Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE DEATH OF HANNIBAL
 THE Ætolians were once a wild and savage race who lived
among the mountains of Greece and ate raw food. After
long years, when they had left many of their more
savage customs behind them, they became one of the most
powerful peoples in Greece.
In the wars with Macedonia, of which you have just
read, the Ætolians, believing that they were used
unfairly by King Philip, fought on the side of the
Romans. After the battle of Cynoscephalæ, they
haughtily said that the victory was due to them.
They disliked Flamininus, and grumbled that they had
gained nothing by helping him against the Macedonians.
They had, so they said, but changed one master for
another, when Flamininus conquered Philip.
In their foolish discontent they resolved to free
themselves from Roman influence, but to be able to do
this they must, they knew, seek the aid of a foreign
prince. So they turned to Antiochus III., King of
Syria, and begged him to liberate Greece from Roman
Antiochus had already, in Egypt, had his ambitions
frustrated by Rome, and knowing her strength, he
hesitated to respond to the appeal of the Ætolians.
But as he hesitated, the great Carthaginian general
Hannibal arrived at the court of Ephesus, and placed his
sword at the service of the king.
It was now seven years since Rome had made peace
 with Carthage, and during that time Hannibal had been
working for the welfare of his country. In spite of
the terms by which Rome had crippled her, his genius
had succeeded in making the city once again both
wealthy and prosperous.
Rome began to grow jealous of the restored fortunes of
the city she chose to consider her rival. Influenced
by Cato, of whom I will tell you in another chapter,
she began to think that until Carthage was destroyed,
Rome herself would never be safe.
Certainly Hannibal was a menace to Rome, so an embassy
was sent to Carthage to demand that he should be given
Like other reformers, Hannibal had many enemies, and he
knew that he must escape from Carthage if he would not
fall into the hands of Rome. So he fled from his own
country, and after some adventures by the way, he at
length reached Ephesus, where he offered his services,
as I told you, to Antiochus.
It was perhaps the arrival of the Carthaginian that
determined the king to join the Ætolians in their
defiance of Rome. But although Antiochus welcomed
Hannibal, it was soon evident that he did not care to
follow the great general's advice.
Hannibal, when he saw the troops of the king, knew that
they were not fitted to cope with the well-trained
legions of Rome. In his blunt soldier fashion he told
Antiochus so, and advised him to attack Italy by sea,
offering to command the fleet himself.
But the king was quite sure that his soldiers were able
to meet the Roman forces. Nor, in any case, did he
wish to place Hannibal at the head of his fleet, lest,
should a victory be won, the glory of it should be
given to the Carthaginian.
It seemed as though Antiochus was jealous of his new
 Hannibal saw that the king had not cared to adopt his
first plan, so he proposed another.
"Make Philip of Macedon your ally," he said, "or the
Romans will certainly do so."
Antiochus was not inclined to follow this suggestion
either, and, as Hannibal had foreseen, the Romans
secured the help of King Philip.
Meanwhile, in 193 B.C., envoys from Rome arrived at the
court of Antiochus. The king was absent, mourning the
loss of a son whom, so ran the report, he had himself
poisoned from jealousy. But Hannibal was there, and he
and the Romans appeared to be so friendly that the
courtiers grew suspicious, and by their tales made the
king also suspect the good faith of the Carthaginian.
When Antiochus returned to his court Hannibal did all
he could to allay his suspicions, telling him of the
vow he had taken when a child—the vow of undying
hatred to Rome.
It is said that one of the Roman ambassadors was Scipio
Africanus, and that one day as he chatted with Hannibal
he asked him who he thought was the greatest general
that had ever lived.
"Alexander," said Hannibal, meaning Alexander the
Great, who died in 323 B.C.
"Who next?" asked Scipio.
"Pyrrhus," was the answer.
"Who third?" then demanded the Roman.
"Myself," answered Hannibal.
"What should you have said, then," asked Scipio, "if
you had conquered me?"
"I should have said that I was greater than either
Alexander or Pyrrhus," was the quick retort.
Early in the spring of 192 B.C. the ambassadors had an
interview with the king. He, however, refused to
listen to their demands, which were, that he should not
molest the Greek towns which had appealed to Rome to
save them from the interference of the King of Syria.
 War was now inevitable, but before it actually began
his officers had persuaded the king not only to ignore
any advice Hannibal might give, but to offer him no
responsible command in the campaign that was before
"If you follow Hannibal's advice," said one of the
king's officers, "the glory will all be his, and not
the king's, while if he fails, the fleet and the army
will be fatally weakened. Hannibal is but a soldier of
fortune, and may usefully be employed as a subordinate,
but in a position of supremacy he would be
To such foolish words Antiochus listened, and was so
influenced by them that he gave the general who had led
so many armies to victory only a subordinate naval
I need not tell you of all the battles that were fought
in this war, but in the end the King of Syria was
defeated. Peace was made, and one of the conditions of
the Roman Senate was, that "above all, Hannibal the
Carthaginian should be given up."
So once again the great soldier was forced to flee, or
fall into the hands of his lifelong enemies.
He reached Crete in 190 B.C., and before long he was at
the court of Prusias, King of Bithynia. Here he won a
great victory for the king, with whom he had taken
service. Unfortunately his victory happened to be over
one of the allies of Rome, and she at once demanded
that Prusias should deliver the Carthaginian into her
Prusias may have been grateful to Hannibal, but he was
too weak to defy Rome, and he promised that the general
should be surrendered.
Escape was impossible, for the king had ordered his
guards to watch Hannibal's house before he was aware of
But death was better than to be dragged to Rome, to
take part as a prisoner in a triumph. How the Romans
would gloat over such a captive! The Carthaginian
deter-  mined that they should never have such a chance, so he
took poison, which he is said to have carried about
with him—ever since his fortunes began to
fail—concealed in a ring.
Thus, in 183 B.C., at the age of sixty-four, died the
great warrior whose name had made Rome tremble for so
Twelve years later Antiochus was stirring up strife in
Egypt, whereupon the Ptolemies (Ptolemy was the name of
the Macedonian Kings of Egypt) asked Rome to protect
them from the King of Syria.
So in 168 B.C. Popilius was sent from Rome to
remonstrate with Antiochus.
Four miles from Alexandria the Roman met the king.
Antiochus hoped to disarm the ambassador by his
courtesy, so he greeted him with his royal hand
But the Roman did not seem greatly affected by such
condescension. He took no notice of the king, save to
offer him a tablet, on which the Senate of Rome had
engraved an order, forbidding Antiochus to threaten or
to attack Egypt.
The king read the tablet, and although he knew that he
would be forced to obey the mandate, pride dictated his
words to Popilius.
"It is necessary that I should consult my council,"said the king, "before I can send an answer to the
Then Popilius quietly stooped, and with a staff which
he carried he drew a circle in the dust, in which the
king stood enclosed.
"Before you step out of the circle I have drawn I must
have your answer, O King," said the Roman.
Antiochus seems to have been fascinated by the boldness
of Popilius, for without more ado he gave up the
He was rewarded by being greeted by Popilius with as
great ceremony as though he had just arrived, and been
granted an audience with the king. He was then
politely asked to arrange a time to withdraw his troops
to his own dominions.