemy turn their attention to his detachment, so that the rest of the Romans might then make their escape. And so it turned out; for when their foes witnessed the charge of these men, they were thunderstruck and leaving the consul and his force, whom they considered as good as captured, they made a united rush upon Calpurnius. A fierce battle ensued, in which many of the enemy as well as all the three hundred fell. Calpurnius alone survived. He had been wounded and lay unnoticed among the slain, being as good as dead by reason of his wounds; afterward he was found alive and his life was spared. While the three hundred were fighting, the consul got away; and after thus escaping he gained Camarina and other cities, some by force and some by capitulation. Next Atilius set out against Lipara. But Hamilcar forestalled him by occupying it stealthily during the night; and making a sudden sortie, he killed many of the Romans.
Gaius Sulpicius overran the greater part of Sardinia, and filled with arrogance as a result, set out for Africa. The Carthaginians also, alarmed for the safety of their countrymen at home, set sail with Hannibal, but when a contrary wind was encountered, both leaders turned back.
Subsequently Atilius compassed Hannibal's defeat by means of some false deserters who represented that Atilius was going to sail to Africa again. Hannibal put out hastily, whereupon Sulpicius sailed against him and sank the majority of his vessels, whose crews, because of a mist, did not know for a long time what was taking place and were thrown into confusion.
All the ships that made their escape to land he seized, though without the crews; for Hannibal, who saw that the harbor was unsafe, abandoned the vessels and retired to the city of Sulci. There the Carthaginians mutinied against him, and when he came forth before them alone, he was slain. The Romans in consequence overran the country with greater boldness, but were defeated by Hanno. These were the events of that year. Also stones in great quantities at a time, and in appearance something like hail, fell from heaven upon Rome continually. It likewise came to pass that stones descended upon the Alban Mount and elsewhere.
The consuls on coming to Sicily made a campaign against Lipara. And discovering that the Carthaginians were lying in wait beneath the height called Tyndaris, they divided their expedition. One of the consuls with half the fleet doubled the promontory, and Hamilcar thinking them to be an isolated force, sailed out against them; but when the rest came up, he turned to flight and lost most of his fleet. The Romans were elated, and feeling that Sicily was already theirs, they left it and ventured to make an attempt on Africa and Carthage.
But holding the non-surrender of their native land and the acquirement of foreign territory to be of equal importance, they the Carthaginians contended with spirit and might. For, whereas most men defend their own possessions even beyond their strength, but are unwilling to struggle for those of others when it involves danger, these antagonists regarded in the same light what they possessed and what they expected, and so were equally determined upon both points. Now the Romans thought it better to conduct the war no longer at a distance from Carthage, nor to risk a first encounter in the islands, but to have the contest in the Carthaginians' own land. Then, if they failed, they would lose nothing; and if they conquered, they would be in excellent hopes. Therefore, making their preparation commensurate with their resolve, they took the field against Carthage.
Their leaders were Regulus and Lucius, selected for merit. Regulus, indeed, was in so great poverty that he did not readily consent, on that account, to undertake the command; and it was voted that his wife and children should be furnished their support from the public treasury.
Hamilcar sent Hanno to the Romans, ostensibly in behalf of peace, but in reality to gain time. And he, when some clamored for his arrest on the ground that the Carthaginians had arrested Cornelius treacherously ...
Their leaders were Marcus Regulus and Lucius Manlius, selected for merit. These two sailed to Sicily, settled affairs there, and made ready for the voyage to Africa. The Carthaginians, however, did not wait for them to sail thither, but after due preparation hastened toward Sicily; and thus the opposing forces met near Heraclea. The contest was for a long time evenly balanced, but in the end the Romans got the best of it. Hamilcar did not dare to withstand them longer, but sent Hanno to them, professedly in behalf of peace, whereas he really wished to use up time; for he was hoping that an army would be sent to him from home. When some clamored for Hanno's arrest, because the Carthaginians had treacherously arrested Cornelius, the envoy said: "If you do this, you will no longer be any better than the Africans."
He, therefore, by flattering them most opportunely escaped all molestation; but the Romans once more resumed the war. And the consuls sailed from Messana, while Hamilcar and Hanno separated and studied how to enclose them on both sides. Yet Hanno would not await them when they approached, but sailed away promptly to Carthage and kept guard over the city. Hamilcar, however, when apprised of this, stayed where he was. The Romans landed and marched against the city of Aspis Clupea, whose inhabitants, seeing them approaching, slipped away in good season. The Romans thus occupied it without striking a blow, and made it a base for the war. Setting out from it, they ravaged the country and acquired cities, some of their own free will and others by intimidation; they also secured great booty, received vast numbers of deserters, and got back many of their own men who had been captured in the previous wars.
When winter came on, Manlius sailed back to Rome with the booty, while Regulus remained behind in Africa. The Carthaginians found themselves in the depths of woe, since their country was being pillaged and their neighbors alienated; and cooped up in their fortifications, they remained inactive.
Zonaras Ioannes Damascenus, De Draconibus I., p472
Now while Regulus was encamped beside the Bagradas river, there appeared a serpent of huge bulk, the length of which is said to have been one hundred and twenty feet (for its slough was carried to Rome for exhibition), and the rest of its body corresponded in size. It destroyed many of the soldiers who approached it and some also who were drinking from the river. Regulus overcame it with a crowd of soldiers and with catapults.
Dio the Roman ... says that when Regulus, the Roman consul, was warring against Carthage, a serpent suddenly crept out of the palisade of the Roman army and lay there. By his command the Romans slew the reptile, and having flayed it, sent its skin, a great wonder, to the senate at Rome. And when measured by this same senate, as Dio himself goes on to report, it was found to have a length of one hundred and twenty feet; its thickness, moreover, was proportionate to its length.
After thus destroying it, he gave battle by night to Hamilcar, who was encamped upon a high, wooded spot; and he slew many in their beds as well as many who had been aroused. Any who escaped fell in with the Romans guarding the roads and perished. In this way a large part of the Carthaginians was destroyed and many of their cities were going over to the Romans.
The Carthaginians, fearing capture, first made overtures to the consul, in the hope that they might by some satisfactory arrangement secure his withdrawal and so escape the danger of the moment. But since they refused to retire from all Sicily and from Sardinia, to release the Roman captives free of cost and to ransom their own, to make good all the expenses incurred by the Romans for the war and also to pay more as tribute each year, they accomplished nothing. Indeed, in addition to those just mentioned, there were the following demands which displeased them: they were to make neither war nor peace without the consent of the Romans, were to keep for their own use not more than one warship, yet come to the aid of the Romans with fifty triremes as often as notice should be sent them, and were not to be on an equal footing in some other respects. In view, then, of these demands, they decided that the truce would mean their utter subjugation, and they chose rather to fight with the Romans.
Those in the city, fearing capture, made overtures to the consul, in the hope that they might by some satisfactory arrangement secure his withdrawal and so escape the immediate danger. But when many oppressive demands were made of them, they decided that the truce would mean their utter subjugation, and they chose rather to fight.
Regulus, however, who up to that time had been fortunate, became filled with boastfulness and conceit, so much so that he even wrote to Rome that he had sealed up the gates of Carthage with fear. His followers and the people of Rome were of the same opinion, and this caused their undoing. For various allies came to the Carthaginians, among them Xanthippus from Sparta. This man assumed absolute authority over the Carthaginians, since the populace was eager to entrust matters to his charge and Hamilcar together with the other officials stepped aside voluntarily. He managed their affairs excellently in every way, and in particular he brought the Carthaginians down the heights, where they were staying through fear, into the level country, where their horses and elephants would be of most avail. For some time he remained inactive, until at length he found the Romans encamped in a manner that betokened their contempt. They were very haughty over their success and looked down upon Xanthippus as a Graecus (for thus they call the Hellenes, and they use the epithet as a reproach to them for their mean birth); and consequently they had constructed their camp in a heedless fashion. While the Romans were in this state of mind Xanthippus assailed them, routed their cavalry with his elephants, cut down many, and captured many alive, among them Regulus himself. This put the Carthaginians in high spirits. They saved the lives of those captured, in order that their own citizens previously taken captive by the Romans might not be killed. Thus they treated all the Roman prisoners with consideration except Regulus, whom they kept in a state of utter misery; they offered him just enough food to keep him alive, and they would repeatedly lead an elephant close up to him to frighten him, so that he might have peace in neither body nor mind. After afflicting him in this way for a good while, they placed him in prison.
With their allies the Carthaginians dealt in a most ruthless manner. Not being supplied with sufficient wealth to pay them what they had originally promised, they dismissed them with the understanding that they would pay them their wages before very long. To the men who escorted the allies, however, they issued orders to put them ashore on a desert island and quietly sail away. As regards Xanthippus, one story is that they pursued after him, when he had sailed away, and sank his ship; the other is that they gave him an old ship which was in no wise seaworthy but had been newly covered over with pitch outside, that it might sink quite of itself, and that he, being aware of this, went aboard a different ship, and so was saved. Their reason for doing this was to avoid seeming to have been saved by his ability; for they thought that when once he had perished, the renown of his deeds would also perish.
The people of Rome were grieved at what had occurred, more especially because they expected that the Carthaginians would sail against Rome itself. For this reason they carefully guarded Italy, and hastily sent to the Romans in Sicily and Africa the consuls Marcus Aemilius and Fulvius Plaetinus Paetinus. These men sailed to Sicily, and after garrisoning the positions there, set out for Africa, but were overtaken by a storm and carried to Cossura. They ravaged the island and put it in charge of a garrison, then sailed onward again. Thereupon a fierce naval battle with the Carthaginians took place. The latter were struggling to eject the Romans entirely from their country, and the Romans were striving to save the remnants of their soldiers who had been left in hostile territory. In the midst of a close battle the Romans in Aspis Clupea suddenly sailed against the Carthaginians from the rear, and by thus getting them between two forces overcame them. Later the Romans also won an infantry engagement and took many prisoners, whose lives they saved because of Regulus and those captured with him. They made several raids, and then sailed to Sicily. But encountering a storm and losing many of their number, they sailed for home with the ships that were saved.
The Carthaginians took Cossura and crossed over to Sicily; and they would have subjugated the whole of it, had they not learned that Collatinus [Calatinus] and Gnaeus Cornelius were approaching with a large fleet. For the Romans had quickly fitted out a first-class fleet, had made levies of their best men, and had become so strong that in the third month they returned to Sicily. It was the five-hundredth year from the founding of Rome. The lower city of Panormus they took without trouble, but in the siege of the citadel they fared badly until food failed those inside: then the besieged came to terms with the consuls.
But the Carthaginians kept watch for their ships homeward bound, and captured several that were full of money.
Afterwards Servilius Pio [Caepio] and Gaius Sempronius, consuls, made an attempt upon Lilybaeum, where they were repulsed; and crossing over to Africa, they ravaged the coast. But while returning homeward they encountered a storm and incurred disaster. Hence the people, thinking that their misfortune were due to their inexperience in naval affairs, voted to keep them away from the sea with the exception of guarding Italy with a few ships.
In the succeeding year Publius Gaius and Aurelius Servilius came to Sicily and among other places subdued Himera; but they did not get possession of any of its inhabitants, for the Carthaginians conveyed them away by night. After this Aurelius secured some ships from Hiero, and adding to his contingent all the Romans who were there, he sailed to Lipara. Here he left the tribune Quintus Cassius to carry on a siege, while avoiding battle, and set sail for home. Quintus, disregarding orders, made an attack upon the city and lost many men. Aurelius, however, subsequently took the place, killed all the inhabitants, and deposed Cassius from his command.
The Carthaginians, learning what the Romans had determined regarding the fleet, sent an expedition to Sicily, hoping now to bring it entirely under their control. Now as long as both the consuls, Caecilius Metellus and Gaius Furius, were on the ground, they remained quiet; but when Furius set out for Rome, they conceived a contempt for Metellus and proceeded to Panormus. Metellus learned that spies had come from the enemy, and assembling all the people of the city, he addressed them, and then bade them lay hold of one another; thus he was enabled to investigate who each other was and what his business was, and so detected the enemies. The Carthaginians now set themselves in battle array, and Metellus pretended to be afraid. When he continued this pretence for several days, the Carthaginians were filled with presumption, and became quite bold in making attacks. Then Metellus raised the signal for the Romans. Forthwith they made an unexpected rush through all the gates, easily overcame resistance, and enclosed their foes in a narrow place through which they could now no longer retreat; for, by reason of their own numbers and the large number of elephants with them, they were crowded together and thrown into confusion. Meanwhile the Carthaginian fleet approached the coast and became the chief cause of their destruction. For the fugitives, seeing the ships, rushed toward them and tried to force their way on board; some fell into the sea and perished, others were killed by the elephants, which crowded against one another and against the men, and still others were slain by the Romans; many also were captured alive, men and elephants as well. For when the beasts, bereft of the men to whom they were used, became infuriated, Metellus made a proclamation to the prisoners, offering safety and pardon to such as would hold them in check; accordingly, some of the keepers approached the gentlest of the animals, which they subdued by the influence of their accustomed presence, and then won over the remainder. These, one hundred and twenty in number, were conveyed to Rome, being ferried across the strait in the following way. A number of huge jars, separated by wooden stays, were fastened together in such a way that they could neither break apart nor yet strike together; then this framework was spanned by beams, and on top of all earth and brush were placed, and the surface was fenced in round about, so that it presented somewhat the appearance of a farmyard. The beasts were then put on board this raft and were ferried across without knowing that they were moving on the water. Such was the victory of Metellus; but Hasdrubal, the Carthaginian leader, though he got safely away on this occasion, was later summoned by the Carthaginians at home and impaled.
They say that the Carthaginians made overtures to the Romans on account of the great number of the captives, among other causes; they wished most of all to see if they could make peace on some moderate terms, and if they could not do this, at least to get back the captives. It is said that Regulus, too, was sent among the envoys because of his reputation and valor. They assumed that the Romans would do anything whatever for the sake of getting him back, so that he might even be delivered up alone in return for peace, or at any rate in exchange for the captives. Accordingly, they bound him by mighty oaths and pledges to return without fail, in case he should accomplish neither of their objects; and they despatched him as an envoy along with others. Now he acted in all respects like a Carthaginian, and not a Roman. He did not even grant his wife leave to confer with him, nor did he enter the city, although invited inside; instead, when the senate assembled outside the walls, as was their custom in treating with the enemy's envoys, he not only asked permission to approach with the others at least so the story goes ....
The Carthaginians now made overtures to the Romans, on account of the great number of the captives, among other causes; and with the envoys they sent also Regulus himself, thinking that through him their whole object was as good as gained, because of the reputation and valor of the man; and they bound him by oaths to return without fail. Now he acted in all respects like one of the Carthaginians. He did not even grant his wife leave to confer with him, nor did he enter the city, although repeatedly invited to do so; instead, when the senate assembled outside the walls, as was the custom in treating with the envoys of the enemy, and he was brought into the assembly he said: "We, Fathers, have been sent to you by the Carthaginians. It is they who despatched me on this journey, since by the law of war I have become their slave. Now they ask, in the first place, to conclude the war upon terms pleasing to both parties, or, if that is not possible, to effect an exchange of prisoners." After speaking these words, he withdrew with the envoys, so that the Romans might deliberate in private. When the consuls urged him to take part in their discussion, he paid no heed, until permission was granted by the Carthaginians. And for a time he was silent; then, when the senators bade him state his opinion, he said: "I am one of you, Fathers, though I be captured times without number. My body is a Carthaginian chattel, but my spirit is yours. The former has been alienated from you, but the latter nobody has the power to make anything else than Roman. As captive I belong to the Carthaginians; yet, inasmuch as I met with misfortune not from cowardice, but from zeal, I am not only a Roman, but I also have your cause at heart. Not in a single respect, now, do I think reconciliation advantageous to you."
After these remarks Regulus stated also the reasons because of which he favored rejecting the proposals, and added: "I know, to be sure, that manifest destruction awaits me, for it is impossible to keep them from learning the advice I have given; but even so, I esteem the public advantage above my own safety. If any one shall say, 'Why, then, do you not run away, or stay here?' he shall be told that I have sworn to them to return, and I will not transgress my oaths, not even when they have been given to enemies. My reasons for this attitude are various, but the principal one is that if I abide by my oath, I alone shall suffer disaster, but if I break it, the whole city will be involved."
But the senate, out of consideration for his safety, showed a disposition to make peace and to restore the captives. When he became aware of this, he pretended, in order that he might not be the cause of their letting their advantage slip, that he had swallowed deadly poison and was sure to die in any case from its effects. Hence no agreement and no exchange of prisoners was made. As he was departing in company with the envoys, his wife and children and others clung to him, and the consuls declared they would not surrender him, if he chose to stay, nor yet would they detain him if he was for departing. Consequently, since he preferred not to violate the oaths, he was carried back. And he was tortured to death, as the report goes, by his captors. They cut off his eyelids and for a time shut him up in darkness, then they cast him into some kind of specially constructed receptacle bristling with spikes, and made him face the sun; thus through suffering and sleeplessness for the spikes kept him from reclining in any fashion he perished. When the Romans found it out, they delivered the foremost captives in their hands to his children to torture and put to death in revenge.