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Produced by John Bickers and David Widger


By Gustave Flaubert



It was at Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar. The
soldiers whom he had commanded in Sicily were having a great feast to
celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Eryx, and as the master was
away, and they were numerous, they ate and drank with perfect freedom.

The captains, who wore bronze cothurni, had placed themselves in the
central path, beneath a gold-fringed purple awning, which reached from
the wall of the stables to the first terrace of the palace; the common
soldiers were scattered beneath the trees, where numerous flat-roofed
buildings might be seen, wine-presses, cellars, storehouses, bakeries,
and arsenals, with a court for elephants, dens for wild beasts, and a
prison for slaves.

Fig-trees surrounded the kitchens; a wood of sycamores stretched away to
meet masses of verdure, where the pomegranate shone amid the white tufts
of the cotton-plant; vines, grape-laden, grew up into the branches of
the pines; a field of roses bloomed beneath the plane-trees; here and
there lilies rocked upon the turf; the paths were strewn with black sand
mingled with powdered coral, and in the centre the avenue of cypress
formed, as it were, a double colonnade of green obelisks from one
extremity to the other.

Far in the background stood the palace, built of yellow mottled Numidian
marble, broad courses supporting its four terraced stories. With its
large, straight, ebony staircase, bearing the prow of a vanquished
galley at the corners of every step, its red doors quartered with black
crosses, its brass gratings protecting it from scorpions below, and its
trellises of gilded rods closing the apertures above, it seemed to the
soldiers in its haughty opulence as solemn and impenetrable as the face
of Hamilcar.

The Council had appointed his house for the holding of this feast; the
convalescents lying in the temple of Eschmoun had set out at daybreak
and dragged themselves thither on their crutches. Every minute others
were arriving. They poured in ceaselessly by every path like torrents
rushing into a lake; through the trees the slaves of the kitchens might
be seen running scared and half-naked; the gazelles fled bleating on the
lawns; the sun was setting, and the perfume of citron trees rendered the
exhalation from the perspiring crowd heavier still.

Men of all nations were there, Ligurians, Lusitanians, Balearians,
Negroes, and fugitives from Rome. Beside the heavy Dorian dialect were
audible the resonant Celtic syllables rattling like chariots of war,
while Ionian terminations conflicted with consonants of the desert as
harsh as the jackal's cry. The Greek might be recognised by his slender
figure, the Egyptian by his elevated shoulders, the Cantabrian by his
broad calves. There were Carians proudly nodding their helmet plumes,
Cappadocian archers displaying large flowers painted on their bodies
with the juice of herbs, and a few Lydians in women's robes, dining in
slippers and earrings. Others were ostentatiously daubed with vermilion,
and resembled coral statues.

They stretched themselves on the cushions, they ate squatting round
large trays, or lying face downwards they drew out the pieces of meat
and sated themselves, leaning on their elbows in the peaceful posture
of lions tearing their prey. The last comers stood leaning against the
trees watching the low tables half hidden beneath the scarlet coverings,
and awaiting their turn.

Hamilcar's kitchens being insufficient, the Council had sent them
slaves, ware, and beds, and in the middle of the garden, as on a
battle-field when they burn the dead, large bright fires might be seen,
at which oxen were roasting. Anise-sprinkled loaves alternated with
great cheeses heavier than discuses, crateras filled with wine,
and cantharuses filled with water, together with baskets of gold
filigree-work containing flowers. Every eye was dilated with the joy of
being able at last to gorge at pleasure, and songs were beginning here
and there.

First they were served with birds and green sauce in plates of red clay
relieved by drawings in black, then with every kind of shell-fish that
is gathered on the Punic coasts, wheaten porridge, beans and barley, and
snails dressed with cumin on dishes of yellow amber.

Afterwards the tables were covered with meats, antelopes with their
horns, peacocks with their feathers, whole sheep cooked in sweet wine,
haunches of she-camels and buffaloes, hedgehogs with garum, fried
grasshoppers, and preserved dormice. Large pieces of fat floated in the
midst of saffron in bowls of Tamrapanni wood. Everything was running
over with wine, truffles, and asafoetida. Pyramids of fruit were
crumbling upon honeycombs, and they had not forgotten a few of those
plump little dogs with pink silky hair and fattened on olive lees, - a
Carthaginian dish held in abhorrence among other nations. Surprise at
the novel fare excited the greed of the stomach. The Gauls with
their long hair drawn up on the crown of the head, snatched at the
water-melons and lemons, and crunched them up with the rind. The
Negroes, who had never seen a lobster, tore their faces with its red
prickles. But the shaven Greeks, whiter than marble, threw the leavings
of their plates behind them, while the herdsmen from Brutium, in their
wolf-skin garments, devoured in silence with their faces in their

Night fell. The velarium, spread over the cypress avenue, was drawn
back, and torches were brought.

The apes, sacred to the moon, were terrified on the cedar tops by the
wavering lights of the petroleum as it burned in the porphyry vases.
They uttered screams which afforded mirth to the soldiers.

Oblong flames trembled in cuirasses of brass. Every kind of
scintillation flashed from the gem-incrusted dishes. The crateras with
their borders of convex mirrors multiplied and enlarged the images of
things; the soldiers thronged around, looking at their reflections with
amazement, and grimacing to make themselves laugh. They tossed the ivory
stools and golden spatulas to one another across the tables. They gulped
down all the Greek wines in their leathern bottles, the Campanian wine
enclosed in amphoras, the Cantabrian wines brought in casks, with the
wines of the jujube, cinnamomum and lotus. There were pools of these on
the ground that made the foot slip. The smoke of the meats ascended into
the foliage with the vapour of the breath. Simultaneously were heard
the snapping of jaws, the noise of speech, songs, and cups, the crash of
Campanian vases shivering into a thousand pieces, or the limpid sound of
a large silver dish.

In proportion as their intoxication increased they more and more
recalled the injustice of Carthage. The Republic, in fact, exhausted by
the war, had allowed all the returning bands to accumulate in the town.
Gisco, their general, had however been prudent enough to send them back
severally in order to facilitate the liquidation of their pay, and
the Council had believed that they would in the end consent to some
reduction. But at present ill-will was caused by the inability to pay
them. This debt was confused in the minds of the people with the 3200
Euboic talents exacted by Lutatius, and equally with Rome they were
regarded as enemies to Carthage. The Mercenaries understood this, and
their indignation found vent in threats and outbreaks. At last they
demanded permission to assemble to celebrate one of their victories,
and the peace party yielded, at the same time revenging themselves on
Hamilcar who had so strongly upheld the war. It had been terminated
notwithstanding all his efforts, so that, despairing of Carthage, he
had entrusted the government of the Mercenaries to Gisco. To appoint his
palace for their reception was to draw upon him something of the hatred
which was borne to them. Moreover, the expense must be excessive, and he
would incur nearly the whole.

Proud of having brought the Republic to submit, the Mercenaries thought
that they were at last about to return to their homes with the payment
for their blood in the hoods of their cloaks. But as seen through the
mists of intoxication, their fatigues seemed to them prodigious and but
ill-rewarded. They showed one another their wounds, they told of their
combats, their travels and the hunting in their native lands. They
imitated the cries and the leaps of wild beasts. Then came unclean
wagers; they buried their heads in the amphoras and drank on without
interruption, like thirsty dromedaries. A Lusitanian of gigantic stature
ran over the tables, carrying a man in each hand at arm's length, and
spitting out fire through his nostrils. Some Lacedaemonians, who had not
taken off their cuirasses, were leaping with a heavy step. Some advanced
like women, making obscene gestures; others stripped naked to fight amid
the cups after the fashion of gladiators, and a company of Greeks danced
around a vase whereon nymphs were to be seen, while a Negro tapped with
an ox-bone on a brazen buckler.

Suddenly they heard a plaintive song, a song loud and soft, rising and
falling in the air like the wing-beating of a wounded bird.

It was the voice of the slaves in the ergastulum. Some soldiers rose at
a bound to release them and disappeared.

They returned, driving through the dust amid shouts, twenty men,
distinguished by their greater paleness of face. Small black felt caps
of conical shape covered their shaven heads; they all wore wooden shoes,
and yet made a noise as of old iron like driving chariots.

They reached the avenue of cypress, where they were lost among the crowd
of those questioning them. One of them remained apart, standing. Through
the rents in his tunic his shoulders could be seen striped with long
scars. Drooping his chin, he looked round him with distrust, closing his
eyelids somewhat against the dazzling light of the torches, but when
he saw that none of the armed men were unfriendly to him, a great sigh
escaped from his breast; he stammered, he sneered through the bright
tears that bathed his face. At last he seized a brimming cantharus by
its rings, raised it straight up into the air with his outstretched
arms, from which his chains hung down, and then looking to heaven, and
still holding the cup he said:

"Hail first to thee, Baal-Eschmoun, the deliverer, whom the people of my
country call Aesculapius! and to you, genii of the fountains, light,
and woods! and to you, ye gods hidden beneath the mountains and in the
caverns of the earth! and to you, strong men in shining armour who have
set me free!"

Then he let fall the cup and related his history. He was called
Spendius. The Carthaginians had taken him in the battle of Aeginusae,
and he thanked the Mercenaries once more in Greek, Ligurian and Punic;
he kissed their hands; finally, he congratulated them on the banquet,
while expressing his surprise at not perceiving the cups of the Sacred
Legion. These cups, which bore an emerald vine on each of their
six golden faces, belonged to a corps composed exclusively of young
patricians of the tallest stature. They were a privilege, almost a
sacerdotal distinction, and accordingly nothing among the treasures
of the Republic was more coveted by the Mercenaries. They detested the
Legion on this account, and some of them had been known to risk their
lives for the inconceivable pleasure of drinking out of these cups.

Accordingly they commanded that the cups should be brought. They were
in the keeping of the Syssitia, companies of traders, who had a common
table. The slaves returned. At that hour all the members of the Syssitia
were asleep.

"Let them be awakened!" responded the Mercenaries.

After a second excursion it was explained to them that the cups were
shut up in a temple.

"Let it be opened!" they replied.

And when the slaves confessed with trembling that they were in the
possession of Gisco, the general, they cried out:

"Let him bring them!"

Gisco soon appeared at the far end of the garden with an escort of the
Sacred Legion. His full, black cloak, which was fastened on his head to
a golden mitre starred with precious stones, and which hung all about
him down to his horse's hoofs, blended in the distance with the colour
of the night. His white beard, the radiancy of his head-dress, and his
triple necklace of broad blue plates beating against his breast, were
alone visible.

When he entered, the soldiers greeted him with loud shouts, all crying:

"The cups! The cups!"

He began by declaring that if reference were had to their courage, they
were worthy of them.

The crowd applauded and howled with joy.

HE knew it, he who had commanded them over yonder, and had returned with
the last cohort in the last galley!

"True! True!" said they.

Nevertheless, Gisco continued, the Republic had respected their national
divisions, their customs, and their modes of worship; in Carthage
they were free! As to the cups of the Sacred Legion, they were private
property. Suddenly a Gaul, who was close to Spendius, sprang over the
tables and ran straight up to Gisco, gesticulating and threatening him
with two naked swords.

Without interrupting his speech, the General struck him on the head with
his heavy ivory staff, and the Barbarian fell. The Gauls howled, and
their frenzy, which was spreading to the others, would soon have swept
away the legionaries. Gisco shrugged his shoulders as he saw them
growing pale. He thought that his courage would be useless against these
exasperated brute beasts. It would be better to revenge himself upon
them by some artifice later; accordingly, he signed to his soldiers and
slowly withdrew. Then, turning in the gateway towards the Mercenaries,
he cried to them that they would repent of it.

The feast recommenced. But Gisco might return, and by surrounding the
suburb, which was beside the last ramparts, might crush them against the
walls. Then they felt themselves alone in spite of their crowd, and the
great town sleeping beneath them in the shade suddenly made them afraid,
with its piles of staircases, its lofty black houses, and its vague gods
fiercer even than its people. In the distance a few ships'-lanterns
were gliding across the harbour, and there were lights in the temple of
Khamon. They thought of Hamilcar. Where was he? Why had he forsaken
them when peace was concluded? His differences with the Council were
doubtless but a pretence in order to destroy them. Their unsatisfied
hate recoiled upon him, and they cursed him, exasperating one another
with their own anger. At this juncture they collected together beneath
the plane-trees to see a slave who, with eyeballs fixed, neck contorted,
and lips covered with foam, was rolling on the ground, and beating the
soil with his limbs. Some one cried out that he was poisoned. All then
believed themselves poisoned. They fell upon the slaves, a terrible
clamour was raised, and a vertigo of destruction came like a whirlwind
upon the drunken army. They struck about them at random, they smashed,
they slew; some hurled torches into the foliage; others, leaning over
the lions' balustrade, massacred the animals with arrows; the most
daring ran to the elephants, desiring to cut down their trunks and eat

Some Balearic slingers, however, who had gone round the corner of the
palace, in order to pillage more conveniently, were checked by a lofty
barrier, made of Indian cane. They cut the lock-straps with their
daggers, and then found themselves beneath the front that faced
Carthage, in another garden full of trimmed vegetation. Lines of white
flowers all following one another in regular succession formed long
parabolas like star-rockets on the azure-coloured earth. The gloomy
bushes exhaled warm and honied odours. There were trunks of trees
smeared with cinnabar, which resembled columns covered with blood. In
the centre were twelve pedestals, each supporting a great glass ball,
and these hollow globes were indistinctly filled with reddish lights,
like enormous and still palpitating eyeballs. The soldiers lighted
themselves with torches as they stumbled on the slope of the deeply
laboured soil.

But they perceived a little lake divided into several basins by walls
of blue stones. So limpid was the wave that the flames of the torches
quivered in it at the very bottom, on a bed of white pebbles and golden
dust. It began to bubble, luminous spangles glided past, and great fish
with gems about their mouths, appeared near the surface.

With much laughter the soldiers slipped their fingers into the gills and
brought them to the tables. They were the fish of the Barca family, and
were all descended from those primordial lotes which had hatched the
mystic egg wherein the goddess was concealed. The idea of committing
a sacrilege revived the greediness of the Mercenaries; they speedily
placed fire beneath some brazen vases, and amused themselves by watching
the beautiful fish struggling in the boiling water.

The surge of soldiers pressed on. They were no longer afraid. They
commenced to drink again. Their ragged tunics were wet with the perfumes
that flowed in large drops from their foreheads, and resting both fists
on the tables, which seemed to them to be rocking like ships, they
rolled their great drunken eyes around to devour by sight what they
could not take. Others walked amid the dishes on the purple table
covers, breaking ivory stools, and phials of Tyrian glass to pieces with
their feet. Songs mingled with the death-rattle of the slaves expiring
amid the broken cups. They demanded wine, meat, gold. They cried out for
women. They raved in a hundred languages. Some thought that they were at
the vapour baths on account of the steam which floated around them,
or else, catching sight of the foliage, imagined that they were at
the chase, and rushed upon their companions as upon wild beasts. The
conflagration spread to all the trees, one after another, and the lofty
mosses of verdure, emitting long white spirals, looked like volcanoes
beginning to smoke. The clamour redoubled; the wounded lions roared in
the shade.

In an instant the highest terrace of the palace was illuminated, the
central door opened, and a woman, Hamilcar's daughter herself, clothed
in black garments, appeared on the threshold. She descended the first
staircase, which ran obliquely along the first story, then the second,
and the third, and stopped on the last terrace at the head of the galley
staircase. Motionless and with head bent, she gazed upon the soldiers.

Behind her, on each side, were two long shadows of pale men, clad in
white, red-fringed robes, which fell straight to their feet. They had no
beard, no hair, no eyebrows. In their hands, which sparkled with rings,
they carried enormous lyres, and with shrill voice they sang a hymn to
the divinity of Carthage. They were the eunuch priests of the temple of
Tanith, who were often summoned by Salammbo to her house.

At last she descended the galley staircase. The priests followed her.
She advanced into the avenue of cypress, and walked slowly through the
tables of the captains, who drew back somewhat as they watched her pass.

Her hair, which was powdered with violet sand, and combined into the
form of a tower, after the fashion of the Chanaanite maidens, added to
her height. Tresses of pearls were fastened to her temples, and fell to
the corners of her mouth, which was as rosy as a half-open pomegranate.
On her breast was a collection of luminous stones, their variegation
imitating the scales of the murena. Her arms were adorned with diamonds,
and issued naked from her sleeveless tunic, which was starred with
red flowers on a perfectly black ground. Between her ankles she wore a
golden chainlet to regulate her steps, and her large dark purple mantle,
cut of an unknown material, trailed behind her, making, as it were, at
each step, a broad wave which followed her.

The priests played nearly stifled chords on their lyres from time to
time, and in the intervals of the music might be heard the tinkling of
the little golden chain, and the regular patter of her papyrus sandals.

No one as yet was acquainted with her. It was only known that she led a
retired life, engaged in pious practices. Some soldiers had seen her in
the night on the summit of her palace kneeling before the stars amid the
eddyings from kindled perfuming-pans. It was the moon that had made her
so pale, and there was something from the gods that enveloped her like a
subtle vapour. Her eyes seemed to gaze far beyond terrestrial space. She
bent her head as she walked, and in her right hand she carried a little
ebony lyre.

They heard her murmur:

"Dead! All dead! No more will you come obedient to my voice as
when, seated on the edge of the lake, I used to through seeds of the
watermelon into your mouths! The mystery of Tanith ranged in the depths
of your eyes that were more limpid than the globules of rivers." And she
called them by their names, which were those of the months - "Siv! Sivan!
Tammouz, Eloul, Tischri, Schebar! Ah! have pity on me, goddess!"

The soldiers thronged about her without understanding what she said.
They wondered at her attire, but she turned a long frightened look upon
them all, then sinking her head beneath her shoulders, and waving her
arms, she repeated several times:

"What have you done? what have you done?

"Yet you had bread, and meats and oil, and all the malobathrum of the
granaries for your enjoyment! I had brought oxen from Hecatompylos;
I had sent hunters into the desert!" Her voice swelled; her cheeks
purpled. She added, "Where, pray, are you now? In a conquered town,
or in the palace of a master? And what master? Hamilcar the Suffet, my
father, the servant of the Baals! It was he who withheld from Lutatius
those arms of yours, red now with the blood of his slaves! Know you of
any in your own lands more skilled in the conduct of battles? Look! our
palace steps are encumbered with our victories! Ah! desist not! burn
it! I will carry away with me the genius of my house, my black serpent
slumbering up yonder on lotus leaves! I will whistle and he will follow
me, and if I embark in a galley he will speed in the wake of my ship
over the foam of the waves."

Her delicate nostrils were quivering. She crushed her nails against the
gems on her bosom. Her eyes drooped, and she resumed:

"Ah! poor Carthage! lamentable city! No longer hast thou for thy
protection the strong men of former days who went beyond the oceans to
build temples on their shores. All the lands laboured about thee, and
the sea-plains, ploughed by thine oars, rocked with thy harvests." Then
she began to sing the adventures of Melkarth, the god of the Sidonians,
and the father of her family.

She told of the ascent of the mountains of Ersiphonia, the journey to
Tartessus, and the war against Masisabal to avenge the queen of the

"He pursued the female monster, whose tail undulated over the dead
leaves like a silver brook, into the forest, and came to a plain where
women with dragon-croups were round a great fire, standing erect on the
points of their tails. The blood-coloured moon was shining within a
pale circle, and their scarlet tongues, cloven like the harpoons of
fishermen, reached curling forth to the very edge of the flame."

Then Salammbo, without pausing, related how Melkarth, after vanquishing
Masisabal, placed her severed head on the prow of his ship. "At each
throb of the waves it sank beneath the foam, but the sun embalmed it; it
became harder than gold; nevertheless the eyes ceased not to weep, and
the tears fell into the water continually."

She sang all this in an old Chanaanite idiom, which the Barbarians did
not understand. They asked one another what she could be saying to them
with those frightful gestures which accompanied her speech, and mounted
round about her on the tables, beds, and sycamore boughs, they strove
with open mouths and craned necks to grasp the vague stories hovering
before their imaginations, through the dimness of the theogonies, like
phantoms wrapped in cloud.

Only the beardless priests understood Salammbo; their wrinkled hands,
which hung over the strings of their lyres, quivered, and from time
to time they would draw forth a mournful chord; for, feebler than old
women, they trembled at once with mystic emotion, and with the
fear inspired by men. The Barbarians heeded them not, but listened
continually to the maiden's song.

None gazed at her like a young Numidian chief, who was placed at

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