| Stories from Ancient Rome|
|by Alfred J. Church|
| Stories of the early days of Rome, from the time of the kings through the establishment of the republic and its struggles with other peoples on the Italian peninsula, and concluding with the wars with Carthage. Ages 9-12 |
THE CRITICAL STRUGGLE
 THE twenty-three years that passed between the first
Punic war and the second
were spent by Rome in making her position in Italy
safe, especially in the northern portion, where the
Ligurians, inhabiting the region now known as Piedmont,
were conquered, and the Gauls much weakened. Colonies
were planted and main roads constructed. The eastern
shore of the Adriatic was also brought under Roman
influence. Sardinia was acquired, though the tribes of
the interior still remained practically independent.
It was a busy time, but there was a quiet interval in
235 B.C. when the temple of Janus
was shut for the second time in Roman history. Carthage
suffered a great disaster at the beginning of this
period. Her mercenary troops, whose pay
 was greatly in arrear, revolted, and were joined by the
native tribes. The rebellion was at length put down,
but at one time the city was in great danger. It was
the same cause that brought about the loss of Sardinia.
The mercenaries mutinied and put their Carthaginian
officers to death. Unable, however, to hold their
ground against the native tribes they asked Rome for
help. Rome replied by taking possession of the island
In another direction, however, Carthage was more
successful, establishing what seemed likely to be a
permanent dominion in Spain. At the close of the first
Punic war a young general, by name Hamilcar,
had distinguished himself by his brilliant defence of
one of the last strongholds held by Carthage. He felt,
and not without reason, that his abilities had not had
a fair field. The hope and aim of his life was to
restore the fortunes of his country. Spain was the
field which he chose for this purpose; it was, indeed,
the only one that was open to him.
He crossed over to it in 238 B.C. and spent there the
remaining nine years of his life. In 229 B.C. he fell
in an encounter with a plundering tribe which he had
set out to punish. His son-in-law Hasdrubal took up
his work, and carried it on with success for eight
years. At the end of this time he was assassinated by a
slave whose master he had put to death.
 Hasdrubal had for some time been assisted by a very
able second-in-command, a son of Hamilcar, Hannibal by
name, who was destined to be the most formidable of the
enemies whom Rome was called upon to encounter. He had
been brought up from childhood to hate the Roman name.
His father, when about to sail for Spain, was offering
the usual sacrifices, and Hannibal, then a boy of nine,
was standing near—he told the story himself in after
years—"Would you go with me into Spain?" asked
Hamilcar. The child, of course, assented with delight.
"Then lay your hand upon the altar, and swear that you
will never be the friend of Rome."
He grew up a child of the camp, and never was there a
youth who took more kindly to the soldier's life.
"Bold in the extreme in meeting peril he was perfectly
cool in its presence. No toil could weary his body or
conquer his spirit. Heat and cold he bore with equal
endurance. The cravings of nature, not the pleasure
of the palate, determined the measure of his food and
drink. His waking or sleeping hours were not regulated
by day or night. Such time as his work left him he
gave to repose; but it was not on a soft couch or in
stillness that he sought it. Many a man often saw him
wrapped in his military cloak, lying on the ground amid
the sentries and pickets. His dress was not in any way
better than those of his comrades, but his arms and
horses were splendid. And as he was the first to enter
the battle so he was the last to leave it."
 Such is Livy's picture of the man. He was a
professional soldier of the very finest type, and the
Roman amateurs were unfitted to meet him. But the
amateurs of a nation of warriors learn their business
in time, and learn it well. How much progress was made
in the twenty years thus spent in bringing Spain under
Carthaginian rule, we do not know. The effort would not
have been persisted in so long if it had not met with a
satisfactory success; that the success was not complete
we may be sure. One considerable region remained
independent for two centuries more. It was not before
the latter half of the first century B.C. that the
Cantabri (the Basques of modern times) submitted to
The Carthaginian progress, we know, attracted the
notice of the Roman Government, and an agreement was
arranged with Hannibal that no military operations
should be carried on North of the Ebro.
The formal breach between the two powers came in 219
B.C. After a skilful attack and an obstinate defence
which made the siege one of the most memorable in
history, Hannibal took the town of Saguntum.
It was a disputed point whether Saguntum had been
included in the agreement made with Hasdrubal—it lay
about a hundred miles south of the Ebro—but Hannibal
felt that to attack it would be to challenge Rome, and
he delayed till his plans were complete.
 Envoys were sent to remonstrate with him while the
siege was in progress. He refused to listen to them.
Nothing further had been done when tidings reached Rome
that Saguntum had fallen.
Then at last the government acted. They sent an embassy
to Carthage demanding that Hannibal and his principal
officers and the leaders of the party in the Senate
which had supported him should be given up.
It was an outrageous demand, made, one would think,
that it might be refused. Refused, of course, it was.
After a long and heated argument, Fabius Maximus, of
whom we shall hear again, stood up. He pointed to the
ample folds of the gown (toga) which he wore and said:
"Here I carry peace and war, which will you have?"
"That which you choose to give," answered the President
of the Senate. Then said Fabius, "I give you war."
One of the objections to what we may call popular
government is to be seen in the Roman policy. There is
sure to be a conflict of opinions about public policy,
sometimes there are divergent interests, and the result
is slow and hesitating action, sharply contrasting with
the vigour and promptitude with which a single mind and
will arrives at conclusions and acts upon them. No one
at Rome, it would seem, saw the position of affairs
truly, or had any idea of the turn which the war would
take. That the wonderful genius of Hannibal should not
have been discerned is not surprising. It is the way of
such men to take the world by surprise.
 The Roman statesmen had no other idea but that the war
would be fought out in Spain; Hannibal, however, had
determined to invade Italy. He had much to do, though,
before he could carry out his plan. Saguntum had
fallen, it is probable, in the late summer of 219 B.C.,
and it was not before the autumn of 218 B.C. that
Hannibal arrived at the foot of the Alps. The time had
been fully occupied. He had reduced the country between
the Ebro and the Pyrenees to at least outward
submission, had made provision for defending Africa,
and, leaving Spain, had made his way over the Pyrenees,
and forced the passage of the Rhone.
Doubtless it would have been impossible to do so much
in a shorter space of time. It is a fact, however, that
the necessary delays gave the Roman Government a chance
which it failed to make use of.
HANNIBAL'S ROUTE ACROSS THE ALPS.
One notable example is to be found in the passage of
the Rhone. It was only with the opposition of the
native tribes that Hannibal had to deal. The Romans
must have known that Hannibal's route would be in this
direction, and it seems evident that if their army had
been at hand to assist the defence, the invaders might
have been driven back. Scipio, the general in command
of the Roman force, arrived at the river four days
late. It is one of the gifts of a great general to
calculate correctly the probable action of his
opponents, and this Hannibal seems to have possessed in
the highest degree.
 The passage of the Alps was effected under many
difficulties. There were hostile tribes, there was no
well-defined track to be followed, and the season was
dangerously late. But Rome made no effort to bar the
way or to attack Hannibal's army before it had
recovered from the fatigues of the passage. That these
and the losses which followed them were exceedingly
severe cannot be doubted.
"THE PASSAGE OF THE ALPS WAS EFFECTED UNDER MANY DIFFICULTIES."
Numbers are always doubtful, but Livy relates,
 on the authority of a Roman soldier who was taken
prisoner by the Carthaginians, that, with the addition
of a number of recruits from the tribes on the Italian
side of the Alps, the army numbered 80,000 infantry and
10,000 cavalry, and that Hannibal estimated his own
loss in the passage of the Alps at 36,000 men. Some
writers declared that the invading force only numbered
20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry when it reached
BUST OF SCIPIO.
This is scarcely to be believed, but it can hardly be
doubted that if Rome had acted quickly and with vigour
the enemy might have been crushed at once. But again
Hannibal knew with whom he was dealing, and his action
was justified by the result.
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