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HANNIBAL CROSSES THE ALPS
THE peace won thus after years of fighting was very
welcome, and the Romans gladly closed the Temple of
Janus, for the first time since the days of Numa
Pompilius, the second king of Rome.
As there was no fighting to be done anywhere, the
people now began to cultivate the arts of peace. For
the first time in their busy lives, they took a deep
interest in poetry, and enjoyed satires, tragedies, and
comedies. But while the first style of poetry was an
invention of their
own, they borrowed the others from the Greeks.
As they knew that an inactive life would not please
them long, they made sundry improvements in their arms
and defenses, and prepared for future wars. Then, to
prevent their weapons from rusting, they joined the
Achæans in making war against the pirates who
infested the Adriatic Sea.
Soon after this, the Gauls again invaded Italy, and
came down into Etruria, within three days' march of
Rome. The citizens flew to arms to check their advance,
and defeated them in a pitched battle. Forty thousand
of the barbarians were killed, and ten thousand were
 In a second encounter, the King of the Gauls was slain,
and the people bought peace from the victorious Romans
by giving up to them all the land which they occupied
in the northern part of Italy.
While Rome was thus busy making many conquests, the
Carthaginians had not been idle either. In a very short
time their trade was as brisk as ever, and they
conquered about half of Spain. Then as soon as they
earned enough money, and finished their preparations,
they broke the treaty they had made with Rome, by
besieging Saguntum, a Spanish city under the
protection of the Romans.
The Roman senate sent an ambassador to Carthage to
complain of this breach of the treaty, and to ask that
the general who had taken Saguntum should be given up
to them. This general was Hannibal, a man who hated
the Romans even more than he loved his own country.
When only a little boy, he had taken a solemn oath upon
the altar of one of the Carthaginian gods, that he
would fight Rome as long as he lived.
Hannibal was a born leader, and his dignity, endurance,
and presence of mind made him one of the most famous
generals of ancient times. The Carthaginians had not
yet had much chance to try his skill, but they were not
at all ready to give him up. When the Roman ambassador,
Fabius, saw this, he strode into their assembly with
his robe drawn together, as if it concealed some hidden
"Here I bring you peace or war!" he said. "Choose!" The
Carthaginians, nothing daunted by his proud bearing,
coolly answered: "Choose yourself!"
"Then it is war!" replied Fabius, and he at once
 away and went back to Rome to make known the result of
Hannibal, in the mean while, continued the war in
Spain, and when he had forced his way to the north
of the country, he led his army of more than fifty
thousand men over the Pyrenees and across Gaul. His
object was to enter Italy by the north, and carry on
the war there instead of elsewhere. Although it was
almost winter, and the huge barrier of the Alps rose
before him, he urged his men onward.
The undertaking seemed impossible, and would never have
been attempted by a less determined man. Thanks to
Hannibal's coolness and energy, however, the army wound
steadily upward along the precipices, and through the
snow. Although over half the men perished from cold, or
from the attacks of the hostile inhabitants, the
remainder came at last to the Italian plains. It had
a whole fortnight to cross the Alps.