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They were filled from morning till evening with a tumultuous people;
young boys shaking little bells, shouted at the doors of the baths; the
shops for hot drinks smoked, the air resounded with the noise of anvils,
the white cocks, sacred to the Sun, crowed on the terraces, the oxen
that were being slaughtered bellowed in the temples, slaves ran about
with baskets on their heads; and in the depths of the porticoes a priest
would sometimes appear, draped in a dark cloak, barefooted, and wearing
a pointed cap.

The spectacle afforded by Carthage irritated the Barbarians; they
admired it and execrated it, and would have liked both to annihilate it
and to dwell in it. But what was there in the Military Harbour defended
by a triple wall? Then behind the town, at the back of Megara, and
higher than the Acropolis, appeared Hamilcar's palace.

Matho's eyes were directed thither every moment. He would ascend the
olive trees and lean over with his hand spread out above his eyebrows.
The gardens were empty, and the red door with its black cross remained
constantly shut.

More than twenty times he walked round the ramparts, seeking some breach
by which he might enter. One night he threw himself into the gulf and
swam for three hours at a stretch. He reached the foot of the Mappalian
quarter and tried to climb up the face of the cliff. He covered his
knees with blood, broke his nails, and then fell back into the waves and

His impotence exasperated him. He was jealous of this Carthage which
contained Salammbo, as if of some one who had possessed her. His
nervelessness left him to be replaced by a mad and continual eagerness
for action. With flaming cheek, angry eyes, and hoarse voice, he would
walk with rapid strides through the camp; or seated on the shore he
would scour his great sword with sand. He shot arrows at the passing
vultures. His heart overflowed into frenzied speech.

"Give free course to your wrath like a runaway chariot," said Spendius.
"Shout, blaspheme, ravage and slay. Grief is allayed with blood, and
since you cannot sate your love, gorge your hate; it will sustain you!"

Matho resumed the command of his soldiers. He drilled them pitilessly.
He was respected for his courage and especially for his strength.
Moreover he inspired a sort of mystic dread, and it was believed that
he conversed at night with phantoms. The other captains were animated
by his example. The army soon grew disciplined. From their houses the
Carthaginians could hear the bugle-flourishes that regulated their
exercises. At last the Barbarians drew near.

To crush them in the isthmus it would have been necessary for two armies
to take them simultaneously in the rear, one disembarking at the end of
the gulf of Utica, and the second at the mountain of the Hot Springs.
But what could be done with the single sacred Legion, mustering at most
six thousand men? If the enemy bent towards the east they would join the
nomads and intercept the commerce of the desert. If they fell back to
the west, Numidia would rise. Finally, lack of provisions would
sooner or later lead them to devastate the surrounding country like
grasshoppers, and the rich trembled for their fine country-houses, their
vineyards and their cultivated lands.

Hanno proposed atrocious and impracticable measures, such as promising a
heavy sum for every Barbarian's head, or setting fire to their camp with
ships and machines. His colleague Gisco, on the other hand, wished them
to be paid. But the Ancients detested him owing to his popularity; for
they dreaded the risk of a master, and through terror of monarchy strove
to weaken whatever contributed to it or might re-establish it.

Outside the fortification there were people of another race and of
unknown origin, all hunters of the porcupine, and eaters of shell-fish
and serpents. They used to go into caves to catch hyenas alive, and
amuse themselves by making them run in the evening on the sands of
Megara between the stelae of the tombs. Their huts, which were made of
mud and wrack, hung on the cliff like swallows' nests. There they lived,
without government and without gods, pell-mell, completely naked, at
once feeble and fierce, and execrated by the people of all time on
account of their unclean food. One morning the sentries perceived that
they were all gone.

At last some members of the Great Council arrived at a decision. They
came to the camp without necklaces or girdles, and in open sandals
like neighbours. They walked at a quiet pace, waving salutations to
the captains, or stopped to speak to the soldiers, saying that all was
finished and that justice was about to be done to their claims.

Many of them saw a camp of Mercenaries for the first time. Instead of
the confusion which they had pictured to themselves, there prevailed
everywhere terrible silence and order. A grassy rampart formed a lofty
wall round the army immovable by the shock of catapults. The ground in
the streets was sprinkled with fresh water; through the holes in the
tents they could perceive tawny eyeballs gleaming in the shade. The
piles of pikes and hanging panoplies dazzled them like mirrors. They
conversed in low tones. They were afraid of upsetting something with
their long robes.

The soldiers requested provisions, undertaking to pay for them out of
the money that was due.

Oxen, sheep, guinea fowl, fruit and lupins were sent to them, with
smoked scombri, that excellent scombri which Carthage dispatched to
every port. But they walked scornfully around the magnificent cattle,
and disparaging what they coveted, offered the worth of a pigeon for
a ram, or the price of a pomegranate for three goats. The Eaters of
Uncleanness came forward as arbitrators, and declared that they were
being duped. Then they drew their swords with threats to slay.

Commissaries of the Great Council wrote down the number of years for
which pay was due to each soldier. But it was no longer possible to know
how many Mercenaries had been engaged, and the Ancients were dismayed at
the enormous sum which they would have to pay. The reserve of silphium
must be sold, and the trading towns taxed; the Mercenaries would grow
impatient; Tunis was already with them; and the rich, stunned by Hanno's
ragings and his colleague's reproaches, urged any citizens who might
know a Barbarian to go to see him immediately in order to win back
his friendship, and to speak him fair. Such a show of confidence would
soothe them.

Traders, scribes, workers in the arsenal, and whole families visited the

The soldiers allowed all the Carthaginians to come in, but by a single
passage so narrow that four men abreast jostled one another in it.
Spendius, standing against the barrier, had them carefully searched;
facing him Matho was examining the multitude, trying to recognise some
one whom he might have seen at Salammbo's palace.

The camp was like a town, so full of people and of movement was it. The
two distinct crowds mingled without blending, one dressed in linen or
wool, with felt caps like fir-cones, and the other clad in iron and
wearing helmets. Amid serving men and itinerant vendors there moved
women of all nations, as brown as ripe dates, as greenish as olives,
as yellow as oranges, sold by sailors, picked out of dens, stolen from
caravans, taken in the sacking of towns, women that were jaded with love
so long as they were young, and plied with blows when they were old, and
that died in routs on the roadsides among the baggage and the abandoned
beasts of burden. The wives of the nomads had square, tawny robes of
dromedary's hair swinging at their heels; musicians from Cyrenaica,
wrapped in violet gauze and with painted eyebrows, sang, squatting on
mats; old Negresses with hanging breasts gathered the animals' dung
that was drying in the sun to light their fires; the Syracusan women had
golden plates in their hair; the Lusitanians had necklaces of shells;
the Gauls wore wolf skins upon their white bosoms; and sturdy children,
vermin-covered, naked and uncircumcised, butted with their heads against
passers-by, or came behind them like young tigers to bite their hands.

The Carthaginians walked through the camp, surprised at the quantities
of things with which it was running over. The most miserable were
melancholy, and the rest dissembled their anxiety.

The soldiers struck them on the shoulder, and exhorted them to be gay.
As soon as they saw any one, they invited him to their amusements. If
they were playing at discus, they would manage to crush his feet, or
if at boxing to fracture his jaw with the very first blow. The slingers
terrified the Carthaginians with their slings, the Psylli with their
vipers, and the horsemen with their horses, while their victims,
addicted as they were to peaceful occupations, bent their heads and
tried to smile at all these outrages. Some, in order to show themselves
brave, made signs that they should like to become soldiers. They were
set to split wood and to curry mules. They were buckled up in armour,
and rolled like casks through the streets of the camp. Then, when
they were about to leave, the Mercenaries plucked out their hair with
grotesque contortions.

But many, from foolishness or prejudice, innocently believed that all
the Carthaginians were very rich, and they walked behind them entreating
them to grant them something. They requested everything that they
thought fine: a ring, a girdle, sandals, the fringe of a robe, and when
the despoiled Carthaginian cried - "But I have nothing left. What do you
want?" they would reply, "Your wife!" Others even said, "Your life!"

The military accounts were handed to the captains, read to the soldiers,
and definitively approved. Then they claimed tents; they received them.
Next the polemarchs of the Greeks demanded some of the handsome suits of
armour that were manufactured at Carthage; the Great Council voted
sums of money for their purchase. But it was only fair, so the horsemen
pretended, that the Republic should indemnify them for their horses;
one had lost three at such a siege, another, five during such a march,
another, fourteen in the precipices. Stallions from Hecatompylos were
offered to them, but they preferred money.

Next they demanded that they should be paid in money (in pieces of
money, and not in leathern coins) for all the corn that was owing to
them, and at the highest price that it had fetched during the war; so
that they exacted four hundred times as much for a measure of meal as
they had given for a sack of wheat. Such injustice was exasperating; but
it was necessary, nevertheless, to submit.

Then the delegates from the soldiers and from the Great Council swore
renewed friendship by the Genius of Carthage and the gods of the
Barbarians. They exchanged excuses and caresses with oriental
demonstrativeness and verbosity. Then the soldiers claimed, as a proof
of friendship, the punishment of those who had estranged them from the

Their meaning, it was pretended, was not understood, and they explained
themselves more clearly by saying that they must have Hanno's head.

Several times a day, they left their camp, and walked along the foot of
the walls, shouting a demand that the Suffet's head should be thrown to
them, and holding out their robes to receive it.

The Great Council would perhaps have given way but for a last exaction,
more outrageous than the rest; they demanded maidens, chosen from
illustrious families, in marriage for their chiefs. It was an idea
which had emanated from Spendius, and which many thought most simple and
practicable. But the assumption of their desire to mix with Punic blood
made the people indignant; and they were bluntly told that they were to
receive no more. Then they exclaimed that they had been deceived,
and that if their pay did not arrive within three days, they would
themselves go and take it in Carthage.

The bad faith of the Mercenaries was not so complete as their enemies
thought. Hamilcar had made them extravagant promises, vague, it is true,
but at the same time solemn and reiterated. They might have believed
that when they disembarked at Carthage the town would be abandoned to
them, and that they should have treasures divided among them; and
when they saw that scarcely their wages would be paid, the disillusion
touched their pride no less than their greed.

Had not Dionysius, Pyrrhus, Agathocles, and the generals of Alexander
furnished examples of marvellous good fortune? Hercules, whom the
Chanaanites confounded with the sun, was the ideal which shone on the
horizon of armies. They knew that simple soldiers had worn diadems, and
the echoes of crumbling empires would furnish dreams to the Gaul in
his oak forest, to the Ethiopian amid his sands. But there was a nation
always ready to turn courage to account; and the robber driven from
his tribe, the patricide wandering on the roads, the perpetrator of
sacrilege pursued by the gods, all who were starving or in despair
strove to reach the port where the Carthaginian broker was recruiting
soldiers. Usually the Republic kept its promises. This time, however,
the eagerness of its avarice had brought it into perilous disgrace.
Numidians, Libyans, the whole of Africa was about to fall upon Carthage.
Only the sea was open to it, and there it met with the Romans; so that,
like a man assailed by murderers, it felt death all around it.

It was quite necessary to have recourse to Gisco, and the Barbarians
accepted his intervention. One morning they saw the chains of the
harbour lowered, and three flat-bottomed boats passing through the canal
of Taenia entered the lake.

Gisco was visible on the first at the prow. Behind him rose an enormous
chest, higher than a catafalque, and furnished with rings like hanging
crowns. Then appeared the legion of interpreters, with their hair
dressed like sphinxes, and with parrots tattooed on their breasts.
Friends and slaves followed, all without arms, and in such numbers that
they shouldered one another. The three long, dangerously-loaded barges
advanced amid the shouts of the onlooking army.

As soon as Gisco disembarked the soldiers ran to him. He had a sort of
tribune erected with knapsacks, and declared that he should not depart
before he had paid them all in full.

There was an outburst of applause, and it was a long time before he was
able to speak.

Then he censured the wrongs done to the Republic, and to the Barbarians;
the fault lay with a few mutineers who had alarmed Carthage by their
violence. The best proof of good intention on the part of the latter was
that it was he, the eternal adversary of the Suffet Hanno, who was sent
to them. They must not credit the people with the folly of desiring to
provoke brave men, nor with ingratitude enough not to recognise their
services; and Gisco began to pay the soldiers, commencing with the
Libyans. As they had declared that the lists were untruthful, he made no
use of them.

They defiled before him according to nationality, opening their fingers
to show the number of their years of service; they were marked in
succession with green paint on the left arm; the scribes dipped into the
yawning coffer, while others made holes with a style on a sheet of lead.

A man passed walking heavily like an ox.

"Come up beside me," said the Suffet, suspecting some fraud; "how many
years have you served?"

"Twelve," replied the Libyan.

Gisco slipped his fingers under his chin, for the chin-piece of the
helmet used in course of time to occasion two callosities there; these
were called carobs, and "to have the carobs" was an expression used to
denote a veteran.

"Thief!" exclaimed the Suffet, "your shoulders ought to have what your
face lacks!" and tearing off his tunic he laid bare is back which was
covered with a bleeding scab; he was a labourer from Hippo-Zarytus.
Hootings were raised, and he was decapitated.

As soon as night fell, Spendius went and roused the Libyans, and said to

"When the Ligurians, Greeks, Balearians, and men of Italy are paid,
they will return. But as for you, you will remain in Africa, scattered
through your tribes, and without any means of defence! It will be then
that the Republic will take its revenge! Mistrust the journey! Are you
going to believe everything that is said? Both the Suffets are agreed,
and this one is imposing on you! Remember the Island of Bones, and
Xanthippus, whom they sent back to Sparta in a rotten galley!"

"How are we to proceed?" they asked.

"Reflect!" said Spendius.

The two following days were spent in paying the men of Magdala, Leptis,
and Hecatompylos; Spendius went about among the Gauls.

"They are paying off the Libyans, and then they will discharge the
Greeks, the Balearians, the Asiatics and all the rest! But you, who are
few in number, will receive nothing! You will see your native lands no
more! You will have no ships, and they will kill you to save your food!"

The Gauls came to the Suffet. Autaritus, he whom he had wounded at
Hamilcar's palace, put questions to him, but was repelled by the slaves,
and disappeared swearing he would be revenged.

The demands and complaints multiplied. The most obstinate penetrated at
night into the Suffet's tent; they took his hands and sought to move him
by making him feel their toothless mouths, their wasted arms, and the
scars of their wounds. Those who had not yet been paid were growing
angry, those who had received the money demanded more for their horses;
and vagabonds and outlaws assumed soldiers' arms and declared that they
were being forgotten. Every minute there arrived whirlwinds of men,
as it were; the tents strained and fell; the multitude, thick pressed
between the ramparts of the camp, swayed with loud shouts from the gates
to the centre. When the tumult grew excessively violent Gisco would rest
one elbow on his ivory sceptre and stand motionless looking at the sea
with his fingers buried in his beard.

Matho frequently went off to speak with Spendius; then he would again
place himself in front of the Suffet, and Gisco could feel his eyes
continually like two flaming phalaricas darted against him. Several
times they hurled reproaches at each other over the heads of the crowd,
but without making themselves heard. The distribution, meanwhile,
continued, and the Suffet found expedients to remove every obstacle.

The Greeks tried to quibble about differences in currency, but he
furnished them with such explanations that they retired without a
murmur. The Negroes demanded white shells such as are used for trading
in the interior of Africa, but when he offered to send to Carthage for
them they accepted money like the rest.

But the Balearians had been promised something better, namely, women.
The Suffet replied that a whole caravan of maidens was expected for
them, but the journey was long and would require six moons more. When
they were fat and well rubbed with benjamin they should be sent in ships
to the ports of the Balearians.

Suddenly Zarxas, now handsome and vigorous, leaped like a mountebank
upon the shoulders of his friends and cried:

"Have you reserved any of them for the corpses?" at the same time
pointing to the gate of Khamon in Carthage.

The brass plates with which it was furnished from top to bottom shone
in the sun's latest fires, and the Barbarians believed that they could
discern on it a trail of blood. Every time that Gisco wished to speak
their shouts began again. At last he descended with measured steps, and
shut himself up in his tent.

When he left it at sunrise his interpreters, who used to sleep outside,
did not stir; they lay on their backs with their eyes fixed, their
tongues between their teeth, and their faces of a bluish colour. White
mucus flowed from their nostrils, and their limbs were stiff, as if
they had all been frozen by the cold during the night. Each had a little
noose of rushes round his neck.

From that time onward the rebellion was unchecked. The murder of the
Balearians which had been recalled by Zarxas strengthened the distrust
inspired by Spendius. They imagined that the Republic was always trying
to deceive them. An end must be put to it! The interpreters should be
dispensed with! Zarxas sang war songs with a sling around his head;
Autaritus brandished his great sword; Spendius whispered a word to one
or gave a dagger to another. The boldest endeavoured to pay themselves,
while those who were less frenzied wished to have the distribution
continued. No one now relinquished his arms, and the anger of all
combined into a tumultuous hatred of Gisco.

Some got up beside him. So long as they vociferated abuse they were
listened to with patience; but if they tried to utter the least word in
his behalf they were immediately stoned, or their heads were cut off
by a sabre-stroke from behind. The heap of knapsacks was redder than an

They became terrible after their meal and when they had drunk wine! This
was an enjoyment forbidden in the Punic armies under pain of death, and
they raised their cups in the direction of Carthage in derision of its
discipline. Then they returned to the slaves of the exchequer and again
began to kill. The word "strike," though different in each language, was
understood by all.

Gisco was well aware that he was being abandoned by his country; but in
spite of its ingratitude he would not dishonour it. When they reminded
him that they had been promised ships, he swore by Moloch to provide
them himself at his own expense, and pulling off his necklace of blue
stones he threw it into the crowd as the pledge of his oath.

Then the Africans claimed the corn in accordance with the engagements
made by the Great Council. Gisco spread out the accounts of the Syssitia
traced in violet pigment on sheep skins; and read out all that had
entered Carthage month by month and day by day.

Suddenly he stopped with gaping eyes, as if he had just discovered his
sentence of death among the figures.

The Ancients had, in fact, fraudulently reduced them, and the corn sold
during the most calamitous period of the war was set down at so low a
rate that, blindness apart, it was impossible to believe it.

"Speak!" they shouted. "Louder! Ah! he is trying to lie, the coward!
Don't trust him."

For some time he hesitated. At last he resumed his task.

The soldiers, without suspecting that they were being deceived, accepted
the accounts of the Syssitia as true. But the abundance that had
prevailed at Carthage made them furiously jealous. They broke open the
sycamore chest; it was three parts empty. They had seen such sums coming
out of it, that they thought it inexhaustible; Gisco must have buried
some in his tent. They scaled the knapsacks. Matho led them, and as they
shouted "The money! the money!" Gisco at last replied:

"Let your general give it to you!"

He looked them in the face without speaking, with his great yellow eyes,
and his long face that was paler than his beard. An arrow, held by its
feathers, hung from the large gold ring in his ear, and a stream of
blood was trickling from his tiara upon his shoulder.

At a gesture from Matho all advanced. Gisco held out his arms; Spendius
tied his wrists with a slip knot; another knocked him down, and he
disappeared amid the disorder of the crowd which was stumbling over the

They sacked his tent. Nothing was found in it except things
indispensable to life; and, on a closer search, three images of Tanith,
and, wrapped up in an ape's skin, a black stone which had fallen from
the moon. Many Carthaginians had chosen to accompany him; they were
eminent men, and all belonged to the war party.

They were dragged outside the tents and thrown into the pit used for the
reception of filth. They were tied with iron chains around the body to
solid stakes, and were offered food at the point of the javelin.

Autaritus overwhelmed them with invectives as he inspected them, but
being quite ignorant of his language they made no reply; and the Gaul
from time to time threw pebbles at their faces to make them cry out.

The next day a sort of languor took possession of the army. Now that
their anger was over they were seized with anxiety. Matho was suffering
from vague melancholy. It seemed to him that Salammbo had indirectly
been insulted. These rich men were a kind of appendage to her person.
He sat down in the night on the edge of the pit, and recognised in their
groanings something of the voice of which his heart was full.

All, however, upbraided the Libyans, who alone had been paid. But while

Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSalammbo → online text (page 5 of 25)