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over the dishes, and their large earrings hanging down among the
flagons, - all fat and lusty, half-naked, smiling and eating beneath the
blue sky, like great sharks sporting in the sea.

But just now they were unable to dissemble their anxiety; they were too
pale for that. The crowd which waited for them at the gates escorted
them to their palaces in order to obtain some news from them. As in
times of pestilence, all the houses were shut; the streets would fill
and suddenly clear again; people ascended the Acropolis or ran to the
harbour, and the Great Council deliberated every night. At last the
people were convened in the square of Khamon, and it was decided to
leave the management of things to Hanno, the conqueror of Hecatompylos.

He was a true Carthaginian, devout, crafty, and pitiless towards the
people of Africa. His revenues equalled those of the Barcas. No one had
such experience in administrative affairs.

He decreed the enrolment of all healthy citizens, he placed catapults on
the towers, he exacted exorbitant supplies of arms, he even ordered the
construction of fourteen galleys which were not required, and he desired
everything to be registered and carefully set down in writing. He had
himself conveyed to the arsenal, the pharos, and the treasuries of the
temples; his great litter was continually to be seen swinging from step
to step as it ascended the staircases of the Acropolis. And then in
his palace at night, being unable to sleep, he would yell out warlike
manoeuvres in terrible tones so as to prepare himself for the fray.

In their extremity of terror all became brave. The rich ranged
themselves in line along the Mappalian district at cockcrow, and tucking
up their robes practised themselves in handling the pike. But for
want of an instructor they had disputes about it. They would sit down
breathless upon the tombs and then begin again. Several even dieted
themselves. Some imagined that it was necessary to eat a great deal in
order to acquire strength, while others who were inconvenienced by their
corpulence weakened themselves with fasts in order to become thin.

Utica had already called several times upon Carthage for assistance; but
Hanno would not set out until the engines of war had been supplied with
the last screws. He lost three moons more in equipping the one hundred
and twelve elephants that were lodged in the ramparts. They were the
conquerors of Regulus; the people loved them; it was impossible to treat
such old friends too well. Hanno had the brass plates which adorned
their breasts recast, their tusks gilt, their towers enlarged, and
caparisons, edged with very heavy fringes, cut out of the handsomest
purple. Finally, as their drivers were called Indians (after the first
ones, no doubt, who came from the Indies) he ordered them all to be
costumed after the Indian fashion; that is to say, with white pads round
their temples, and small drawers of byssus, which with their transverse
folds looked like two valves of a shell applied to the hips.

The army under Autaritus still remained before Tunis. It was hidden
behind a wall made with mud from the lake, and protected on the top by
thorny brushwood. Some Negroes had planted tall sticks here and there
bearing frightful faces, - human masks made with birds' feathers, and
jackals' or serpents' heads, - which gaped towards the enemy for the
purpose of terrifying him; and the Barbarians, reckoning themselves
invincible through these means, danced, wrestled, and juggled, convinced
that Carthage would perish before long. Any one but Hanno would easily
have crushed such a multitude, hampered as it was with herds and women.
Moreover, they knew nothing of drill, and Autaritus was so disheartened
that he had ceased to require it.

They stepped aside when he passed by rolling his big blue eyes. Then
on reaching the edge of the lake he would draw back his sealskin cloak,
unfasten the cord which tied up his long red hair, and soak the latter
in the water. He regretted that he had not deserted to the Romans along
with the two thousand Gauls of the temple of Eryx.

Often the sun would suddenly lose his rays in the middle of the day.
Then the gulf and the open sea would seem as motionless as molten lead.
A cloud of brown dust stretching perpendicularly would speed whirling
along; the palm trees would bend and the sky disappear, while stones
would be heard rebounding on the animals' cruppers; and the Gaul, his
lips glued against the holes in his tent, would gasp with exhaustion and
melancholy. His thoughts would be of the scent of the pastures on autumn
mornings, of snowflakes, or of the bellowing of the urus lost in the
fog, and closing his eyelids he would in imagination behold the fires in
long, straw-roofed cottages flickering on the marshes in the depths of
the woods.

Others regretted their native lands as well as he, even though they
might not be so far away. Indeed the Carthaginian captives could
distinguish the velaria spread over the courtyards of their houses,
beyond the gulf on the slopes of Byrsa. But sentries marched round them
continually. They were all fastened to a common chain. Each one wore an
iron carcanet, and the crowd was never weary of coming to gaze at them.
The women would show their little children the handsome robes hanging in
tatters on their wasted limbs.

Whenever Autaritus looked at Gisco he was seized with rage at the
recollection of the insult that he had received, and he would have
killed him but for the oath which he had taken to Narr' Havas. Then
he would go back into his tent and drink a mixture of barley and cumin
until he swooned away from intoxication, - to awake afterwards in broad
daylight consumed with horrible thirst.

Matho, meanwhile, was besieging Hippo-Zarytus. But the town was
protected by a lake, communicating with the sea. It had three lines of
circumvallation, and upon the heights which surrounded it there
extended a wall fortified with towers. He had never commanded in such an
enterprise before. Moreover, he was beset with thoughts of Salammbo, and
he raved in the delight of her beauty as in the sweetness of a vengeance
that transported him with pride. He felt an acrid, frenzied, permanent
want to see her again. He even thought of presenting himself as the
bearer of a flag of truce, in the hope that once within Carthage he
might make his way to her. Often he would cause the assault to be
sounded and waiting for nothing rush upon the mole which it was sought
to construct in the sea. He would snatch up the stones with his hands,
overturn, strike, and deal sword-thrusts everywhere. The Barbarians
would dash on pell-mell; the ladders would break with a loud crash, and
masses of men would tumble into the water, causing it to fly up in
red waves against the walls. Finally the tumult would subside, and the
soldiers would retire to make a fresh beginning.

Matho would go and seat himself outside the tents, wipe his
blood-splashed face with his arm, and gaze at the horizon in the
direction of Carthage.

In front of him, among the olives, palms, myrtles and planes, stretched
two broad ponds which met another lake, the outlines of which could not
be seen. Behind one mountain other mountains reared themselves, and
in the middle of the immense lake rose an island perfectly black and
pyramidal in form. On the left, at the extremity of the gulf, were
sand-heaps like arrested waves, large and pale, while the sea, flat as a
pavement of lapis-lazuli, ascended by insensible degrees to the edge
of the sky. The verdure of the country was lost in places beneath long
sheets of yellow; carobs were shining like knobs of coral; vine branches
drooped from the tops of the sycamores; the murmuring of the water could
be heard; crested larks were hopping about, and the sun's latest fires
gilded the carapaces of the tortoises as they came forth from the reeds
to inhale the breeze.

Matho would heave deep sighs. He would lie flat on his face, with his
nails buried in the soil, and weep; he felt wretched, paltry, forsaken.
Never would he possess her, and he was unable even to take a town.

At night when alone in his tent he would gaze upon the zaimph. Of what
use to him was this thing which belonged to the gods? - and doubt crept
into the Barbarian's thoughts. Then, on the contrary, it would seem to
him that the vesture of the goddess was depending from Salammbo, and
that a portion of her soul hovered in it, subtler than a breath; and
he would feel it, breathe it in, bury his face in it, and kiss it with
sobs. He would cover his shoulders with it in order to delude himself
that he was beside her.

Sometimes he would suddenly steal away, stride in the starlight over
the sleeping soldiers as they lay wrapped in their cloaks, spring upon
a horse on reaching the camp gates, and two hours later be at Utica in
Spendius's tent.

At first he would speak of the siege, but his coming was only to ease
his sorrow by talking about Salammbo. Spendius exhorted him to be
prudent.

"Drive away these trifles from your soul, which is degraded by them!
Formerly you were used to obey; now you command an army, and if Carthage
is not conquered we shall at least be granted provinces. We shall become
kings!"

But how was it that the possession of the zaimph did not give them the
victory? According to Spendius they must wait.

Matho fancied that the veil affected people of Chanaanitish race
exclusively, and, in his Barbarian-like subtlety, he said to himself:
"The zaimph will accordingly do nothing for me, but since they have lost
it, it will do nothing for them."

Afterwards a scruple troubled him. He was afraid of offending Moloch
by worshipping Aptouknos, the god of the Libyans, and he timidly asked
Spendius to which of the gods it would be advisable to sacrifice a man.

"Keep on sacrificing!" laughed Spendius.

Matho, who could not understand such indifference, suspected the Greek
of having a genius of whom he did not speak.

All modes of worship, as well as all races, were to be met with in these
armies of Barbarians, and consideration was had to the gods of others,
for they too, inspired fear. Many mingled foreign practices with their
native religion. It was to no purpose that they did not adore the stars;
if a constellation were fatal or helpful, sacrifices were offered to
it; an unknown amulet found by chance at a moment of peril became
a divinity; or it might be a name and nothing more, which would be
repeated without any attempt to understand its meaning. But after
pillaging temples, and seeing numbers of nations and slaughters, many
ultimately ceased to believe in anything but destiny and death; - and
every evening these would fall asleep with the placidity of wild beasts.
Spendius had spit upon the images of Jupiter Olympius; nevertheless he
dreaded to speak aloud in the dark, nor did he fail every day to put on
his right boot first.

He reared a long quadrangular terrace in front of Utica, but in
proportion as it ascended the rampart was also heightened, and what was
thrown down by the one side was almost immediately raised again by the
other. Spendius took care of his men; he dreamed of plans and strove to
recall the stratagems which he had heard described in his travels. But
why did Narr' Havas not return? There was nothing but anxiety.

Hanno had at last concluded his preparations. One night when there was
no moon he transported his elephants and soldiers on rafts across
the Gulf of Carthage. Then they wheeled round the mountain of the Hot
Springs so as to avoid Autaritus, and continued their march so slowly
that instead of surprising the Barbarians in the morning, as the Suffet
had calculated, they did not reach them until it was broad daylight on
the third day.

Utica had on the east a plain which extended to the large lagoon of
Carthage; behind it a valley ran at right angles between two low and
abruptly terminated mountains; the Barbarians were encamped further
to the left in such a way as to blockade the harbour; and they were
sleeping in their tents (for on that day both sides were too weary
to fight and were resting) when the Carthaginian army appeared at the
turning of the hills.

Some camp followers furnished with slings were stationed at intervals
on the wings. The first line was formed of the guards of the Legion in
golden scale-armour, mounted on their big horses, which were without
mane, hair, or ears, and had silver horns in the middle of their
foreheads to make them look like rhinoceroses. Between their squadrons
were youths wearing small helmets and swinging an ashen javelin in each
hand. The long files of the heavy infantry marched behind. All these
traders had piled as many weapons upon their bodies as possible. Some
might be seen carrying an axe, a lance, a club, and two swords all at
once; others bristled with darts like porcupines, and their arms stood
out from their cuirasses in sheets of horn or iron plates. At last the
scaffoldings of the lofty engines appeared: carrobalistas, onagers,
catapults and scorpions, rocking on chariots drawn by mules and
quadrigas of oxen; and in proportion as the army drew out, the captains
ran panting right and left to deliver commands, close up the files, and
preserve the intervals. Such of the Ancients as held commands had come
in purple cassocks, the magnificent fringes of which tangled in the
white straps of their cothurni. Their faces, which were smeared all over
with vermilion, shone beneath enormous helmets surmounted with images
of the gods; and, as they had shields with ivory borders covered with
precious stones, they might have been taken for suns passing over walls
of brass.

But the Carthaginians manoeuvred so clumsily that the soldiers in
derision urged them to sit down. They called out that they were just
going to empty their big stomachs, to dust the gilding of their skin,
and to give them iron to drink.

A strip of green cloth appeared at the top of the pole planted before
Spendius's tent: it was the signal. The Carthaginian army replied to
it with a great noise of trumpets, cymbals, flutes of asses' bones, and
tympanums. The Barbarians had already leaped outside the palisades, and
were facing their enemies within a javelin's throw of them.

A Balearic slinger took a step forward, put one of his clay bullets into
his thong, and swung round his arm. An ivory shield was shivered, and
the two armies mingled together.

The Greeks made the horses rear and fall back upon their masters by
pricking their nostrils with the points of their lances. The slaves
who were to hurl stones had picked such as were too big, and they
accordingly fell close to them. The Punic foot-soldiers exposed the
right side in cutting with their long swords. The Barbarians broke their
lines; they slaughtered them freely; they stumbled over the dying and
dead, quite blinded by the blood that spurted into their faces. The
confused heap of pikes, helmets, cuirasses and swords turned round
about, widening out and closing in with elastic contractions. The gaps
increased more and more in the Carthaginian cohorts, the engines could
not get out of the sand; and finally the Suffet's litter (his grand
litter with crystal pendants), which from the beginning might have
been seen tossing among the soldiers like a bark on the waves, suddenly
foundered. He was no doubt dead. The Barbarians found themselves alone.

The dust around them fell and they were beginning to sing, when Hanno
himself appeared on the top of an elephant. He sat bare-headed beneath a
parasol of byssus which was carried by a Negro behind him. His necklace
of blue plates flapped against the flowers on his black tunic; his huge
arms were compressed within circles of diamonds, and with open mouth he
brandished a pike of inordinate size, which spread out at the end like a
lotus, and flashed more than a mirror. Immediately the earth shook, - and
the Barbarians saw all the elephants of Carthage, with their gilt tusks
and blue-painted ears, hastening up in single line, clothed with bronze
and shaking the leathern towers which were placed above their scarlet
caparisons, in each of which were three archers bending large bows.

The soldiers were barely in possession of their arms; they had taken
up their positions at random. They were frozen with terror; they stood
undecided.

Javelins, arrows, phalaricas, and masses of lead were already being
showered down upon them from the towers. Some clung to the fringes of
the caparisons in order to climb up, but their hands were struck off
with cutlasses and they fell backwards upon the swords' points. The
pikes were too weak and broke, and the elephants passed through the
phalanxes like wild boars through tufts of grass; they plucked up the
stakes of the camp with their trunks, and traversed it from one end to
the other, overthrowing the tents with their breasts. All the Barbarians
had fled. They were hiding themselves in the hills bordering the valley
by which the Carthaginians had come.

The victorious Hanno presented himself before the gates of Utica. He had
a trumpet sounded. The three Judges of the town appeared in the opening
of the battlements on the summit of a tower.

But the people of Utica would not receive such well-armed guests. Hanno
was furious. At last they consented to admit him with a feeble escort.

The streets were too narrow for the elephants. They had to be left
outside.

As soon as the Suffet was in the town the principal men came to greet
him. He had himself taken to the vapour baths, and called for his cooks.

Three hours afterwards he was still immersed in the oil of cinnamomum
with which the basin had been filled; and while he bathed he ate
flamingoes' tongues with honied poppy-seeds on a spread ox-hide.
Beside him was his Greek physician, motionless, in a long yellow robe,
directing the re-heating of the bath from time to time, and two young
boys leaned over the steps of the basin and rubbed his legs. But
attention to his body did not check his love for the commonwealth, for
he was dictating a letter to be sent to the Great Council, and as
some prisoners had just been taken he was asking himself what terrible
punishment could be devised.

"Stop!" said he to a slave who stood writing in the hollow of his hand.
"Let some of them be brought to me! I wish to see them!"

And from the bottom of the hall, full of a whitish vapour on which the
torches cast red spots, three Barbarians were thrust forward: a Samnite,
a Spartan, and a Cappadocian.

"Proceed!" said Hanno.

"Rejoice, light of the Baals! your Suffet has exterminated the ravenous
hounds! Blessings on the Republic! Give orders for prayers!" He
perceived the captives and burst out laughing: "Ah! ha! my fine fellows
of Sicca! You are not shouting so loudly to-day! It is I! Do you
recognise me? And where are your swords? What really terrible fellows!"
and he pretended to be desirous to hide himself as if he were afraid of
them. "You demanded horses, women, estates, magistracies, no doubt, and
priesthoods! Why not? Well, I will provide you with the estates, and
such as you will never come out of! You shall be married to gibbets that
are perfectly new! Your pay? it shall be melted in your mouths in leaden
ingots! and I will put you into good and very exalted positions among
the clouds, so as to bring you close to the eagles!"

The three long-haired and ragged Barbarians looked at him without
understanding what he said. Wounded in the knees, they had been seized
by having ropes thrown over them, and the ends of the great chains on
their hands trailed upon the pavement. Hanno was indignant at their
impassibility.

"On your knees! on your knees! jackals! dust! vermin! excrements! And
they make no reply! Enough! be silent! Let them be flayed alive! No!
presently!"

He was breathing like a hippopotamus and rolling his eyes. The perfumed
oil overflowed beneath the mass of his body, and clinging to the scales
on his skin, made it look pink in the light of the torches.

He resumed:

"For four days we suffered greatly from the sun. Some mules were lost
in crossing the Macaras. In spite of their position, the extraordinary
courage - Ah! Demonades! how I suffer! Have the bricks reheated, and let
them be red-hot!"

A noise of rakes and furnaces was heard. The incense smoked more
strongly in the large perfuming pans, and the shampooers, who were quite
naked and were sweating like sponges, crushed a paste composed of wheat,
sulphur, black wine, bitch's milk, myrrh, galbanum and storax upon his
joints. He was consumed with incessant thirst, but the yellow-robed man
did not yield to this inclination, and held out to him a golden cup in
which viper broth was smoking.

"Drink!" said he, "that strength of sun-born serpents may penetrate into
the marrow of your bones, and take courage, O reflection of the gods!
You know, moreover, that a priest of Eschmoun watches those cruel stars
round the Dog from which your malady is derived. They are growing pale
like the spots on your skin, and you are not to die from them."

"Oh! yes, that is so, is it not?" repeated the Suffet, "I am not to die
from them!" And his violaceous lips gave forth a breath more nauseous
than the exhalation from a corpse. Two coals seemed to burn in the place
of his eyes, which had lost their eyebrows; a mass of wrinkled skin
hung over his forehead; both his ears stood out from his head and were
beginning to increase in size; and the deep lines forming semicircles
round his nostrils gave him a strange and terrifying appearance, the
look of a wild beast. His unnatural voice was like a roar; he said:

"Perhaps you are right, Demonades. In fact there are many ulcers here
which have closed. I feel robust. Here! look how I am eating!"

And less from greediness than from ostentation, and the desire to prove
to himself that he was in good health, he cut into the forcemeats
of cheese and marjoram, the boned fish, gourds, oysters with eggs,
horse-radishes, truffles, and brochettes of small birds. As he looked
at the prisoners he revelled in the imagination of their tortures.
Nevertheless he remembered Sicca, and the rage caused by all his woes
found vent in the abuse of these three men.

"Ah! traitors! ah! wretches! infamous, accursed creatures! And you
outraged me! - me! the Suffet! Their services, the price of their
blood, say they! Ah! yes! their blood! their blood!" Then speaking to
himself: - "All shall perish! not one shall be sold! It would be better
to bring them to Carthage! I should be seen - but doubtless, I have not
brought chains enough? Write: Send me - How many of them are there? go
and ask Muthumbal! Go! no pity! and let all their hands be cut off and
brought to me in baskets!"

But strange cries at once hoarse and shrill penetrated into the hall
above Hanno's voice and the rattling of the dishes that were being
placed around him. They increased, and suddenly the furious trumpeting
of the elephants burst forth as if the battle were beginning again. A
great tumult was going on around the town.

The Carthaginians had not attempted to pursue the Barbarians. They had
taken up their quarters at the foot of the walls with their baggage,
mules, serving men, and all their train of satraps; and they made
merry in their beautiful pearl-bordered tents, while the camp of the
Mercenaries was now nothing but a heap of ruins in the plain. Spendius
had recovered his courage. He dispatched Zarxas to Matho, scoured the
woods, rallied his men (the losses had been inconsiderable), - and they
were re-forming their lines enraged at having been conquered without a
fight, when they discovered a vat of petroleum which had no doubt been
abandoned by the Carthaginians. Then Spendius had some pigs carried off
from the farms, smeared them with bitumen, set them on fire, and drove
them towards Utica.

The elephants were terrified by the flames and fled. The ground sloped
upwards, javelins were thrown at them, and they turned back; - and
with great blows of ivory and trampling feet they ripped up the
Carthaginians, stifled them, flattened them. The Barbarians descended
the hill behind them; the Punic camp, which was without entrenchments
was sacked at the first rush, and the Carthaginians were crushed against
the gates, which were not opened through fear of the Mercenaries.

Day broke, and Matho's foot-soldiers were seen coming up from the west.
At the same time horsemen appeared; they were Narr' Havas with his
Numidians. Leaping ravines and bushes they ran down the fugitives
like greyhounds pursuing hares. This change of fortune interrupted the



Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSalammbo → online text (page 8 of 25)