|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE DESTRUCTION OF CARTHAGE
 UNDER the rule of the previous Consuls the discipline of the
army had been slack. When Scipio returned to Africa,
his first work was to restore strict discipline.
The soldiers were no longer allowed to stray out of the
camp when they chose in search of plunder; while bands
of traders and a crowd of idle folk who had followed
the army, also in hope of plunder, were banished.
Luxuries which had abounded in the camp were forbidden
by the young commander. Plain fare and regular drill
soon made the army more anxious to meet the enemy than
to plunder and waste its days in idleness.
Now Carthage stood on a peninsula, a narrow isthmus
joining it to the mainland. Beyond this isthmus lay
Megara, a suburb from which Carthage procured most of
When his army was ready for work, Scipio determined to
cut Carthage off from Megara, so that she might no
longer be able to get food for the city.
Across the narrow isthmus the Consul therefore ordered
trenches to be dug, three miles in length. Along the
trenches, fortifications and towns were speedily built,
and when these were finished it was impossible to get a
morsel of food into the city by land.
Megara was then taken, and Hasdrubal was forced to
retire with his army into Carthage itself, of which he
was at once made governor.
 The Carthaginians could now only bring food into the
city by sea, and this was no easy task.
But with a strong wind blowing, there were many brave
sailors daring enough to risk being able to run past
the Roman cruisers, and thus to carry food into the
harbour. So, although Megara was taken, the city was
able to still hold out against the enemy without being
Scipio saw that he must now block the sea passage as he
had already blocked the land, if he meant to starve the
city into submission, and he ordered a strong barricade
to be built across the mouth of the harbour.
The Carthaginians mocked at the Roman soldiers as they
watched them bringing great stones to the harbour, for
they thought that the enemy had undertaken a task it
would never be able to complete.
But as they saw that the Romans worked night and day,
and as the huge embankment rose before their eyes, they
mocked no more. Perhaps after all the Romans would
succeed in blocking the harbour, and if that were done
they must starve.
So they, too, set to work, but in secret, to make a new
opening from the harbour to the sea.
Men and women, and even children, joined in the work,
and at the same time workmen in the city built a new
fleet. It is true the ships had to be built of old
timber, or any wood that could be found, but this was
not enough to daunt the indomitable courage of the
Noiselessly the work was done, so that Scipio knew
nothing about what was going on, until one day when his
barricade was almost finished.
Then, to his astonishment, he saw a fleet of fifty
ships, which was plainly but just built, sail out of a
newly-cut passage from the harbour.
The Roman was ill-pleased to be thus outwitted by his
foe, yet perhaps he also felt that here was a people
worthy of his skill.
 Three days later a great battle was fought at sea.
From morning until evening the battle raged, but
neither side could claim the victory.
At length the Carthaginian fleet attempted to sail back
to its harbour. But the smaller vessels blocked the
passage so that the large ships were forced to stay
The Romans seized their chance, and attacked the enemy
in this position.
A desperate struggle followed, and the Carthaginians,
who were as used to the sea as to the land, fought with
unfailing courage. But at length they were beaten, and
the greater part of the new fleet was destroyed.
Winter was approaching, and Scipio had at length
succeeded in closing every approach to the city.
Neither by sea nor by land could the wretched people
now get food.
As the weeks dragged slowly by, the misery in the
besieged city grew terrible. Many of the citizens
killed themselves rather than endure a day longer the
pangs of hunger, while others in their desperate need
even ate the dead bodies of their fellows. Some gave
themselves up to the Romans, and were then sold as
In the early spring of 146 B.C. the Carthaginians were
so exhausted that they had little strength left to
withstand the attack which Scipio now made upon the
town. Yet still they would not yield.
Hasdrubal, seeing that the enemy could not be repulsed,
ordered the outer harbour to be set on fire.
But as the flames leaped up, Lælius succeeded in
scaling the wall, and entered the city with his men,
unnoticed in the confusion caused by the fire. They
soon reached the gates, and opened them to their
comrades, and in a short time the Forum was in the
hands of the Romans.
From the Forum, three narrow streets led up to the
Byrsa or Castle of Carthage. The houses on either
 side of these streets were six storeys high, and to
these the inhabitants of the city rushed.
As the Romans pushed their way along the narrow
streets, the Carthaginians flung down upon them from
windows and roofs every missile or weapon on which they
could lay their hands.
At length Scipio ordered his men to storm the houses.
Then a terrible hand-to-hand fight began with the
Clambering on to the roofs, which were flat, the
soldiers stretched boards or beams across from one
house to another, and hurled out of the way those
citizens who still tried to hinder their progress.
For six days and nights the desperate townsfolk
continued to baffle the efforts of the Romans to reach
their last stronghold, the Byrsa.
During this awful struggle, Scipio himself sent forward
continually new companies of men, and in his anxiety he
scarcely found time to sleep or to eat.
At length, however, the foot of the citadel was
reached, and Scipio ordered the narrow streets to be
set on fire.
Then the Carthaginians knew that they could do no more,
and those who had taken refuge in the Byrsa
surrendered, on being promised that their lives should
Fifty thousand men, women, and children, pale and
haggard with all that they had gone through during the
long drawn out siege, left the castle and were carried
off as prisoners.
Hasdrubal, who had defended the city so bravely, was
still untaken. He, with his wife and children, as well
as about nine hundred Romans who had deserted their own
camp, now took refuge in the temple of Æsculapius, and
set fire to it themselves.
But Hasdrubal, feeling, it may be, that he could not
help his country by his death, resolved to save his
 He escaped from the burning temple, and, with an olive
branch in his hand, threw himself at the feet of
Scipio, begging for life. And the Roman commander
granted his request.
It is told that the wife of Hasdrubal stood on the roof
of the temple and cursed her husband as she saw him
crouching at the feet of the conqueror.
Calling aloud to him that he was a traitor and a
coward, she flung first her two sons and then herself
into the flames before the eyes of her horror-stricken
Meanwhile, with all speed a ship was sent to Rome,
laden with the spoils of Carthage.
Great was the rejoicing in the city when it was known
that her ancient rival was in ruins. Orders were at
once sent to Scipio, bidding him complete his work by
destroying the town.
So Carthage was given to the flames, and for seventeen
days the fire blazed untiringly. Scipio, as he watched
the doomed city, thought of other great countries that
had been destroyed by their enemies—Assyria, Persia,
Macedonia. In the unknown future would Rome fall even
The city was given to the flames.
Thinking thus, Scipio murmured the lines of Homer:
"The day shall come when holy Troy shall fall,
And Priam, lord of spears and Priam's folk."
When the flames had at last died out, a plough, drawn
by oxen, was driven over the site of the town, and
Scipio uttered a solemn curse against any one who
should venture to build a new city on the ancient site
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics