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shield, for they would often lean it against their lance and fall
asleep as they stood; those who had any baggage trailing after them
were obliged to get rid of it; everything was to be carried, in Roman
fashion, on the back. As a precaution against the elephants Matho
instituted a corps of cataphract cavalry, men and horses being hidden
beneath cuirasses of hippopotamus skin bristling with nails; and to
protect the horses' hoofs boots of plaited esparto-grass were made for

It was forbidden to pillage the villages, or to tyrannise over the
inhabitants who were not of Punic race. But as the country was becoming
exhausted, Matho ordered the provisions to be served out to the soldiers
individually, without troubling about the women. At first the men shared
with them. Many grew weak for lack of food. It was the occasion of many
quarrels and invectives, many drawing away the companions of the rest
by the bait or even by the promise of their own portion. Matho commanded
them all to be driven away pitilessly. They took refuge in the camp
of Autaritus; but the Gaulish and Libyan women forced them by their
outrageous treatment to depart.

At last they came beneath the walls of Carthage to implore the
protection of Ceres and Proserpine, for in Byrsa there was a temple
with priests consecrated to these goddesses in expiation of the horrors
formerly committed at the siege of Syracuse. The Syssitia, alleging
their right to waifs and strays, claimed the youngest in order to sell
them; and some fair Lacedaemonian women were taken by New Carthaginians
in marriage.

A few persisted in following the armies. They ran on the flank of the
syntagmata by the side of the captains. They called to their husbands,
pulled them by the cloak, cursed them as they beat their breasts, and
held out their little naked and weeping children at arm's length. The
sight of them was unmanning the Barbarians; they were an embarrassment
and a peril. Several times they were repulsed, but they came back again;
Matho made the horsemen belonging to Narr' Havas charge them with the
point of the lance; and on some Balearians shouting out to him that they
must have women, he replied: "I have none!"

Just now he was invaded by the genius of Moloch. In spite of the
rebellion of his conscience, he performed terrible deeds, imagining that
he was thus obeying the voice of a god. When he could not ravage the
fields, Matho would cast stones into them to render them sterile.

He urged Autaritus and Spendius with repeated messages to make haste.
But the Suffet's operations were incomprehensible. He encamped at
Eidous, Monchar, and Tehent successively; some scouts believed that they
saw him in the neighbourhood of Ischiil, near the frontiers of Narr'
Havas, and it was reported that he had crossed the river above Tebourba
as though to return to Carthage. Scarcely was he in one place when he
removed to another. The routes that he followed always remained unknown.
The Suffet preserved his advantages without offering battle, and while
pursued by the Barbarians seemed to be leading them.

These marches and counter marches were still more fatiguing to the
Carthaginians, and Hamilcar's forces, receiving no reinforcements,
diminished from day to day. The country people were now more backward
in bringing him provisions. In every direction he encountered taciturn
hesitation and hatred; and in spite of his entreaties to the Great
Council no succour came from Carthage.

It was said, perhaps it was believed, that he had need of none. It was
a trick, or his complaints were unnecessary; and Hanno's partisans, in
order to do him an ill turn, exaggerated the importance of his victory.
The troops which he commanded he was welcome to; but they were not
going to supply his demands continually in that way. The war was quite
burdensome enough! it had cost too much, and from pride the patricians
belonging to his faction supported him but slackly.

Then Hamilcar, despairing of the Republic, took by force from the tribes
all that he wanted for the war - grain, oil, wood, cattle, and men. But
the inhabitants were not long in taking flight. The villages passed
through were empty, and the cabins were ransacked without anything being
discerned in them. The Punic army was soon encompassed by a terrible

The Carthaginians, who were furious, began to sack the provinces; they
filled up the cisterns and fired the houses. The sparks, being carried
by the wind, were scattered far off, and whole forests were on fire on
the mountains; they bordered the valleys with a crown of flames, and
it was often necessary to wait in order to pass beyond them. Then the
soldiers resumed their march over the warm ashes in the full glare of
the sun.

Sometimes they would see what looked like the eyes of a tiger cat
gleaming in a bush by the side of the road. This was a Barbarian
crouching upon his heels, and smeared with dust, that he might not be
distinguished from the colour of the foliage; or perhaps when passing
along a ravine those on the wings would suddenly hear the rolling of
stones, and raising their eyes would perceive a bare-footed man bounding
along through the openings of the gorge.

Meanwhile Utica and Hippo-Zarytus were free since the Mercenaries
were no longer besieging them. Hamilcar commanded them to come to his
assistance. But not caring to compromise themselves, they answered him
with vague words, with compliments and excuses.

He went up again abruptly into the North, determined to open up one of
the Tyrian towns, though he were obliged to lay siege to it. He required
a station on the coast, so as to be able to draw supplies and men from
the islands or from Cyrene, and he coveted the harbour of Utica as being
the nearest to Carthage.

The Suffet therefore left Zouitin and turned the lake of Hippo-Zarytus
with circumspection. But he was soon obliged to lengthen out his
regiments into column in order to climb the mountain which separates
the two valleys. They were descending at sunset into its hollow,
funnel-shaped summit, when they perceived on the level of the ground
before them bronze she-wolves which seemed to be running across the

Suddenly large plumes arose and a terrible song burst forth, accompanied
by the rhythm of flutes. It was the army under Spendius; for some
Campanians and Greeks, in their execration of Carthage, had assumed the
ensigns of Rome. At the same time long pikes, shields of leopard's skin,
linen cuirasses, and naked shoulders were seen on the left. These were
the Iberians under Matho, the Lusitanians, Balearians, and Gaetulians;
the horses of Narr' Havas were heard to neigh; they spread around the
hill; then came the loose rabble commanded by Autaritus - Gauls, Libyans,
and Nomads; while the Eaters of Uncleanness might be recognised among
them by the fish bones which they wore in their hair.

Thus the Barbarians, having contrived their marches with exactness, had
come together again. But themselves surprised, they remained motionless
for some minutes in consultation.

The Suffet had collected his men into an orbicular mass, in such a way
as to offer an equal resistance in every direction. The infantry were
surrounded by their tall, pointed shields fixed close to one another in
the turf. The Clinabarians were outside and the elephants at intervals
further off. The Mercenaries were worn out with fatigue; it was better
to wait till next day; and the Barbarians feeling sure of their victory
occupied themselves the whole night in eating.

They lighted large bright fires, which, while dazzling themselves, left
the Punic army below them in the shade. Hamilcar caused a trench fifteen
feet broad and ten cubits deep to be dug in Roman fashion round his
camp, and the earth thrown out to be raised on the inside into a
parapet, on which sharp interlacing stakes were planted; and at sunrise
the Mercenaries were amazed to perceive all the Carthaginians thus
entrenched as if in a fortress.

They could recognise Hamilcar in the midst of the tents walking about
and giving orders. His person was clad in a brown cuirass cut in little
scales; he was followed by his horse, and stopped from time to time to
point out something with his right arm outstretched.

Then more than one recalled similar mornings when, amid the din of
clarions, he passed slowly before them, and his looks strengthened
them like cups of wine. A kind of emotion overcame them. Those, on the
contrary, who were not acquainted with Hamilcar, were mad with joy at
having caught him.

Nevertheless if all attacked at once they would do one another mutual
injury in the insufficiency of space. The Numidians might dash through;
but the Clinabarians, who were protected by cuirasses, would crush them.
And then how were the palisades to be crossed? As to the elephants, they
were not sufficiently well trained.

"You are all cowards!" exclaimed Matho.

And with the best among them he rushed against the entrenchment. They
were repulsed by a volley of stones; for the Suffet had taken their
abandoned catapults on the bridge.

This want of success produced an abrupt change in the fickle minds
of the Barbarians. Their extreme bravery disappeared; they wished to
conquer, but with the smallest possible risk. According to Spendius they
ought to maintain carefully the position that they held, and starve out
the Punic army. But the Carthaginians began to dig wells, and as there
were mountains surrounding the hill, they discovered water.

From the summit of their palisade they launched arrows, earth, dung,
and pebbles which they gathered from the ground, while the six catapults
rolled incessantly throughout the length of the terrace.

But the springs would dry up of themselves; the provisions would be
exhausted, and the catapults worn out; the Mercenaries, who were
ten times as numerous, would triumph in the end. The Suffet devised
negotiations so as to gain time, and one morning the Barbarians found
a sheep's skin covered with writing within their lines. He justified
himself for his victory: the Ancients had forced him into the war, and
to show them that he was keeping his word, he offered them the pillaging
of Utica or Hippo-Zarytus at their choice; in conclusion, Hamilcar
declared that he did not fear them because he had won over some
traitors, and thanks to them would easily manage the rest.

The Barbarians were disturbed: this proposal of immediate booty made
them consider; they were apprehensive of treachery, not suspecting a
snare in the Suffet's boasting, and they began to look upon one another
with mistrust. Words and steps were watched; terrors awaked them in
the night. Many forsook their companions and chose their army as fancy
dictated, and the Gauls with Autaritus went and joined themselves with
the men of Cisalpine Gaul, whose language they understood.

The four chiefs met together every evening in Matho's tent, and
squatting round a shield, attentively moved backwards and forwards the
little wooden figures invented by Pyrrhus for the representation of
manoeuvres. Spendius would demonstrate Hamilcar's resources, and with
oaths by all the gods entreat that the opportunity should not be wasted.
Matho would walk about angry and gesticulating. The war against Carthage
was his own personal affair; he was indignant that the others should
interfere in it without being willing to obey him. Autaritus would
divine his speech from his countenance and applaud. Narr' Havas would
elevate his chin to mark his disdain; there was not a measure he did not
consider fatal; and he had ceased to smile. Sighs would escape him as
though he were thrusting back sorrow for an impossible dream, despair
for an abortive enterprise.

While the Barbarians deliberated in uncertainty, the Suffet increased
his defences: he had a second trench dug within the palisades, a second
wall raised, and wooden towers constructed at the corners; and his
slaves went as far as the middle of the outposts to drive caltrops into
the ground. But the elephants, whose allowances were lessened, struggled
in their shackles. To economise the grass he ordered the Clinabarians to
kill the least strong among the stallions. A few refused to do so, and
he had them decapitated. The horses were eaten. The recollection of
this fresh meat was a source of great sadness to them in the days that

From the bottom of the ampitheatre in which they were confined they
could see the four bustling camps of the Barbarians all around them on
the heights. Women moved about with leathern bottles on their heads,
goats strayed bleating beneath the piles of pikes; sentries were being
relieved, and eating was going on around tripods. In fact, the tribes
furnished them abundantly with provisions, and they did not themselves
suspect how much their inaction alarmed the Punic army.

On the second day the Carthaginians had remarked a troop of three
hundred men apart from the rest in the camp of the nomads. These were
the rich who had been kept prisoners since the beginning of the war.
Some Libyans ranged them along the edge of the trench, took their
station behind them, and hurled javelins, making themselves a rampart
of their bodies. The wretched creatures could scarcely be recognised,
so completely were their faces covered with vermin and filth. Their hair
had been plucked out in places, leaving bare the ulcers on their
heads, and they were so lean and hideous that they were like mummies in
tattered shrouds. A few trembled and sobbed with a stupid look; the rest
cried out to their friends to fire upon the Barbarians. There was one
who remained quite motionless with face cast down, and without
speaking; his long white beard fell to his chain-covered hands; and the
Carthaginians, feeling as it were the downfall of the Republic in the
bottom of their hearts, recognised Gisco. Although the place was a
dangerous one they pressed forward to see him. On his head had been
placed a grotesque tiara of hippopotamus leather incrusted with pebbles.
It was Autaritus's idea; but it was displeasing to Matho.

Hamilcar in exasperation, and resolved to cut his way through in one way
or another, had the palisades opened; and the Carthaginians went at a
furious rate half way up the hill or three hundred paces. Such a flood
of Barbarians descended upon them that they were driven back to their
lines. One of the guards of the Legion who had remained outside was
stumbling among the stones. Zarxas ran up to him, knocked him down, and
plunged a dagger into his throat; he drew it out, threw himself upon the
wound - and gluing his lips to it with mutterings of joy, and startings
which shook him to the heels, pumped up the blood by breastfuls; then he
quietly sat down upon the corpse, raised his face with his neck thrown
back the better to breathe in the air, like a hind that has just drunk
at a mountain stream, and in a shrill voice began to sing a Balearic
song, a vague melody full of prolonged modulations, with interruptions
and alternations like echoes answering one another in the mountains; he
called upon his dead brothers and invited them to a feast; - then he let
his hands fall between his legs, slowly bent his head, and wept. This
atrocious occurrence horrified the Barbarians, especially the Greeks.

From that time forth the Carthaginians did not attempt to make any
sally; and they had no thought of surrender, certain as they were that
they would perish in tortures.

Nevertheless the provisions, in spite of Hamilcar's carefulness,
diminished frightfully. There was not left per man more than ten
k'hommers of wheat, three hins of millet, and twelve betzas of dried
fruit. No more meat, no more oil, no more salt food, and not a grain of
barley for the horses, which might be seen stretching down their wasted
necks seeking in the dust for blades of trampled straw. Often the
sentries on vedette upon the terrace would see in the moonlight a dog
belonging to the Barbarians coming to prowl beneath the entrenchment
among the heaps of filth; it would be knocked down with a stone, and
then, after a descent had been effected along the palisades by means
of the straps of a shield, it would be eaten without a word. Sometimes
horrible barkings would be heard and the man would not come up again.
Three phalangites, in the fourth dilochia of the twelfth syntagmata,
killed one another with knives in a dispute about a rat.

All regretted their families, and their houses; the poor their
hive-shaped huts, with the shells on the threshold and the hanging net,
and the patricians their large halls filled with bluish shadows, where
at the most indolent hour of the day they used to rest listening to the
vague noise of the streets mingled with the rustling of the leaves as
they stirred in their gardens; - to go deeper into the thought of this,
and to enjoy it more, they would half close their eyelids, only to be
roused by the shock of a wound. Every minute there was some engagement,
some fresh alarm; the towers were burning, the Eaters of Uncleanness
were leaping across the palisades; their hands would be struck off with
axes; others would hasten up; an iron hail would fall upon the tents.
Galleries of rushen hurdles were raised as a protection against the
projectiles. The Carthaginians shut themselves up within them and
stirred out no more.

Every day the sun coming over the hill used, after the early hours, to
forsake the bottom of the gorge and leave them in the shade. The grey
slopes of the ground, covered with flints spotted with scanty lichen,
ascended in front and in the rear, and above their summits stretched the
sky in its perpetual purity, smoother and colder to the eye than a metal
cupola. Hamilcar was so indignant with Carthage that he felt inclined to
throw himself among the Barbarians and lead them against her. Moreover,
the porters, sutlers, and slaves were beginning to murmur, while neither
people, nor Great Council, nor any one sent as much as a hope. The
situation was intolerable, especially owing to the thought that it would
become worse.

At the news of the disaster Carthage had leaped, as it were, with anger
and hate; the Suffet would have been less execrated if he had allowed
himself to be conquered from the first.

But time and money were lacking for the hire of other Mercenaries. As to
a levy of soldiers in the town, how were they to be equipped? Hamilcar
had taken all the arms! and then who was to command them? The best
captains were down yonder with him! Meanwhile, some men despatched by
the Suffet arrived in the streets with shouts. The Great Council were
roused by them, and contrived to make them disappear.

It was an unnecessary precaution; every one accused Barca of having
behaved with slackness. He ought to have annihilated the Mercenaries
after his victory. Why had he ravaged the tribes? The sacrifices
already imposed had been heavy enough! and the patricians deplored their
contributions of fourteen shekels, and the Syssitia their two hundred
and twenty-three thousand gold kikars; those who had given nothing
lamented like the rest. The populace was jealous of the New
Carthaginians, to whom he had promised full rights of citizenship;
and even the Ligurians, who had fought with such intrepidity, were
confounded with the Barbarians and cursed like them; their race became
a crime, the proof of complicity. The traders on the threshold of their
shops, the workmen passing plumb-line in hand, the vendors of pickle
rinsing their baskets, the attendants in the vapour baths and the
retailers of hot drinks all discussed the operations of the campaign.
They would trace battle-plans with their fingers in the dust, and
there was not a sorry rascal to be found who could not have corrected
Hamilcar's mistakes.

It was a punishment, said the priests, for his long-continued impiety.
He had offered no holocausts; he had not purified his troops; he had
even refused to take augurs with him; and the scandal of sacrilege
strengthened the violence of restrained hate, and the rage of betrayed
hopes. People recalled the Sicilian disasters, and all the burden of
his pride that they had borne for so long! The colleges of the pontiffs
could not forgive him for having seized their treasure, and they
demanded a pledge from the Great Council to crucify him should he ever

The heats of the month of Eloul, which were excessive in that year, were
another calamity. Sickening smells rose from the borders of the Lake,
and were wafted through the air together with the fumes of the aromatics
that eddied at the corners of the streets. The sounds of hymns were
constantly heard. Crowds of people occupied the staircases of the
temples; all the walls were covered with black veils; tapers burnt
on the brows of the Pataec Gods, and the blood of camels slain for
sacrifice ran along the flights of stairs forming red cascades upon the
steps. Carthage was agitated with funereal delirium. From the depths of
the narrowest lanes, and the blackest dens, there issued pale faces,
men with viper-like profiles and grinding their teeth. The houses were
filled with the women's piercing shrieks, which, escaping through the
gratings, caused those who stood talking in the squares to turn round.
Sometimes it was thought that the Barbarians were arriving; they had
been seen behind the mountain of the Hot Springs; they were encamped at
Tunis; and the voices would multiply and swell, and be blended into one
single clamour. Then universal silence would reign, some remaining where
they had climbed upon the frontals of the buildings, screening their
eyes with their open hand, while the rest lay flat on their faces at the
foot of the ramparts straining their ears. When their terror had passed
off their anger would begin again. But the conviction of their own
impotence would soon sink them into the same sadness as before.

It increased every evening when all ascended the terraces, and bowing
down nine times uttered a loud cry in salutation of the sun, as it
sank slowly behind the lagoon, and then suddenly disappeared among the
mountains in the direction of the Barbarians.

They were waiting for the thrice holy festival when, from the summit
of a funeral pile, an eagle flew heavenwards as a symbol of the
resurrection of the year, and a message from the people to their Baal;
they regarded it as a sort of union, a method of connecting themselves
with the might of the Sun. Moreover, filled as they now were with
hatred, they turned frankly towards homicidal Moloch, and all forsook
Tanith. In fact, Rabetna, having lost her veil, was as if she had been
despoiled of part of her virtue. She denied the beneficence of her
waters, she had abandoned Carthage; she was a deserter, an enemy.
Some threw stones at her to insult her. But many pitied her while they
inveighed against her; she was still beloved, and perhaps more deeply
than she had been.

All their misfortunes came, therefore, from the loss of the zaimph.
Salammbo had indirectly participated in it; she was included in the same
ill will; she must be punished. A vague idea of immolation spread among
the people. To appease the Baalim it was without doubt necessary to
offer them something of incalculable worth, a being handsome, young,
virgin, of old family, a descendant of the gods, a human star. Every day
the gardens of Megara were invaded by strange men; the slaves, trembling
on their own account, dared not resist them. Nevertheless, they did not
pass beyond the galley staircase. They remained below with their eyes
raised to the highest terrace; they were waiting for Salammbo, and they
would cry out for hours against her like dogs baying at the moon.



These clamourings of the populace did not alarm Hamilcar's daughter. She
was disturbed by loftier anxieties: her great serpent, the black python,
was drooping; and in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the serpent was
at once a national and a private fetish. It was believed to be the
offspring of the dust of the earth, since it emerges from its depths and
has no need of feet to traverse it; its mode of progression called to
mind the undulations of rivers, its temperature the ancient, viscous,
and fecund darkness, and the orbit which it describes when biting its
tail the harmony of the planets, and the intelligence of Eschmoun.

Salammbo's serpent had several times already refused the four live
sparrows which were offered to it at the full moon and at every new
moon. Its handsome skin, covered like the firmament with golden spots
upon a perfectly black ground, was now yellow, relaxed, wrinkled, and

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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSalammbo → online text (page 14 of 25)