Part 1 out of 6
Etext prepared by John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
It was at Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar.
The soldiers whom he had commanded in Sicily were having a great feast
to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Eryx, and as the master
was away, and they were numerous, they ate and drank with perfect
The captains, who wore bronze cothurni, had placed themselves in the
central path, beneath a gold-fringed purple awning, which reached from
the wall of the stables to the first terrace of the palace; the common
soldiers were scattered beneath the trees, where numerous flat-roofed
buildings might be seen, wine-presses, cellars, storehouses, bakeries,
and arsenals, with a court for elephants, dens for wild beasts, and a
prison for slaves.
Fig-trees surrounded the kitchens; a wood of sycamores stretched away
to meet masses of verdure, where the pomegranate shone amid the white
tufts of the cotton-plant; vines, grape-laden, grew up into the
branches of the pines; a field of roses bloomed beneath the plane-
trees; here and there lilies rocked upon the turf; the paths were
strewn with black sand mingled with powdered coral, and in the centre
the avenue of cypress formed, as it were, a double colonnade of green
obelisks from one extremity to the other.
Far in the background stood the palace, built of yellow mottled
Numidian marble, broad courses supporting its four terraced stories.
With its large, straight, ebony staircase, bearing the prow of a
vanquished galley at the corners of every step, its red doors
quartered with black crosses, its brass gratings protecting it from
scorpions below, and its trellises of gilded rods closing the
apertures above, it seemed to the soldiers in its haughty opulence as
solemn and impenetrable as the face of Hamilcar.
The Council had appointed his house for the holding of this feast; the
convalescents lying in the temple of Eschmoun had set out at daybreak
and dragged themselves thither on their crutches. Every minute others
were arriving. They poured in ceaselessly by every path like torrents
rushing into a lake; through the trees the slaves of the kitchens
might be seen running scared and half-naked; the gazelles fled
bleating on the lawns; the sun was setting, and the perfume of citron
trees rendered the exhalation from the perspiring crowd heavier still.
Men of all nations were there, Ligurians, Lusitanians, Balearians,
Negroes, and fugitives from Rome. Beside the heavy Dorian dialect were
audible the resonant Celtic syllables rattling like chariots of war,
while Ionian terminations conflicted with consonants of the desert as
harsh as the jackal's cry. The Greek might be recognised by his
slender figure, the Egyptian by his elevated shoulders, the Cantabrian
by his broad calves. There were Carians proudly nodding their helmet
plumes, Cappadocian archers displaying large flowers painted on their
bodies with the juice of herbs, and a few Lydians in women's robes,
dining in slippers and earrings. Others were ostentatiously daubed
with vermilion, and resembled coral statues.
They stretched themselves on the cushions, they ate squatting round
large trays, or lying face downwards they drew out the pieces of meat
and sated themselves, leaning on their elbows in the peaceful posture
of lions tearing their prey. The last comers stood leaning against the
trees watching the low tables half hidden beneath the scarlet
coverings, and awaiting their turn.
Hamilcar's kitchens being insufficient, the Council had sent them
slaves, ware, and beds, and in the middle of the garden, as on a
battle-field when they burn the dead, large bright fires might be
seen, at which oxen were roasting. Anise-sprinkled loaves alternated
with great cheeses heavier than discuses, crateras filled with wine,
and cantharuses filled with water, together with baskets of gold
filigree-work containing flowers. Every eye was dilated with the joy
of being able at last to gorge at pleasure, and songs were beginning
here and there.
First they were served with birds and green sauce in plates of red
clay relieved by drawings in black, then with every kind of shell-fish
that is gathered on the Punic coasts, wheaten porridge, beans and
barley, and snails dressed with cumin on dishes of yellow amber.
Afterwards the tables were covered with meats, antelopes with their
horns, peacocks with their feathers, whole sheep cooked in sweet wine,
haunches of she-camels and buffaloes, hedgehogs with garum, fried
grasshoppers, and preserved dormice. Large pieces of fat floated in
the midst of saffron in bowls of Tamrapanni wood. Everything was
running over with wine, truffles, and asafoetida. Pyramids of fruit
were crumbling upon honeycombs, and they had not forgotten a few of
those plump little dogs with pink silky hair and fattened on olive
lees,--a Carthaginian dish held in abhorrence among other nations.
Surprise at the novel fare excited the greed of the stomach. The Gauls
with their long hair drawn up on the crown of the head, snatched at
the water-melons and lemons, and crunched them up with the rind. The
Negroes, who had never seen a lobster, tore their faces with its red
prickles. But the shaven Greeks, whiter than marble, threw the
leavings of their plates behind them, while the herdsmen from Brutium,
in their wolf-skin garments, devoured in silence with their faces in
Night fell. The velarium, spread over the cypress avenue, was drawn
back, and torches were brought.
The apes, sacred to the moon, were terrified on the cedar tops by the
wavering lights of the petroleum as it burned in the porphyry vases.
They uttered screams which afforded mirth to the soldiers.
Oblong flames trembled in cuirasses of brass. Every kind of
scintillation flashed from the gem-incrusted dishes. The crateras with
their borders of convex mirrors multiplied and enlarged the images of
things; the soldiers thronged around, looking at their reflections
with amazement, and grimacing to make themselves laugh. They tossed
the ivory stools and golden spatulas to one another across the tables.
They gulped down all the Greek wines in their leathern bottles, the
Campanian wine enclosed in amphoras, the Cantabrian wines brought in
casks, with the wines of the jujube, cinnamomum and lotus. There were
pools of these on the ground that made the foot slip. The smoke of the
meats ascended into the foliage with the vapour of the breath.
Simultaneously were heard the snapping of jaws, the noise of speech,
songs, and cups, the crash of Campanian vases shivering into a
thousand pieces, or the limpid sound of a large silver dish.
In proportion as their intoxication increased they more and more
recalled the injustice of Carthage. The Republic, in fact, exhausted
by the war, had allowed all the returning bands to accumulate in the
town. Gisco, their general, had however been prudent enough to send
them back severally in order to facilitate the liquidation of their
pay, and the Council had believed that they would in the end consent
to some reduction. But at present ill-will was caused by the inability
to pay them. This debt was confused in the minds of the people with
the 3200 Euboic talents exacted by Lutatius, and equally with Rome
they were regarded as enemies to Carthage. The Mercenaries understood
this, and their indignation found vent in threats and outbreaks. At
last they demanded permission to assemble to celebrate one of their
victories, and the peace party yielded, at the same time revenging
themselves on Hamilcar who had so strongly upheld the war. It had been
terminated notwithstanding all his efforts, so that, despairing of
Carthage, he had entrusted the government of the Mercenaries to Gisco.
To appoint his palace for their reception was to draw upon him
something of the hatred which was borne to them. Moreover, the expense
must be excessive, and he would incur nearly the whole.
Proud of having brought the Republic to submit, the Mercenaries
thought that they were at last about to return to their homes with the
payment for their blood in the hoods of their cloaks. But as seen
through the mists of intoxication, their fatigues seemed to them
prodigious and but ill-rewarded. They showed one another their wounds,
they told of their combats, their travels and the hunting in their
native lands. They imitated the cries and the leaps of wild beasts.
Then came unclean wagers; they buried their heads in the amphoras and
drank on without interruption, like thirsty dromedaries. A Lusitanian
of gigantic stature ran over the tables, carrying a man in each hand
at arm's length, and spitting out fire through his nostrils. Some
Lacedaemonians, who had not taken off their cuirasses, were leaping
with a heavy step. Some advanced like women, making obscene gestures;
others stripped naked to fight amid the cups after the fashion of
gladiators, and a company of Greeks danced around a vase whereon
nymphs were to be seen, while a Negro tapped with an ox-bone on a
Suddenly they heard a plaintive song, a song loud and soft, rising and
falling in the air like the wing-beating of a wounded bird.
It was the voice of the slaves in the ergastulum. Some soldiers rose
at a bound to release them and disappeared.
They returned, driving through the dust amid shouts, twenty men,
distinguished by their greater paleness of face. Small black felt caps
of conical shape covered their shaven heads; they all wore wooden
shoes, and yet made a noise as of old iron like driving chariots.
They reached the avenue of cypress, where they were lost among the
crowd of those questioning them. One of them remained apart, standing.
Through the rents in his tunic his shoulders could be seen striped
with long scars. Drooping his chin, he looked round him with distrust,
closing his eyelids somewhat against the dazzling light of the
torches, but when he saw that none of the armed men were unfriendly to
him, a great sigh escaped from his breast; he stammered, he sneered
through the bright tears that bathed his face. At last he seized a
brimming cantharus by its rings, raised it straight up into the air
with his outstretched arms, from which his chains hung down, and then
looking to heaven, and still holding the cup he said:
"Hail first to thee, Baal-Eschmoun, the deliverer, whom the people of
my country call Aesculapius! and to you, genii of the fountains,
light, and woods! and to you, ye gods hidden beneath the mountains and
in the caverns of the earth! and to you, strong men in shining armour
who have set me free!"
Then he let fall the cup and related his history. He was called
Spendius. The Carthaginians had taken him in the battle of Aeginusae,
and he thanked the Mercenaries once more in Greek, Ligurian and Punic;
he kissed their hands; finally, he congratulated them on the banquet,
while expressing his surprise at not perceiving the cups of the Sacred
Legion. These cups, which bore an emerald vine on each of their six
golden faces, belonged to a corps composed exclusively of young
patricians of the tallest stature. They were a privilege, almost a
sacerdotal distinction, and accordingly nothing among the treasures of
the Republic was more coveted by the Mercenaries. They detested the
Legion on this account, and some of them had been known to risk their
lives for the inconceivable pleasure of drinking out of these cups.
Accordingly they commanded that the cups should be brought. They were
in the keeping of the Syssitia, companies of traders, who had a common
table. The slaves returned. At that hour all the members of the
Syssitia were asleep.
"Let them be awakened!" responded the Mercenaries.
After a second excursion it was explained to them that the cups were
shut up in a temple.
"Let it be opened!" they replied.
And when the slaves confessed with trembling that they were in the
possession of Gisco, the general, they cried out:
"Let him bring them!"
Gisco soon appeared at the far end of the garden with an escort of the
Sacred Legion. His full, black cloak, which was fastened on his head
to a golden mitre starred with precious stones, and which hung all
about him down to his horse's hoofs, blended in the distance with the
colour of the night. His white beard, the radiancy of his head-dress,
and his triple necklace of broad blue plates beating against his
breast, were alone visible.
When he entered, the soldiers greeted him with loud shouts, all
"The cups! The cups!"
He began by declaring that if reference were had to their courage,
they were worthy of them.
The crowd applauded and howled with joy.
HE knew it, he who had commanded them over yonder, and had returned
with the last cohort in the last galley!
"True! True!" said they.
Nevertheless, Gisco continued, the Republic had respected their
national divisions, their customs, and their modes of worship; in
Carthage they were free! As to the cups of the Sacred Legion, they
were private property. Suddenly a Gaul, who was close to Spendius,
sprang over the tables and ran straight up to Gisco, gesticulating and
threatening him with two naked swords.
Without interrupting his speech, the General struck him on the head
with his heavy ivory staff, and the Barbarian fell. The Gauls howled,
and their frenzy, which was spreading to the others, would soon have
swept away the legionaries. Gisco shrugged his shoulders as he saw
them growing pale. He thought that his courage would be useless
against these exasperated brute beasts. It would be better to revenge
himself upon them by some artifice later; accordingly, he signed to
his soldiers and slowly withdrew. Then, turning in the gateway towards
the Mercenaries, he cried to them that they would repent of it.
The feast recommenced. But Gisco might return, and by surrounding the
suburb, which was beside the last ramparts, might crush them against
the walls. Then they felt themselves alone in spite of their crowd,
and the great town sleeping beneath them in the shade suddenly made
them afraid, with its piles of staircases, its lofty black houses, and
its vague gods fiercer even than its people. In the distance a few
ships'-lanterns were gliding across the harbour, and there were lights
in the temple of Khamon. They thought of Hamilcar. Where was he? Why
had he forsaken them when peace was concluded? His differences with
the Council were doubtless but a pretence in order to destroy them.
Their unsatisfied hate recoiled upon him, and they cursed him,
exasperating one another with their own anger. At this juncture they
collected together beneath the plane-trees to see a slave who, with
eyeballs fixed, neck contorted, and lips covered with foam, was
rolling on the ground, and beating the soil with his limbs. Some one
cried out that he was poisoned. All then believed themselves poisoned.
They fell upon the slaves, a terrible clamour was raised, and a
vertigo of destruction came like a whirlwind upon the drunken army.
They struck about them at random, they smashed, they slew; some hurled
torches into the foliage; others, leaning over the lions' balustrade,
massacred the animals with arrows; the most daring ran to the
elephants, desiring to cut down their trunks and eat ivory.
Some Balearic slingers, however, who had gone round the corner of the
palace, in order to pillage more conveniently, were checked by a lofty
barrier, made of Indian cane. They cut the lock-straps with their
daggers, and then found themselves beneath the front that faced
Carthage, in another garden full of trimmed vegetation. Lines of white
flowers all following one another in regular succession formed long
parabolas like star-rockets on the azure-coloured earth. The gloomy
bushes exhaled warm and honied odours. There were trunks of trees
smeared with cinnabar, which resembled columns covered with blood. In
the centre were twelve pedestals, each supporting a great glass ball,
and these hollow globes were indistinctly filled with reddish lights,
like enormous and still palpitating eyeballs. The soldiers lighted
themselves with torches as they stumbled on the slope of the deeply
But they perceived a little lake divided into several basins by walls
of blue stones. So limpid was the wave that the flames of the torches
quivered in it at the very bottom, on a bed of white pebbles and
golden dust. It began to bubble, luminous spangles glided past, and
great fish with gems about their mouths, appeared near the surface.
With much laughter the soldiers slipped their fingers into the gills
and brought them to the tables. They were the fish of the Barca
family, and were all descended from those primordial lotes which had
hatched the mystic egg wherein the goddess was concealed. The idea of
committing a sacrilege revived the greediness of the Mercenaries; they
speedily placed fire beneath some brazen vases, and amused themselves
by watching the beautiful fish struggling in the boiling water.
The surge of soldiers pressed on. They were no longer afraid. They
commenced to drink again. Their ragged tunics were wet with the
perfumes that flowed in large drops from their foreheads, and resting
both fists on the tables, which seemed to them to be rocking like
ships, they rolled their great drunken eyes around to devour by sight
what they could not take. Others walked amid the dishes on the purple
table covers, breaking ivory stools, and phials of Tyrian glass to
pieces with their feet. Songs mingled with the death-rattle of the
slaves expiring amid the broken cups. They demanded wine, meat, gold.
They cried out for women. They raved in a hundred languages. Some
thought that they were at the vapour baths on account of the steam
which floated around them, or else, catching sight of the foliage,
imagined that they were at the chase, and rushed upon their companions
as upon wild beasts. The conflagration spread to all the trees, one
after another, and the lofty mosses of verdure, emitting long white
spirals, looked like volcanoes beginning to smoke. The clamour
redoubled; the wounded lions roared in the shade.
In an instant the highest terrace of the palace was illuminated, the
central door opened, and a woman, Hamilcar's daughter herself, clothed
in black garments, appeared on the threshold. She descended the first
staircase, which ran obliquely along the first story, then the second,
and the third, and stopped on the last terrace at the head of the
galley staircase. Motionless and with head bent, she gazed upon the
Behind her, on each side, were two long shadows of pale men, clad in
white, red-fringed robes, which fell straight to their feet. They had
no beard, no hair, no eyebrows. In their hands, which sparkled with
rings, they carried enormous lyres, and with shrill voice they sang a
hymn to the divinity of Carthage. They were the eunuch priests of the
temple of Tanith, who were often summoned by Salammbo to her house.
At last she descended the galley staircase. The priests followed her.
She advanced into the avenue of cypress, and walked slowly through the
tables of the captains, who drew back somewhat as they watched her
Her hair, which was powdered with violet sand, and combined into the
form of a tower, after the fashion of the Chanaanite maidens, added to
her height. Tresses of pearls were fastened to her temples, and fell
to the corners of her mouth, which was as rosy as a half-open
pomegranate. On her breast was a collection of luminous stones, their
variegation imitating the scales of the murena. Her arms were adorned
with diamonds, and issued naked from her sleeveless tunic, which was
starred with red flowers on a perfectly black ground. Between her
ankles she wore a golden chainlet to regulate her steps, and her large
dark purple mantle, cut of an unknown material, trailed behind her,
making, as it were, at each step, a broad wave which followed her.
The priests played nearly stifled chords on their lyres from time to
time, and in the intervals of the music might be heard the tinkling of
the little golden chain, and the regular patter of her papyrus
No one as yet was acquainted with her. It was only known that she led
a retired life, engaged in pious practices. Some soldiers had seen her
in the night on the summit of her palace kneeling before the stars
amid the eddyings from kindled perfuming-pans. It was the moon that
had made her so pale, and there was something from the gods that
enveloped her like a subtle vapour. Her eyes seemed to gaze far beyond
terrestrial space. She bent her head as she walked, and in her right
hand she carried a little ebony lyre.
They heard her murmur:
"Dead! All dead! No more will you come obedient to my voice as when,
seated on the edge of the lake, I used to through seeds of the
watermelon into your mouths! The mystery of Tanith ranged in the
depths of your eyes that were more limpid than the globules of
rivers." And she called them by their names, which were those of the
months--"Siv! Sivan! Tammouz, Eloul, Tischri, Schebar! Ah! have pity
on me, goddess!"
The soldiers thronged about her without understanding what she said.
They wondered at her attire, but she turned a long frightened look
upon them all, then sinking her head beneath her shoulders, and waving
her arms, she repeated several times:
"What have you done? what have you done?
"Yet you had bread, and meats and oil, and all the malobathrum of the
granaries for your enjoyment! I had brought oxen from Hecatompylos; I
had sent hunters into the desert!" Her voice swelled; her cheeks
purpled. She added, "Where, pray, are you now? In a conquered town, or
in the palace of a master? And what master? Hamilcar the Suffet, my
father, the servant of the Baals! It was he who withheld from Lutatius
those arms of yours, red now with the blood of his slaves! Know you of
any in your own lands more skilled in the conduct of battles? Look!
our palace steps are encumbered with our victories! Ah! desist not!
burn it! I will carry away with me the genius of my house, my black
serpent slumbering up yonder on lotus leaves! I will whistle and he
will follow me, and if I embark in a galley he will speed in the wake
of my ship over the foam of the waves."
Her delicate nostrils were quivering. She crushed her nails against
the gems on her bosom. Her eyes drooped, and she resumed:
"Ah! poor Carthage! lamentable city! No longer hast thou for thy
protection the strong men of former days who went beyond the oceans to
build temples on their shores. All the lands laboured about thee, and
the sea-plains, ploughed by thine oars, rocked with thy harvests."
Then she began to sing the adventures of Melkarth, the god of the
Sidonians, and the father of her family.
She told of the ascent of the mountains of Ersiphonia, the journey to
Tartessus, and the war against Masisabal to avenge the queen of the
"He pursued the female monster, whose tail undulated over the dead
leaves like a silver brook, into the forest, and came to a plain where
women with dragon-croups were round a great fire, standing erect on
the points of their tails. The blood-coloured moon was shining within
a pale circle, and their scarlet tongues, cloven like the harpoons of
fishermen, reached curling forth to the very edge of the flame."
Then Salammbo, without pausing, related how Melkarth, after
vanquishing Masisabal, placed her severed head on the prow of his
ship. "At each throb of the waves it sank beneath the foam, but the
sun embalmed it; it became harder than gold; nevertheless the eyes
ceased not to weep, and the tears fell into the water continually."
She sang all this in an old Chanaanite idiom, which the Barbarians did
not understand. They asked one another what she could be saying to
them with those frightful gestures which accompanied her speech, and
mounted round about her on the tables, beds, and sycamore boughs, they
strove with open mouths and craned necks to grasp the vague stories
hovering before their imaginations, through the dimness of the
theogonies, like phantoms wrapped in cloud.
Only the beardless priests understood Salammbo; their wrinkled hands,
which hung over the strings of their lyres, quivered, and from time to
time they would draw forth a mournful chord; for, feebler than old
women, they trembled at once with mystic emotion, and with the fear
inspired by men. The Barbarians heeded them not, but listened
continually to the maiden's song.
None gazed at her like a young Numidian chief, who was placed at the
captains' tables among soldiers of his own nation. His girdle so
bristled with darts that it formed a swelling in his ample cloak,
which was fastened on his temples with a leather lace. The cloth
parted asunder as it fell upon his shoulders, and enveloped his
countenance in shadow, so that only the fires of his two fixed eyes
could be seen. It was by chance that he was at the feast, his father
having domiciled him with the Barca family, according to the custom by
which kings used to send their children into the households of the
great in order to pave the way for alliances; but Narr' Havas had
lodged there fox six months without having hitherto seen Salammbo, and
now, seated on his heels, with his head brushing the handles of his
javelins, he was watching her with dilated nostrils, like a leopard
crouching among the bamboos.
On the other side of the tables was a Libyan of colossal stature, and
with short black curly hair. He had retained only his military jacket,
the brass plates of which were tearing the purple of the couch. A
necklace of silver moons was tangled in his hairy breast. His face was
stained with splashes of blood; he was leaning on his left elbow with
a smile on his large, open mouth.
Salammbo had abandoned the sacred rhythm. With a woman's subtlety she
was simultaneously employing all the dialects of the Barbarians in
order to appease their anger. To the Greeks she spoke Greek; then she
turned to the Ligurians, the Campanians, the Negroes, and listening to
her each one found again in her voice the sweetness of his native
land. She now, carried away by the memories of Carthage, sang of the
ancient battles against Rome; they applauded. She kindled at the
gleaming of the naked swords, and cried aloud with outstretched arms.
Her lyre fell, she was silent; and, pressing both hands upon her
heart, she remained for some minutes with closed eyelids enjoying the
agitation of all these men.
Matho, the Libyan, leaned over towards her. Involuntarily she
approached him, and impelled by grateful pride, poured him a long
stream of wine into a golden cup in order to conciliate the army.
"Drink!" she said.
He took the cup, and was carrying it to his lips when a Gaul, the same
that had been hurt by Gisco, struck him on the shoulder, while in a
jovial manner he gave utterance to pleasantries in his native tongue.
Spendius was not far off, and he volunteered to interpret them.
"Speak!" said Matho.
"The gods protect you; you are going to become rich. When will the
"Yours! for with us," said the Gaul, "when a woman gives drink to a
soldier, it means that she offers him her couch."
He had not finished when Narr' Havas, with a bound, drew a javelin
from his girdle, and, leaning his right foot upon the edge of the
table, hurled it against Matho.
The javelin whistled among the cups, and piercing the Lybian's arm,
pinned it so firmly to the cloth, that the shaft quivered in the air.
Matho quickly plucked it out; but he was weaponless and naked; at last
he lifted the over-laden table with both arms, and flung it against
Narr' Havas into the very centre of the crowd that rushed between
them. The soldiers and Numidians pressed together so closely that they
were unable to draw their swords. Matho advanced dealing great blows
with his head. When he raised it, Narr' Havas had disappeared. He
sought for him with his eyes. Salammbo also was gone.
Then directing his looks to the palace he perceived the red door with
the black cross closing far above, and he darted away.
They saw him run between the prows of the galleys, and then reappear
along the three staircases until he reached the red door against which
he dashed his whole body. Panting, he leaned against the wall to keep
himself from falling.
But a man had followed him, and through the darkness, for the lights
of the feast were hidden by the corner of the palace, he recognised
"Begone!" said he.
The slave without replying began to tear his tunic with his teeth;
then kneeling beside Matho he tenderly took his arm, and felt it in
the shadow to discover the wound.
By a ray of the moon which was then gliding between the clouds,
Spendius perceived a gaping wound in the middle of the arm. He rolled
the piece of stuff about it, but the other said irritably, "Leave me!
"Oh no!" replied the slave. "You released me from the ergastulum. I am
yours! you are my master! command me!"
Matho walked round the terrace brushing against the walls. He strained
his ears at every step, glancing down into the silent apartments
through the spaces between the gilded reeds. At last he stopped with a
look of despair.
"Listen!" said the slave to him. "Oh! do not despise me for my
feebleness! I have lived in the palace. I can wind like a viper
through the walls. Come! in the Ancestor's Chamber there is an ingot
of gold beneath every flagstone; an underground path leads to their
"Well! what matters it?" said Matho.
Spendius was silent.
They were on the terrace. A huge mass of shadow stretched before them,
appearing as if it contained vague accumulations, like the gigantic
billows of a black and petrified ocean.
But a luminous bar rose towards the East; far below, on the left, the
canals of Megara were beginning to stripe the verdure of the gardens
with their windings of white. The conical roofs of the heptagonal
temples, the staircases, terraces, and ramparts were being carved by
degrees upon the paleness of the dawn; and a girdle of white foam
rocked around the Carthaginian peninsula, while the emerald sea
appeared as if it were curdled in the freshness of the morning. Then
as the rosy sky grew larger, the lofty houses, bending over the
sloping soil, reared and massed themselves like a herd of black goats
coming down from the mountains. The deserted streets lengthened; the
palm-trees that topped the walls here and there were motionless; the
brimming cisterns seemed like silver bucklers lost in the courts; the
beacon on the promontory of Hermaeum was beginning to grow pale. The
horses of Eschmoun, on the very summit of the Acropolis in the cypress
wood, feeling that the light was coming, placed their hoofs on the
marble parapet, and neighed towards the sun.
It appeared, and Spendius raised his arms with a cry.
Everything stirred in a diffusion of red, for the god, as if he were
rending himself, now poured full-rayed upon Carthage the golden rain
of his veins. The beaks of the galleys sparkled, the roof of Khamon
appeared to be all in flames, while far within the temples, whose
doors were opening, glimmerings of light could be seen. Large
chariots, arriving from the country, rolled their wheels over the
flagstones in the streets. Dromedaries, baggage-laden, came down the
ramps. Money-changers raised the pent-houses of their shops at the
cross ways, storks took to flight, white sails fluttered. In the wood
of Tanith might be heard the tabourines of the sacred courtesans, and
the furnaces for baking the clay coffins were beginning to smoke on
the Mappalian point.
Spendius leaned over the terrace; his teeth chattered and he repeated:
"Ah! yes--yes--master! I understand why you scorned the pillage of the
house just now."
Matho was as if he had just been awaked by the hissing of his voice,
and did not seem to understand. Spendius resumed:
"Ah! what riches! and the men who possess them have not even the steel
to defend them!"
Then, pointing with his right arm outstretched to some of the populace
who were crawling on the sand outside the mole to look for gold dust:
"See!" he said to him, "the Republic is like these wretches: bending
on the brink of the ocean, she buries her greedy arms in every shore,
and the noise of the billows so fills her ear that she cannot hear
behind her the tread of a master's heel!"
He drew Matho to quite the other end of the terrace, and showed him
the garden, wherein the soldiers' swords, hanging on the trees, were
like mirrors in the sun.
"But here there are strong men whose hatred is roused! and nothing
binds them to Carthage, neither families, oaths nor gods!"
Matho remained leaning against the wall; Spendius came close, and
continued in a low voice:
"Do you understand me, soldier? We should walk purple-clad like
satraps. We should bathe in perfumes; and I should in turn have
slaves! Are you not weary of sleeping on hard ground, of drinking the
vinegar of the camps, and of continually hearing the trumpet? But you
will rest later, will you not? When they pull off your cuirass to cast
your corpse to the vultures! or perhaps blind, lame, and weak you will
go, leaning on a stick, from door to door to tell of your youth to
pickle-sellers and little children. Remember all the injustice of your
chiefs, the campings in the snow, the marchings in the sun, the
tyrannies of discipline, and the everlasting menace of the cross! And
after all this misery they have given you a necklace of honour, as
they hang a girdle of bells round the breast of an ass to deafen it on
its journey, and prevent it from feeling fatigue. A man like you,
braver than Pyrrhus! If only you had wished it! Ah! how happy will you
be in large cool halls, with the sound of lyres, lying on flowers,
with women and buffoons! Do not tell me that the enterprise is
impossible. Have not the Mercenaries already possessed Rhegium and
other fortified places in Italy? Who is to prevent you? Hamilcar is
away; the people execrate the rich; Gisco can do nothing with the
cowards who surround him. Command them! Carthage is ours; let us fall
"No!" said Matho, "the curse of Moloch weighs upon me. I felt it in
her eyes, and just now I saw a black ram retreating in a temple."
Looking around him he added: "But where is she?"
Then Spendius understood that a great disquiet possessed him, and did
not venture to speak again.
The trees behind them were still smoking; half-burned carcases of apes
dropped from their blackened boughs from time to time into the midst
of the dishes. Drunken soldiers snored open-mouthed by the side of the
corpses, and those who were not asleep lowered their heads dazzled by
the light of day. The trampled soil was hidden beneath splashes of
red. The elephants poised their bleeding trunks between the stakes of
their pens. In the open granaries might be seen sacks of spilled
wheat, below the gate was a thick line of chariots which had been
heaped up by the Barbarians, and the peacocks perched in the cedars
were spreading their tails and beginning to utter their cry.
Matho's immobility, however, astonished Spendius; he was even paler
than he had recently been, and he was following something on the
horizon with fixed eyeballs, and with both fists resting on the edge
of the terrace. Spendius crouched down, and so at last discovered at
what he was gazing. In the distance a golden speck was turning in the
dust on the road to Utica; it was the nave of a chariot drawn by two
mules; a slave was running at the end of the pole, and holding them by
the bridle. Two women were seated in the chariot. The manes of the
animals were puffed between the ears after the Persian fashion,
beneath a network of blue pearls. Spendius recognised them, and
restrained a cry.
A large veil floated behind in the wind.
Two days afterwards the Mercenaries left Carthage.
They had each received a piece of gold on the condition that they
should go into camp at Sicca, and they had been told with all sorts of
"You are the saviours of Carthage! But you would starve it if you
remained there; it would become insolvent. Withdraw! The Republic will
be grateful to you later for all this condescension. We are going to
levy taxes immediately; your pay shall be in full, and galleys shall
be equipped to take you back to your native lands."
They did not know how to reply to all this talk. These men, accustomed
as they were to war, were wearied by residence in a town; there was
difficulty in convincing them, and the people mounted the walls to see
them go away.
They defiled through the street of Khamon, and the Cirta gate,
pell-mell, archers with hoplites, captains with soldiers, Lusitanians
with Greeks. They marched with a bold step, rattling their heavy
cothurni on the paving stones. Their armour was dented by the
catapult, and their faces blackened by the sunburn of battles. Hoarse
cries issued from their thick bears, their tattered coats of mail
flapped upon the pommels of their swords, and through the holes in the
brass might be seen their naked limbs, as frightful as engines of war.
Sarissae, axes, spears, felt caps and bronze helmets, all swung
together with a single motion. They filled the street thickly enough
to have made the walls crack, and the long mass of armed soldiers
overflowed between the lofty bitumen-smeared houses six storys high.
Behind their gratings of iron or reed the women, with veiled heads,
silently watched the Barbarians pass.
The terraces, fortifications, and walls were hidden beneath the crowd
of Carthaginians, who were dressed in garments of black. The sailors'
tunics showed like drops of blood among the dark multitude, and nearly
naked children, whose skin shone beneath their copper bracelets,
gesticulated in the foliage of the columns, or amid the branches of a
palm tree. Some of the Ancients were posted on the platform of the
towers, and people did not know why a personage with a long beard
stood thus in a dreamy attitude here and there. He appeared in the
distance against the background of the sky, vague as a phantom and
motionless as stone.
All, however, were oppressed with the same anxiety; it was feared that
the Barbarians, seeing themselves so strong, might take a fancy to
stay. But they were leaving with so much good faith that the
Carthaginians grew bold and mingled with the soldiers. They
overwhelmed them with protestations and embraces. Some with
exaggerated politeness and audacious hypocrisy even sought to induce
them not to leave the city. They threw perfumes, flowers, and pieces
of silver to them. They gave them amulets to avert sickness; but they
had spit upon them three times to attract death, or had enclosed
jackal's hair within them to put cowardice into their hearts. Aloud,
they invoked Melkarth's favour, and in a whisper, his curse.
Then came the mob of baggage, beasts of burden, and stragglers. The
sick groaned on the backs of dromedaries, while others limped along
leaning on broken pikes. The drunkards carried leathern bottles, and
the greedy quarters of meat, cakes, fruits, butter wrapped in fig
leaves, and snow in linen bags. Some were to be seen with parasols in
their hands, and parrots on their shoulders. They had mastiffs,
gazelles, and panthers following behind them. Women of Libyan race,
mounted on asses, inveighed against the Negresses who had forsaken the
lupanaria of Malqua for the soldiers; many of them were suckling
children suspended on their bosoms by leathern thongs. The mules were
goaded out at the point of the sword, their backs bending beneath the
load of tents, while there were numbers of serving-men and water-
carriers, emaciated, jaundiced with fever, and filthy with vermin, the
scum of the Carthaginian populace, who had attached themselves to the
When they had passed, the gates were shut behind them, but the people
did not descend from the walls. The army soon spread over the breadth
of the isthmus.
It parted into unequal masses. Then the lances appeared like tall
blades of grass, and finally all was lost in a train of dust; those of
the soldiers who looked back towards Carthage could now only see its
long walls with their vacant battlements cut out against the edge of
Then the Barbarians heard a great shout. They thought that some from
among them (for they did not know their own number) had remained in
the town, and were amusing themselves by pillaging a temple. They
laughed a great deal at the idea of this, and then continued their
They were rejoiced to find themselves, as in former days, marching all
together in the open country, and some of the Greeks sang the old song
of the Mamertines:
"With my lance and sword I plough and reap; I am master of the
house! The disarmed man falls at my feet and calls me Lord and
They shouted, they leaped, the merriest began to tell stories; the
time of their miseries was past. As they arrived at Tunis, some of
them remarked that a troop of Balearic slingers was missing. They were
doubtless not far off; and no further heed was paid to them.
Some went to lodge in the houses, others camped at the foot of the
walls, and the townspeople came out to chat with the soldiers.
During the whole night fires were seen burning on the horizon in the
direction of Carthage; the light stretched like giant torches across
the motionless lake. No one in the army could tell what festival was
On the following day the Barbarian's passed through a region that was
covered with cultivation. The domains of the patricians succeeded one
another along the border of the route; channels of water flowed
through woods of palm; there were long, green lines of olive-trees;
rose-coloured vapours floated in the gorges of the hills, while blue
mountains reared themselves behind. A warm wind was blowing.
Chameleons were crawling on the broad leaves of the cactus.
The Barbarians slackened their speed.
They marched on in isolated detachments, or lagged behind one another
at long intervals. They ate grapes along the margin of the vines. They
lay on the grass and gazed with stupefaction upon the large,
artificially twisted horns of the oxen, the sheep clothed with skins
to protect their wool, the furrows crossing one another so as to form
lozenges, and the ploughshares like ships' anchors, with the
pomegranate trees that were watered with silphium. Such wealth of the
soil and such inventions of wisdom dazzled them.
In the evening they stretched themselves on the tents without
unfolding them; and thought with regret of Hamilcar's feast, as they
fell asleep with their faces towards the stars.
In the middle of the following day they halted on the bank of a river,
amid clumps of rose-bays. Then they quickly threw aside lances,
bucklers and belts. They bathed with shouts, and drew water in their
helmets, while others drank lying flat on their stomachs, and all in
the midst of the beasts of burden whose baggage was slipping from
Spendius, who was seated on a dromedary stolen in Hamilcar's parks,
perceived Matho at a distance, with his arm hanging against his
breast, his head bare, and his face bent down, giving his mule drink,
and watching the water flow. Spendius immediately ran through the
crowd calling him, "Master! master!"
Matho gave him but scant thanks for his blessings, but Spendius paid
no heed to this, and began to march behind him, from time to time
turning restless glances in the direction of Carthage.
He was the son of a Greek rhetor and a Campanian prostitute. He had at
first grown rich by dealing in women; then, ruined by a shipwreck, he
had made war against the Romans with the herdsmen of Samnium. He had
been taken and had escaped; he had been retaken, and had worked in the
quarries, panted in the vapour-baths, shrieked under torture, passed
through the hands of many masters, and experienced every frenzy. At
last, one day, in despair, he had flung himself into the sea from the
top of a trireme where he was working at the oar. Some of Hamilcar's
sailors had picked him up when at the point of death, and had brought
him to the ergastulum of Megara, at Carthage. But, as fugitives were
to be given back to the Romans, he had taken advantage of the
confusion to fly with the soldiers.
During the whole of the march he remained near Matho; he brought him
food, assisted him to dismount, and spread a carpet in the evening
beneath his head. Matho at last was touched by these attentions, and
by degrees unlocked his lips.
He had been born in the gulf of Syrtis. His father had taken him on a
pilgrimage to the temple of Ammon. Then he had hunted elephants in the
forests of the Garamantes. Afterwards he had entered the service of
Carthage. He had been appointed tetrarch at the capture of Drepanum.
The Republic owed him four horses, twenty-three medimni of wheat, and
a winter's pay. He feared the gods, and wished to die in his native
Spendius spoke to him of his travels, and of the peoples and temples
that he had visited. He knew many things: he could make sandals, boar-
spears and nets; he could tame wild beasts and could cook fish.
Sometimes he would interrupt himself, and utter a hoarse cry from the
depths of his throat; Matho's mule would quicken his pace, and others
would hasten after them, and then Spendius would begin again though
still torn with agony. This subsided at last on the evening of the
They were marching side by side to the right of the army on the side
of a hill; below them stretched the plain lost in the vapours of the
night. The lines of soldiers also were defiling below, making
undulations in the shade. From time to time these passed over
eminences lit up by the moon; then stars would tremble on the points
of the pikes, the helmets would glimmer for an instant, all would
disappear, and others would come on continually. Startled flocks
bleated in the distance, and a something of infinite sweetness seemed
to sink upon the earth.
Spendius, with his head thrown back and his eyes half-closed, inhaled
the freshness of the wind with great sighs; he spread out his arms,
moving his fingers that he might the better feel the cares that
streamed over his body. Hopes of vengeance came back to him and
transported him. He pressed his hand upon his mouth to check his sobs,
and half-swooning with intoxication, let go the halter of his
dromedary, which was proceeding with long, regular steps. Matho had
relapsed into his former melancholy; his legs hung down to the ground,
and the grass made a continuous rustling as it beat against his
The journey, however, spread itself out without ever coming to an end.
At the extremity of a plain they would always reach a round-shaped
plateau; then they would descend again into a valley, and the
mountains which seemed to block up the horizon would, in proportion as
they were approached, glide as it were from their positions. From time
to time a river would appear amid the verdure of tamarisks to lose
itself at the turning of the hills. Sometimes a huge rock would tower
aloft like the prow of a vessel or the pedestal of some vanished
At regular intervals they met with little quadrangular temples, which
served as stations for the pilgrims who repaired to Sicca. They were
closed like tombs. The Libyans struck great blows upon the doors to
have them opened. But no one inside responded.
Then the cultivation became more rare. They suddenly entered upon
belts of sand bristling with thorny thickets. Flocks of sheep were
browsing among the stones; a woman with a blue fleece about her waist
was watching them. She fled screaming when she saw the soldiers' pikes
among the rocks.
They were marching through a kind of large passage bordered by two
chains of reddish coloured hillocks, when their nostrils were greeted
with a nauseous odour, and they thought that they could see something
extraordinary on the top of a carob tree: a lion's head reared itself
above the leaves.
They ran thither. It was a lion with his four limbs fastened to a
cross like a criminal. His huge muzzle fell upon his breast, and his
two fore-paws, half-hidden beneath the abundance of his mane, were
spread out wide like the wings of a bird. His ribs stood severally out
beneath his distended skin; his hind legs, which were nailed against
each other, were raised somewhat, and the black blood, flowing through
his hair, had collected in stalactites at the end of his tail, which
hung down perfectly straight along the cross. The soldiers made merry
around; they called him consul, and Roman citizen, and threw pebbles
into his eyes to drive away the gnats.
But a hundred paces further on they saw two more, and then there
suddenly appeared a long file of crosses bearing lions. Some had been
so long dead that nothing was left against the wood but the remains of
their skeletons; others which were half eaten away had their jaws
twisted into horrible grimaces; there were some enormous ones; the
shafts of the crosses bent beneath them, and they swayed in the wind,
while bands of crows wheeled ceaselessly in the air above their heads.
It was thus that the Carthaginian peasants avenged themselves when
they captured a wild beast; they hoped to terrify the others by such
an example. The Barbarians ceased their laughter, and were long lost
in amazement. "What people is this," they thought, "that amuses itself
by crucifying lions!"
They were, besides, especially the men of the North, vaguely uneasy,
troubled, and already sick. They tore their hands with the darts of
the aloes; great mosquitoes buzzed in their ears, and dysentry was
breaking out in the army. They were weary at not yet seeing Sicca.
They were afraid of losing themselves and of reaching the desert, the
country of sands and terrors. Many even were unwilling to advance
further. Others started back to Carthage.
At last on the seventh day, after following the base of a mountain for
a long time, they turned abruptly to the right, and there then
appeared a line of walls resting on white rocks and blending with
them. Suddenly the entire city rose; blue, yellow, and white veils
moved on the walls in the redness of the evening. These were the
priestesses of Tanith, who had hastened hither to receive the men.
They stood ranged along the rampart, striking tabourines, playing
lyres, and shaking crotala, while the rays of the sun, setting behind
them in the mountains of Numidia, shot between the strings of their
lyres over which their naked arms were stretched. At intervals their
instruments would become suddenly still, and a cry would break forth
strident, precipitate, frenzied, continuous, a sort of barking which
they made by striking both corners of the mouth with the tongue.
Others, more motionless than the Sphynx, rested on their elbows with
their chins on their hands, and darted their great black eyes upon the
army as it ascended.
Although Sicca was a sacred town it could not hold such a multitude;
the temple alone, with its appurtenances, occupied half of it.
Accordingly the Barbarians established themselves at their ease on the
plain; those who were disciplined in regular troops, and the rest
according to nationality or their own fancy.
The Greeks ranged their tents of skin in parallel lines; the Iberians
placed their canvas pavilions in a circle; the Gauls made themselves
huts of planks; the Libyans cabins of dry stones, while the Negroes
with their nails hollowed out trenches in the sand to sleep in. Many,
not knowing where to go, wandered about among the baggage, and at
nightfall lay down in their ragged mantles on the ground.
The plain, which was wholly bounded by mountains, expanded around
them. Here and there a palm tree leaned over a sand hill, and pines
and oaks flecked the sides of the precipices: sometimes the rain of a
storm would hang from the sky like a long scarf, while the country
everywhere was still covered with azure and serenity; then a warm wind
would drive before it tornadoes of dust, and a stream would descend in
cascades from the heights of Sicca, where, with its roofing of gold on
its columns of brass, rose the temple of the Carthaginian Venus, the
mistress of the land. She seemed to fill it with her soul. In such
convulsions of the soil, such alternations of temperature, and such
plays of light would she manifest the extravagance of her might with
the beauty of her eternal smile. The mountains at their summits were
crescent-shaped; others were like women's bosoms presenting their
swelling breasts, and the Barbarians felt a heaviness that was full of
delight weighing down their fatigues.
Spendius had bought a slave with the money brought him by his
dromedary. The whole day long he lay asleep stretched before Matho's
tent. Often he would awake, thinking in his dreams that he heard the
whistling of the thongs; with a smile he would pass his hands over the
scars on his legs at the place where the fetters had long been worn,
and then he would fall asleep again.
Matho accepted his companionship, and when he went out Spendius would
escort him like a lictor with a long sword on his thigh; or perhaps
Matho would rest his arm carelessly on the other's shoulder, for
Spendius was small.
One evening when they were passing together through the streets in the
camp they perceived some men covered with white cloaks; among them was
Narr' Havas, the prince of the Numidians. Matho started.
"Your sword!" he cried; "I will kill him!"
"Not yet!" said Spendius, restraining him. Narr' Havas was already
advancing towards him.
He kissed both thumbs in token of alliance, showing nothing of the
anger which he had experienced at the drunkenness of the feast; then
he spoke at length against Carthage, but did not say what brought him
among the Barbarians.
"Was it to betray them, or else the Republic?" Spendius asked himself;
and as he expected to profit by every disorder, he felt grateful to
Narr' Havas for the future perfidies of which he suspected him.
The chief of the Numidians remained amongst the Mercenaries. He
appeared desirous of attaching Matho to himself. He sent him fat
goats, gold dust, and ostrich feathers. The Libyan, who was amazed at
such caresses, was in doubt whether to respond to them or to become
exasperated at them. But Spendius pacified him, and Matho allowed
himself to be ruled by the slave, remaining ever irresolute and in an
unconquerable torpor, like those who have once taken a draught of
which they are to die.
One morning when all three went out lion-hunting, Narr' Havas
concealed a dagger in his cloak. Spendius kept continually behind him,
and when they returned the dagger had not been drawn.
Another time Narr' Havas took them a long way off, as far as the
boundaries of his kingdom. They came to a narrow gorge, and Narr'
Havas smiled as he declared that he had forgotten the way. Spendius
found it again.
But most frequently Matho would go off at sunrise, as melancholy as an
augur, to wander about the country. He would stretch himself on the
sand, and remain there motionless until the evening.
He consulted all the soothsayers in the army one after the other,--
those who watch the trail of serpents, those who read the stars, and
those who breathe upon the ashes of the dead. He swallowed galbanum,
seseli, and viper's venom which freezes the heart; Negro women,
singing barbarous words in the moonlight, pricked the skin of his
forehead with golden stylets; he loaded himself with necklaces and
charms; he invoked in turn Baal-Khamon, Moloch, the seven Kabiri,
Tanith, and the Venus of the Greeks. He engraved a name upon a copper
plate, and buried it in the sand at the threshold of his tent.
Spendius used to hear him groaning and talking to himself.
One night he went in.
Matho, as naked as a corpse, was lying on a lion's skin flat on his
stomach, with his face in both his hands; a hanging lamp lit up his
armour, which was hooked on to the tent-pole above his head.
"You are suffering?" said the slave to him. "What is the matter with
you? Answer me?" And he shook him by the shoulder calling him several
times, "Master! master!"
At last Matho lifted large troubled eyes towards him.
"Listen!" he said in a low voice, and with a finger on his lips. "It
is the wrath of the Gods! Hamilcar's daughter pursues me! I am afraid
of her, Spendius!" He pressed himself close against his breast like a
child terrified by a phantom. "Speak to me! I am sick! I want to get
well! I have tried everything! But you, you perhaps know some stronger
gods, or some resistless invocation?"
"For what purpose?" asked Spendius.
Striking his head with both his fists, he replied:
"To rid me of her!"
Then speaking to himself with long pauses he said:
"I am no doubt the victim of some holocaust which she has promised to
the gods?--She holds me fast by a chain which people cannot see. If I
walk, it is she that is advancing; when I stop, she is resting! Her
eyes burn me, I hear her voice. She encompasses me, she penetrates me.
It seems to me that she has become my soul!
"And yet between us there are, as it were, the invisible billows of a
boundless ocean! She is far away and quite inaccessible! The splendour
of her beauty forms a cloud of light around her, and at times I think
that I have never seen her--that she does not exist--and that it is
all a dream!"
Matho wept thus in the darkness; the Barbarians were sleeping.
Spendius, as he looked at him, recalled the young men who once used to
entreat him with golden cases in their hands, when he led his herd of
courtesans through the towns; a feeling of pity moved him, and he
"Be strong, my master! Summon your will, and beseech the gods no more,
for they turn not aside at the cries of men! Weeping like a coward!
And you are not humiliated that a woman can cause you so much
"Am I a child?" said Matho. "Do you think that I am moved by their
faces and songs? We kept them at Drepanum to sweep out our stables. I
have embraced them amid assaults, beneath falling ceilings, and while
the catapult was still vibrating!--But she, Spendius, she!--"
The slave interrupted him:
"If she were not Hanno's daughter--"
"No!" cried Matho. "She has nothing in common with the daughters of
other men! Have you seen her great eyes beneath her great eyebrows,
like suns beneath triumphal arches? Think: when she appeared all the
torches grew pale. Her naked breast shone here and there through the
diamonds of her necklace; behind her you perceived as it were the
odour of a temple, and her whole being emitted something that was
sweeter than wine and more terrible than death. She walked, however,
and then she stopped."
He remained gaping with his head cast down and his eyeballs fixed.
"But I want her! I need her! I am dying for her! I am transported with
frenzied joy at the thought of clasping her in my arms, and yet I hate
her, Spendius! I should like to beat her! What is to be done? I have a
mind to sell myself and become her slave! YOU have been that! You were
able to get sight of her; speak to me of her! Every night she ascends
to the terrace of her palace, does she not? Ah! the stones must quiver
beneath her sandals, and the stars bend down to see her!"
He fell back in a perfect frenzy, with a rattling in his throat like a
Then Matho sang: "He pursued into the forest the female monster, whose
tail undulated over the dead leaves like a silver brook." And with
lingering tones he imitated Salammbo's voice, while his outspread
hands were held like two light hands on the strings of a lyre.
To all the consolations offered by Spendius, he repeated the same
words; their nights were spent in these wailings and exhortations.
Matho sought to drown his thoughts in wine. After his fits of
drunkenness he was more melancholy still. He tried to divert himself
at huckle-bones, and lost the gold plates of his necklace one by one.
He had himself taken to the servants of the Goddess; but he came down
the hill sobbing, like one returning from a funeral.
Spendius, on the contrary, became more bold and gay. He was to be seen
in the leafy taverns discoursing in the midst of the soldiers. He
mended old cuirasses. He juggled with daggers. He went and gathered
herbs in the fields for the sick. He was facetious, dexterous, full of
invention and talk; the Barbarians grew accustomed to his services,
and he came to be loved by them.
However, they were awaiting an ambassador from Carthage to bring them
mules laden with baskets of gold; and ever beginning the same
calculation over again, they would trace figures with their fingers in
the sand. Every one was arranging his life beforehand; they would have
concubines, slaves, lands; others intended to bury their treasure, or
risk it on a vessel. But their tempers were provoked by want of
employment; there were constant disputes between horse-soldiers and
foot-soldiers, Barbarians and Greeks, while there was a never-ending
din of shrill female voices.
Every day men came flocking in nearly naked, and with grass on their
heads to protect them from the sun; they were the debtors of the rich
Carthaginians and had been forced to till the lands of the latter, but
had escaped. Libyans came pouring in with peasants ruined by the
taxes, outlaws, and malefactors. Then the horde of traders, all the
dealers in wine and oil, who were furious at not being paid, laid the
blame upon the Republic. Spendius declaimed against it. Soon the
provisions ran low; and there was talk of advancing in a body upon
Carthage, and calling in the Romans.
One evening, at supper-time, dull cracked sounds were heard
approaching, and something red appeared in the distance among the
undulations of the soil.
It was a large purple litter, adorned with ostrich feathers at the
corners. Chains of crystal and garlands of pearls beat against the
closed hangings. It was followed by camels sounding the great bells
that hung at their breasts, and having around them horsemen clad from
shoulder to heel in armour of golden scales.
They halted three hundred paces from the camp to take their round
bucklers, broad swords, and Boeotian helmets out of the cases which
they carried behind their saddles. Some remained with the camels,
while the others resumed their march. At last the ensigns of the
Republic appeared, that is to say, staves of blue wood terminated in
horses' heads or fir cones. The Barbarians all rose with applause; the
women rushed towards the guards of the Legion and kissed their feet.
The litter advanced on the shoulders of twelve Negroes who walked in
step with short, rapid strides; they went at random to right or left,
being embarrassed by the tent-ropes, the animals that were straying
about, or the tripods where food was being cooked. Sometimes a fat
hand, laden with rings, would partially open the litter, and a hoarse
voice would utter loud reproaches; then the bearers would stop and
take a different direction through the camp.
But the purple curtains were raised, and a human head, impassible and
bloated, was seen resting on a large pillow; the eyebrows, which were
like arches of ebony, met each other at the points; golden dust
sparkled in the frizzled hair, and the face was so wan that it looked
as if it had been powdered with marble raspings. The rest of the body
was concealed beneath the fleeces which filled the litter.
In the man so reclining the soldiers recognised the Suffet Hanno, he
whose slackness had assisted to lose the battle of the Aegatian
islands; and as to his victory at Hecatompylos over the Libyans, even
if he did behave with clemency, thought the Barbarians, it was owing
to cupidity, for he had sold all the captives on his own account,
although he had reported their deaths to the Republic.
After seeking for some time a convenient place from which to harangue
the soldiers, he made a sign; the litter stopped, and Hanno, supported
by two slaves, put his tottering feet to the ground.
He wore boots of black felt strewn with silver moons. His legs were
swathed in bands like those wrapped about a mummy, and the flesh crept
through the crossings of the linen; his stomach came out beyond the
scarlet jacket which covered his thighs; the folds of his neck fell
down to his breast like the dewlaps of an ox; his tunic, which was
painted with flowers, was bursting at the arm-pits; he wore a scarf, a
girdle, and an ample black cloak with laced double-sleeves. But the
abundance of his garments, his great necklace of blue stones, his
golden clasps, and heavy earrings only rendered his deformity still
more hideous. He might have been taken for some big idol rough-hewn in
a block of stone; for a pale leprosy, which was spread over his whole
body, gave him the appearance of an inert thing. His nose, however,
which was hooked like a vulture's beak, was violently dilated to
breathe in the air, and his little eyes, with their gummed lashes,
shone with a hard and metallic lustre. He held a spatula of aloe-wood
in his hand wherewith to scratch his skin.
At last two heralds sounded their silver horns; the tumult subsided,
and Hanno commenced to speak.
He began with an eulogy of the gods and the Republic; the Barbarians
ought to congratulate themselves on having served it. But they must
show themselves more reasonable; times were hard, "and if a master has
only three olives, is it not right that he should keep two for
The old Suffet mingled his speech in this way with proverbs and
apologues, nodding his head the while to solicit some approval.
He spoke in Punic, and those surrounding him (the most alert, who had
hastened thither without their arms), were Campanians, Gauls, and
Greeks, so that no one in the crowd understood him. Hanno, perceiving
this, stopped and reflected, swaying himself heavily from one leg to
It occurred to him to call the captains together; then his heralds
shouted the order in Greek, the language which, from the time of
Xanthippus, had been used for commands in the Carthaginian armies.
The guards dispersed the mob of soldiers with strokes of the whip; and
the captains of the Spartan phalanxes and the chiefs of the Barbarian
cohorts soon arrived with the insignia of their rank, and in the
armour of their nation. Night had fallen, a great tumult was spreading
throughout the plain; fires were burning here and there; and the
soldiers kept going from one to another asking what the matter was,
and why the Suffet did not distribute the money?
He was setting the infinite burdens of the Republic before the
captains. Her treasury was empty. The tribute to Rome was crushing
her. "We are quite at a loss what to do! She is much to be pitied!"
From time to time he would rub his limbs with his aloe-wood spatula,
or perhaps he would break off to drink a ptisan made of the ashes of a
weasel and asparagus boiled in vinegar from a silver cup handed to him
by a slave; then he would wipe his lips with a scarlet napkin and
"What used to be worth a shekel of silver is now worth three shekels
of gold, while the cultivated lands which were abandoned during the
war bring in nothing! Our purpura fisheries are nearly gone, and even
pearls are becoming exhorbitant; we have scarcely unguents enough for
the service of the gods! As for the things of the table, I shall say
nothing about them; it is a calamity! For want of galleys we are
without spices, and it is a matter of great difficulty to procure
silphium on account of the rebellions on the Cyrenian frontier.
Sicily, where so many slaves used to be had, is now closed to us! Only
yesterday I gave more money for a bather and four scullions than I
used at one time to give for a pair of elephants!"
He unrolled a long piece of papyrus; and, without omitting a single
figure, read all the expenses that the government had incurred; so
much for repairing the temples, for paving the streets, for the
construction of vessels, for the coral-fisheries, for the enlargement
of the Syssitia, and for engines in the mines in the country of the
But the captains understood Punic as little as the soldiers, although
the Mercenaries saluted one another in that language. It was usual to
place a few Carthaginian officers in the Barbarian armies to act as
interpreters; after the war they had concealed themselves through fear
of vengeance, and Hanno had not thought of taking them with him; his
hollow voice, too, was lost in the wind.
The Greeks, girthed in their iron waist-belts, strained their ears as
they strove to guess at his words, while the mountaineers, covered
with furs like bears, looked at him with distrust, or yawned as they
leaned on their brass-nailed clubs. The heedless Gauls sneered as they
shook their lofty heads of hair, and the men of the desert listened
motionless, cowled in their garments of grey wool; others kept coming
up behind; the guards, crushed by the mob, staggered on their horses;
the Negroes held out burning fir branches at arm's length; and the big
Carthaginian, mounted on a grassy hillock, continued his harangue.
The Barbarians, however, were growing impatient; murmuring arose, and
every one apostrophized him. Hanno gesticulated with his spatula; and
those who wished the others to be quiet shouted still more loudly,
thereby adding to the din.
Suddenly a man of mean appearance bounded to Hanno's feet, snatched up
a herald's trumpet, blew it, and Spendius (for it was he) announced
that he was going to say something of importance. At this declaration,
which was rapidly uttered in five different languages, Greek, Latin,
Gallic, Libyan and Balearic, the captains, half laughing and half
surprised, replied: "Speak! Speak!"
Spendius hesitated; he trembled; at last, addressing the Libyans who
were the most numerous, he said to them:
"You have all heard this man's horrible threats!"
Hanno made no exclamation, therefore he did not understand Libyan;
and, to carry on the experiment, Spendius repeated the same phrase in
the other Barbarian dialects.
They looked at one another in astonishment; then, as by a tacit
agreement, and believing perhaps that they had understood, they bent
their heads in token of assent.
Then Spendius began in vehement tones:
"He said first that all the Gods of the other nations were but dreams
besides the Gods of Carthage! He called you cowards, thieves, liars,
dogs, and the sons of dogs! But for you (he said that!) the Republic
would not be forced to pay excessive tribute to the Romans; and
through your excesses you have drained it of perfumes, aromatics,
slaves, and silphium, for you are in league with the nomads on the
Cyrenian frontier! But the guilty shall be punished! He read the
enumeration of their torments; they shall be made to work at the
paving of the streets, at the equipment of the vessels, at the
adornment of the Syssitia, while the rest shall be sent to scrape the
earth in the mines in the country of the Cantabrians."
Spendius repeated the same statements to the Gauls, Greeks, Campanians
and Balearians. The Mercenaries, recognising several of the proper
names which had met their ears, were convinced that he was accurately
reporting the Suffet's speech. A few cried out to him, "You lie!" but
their voices were drowned in the tumult of the rest; Spendius added:
"Have you not seen that he has left a reserve of his horse-soldiers
outside the camp? At a given signal they will hasten hither to slay
The Barbarians turned in that direction, and as the crowd was then
scattering, there appeared in the midst of them, and advancing with
the slowness of a phantom, a human being, bent, lean, entirely naked,
and covered down to his flanks with long hair bristling with dried
leaves, dust and thorns. About his loins and his knees he had wisps of
straw and linen rags; his soft and earthy skin hung on his emaciated
limbs like tatters on dried boughs; his hands trembled with a
continuous quivering, and as he walked he leaned on a staff of olive-
He reached the Negroes who were bearing the torches. His pale gums
were displayed in a sort of idiotic titter; his large, scared eyes
gazed upon the crowd of Barbarians around him.
But uttering a cry of terror he threw himself behind them, shielding
himself with their bodies. "There they are! There they are!" he
stammered out, pointing to the Suffet's guards, who were motionless in
their glittering armour. Their horses, dazzled by the light of the
torches which crackled in the darkness, were pawing the ground; the
human spectre struggled and howled:
"They have killed them!"
At these words, which were screamed in Balearic, some Balearians came
up and recognised him; without answering them he repeated:
"Yes, all killed, all! crushed like grapes! The fine young men! the
slingers! my companions and yours!"
They gave him wine to drink, and he wept; then he launched forth into
Spendius could scarcely repress his joy, as he explained the horrors
related by Zarxas to the Greeks and Libyans; he could not believe
them, so appropriately did they come in. The Balearians grew pale as
they learned how their companions had perished.
It was a troop of three hundred slingers who had disembarked the
evening before, and had on that day slept too late. When they reached
the square of Khamon the Barbarians were gone, and they found
themselves defenceless, their clay bullets having been put on the
camels with the rest of the baggage. They were allowed to advance into
the street of Satheb as far as the brass sheathed oaken gate; then the
people with a single impulse had sprung upon them.
Indeed, the soldiers remembered a great shout; Spendius, who was
flying at the head of the columns, had not heard it.
Then the corpses were placed in the arms of the Pataec gods that
fringed the temple of Khamon. They were upbraided with all the crimes
of the Mercenaries; their gluttony, their thefts, their impiety, their
disdain, and the murder of the fishes in Salammbo's garden. Their
bodies were subjected to infamous mutilations; the priests burned
their hair in order to torture their souls; they were hung up in
pieces in the meat-shops; some even buried their teeth in them, and in
the evening funeral-piles were kindled at the cross-ways to finish
These were the flames that had gleamed from a distance across the
lake. But some houses having taken fire, any dead or dying that
remained were speedily thrown over the walls; Zarxas had remained
among the reeds on the edge of the lake until the following day; then
he had wandered about through the country, seeking for the army by the
footprints in the dust. In the morning he hid himself in caves; in the
evening he resumed his march with his bleeding wounds, famished, sick,
living on roots and carrion; at last one day he perceived lances on
the horizon, and he had followed them, for his reason was disturbed
through his terrors and miseries.
The indignation of the soldiers, restrained so long as he was
speaking, broke forth like a tempest; they were going to massacre the
guards together with the Suffet. A few interposed, saying that they
ought to hear him and know at least whether they should be paid. Then
they all cried: "Our money!" Hanno replied that he had brought it.
They ran to the outposts, and the Suffet's baggage arrived in the
midst of the tents, pressed forward by the Barbarians. Without waiting
for the slaves, they very quickly unfastened the baskets; in them they
found hyacinth robes, sponges, scrapers, brushes, perfumes, and
antimony pencils for painting the eyes--all belonging to the guards,
who were rich men and accustomed to such refinements. Next they
uncovered a large bronze tub on a camel: it belonged to the Suffet who
had it for bathing in during his journey; for he had taken all manner
of precautions, even going so far as to bring caged weasels from
Hecatompylos, which were burnt alive to make his ptisan. But, as his
malady gave him a great appetite, there were also many comestibles and
many wines, pickle, meats and fishes preserved in honey, with little
pots of Commagene, or melted goose-fat covered with snow and chopped
straw. There was a considerable supply of it; the more they opened the
baskets the more they found, and laughter arose like conflicting
As to the pay of the Mercenaries it nearly filled two esparto-grass
baskets; there were even visible in one of them some of the leathern
discs which the Republic used to economise its specie; and as the
Barbarians appeared greatly surprised, Hanno told them that, their
accounts being very difficult, the Ancients had not had leisure to
examine them. Meanwhile they had sent them this.
Then everything was in disorder and confusion: mules, serving men,
litter, provisions, and baggage. The soldiers took the coin in the
bags to stone Hanno. With great difficulty he was able to mount an
ass; and he fled, clinging to its hair, howling, weeping, shaken,
bruised, and calling down the curse of all the gods upon the army. His
broad necklace of precious stones rebounded up to his ears. His cloak
which was too long, and which trailed behind him, he kept on with his
teeth, and from afar the Barbarians shouted at him, "Begone coward!
pig! sink of Moloch! sweat your gold and your plague! quicker!
quicker!" The routed escort galloped beside him.
But the fury of the Barbarians did not abate. They remembered that
several of them who had set out for Carthage had not returned; no
doubt they had been killed. So much injustice exasperated them, and
they began to pull up the stakes of their tents, to roll up their
cloaks, and to bridle their horses; every one took his helmet and
sword, and instantly all was ready. Those who had no arms rushed into
the woods to cut staves.
Day dawned; the people of Sicca were roused, and stirring in the
streets. "They are going to Carthage," said they, and the rumour of
this soon spread through the country.
From every path and every ravine men arose. Shepherds were seen
running down from the mountains.
Then, when the Barbarians had set out, Spendius circled the plain,
riding on a Punic stallion, and attended by his slave, who led a third
A single tent remained. Spendius entered it.
"Up, master! rise! we are departing!"
"And where are you going?" asked Matho.
"To Carthage!" cried Spendius.
Matho bounded upon the horse which the slave held at the door.
The moon was rising just above the waves, and on the town which was
still wrapped in darkness there glittered white and luminous specks:--
the pole of a chariot, a dangling rag of linen, the corner of a wall,
or a golden necklace on the bosom of a god. The glass balls on the
roofs of the temples beamed like great diamonds here and there. But
ill-defined ruins, piles of black earth, and gardens formed deeper
masses in the gloom, and below Malqua fishermen's nets stretched from
one house to another like gigantic bats spreading their wings. The
grinding of the hydraulic wheels which conveyed water to the highest
storys of the palaces, was no longer heard; and the camels, lying
ostrich fashion on their stomachs, rested peacefully in the middle of
the terraces. The porters were asleep in the streets on the thresholds
of the houses; the shadows of the colossuses stretched across the
deserted squares; occasionally in the distance the smoke of a still
burning sacrifice would escape through the bronze tiling, and the
heavy breeze would waft the odours of aromatics blended with the scent
of the sea and the exhalation from the sun-heated walls. The
motionless waves shone around Carthage, for the moon was spreading her
light at once upon the mountain-circled gulf and upon the lake of
Tunis, where flamingoes formed long rose-coloured lines amid the banks
of sand, while further on beneath the catacombs the great salt lagoon
shimmered like a piece of silver. The blue vault of heaven sank on the
horizon in one direction into the dustiness of the plains, and in the
other into the mists of the sea, and on the summit of the Acropolis,
the pyramidal cypress trees, fringing the temple of Eschmoun, swayed
murmuring like the regular waves that beat slowly along the mole
beneath the ramparts.
Salammbo ascended to the terrace of her palace, supported by a female
slave who carried an iron dish filled with live coals.
In the middle of the terrace there was a small ivory bed covered with
lynx skins, and cushions made with the feathers of the parrot, a
fatidical animal consecrated to the gods; and at the four corners rose
four long perfuming-pans filled with nard, incense, cinnamomum, and
myrrh. The slave lit the perfumes. Salammbo looked at the polar star;
she slowly saluted the four points of heaven, and knelt down on the
ground in the azure dust which was strewn with golden stars in
imitation of the firmament. Then with both elbows against her sides,
her fore-arms straight and her hands open, she threw back her head
beneath the rays of the moon, and said:
"O Rabetna!--Baalet!--Tanith!" and her voice was lengthened in a
plaintive fashion as if calling to some one. "Anaitis! Astarte!
Derceto! Astoreth! Mylitta! Athara! Elissa! Tiratha!--By the hidden
symbols, by the resounding sistra,--by the furrows of the earth,--by
the eternal silence and by the eternal fruitfulness,--mistress of the
gloomy sea and of the azure shores, O Queen of the watery world, all
She swayed her whole body twice or thrice, and then cast herself face
downwards in the dust with both arms outstretched.
But the slave nimbly raised her, for according to the rites someone
must catch the suppliant at the moment of his prostration; this told
him that the gods accepted him, and Salammbo's nurse never failed in
this pious duty.
Some merchants from Darytian Gaetulia had brought her to Carthage when
quite young, and after her enfranchisement she would not forsake her
old masters, as was shown by her right ear, which was pierced with a
large hole. A petticoat of many-coloured stripes fitted closely on her
hips, and fell to her ankles, where two tin rings clashed together.
Her somewhat flat face was yellow like her tunic. Silver bodkins of
great length formed a sun behind her head. She wore a coral button on
the nostril, and she stood beside the bed more erect than a Hermes,
and with her eyelids cast down.
Salammbo walked to the edge of the terrace; her eyes swept the horizon
for an instant, and then were lowered upon the sleeping town, while
the sigh that she heaved swelled her bosom, and gave an undulating
movement to the whole length of the long white simar which hung
without clasp or girdle about her. Her curved and painted sandals were
hidden beneath a heap of emeralds, and a net of purple thread was
filled with her disordered hair.
But she raised her head to gaze upon the moon, and murmured, mingling
her speech with fragments of hymns:
"How lightly turnest thou, supported by the impalpable ether! It
brightens about thee, and 'tis the stir of thine agitation that
distributes the winds and fruitful dews. According as thou dost wax
and wane the eyes of cats and spots of panthers lengthen or grow
short. Wives shriek thy name in the pangs of childbirth! Thou makest
the shells to swell, the wine to bubble, and the corpse to putrefy!
Thou formest the pearls at the bottom of the sea!
"And every germ, O goddess! ferments in the dark depths of thy
"When thou appearest, quietness is spread abroad upon the earth; the
flowers close, the waves are soothed, wearied man stretches his breast
toward thee, and the world with its oceans and mountains looks at
itself in thy face as in a mirror. Thou art white, gentle, luminous,
immaculate, helping, purifying, serene!"
The crescent of the moon was then over the mountain of the Hot
Springs, in the hollow formed by its two summits, on the other side of
the gulf. Below it there was a little star, and all around it a pale
circle. Salammbo went on:
"But thou art a terrible mistress!--Monsters, terrifying phantoms, and
lying dreams come from thee; thine eyes devour the stones of
buildings, and the apes are ever ill each time thou growest young
"Whither goest thou? Why dost thou change thy forms continually? Now,
slender and curved thou glidest through space like a mastless galley;
and then, amid the stars, thou art like a shepherd keeping his flock.
Shining and round, thou dost graze the mountain-tops like the wheel of
"O Tanith! thou dost love me? I have looked so much on thee! But no!
thou sailest through thine azure, and I--I remain on the motionless
"Taanach, take your nebal and play softly on the silver string, for my
heart is sad!"
The slave lifted a sort of harp of ebony wood, taller than herself,
and triangular in shape like a delta; she fixed the point in a crystal
globe, and with both hands began to play.
The sounds followed one another hurried and deep, like the buzzing of
bees, and with increasing sonorousness floated away into the night
with the complaining of the waves, and the rustling of the great trees
on the summit of the Acropolis.
"Hush!" cried Salammbo.
"What ails you, mistress? The blowing of the breeze, the passing of a
cloud, everything disquiets you just now!"
"I do not know," she said.
"You are wearied with too long prayers!"
"Oh! Tanaach, I would fain be dissolved in them like a flower in
"Perhaps it is the smoke of your perfumes?"
"No!" said Salammbo; "the spirit of the gods dwells in fragrant
Then the slave spoke to her of her father. It was thought that he had
gone towards the amber country, behind the pillars of Melkarth. "But
if he does not return," she said, "you must nevertheless, since it was
his will, choose a husband among the sons of the Ancients, and then
your grief will pass away in a man's arms."
"Why?" asked the young girl. All those that she had seen had horrified
her with their fallow-deer laughter and their coarse limbs.
"Sometimes, Tanaach, from the depths of my being there exhale as it
were hot fumes heavier than the vapours from a volcano. Voices call
me, a globe of fire rolls and mounts within my bosom, it stifles me, I
am at the point of death; and then, something sweet, flowing from my
brow to my feet, passes through my flesh--it is a caress enfolding me,
and I feel myself crushed as if some god were stretched upon me. Oh!
would that I could lose myself in the mists of the night, the waters
of the fountains, the sap of the trees, that I could issue from my
body, and be but a breath, or a ray, and glide, mount up to thee, O
She raised her arms to their full length, arching her form, which in
its long garment was as pale and light as the moon. Then she fell
back, panting, on the ivory couch; but Taanach passed an amber
necklace with dolphin's teeth about her neck to banish terrors, and
Salammbo said in an almost stifled voice: "Go and bring me
Her father had not wished her to enter the college of priestesses, nor
even to be made at all acquainted with the popular Tanith. He was
reserving her for some alliance that might serve his political ends;
so that Salammbo lived alone in the midst of the palace. Her mother
was long since dead.
She had grown up with abstinences, fastings and purifications, always
surrounded by grave and exquisite things, her body saturated with
perfumes, and her soul filled with prayers. She had never tasted wine,
nor eaten meat, nor touched an unclean animal, nor set her heels in
the house of death.
She knew nothing of obscene images, for as each god was manifested in
different forms, the same principle often received the witness of
contradictory cults, and Salammbo worshipped the goddess in her
sidereal presentation. An influence had descended upon the maiden from
the moon; when the planet passed diminishing away, Salammbo grew weak.
She languished the whole day long, and revived at evening. During an
eclipse she nearly died.
But Rabetna, in jealousy, revenged herself for the virginity withdrawn
from her sacrifices, and she tormented Salammbo with possessions, all
the stronger for being vague, which were spread through this belief
and excited by it.
Unceasingly was Hamilcar's daughter disquieted about Tanith. She had
learned her adventures, her travels, and all her names, which she
would repeat without their having any distinct signification for her.
In order to penetrate into the depths of her dogma, she wished to
become acquainted, in the most secret part of the temple, with the old
idol in the magnificent mantle, whereon depended the destinies of
Carthage, for the idea of a god did not stand out clearly from his
representation, and to hold, or even see the image of one, was to take
away part of his virtue, and in a measure to rule him.
But Salammbo turned around. She had recognised the sound of the golden
bells which Schahabarim wore at the hem of his garment.
He ascended the staircases; then at the threshold of the terrace he
stopped and folded his arms.
His sunken eyes shone like the lamps of a sepulchre; his long thin
body floated in its linen robe which was weighted by the bells, the
latter alternating with balls of emeralds at his heels. He had feeble
limbs, an oblique skull and a pointed chin; his skin seemed cold to
the touch, and his yellow face, which was deeply furrowed with
wrinkles, was as if it contracted in a longing, in an everlasting
He was the high priest of Tanith, and it was he who had educated
"Speak!" he said. "What will you?"
"I hoped--you had almost promised me--" She stammered and was
confused; then suddenly: "Why do you despise me? what have I forgotten
in the rites? You are my master, and you told me that no one was so
accomplished in the things pertaining to the goddess as I; but there
are some of which you will not speak. Is it so, O father?"
Schahabarim remembered Hamilcar's orders, and replied:
"No, I have nothing more to teach you!"
"A genius," she resumed, "impels me to this love. I have climbed the
steps of Eschmoun, god of the planets and intelligences; I have slept
beneath the golden olive of Melkarth, patron of the Tyrian colonies; I
have pushed open the doors of Baal-Khamon, the enlightener and
fertiliser; I have sacrificed to the subterranean Kabiri, to the gods
of woods, winds, rivers and mountains; but, can you understand? they
are all too far away, too high, too insensible, while she--I feel her
mingled in my life; she fills my soul, and I quiver with inward
startings, as though she were leaping in order to escape. Methinks I
am about to hear her voice, and see her face, lightnings dazzle me and
then I sink back again into the darkness."
Schahabarim was silent. She entreated him with suppliant looks. At
last he made a sign for the dismissal of the slave, who was not of
Chanaanitish race. Taanach disappeared, and Schahabarim, raising one
arm in the air, began:
"Before the gods darkness alone was, and a breathing stirred dull and
indistinct as the conscience of a man in a dream. It contracted,
creating Desire and Cloud, and from Desire and Cloud there issued
primitive Matter. This was a water, muddy, black, icy and deep. It
contained senseless monsters, incoherent portions of the forms to be
born, which are painted on the walls of the sanctuaries.
"Then Matter condensed. It became an egg. It burst. One half formed
the earth and the other the firmament. Sun, moon, winds and clouds
appeared, and at the crash of the thunder intelligent creatures awoke.
Then Eschmoun spread himself in the starry sphere; Khamon beamed in
the sun; Melkarth thrust him with his arms behind Gades; the Kabiri
descended beneath the volcanoes, and Rabetna like a nurse bent over
the world pouring out her light like milk, and her night like a
"And then?" she said.
He had related the secret of the origins to her, to divert her from
sublimer prospects; but the maiden's desire kindled again at his last
words, and Schahabarim, half yielding resumed:
"She inspires and governs the loves of men."
"The loves of men!" repeated Salammbo dreamily.
"She is the soul of Carthage," continued the priest; "and although she
is everywhere diffused, it is here that she dwells, beneath the sacred
"O father!" cried Salammbo, "I shall see her, shall I not? you will
bring me to her! I had long been hesitating; I am devoured with
curiosity to see her form. Pity! help me! let us go?"
He repulsed her with a vehement gesture that was full of pride.
"Never! Do you not know that it means death? The hermaphrodite Baals
are unveiled to us alone who are men in understanding and women in
weakness. Your desire is sacrilege; be satisfied with the knowledge
that you possess!"
She fell upon her knees placing two fingers against her ears in token
of repentance; and crushed by the priest's words, and filled at once
with anger against him, with terror and humiliation, she burst into
sobs. Schahabarim remained erect, and more insensible than the stones
of the terrace. He looked down upon her quivering at his feet, and
felt a kind of joy on seeing her suffer for his divinity whom he
himself could not wholly embrace. The birds were already singing, a
cold wind was blowing, and little clouds were drifting in the paling
Suddenly he perceived on the horizon, behind Tunis, what looked like
slight mists trailing along the ground; then these became a great
curtain of dust extending perpendicularly, and, amid the whirlwinds of
the thronging mass, dromedaries' heads, lances and shields appeared.
It was the army of the Barbarians advancing upon Carthage.
BENEATH THE WALLS OF CARTHAGE
Some country people, riding on asses or running on foot, arrived in
the town, pale, breathless, and mad with fear. They were flying before
the army. It had accomplished the journey from Sicca in three days, in
order to reach Carthage and wholly exterminate it.
The gates were shut. The Barbarians appeared almost immediately; but
they stopped in the middle of the isthmus, on the edge of the lake.
At first they made no hostile announcement. Several approached with
palm branches in their hands. They were driven back with arrows, so
great was the terror.
In the morning and at nightfall prowlers would sometimes wander along
the walls. A little man carefully wrapped in a cloak, and with his
face concealed beneath a very low visor, was especially noticed. He
would remain whole hours gazing at the aqueduct, and so persistently
that he doubtless wished to mislead the Carthaginians as to his real
designs. Another man, a sort of giant who walked bareheaded, used to
But Carthage was defended throughout the whole breadth of the isthmus:
first by a trench, then by a grassy rampart, and lastly by a wall
thirty cubits high, built of freestone, and in two storys. It
contained stables for three hundred elephants with stores for their
caparisons, shackles, and food; other stables again for four thousand
horses with supplies of barley and harness, and barracks for twenty
thousand soldiers with armour and all materials of war. Towers rose
from the second story, all provided with battlements, and having
bronze bucklers hung on cramps on the outside.
This first line of wall gave immediate shelter to Malqua, the sailors'
and dyers' quarter. Masts might be seen whereon purple sails were
drying, and on the highest terraces clay furnaces for heating the
pickle were visible.
Behind, the lofty houses of the city rose in an ampitheatre of cubical
form. They were built of stone, planks, shingle, reeds, shells, and
beaten earth. The woods belonging to the temples were like lakes of
verdure in this mountain of diversely-coloured blocks. It was levelled
at unequal distances by the public squares, and was cut from top to
bottom by countless intersecting lanes. The enclosures of the three
old quarters which are now lost might be distinguished; they rose here
and there like great reefs, or extended in enormous fronts, blackened,
half-covered with flowers, and broadly striped by the casting of
filth, while streets passed through their yawning apertures like
rivers beneath bridges.
The hill of the Acropolis, in the centre of Byrsa, was hidden beneath
a disordered array of monuments. There were temples with wreathed
columns bearing bronze capitals and metal chains, cones of dry stones
with bands of azure, copper cupolas, marble architraves, Babylonian
buttresses, obelisks poised on their points like inverted torches.
Peristyles reached to pediments; volutes were displayed through
colonnades; granite walls supported tile partitions; the whole
mounting, half-hidden, the one above the other in a marvellous and
incomprehensible fashion. In it might be felt the succession of the
ages, and, as it were, the memorials of forgotten fatherlands.
Behind the Acropolis the Mappalian road, which was lined with tombs,
extended through red lands in a straight line from the shore to the
catacombs; then spacious dwellings occurred at intervals in the
gardens, and this third quarter, Megara, which was the new town,
reached as far as the edge of the cliff, where rose a giant pharos
that blazed forth every night.
In this fashion was Carthage displayed before the soldiers quartered
in the plain.
They could recognise the markets and crossways in the distance, and
disputed with one another as to the sites of the temples. Khamon's,
fronting the Syssitia, had golden tiles; Melkarth, to the left of
Eschmoun, had branches of coral on its roofing; beyond, Tanith's
copper cupola swelled among the palm trees; the dark Moloch was below
the cisterns, in the direction of the pharos. At the angles of the
pediments, on the tops of the walls, at the corners of the squares,
everywhere, divinities with hideous heads might be seen, colossal or
squat, with enormous bellies, or immoderately flattened, opening their
jaws, extending their arms, and holding forks, chains or javelins in
their hands; while the blue of the sea stretched away behind the
streets which were rendered still steeper by the perspective.
They were filled from morning till evening with a tumultuous people;
young boys shaking little bells, shouted at the doors of the baths;
the shops for hot drinks smoked, the air resounded with the noise of
anvils, the white cocks, sacred to the Sun, crowed on the terraces,
the oxen that were being slaughtered bellowed in the temples, slaves
ran about with baskets on their heads; and in the depths of the
porticoes a priest would sometimes appear, draped in a dark cloak,
barefooted, and wearing a pointed cap.
The spectacle afforded by Carthage irritated the Barbarians; they
admired it and execrated it, and would have liked both to annihilate
it and to dwell in it. But what was there in the Military Harbour
defended by a triple wall? Then behind the town, at the back of
Megara, and higher than the Acropolis, appeared Hamilcar's palace.
Matho's eyes were directed thither every moment. He would ascend the
olive trees and lean over with his hand spread out above his eyebrows.
The gardens were empty, and the red door with its black cross remained
More than twenty times he walked round the ramparts, seeking some
breach by which he might enter. One night he threw himself into the
gulf and swam for three hours at a stretch. He reached the foot of the
Mappalian quarter and tried to climb up the face of the cliff. He
covered his knees with blood, broke his nails, and then fell back into
the waves and returned.
His impotence exasperated him. He was jealous of this Carthage which
contained Salammbo, as if of some one who had possessed her. His
nervelessness left him to be replaced by a mad and continual eagerness
for action. With flaming cheek, angry eyes, and hoarse voice, he would
walk with rapid strides through the camp; or seated on the shore he
would scour his great sword with sand. He shot arrows at the passing
vultures. His heart overflowed into frenzied speech.
"Give free course to your wrath like a runaway chariot," said
Spendius. "Shout, blaspheme, ravage and slay. Grief is allayed with
blood, and since you cannot sate your love, gorge your hate; it will
Matho resumed the command of his soldiers. He drilled them pitilessly.
He was respected for his courage and especially for his strength.
Moreover he inspired a sort of mystic dread, and it was believed that
he conversed at night with phantoms. The other captains were animated
by his example. The army soon grew disciplined. From their houses the
Carthaginians could hear the bugle-flourishes that regulated their
exercises. At last the Barbarians drew near.
To crush them in the isthmus it would have been necessary for two
armies to take them simultaneously in the rear, one disembarking at
the end of the gulf of Utica, and the second at the mountain of the
Hot Springs. But what could be done with the single sacred Legion,
mustering at most six thousand men? If the enemy bent towards the east
they would join the nomads and intercept the commerce of the desert.
If they fell back to the west, Numidia would rise. Finally, lack of
provisions would sooner or later lead them to devastate the
surrounding country like grasshoppers, and the rich trembled for their
fine country-houses, their vineyards and their cultivated lands.
Hanno proposed atrocious and impracticable measures, such as promising
a heavy sum for every Barbarian's head, or setting fire to their camp
with ships and machines. His colleague Gisco, on the other hand,
wished them to be paid. But the Ancients detested him owing to his
popularity; for they dreaded the risk of a master, and through terror
of monarchy strove to weaken whatever contributed to it or might re-
Outside the fortification there were people of another race and of
unknown origin, all hunters of the porcupine, and eaters of shell-fish
and serpents. They used to go into caves to catch hyenas alive, and
amuse themselves by making them run in the evening on the sands of
Megara between the stelae of the tombs. Their huts, which were made of
mud and wrack, hung on the cliff like swallows' nests. There they
lived, without government and without gods, pell-mell, completely
naked, at once feeble and fierce, and execrated by the people of all
time on account of their unclean food. One morning the sentries
perceived that they were all gone.
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