THE CARTHAGINIANS DEFEND THEIR CITY
 THE ambassadors of Carthage had a hard task before them, a
task it needed all their courage to perform.
Some of them, indeed, were not brave enough to face
their countrymen with the dire tidings of the city's
doom, and these did not go back to Carthage.
Others begged the Consuls to send a squadron to the
mouth of their harbour, that the citizens might see how
impossible it was to defy Rome. This the Consuls
agreed to do.
Then the ambassadors who had not shirked their mournful
task went back to the city with downcast and gloomy
faces. They knew that the fury of the inhabitants
would be roused when they heard the last cruel demand
Even as they entered the gates, the people thronged
around them, and seeing their stricken faces, they
clamoured to be told what had happened. But the
ambassadors pushed their way in silence through the
crowds until they reached the Senate-house. Here, in
faltering tones, they told the cruel sentence that had
been pronounced upon their city.
As they listened, a great cry burst from the lips of
the assembly, and was heard by the people without.
Then silence, desperate, despairing silence, settled
down upon the senators, until, unable longer to bear
the suspense, the crowd thrust open the door, rushed
into the Senate-house, and demanded to be told the
It was told. Then the citizens in their anger abused
the senators who had first advised the city to submit
 Rome, while many of them rushed into the streets and
ill-treated every Italian whom they could find. An
outlet for their passion they needs must find.
Some hastened to close the city gates, as though the
Roman legions were already marching upon them, others
crowded into the temples to pray, or to curse the gods
who had failed to save them from this great disaster.
Little by little the frenzy of the rabble died away,
and then senators and people met, and with one voice
declared that they would die in defence of their city,
rather than give her into the hands of their enemy.
It is true that they had no allies to help them, no
arms, no ships. Yet it was better far to die within
the walls of Carthage than to live in exile.
No sooner was their decision made than the people,
knowing that there was not a moment to spare, set to
Day and night men and women toiled without ceasing,
until the whole city seemed turned into a huge
One hundred shields, three hundred swords, five hundred
missiles, and a large number of catapults were made
each day by the untiring labours of the citizens. It
is said that the women in their zeal cut off their hair
and twisted it into cords for the catapults.
The slaves in the city were all set free, that they
might fight the more whole-heartedly in the struggle
that had now begun in grim earnest.
Hasdrubal, who had been condemned to death in an
attempt to pacify the Romans, but whose sentence had
not been carried out, was now reinstated in favour, and
given the chief command of the army.
Although he had been so harshly treated by the Senate,
Hasdrubal had been, all this time, working for his
country, and had raised an army of twenty thousand men.
Meanwhile, the Consuls had yet to learn that Rome, by
 the severity of her conditions, had passed the limits
of Carthaginian endurance.
They made no haste to march to the capital, deeming
that it was already theirs. The last thing they
expected was that the citizens, who had no arms, would
offer any resistance when they appeared before her
But when at length they reached the town they were
Arms the Carthaginians seemed to have in plenty, and as
missiles were hurled at the Roman troops, and a heavy
rain of arrows descended upon them, the Consuls were
forced to attack the town which they had imagined was
defenceless, and ready to receive them.
Twice the Roman army was repulsed. It was plain that
the city would have to be besieged.
For a whole year the Consuls did their utmost to take
the town, but it defied all their efforts. Even on the
battlefield the Roman arms had no greater success than
before the walls of Carthage.
Cato died while the city was still being bravely
defended by its inhabitants. Masinissa who, like Cato,
had been a bitter enemy of Carthage and the source of
much of the evil that had befallen her, was also dead,
and still the Romans remained without the walls of the
The year 148 B.C. passed, and the Senate at Rome began
to grow impatient. It was plain that the Consuls would
never be able to take the city, and it determined to
find a general who could, and place him at the head of
There was, indeed, even then, a soldier serving under
the Consuls who was fitted to command. This was
Scipio, the adopted grandson of the great Scipio
Already the army was devoted to him, for he had shown
his courage and skill more than once in helping the
Roman legions out of difficult positions in which they
had been placed by their incompetent leaders.
Before his death Cato had heard of the exploits of the
 young soldier, and while he scorned his commanders, he
"He alone has the breath of life in him, the rest are
but flitting phantoms," said the old man, who had begun
to learn Greek and to love Homer, from whom he was now
quoting, only when he was about seventy years of age.
According to Roman law, Scipio was still too young to
be elected Consul. Nevertheless he returned to Rome in
147 B.C., and in spite of his youth was chosen Consul,
and given the command of the army in Africa.