Third Punic War -- No Excuse for It -- Utica joins the Romans -- Hostages demanded of Carthage -- Pitiful Scenes when the Hostages were sent -- Roman Army lands at Utica -- Embassy from Carthage
Such was the war between Masinissa and the carthaginians. 380 The third and last Punic war of the Romans in Africa followed it. The Carthaginians having suffered this calamity at the hands of Masinissa, and the city being much weakened by it, they began to be apprehensive of the king himself, who was still near them with a large army, and also of the Romans, who were always harboring ill-will toward them and would make the affairs of Masinissa an excuse for it. They were not wrong in either particular. The Romans, when they learned the foregoing facts, straightway began to collect an army throughout all Italy, not telling what it was intended for, but in order, they said, to have it ready for emergencies. The Carthaginians, thinking to put an end to the excuse, condemned Hasdrubal, who had conducted the campaign against Masinissa, and Carthalo, the botharch, and any others who were concerned in the matter, to death, putting the whole blame of the war upon them. They sent ambassadors to Rome to complain of Masinissa, and at the same time to accuse their own citizens of taking up arms against him too hastily and rashly, and of furnishing an occasion for an imputation of hostility on the part of their city. When one of the senators asked the ambassadors why they did not condemn their officers at the beginning of the war instead of waiting till they were beaten, and why they did not send their embassy before, instead of postponing it till now, they could not give any answer. The Senate, which had previously resolved upon war and was only seeking some petty excuse, answered that the defence offered by the Carthaginians was not satisfactory. The latter, much disturbed, asked again, if they had done wrong, how they could atone for it. The answer was given in a word: "You must make it right with the Roman people." When they inquired among themselves what would make it right, some thought that the Romans would like to have something added to the pecuniary fine imposed by Scipio; others, that the disputed territory should be given up to Masinissa. Being at a loss what to do they sent another embassy to Rome, and asked to know exactly what they should do to make it right. The Romans replied that the Carthaginians knew perfectly well what was necessary, and having given this answer dismissed them.
While they were stricken with fear and perplexity on this account, the city of Utica (the largest in Africa after Carthage itself, having a harbor with good anchorage and well adapted for landing an army, at a distance of sixty stades from Carthage and well situated as a base of operations against it), observing the plight the Carthaginians were in, and recalling their ancient animosity toward them, sent an embassy to Rome at this critical moment offering to give themselves up to the Romans. The Senate, which had been previously eager and prepared for war, having gained the accession of a city so strong and so conveniently placed, now disclosed its purpose. Assembling in the Capitol (where they were accustomed to deliberate on the subject of war), the senators voted to declare war against Carthage. They immediately despatched the consuls in command of the forces, M. Manlius having charge of the foot soldiers and L. Marcius Censorinus of the fleet, and they gave them secret orders not to desist from the war until Carthage was razed to the ground. After offering sacrifice they sailed for Sicily, intending to cross over thence to Utica. They were conveyed in 50 quinqueremes and 100 hemiolii,381 besides many open boats and transports. The army consisted of 80,000 infantry and about 4000 cavalry, all the very best. There was a general rush of citizens and allies to join this splendid expedition, and absolute confidence in the result, and many were eager to have their names on the enrolment.
The declaration of war and the war itself reached the Carthaginians by the same messenger. He brought the vote of the Senate, and told them that the fleet had already sailed. They were astounded, and in despair for want of ships and by the recent loss of so many young men. They had neither allies, nor mercenaries, nor supplies for enduring a siege, nor anything else in readiness for this sudden and unheralded war. They knew that they could not prevail against the Romans and Masinissa combined. They sent another embassy to Rome with full powers to settle the difficulty on any terms they could. The Senate was convened and it told them that if, within thirty days, the Carthaginians would give to the consuls, who were still in Sicily, three hundred children of their noblest families as hostages, and would obey their orders in other respects, the freedom and autonomy of Carthage should be preserved and that they should retain their lands in Africa. This was voted in public, and they gave the resolution to the ambassadors to carry to Carthage; but they sent word privately to the consuls that they should carry out their secret instructions.
The Carthaginians had some suspicion of this Senate resolution, since there was no security given for the return of the hostages. Nevertheless, the danger was so great that they could omit nothing in which hope could be placed. So, anticipating the appointed time, they sent their children into Sicily, amid the tears of the parents, the kindred, and especially the mothers, who clung to their little ones with frantic cries and seized hold of the ships and of the officers who were taking them away, even holding the anchors and tearing the ropes, and throwing their arms around the sailors in order to prevent the ships from moving; some of them even swam out far into the sea beside the ships, shedding tears and gazing at their children. Some of them tore out their hair on the shore and smote their breasts in the extremity of their grief. It seemed to them that they were giving hostages only nominally, but were really giving up the city, when they surrendered their children without any fixed conditions. Many of them predicted, with lamentations, that it would profit the city nothing to have delivered up their children. Such were the scenes that took place in Carthage when the hostages were sent away. When the consuls received them in Sicily they sent them to Rome, and said to the Carthaginians that they would give them further information at Utica in reference to the ending of the war.
Crossing to the latter place they pitched the camp for their infantry at the same place where that of Scipio had formerly been. The fleet remained in the harbor of Utica. When the ambassadors came there from Carthage the consuls placed themselves on a high seat, with the chief officers and military tribunes standing near, and the whole army drawn up on either side with arms glistening and standards erect, in order that the ambassadors might be impressed in this way with the strength of the expedition. When the consuls had proclaimed silence by the trumpet, a herald told the Carthaginian envoys to come forward, and they advanced through the long camp, but did not draw near to the place where the consuls sat, because they were fenced off by a rope. The consuls then ordered them to tell what they wanted. The envoys then told a various and pitiful tale about the former agreements between the Romans and themselves, about the antiquity of Carthage, its size and power, and its wide dominion on land and sea. They said that they did not mention these things in a boasting way, this was no fit occasion for boasting, "but that you, Romans (they said), may be moved to moderation and clemency by the example of our sudden change of fortune. The bravest are those who pity the fallen, and they may cherish confidence in their own continued prosperity in proportion as they do nothing to the injury of others. Such a course will be worthy of you, Romans, and of that reverent spirit which you, of all men, most profess.
"But even if we had met ruthless enemies we have suffered enough. Our leadership on land and sea has been taken from us; we delivered our ships to you, and we have not built others; we have abstained from the hunting and possession of elephants. We have given you, both before and now, our noblest hostages, and we have paid tribute to you regularly, we who had always been accustomed to receive it from others. These things were satisfactory to your fathers, with whom we had been at war. They entered into an agreement with us that we should be friends and allies, and we took the same oath together to observe the agreement. And they, with whom we had been at war, observed the agreement faithfully afterward. But you, with whom we have never come to blows, what part of the treaty do you accuse us of violating, that you vote for war so suddenly, and march against us without even declaring it? Have we not paid the tribute? Have we any ships, or any hateful elephants? Have we not been faithful to you from that time to this? Are we not to be pitied for the recent loss of 50,000 men by hunger? But we have fought against Masinissa, you say. He was always grabbing our property, and we endured all things on your account. While holding, all the time and contrary to right, the very ground on which he was nurtured and educated, he seized other lands of ours around Emporium, and after taking that he invaded still others, until the peace which we made with you was broken. If this is an excuse for the war, we condemned those who resisted him, and we sent our ambassadors to you to make the necessary explanations, and afterwards others empowered to make a settlement on any terms you pleased. What need is there of a fleet, an expedition, an army against men who do not acknowledge that they have done wrong, but who, nevertheless, put themselves entirely in your hands? That we are not deceiving you, and that we will submit ungrudgingly to whatever penalty you impose, we demonstrated plainly when we sent, as hostages, the children of our noblest families, demanded by you, as soon as the decree of your Senate ordered us to do so, not even waiting the expiration of the thirty days. It was a part of this decree that if we would deliver the hostages Carthage should remain free under her own laws and in the enjoyment of her possessions."