Part 2 out of 6
At last some members of the Great Council arrived at a decision. They
came to the camp without necklaces or girdles, and in open sandles
like neighbours. They walked at a quiet pace, waving salutations to
the captains, or stopped to speak to the soldiers, saying that all was
finished and that justice was about to be done to their claims.
Many of them saw a camp of Mercenaries for the first time. Instead of
the confusion which they had pictured to themselves, there prevailed
everywhere terrible silence and order. A grassy rampart formed a lofty
wall round the army immovable by the shock of catapults. The ground in
the streets was sprinkled with fresh water; through the holes in the
tents they could perceive tawny eyeballs gleaming in the shade. The
piles of pikes and hanging panoplies dazzled them like mirrors. They
conversed in low tones. They were afraid of upsetting something with
their long robes.
The soldiers requested provisions, undertaking to pay for them out of
the money that was due.
Oxen, sheep, guinea fowl, fruit and lupins were sent to them, with
smoked scombri, that excellent scombri which Carthage dispatched to
every port. But they walked scornfully around the magnificent cattle,
and disparaging what they coveted, offered the worth of a pigeon for a
ram, or the price of a pomegranate for three goats. The Eaters of
Uncleanness came forward as arbitrators, and declared that they were
being duped. Then they drew their swords with threats to slay.
Commissaries of the Great Council wrote down the number of years for
which pay was due to each soldier. But it was no longer possible to
know how many Mercenaries had been engaged, and the Ancients were
dismayed at the enormous sum which they would have to pay. The reserve
of silphium must be sold, and the trading towns taxed; the Mercenaries
would grow impatient; Tunis was already with them; and the rich,
stunned by Hanno's ragings and his colleague's reproaches, urged any
citizens who might know a Barbarian to go to see him immediately in
order to win back his friendship, and to speak him fair. Such a show
of confidence would soothe them.
Traders, scribes, workers in the arsenal, and whole families visited
The soldiers allowed all the Carthaginians to come in, but by a single
passage so narrow that four men abreast jostled one another in it.
Spendius, standing against the barrier, had them carefully searched;
facing him Matho was examining the multitude, trying to recognise some
one whom he might have seen at Salammbo's palace.
The camp was like a town, so full of people and of movement was it.
The two distinct crowds mingled without blending, one dressed in linen
or wool, with felt caps like fir-cones, and the other clad in iron and
wearing helmets. Amid serving men and itinerant vendors there moved
women of all nations, as brown as ripe dates, as greenish as olives,
as yellow as oranges, sold by sailors, picked out of dens, stolen from
caravans, taken in the sacking of towns, women that were jaded with
love so long as they were young, and plied with blows when they were
old, and that died in routs on the roadsides among the baggage and the
abandoned beasts of burden. The wives of the nomads had square, tawny
robes of dromedary's hair swinging at their heels; musicians from
Cyrenaica, wrapped in violet gauze and with painted eyebrows, sang,
squatting on mats; old Negresses with hanging breasts gathered the
animals' dung that was drying in the sun to light their fires; the
Syracusan women had golden plates in their hair; the Lusitanians had
necklaces of shells; the Gauls wore wolf skins upon their white
bosoms; and sturdy children, vermin-covered, naked and uncircumcised,
butted with their heads against passers-by, or came behind them like
young tigers to bite their hands.
The Carthaginians walked through the camp, surprised at the quantities
of things with which it was running over. The most miserable were
melancholy, and the rest dissembled their anxiety.
The soldiers struck them on the shoulder, and exhorted them to be gay.
As soon as they saw any one, they invited him to their amusements. If
they were playing at discus, they would manage to crush his feet, or
if at boxing to fracture his jaw with the very first blow. The
slingers terrified the Carthaginians with their slings, the Psylli
with their vipers, and the horsemen with their horses, while their
victims, addicted as they were to peaceful occupations, bent their
heads and tried to smile at all these outrages. Some, in order to show
themselves brave, made signs that they should like to become soldiers.
They were set to split wood and to curry mules. They were buckled up
in armour, and rolled like casks through the streets of the camp.
Then, when they were about to leave, the Mercenaries plucked out their
hair with grotesque contortions.
But many, from foolishness or prejudice, innocently believed that all
the Carthaginians were very rich, and they walked behind them
entreating them to grant them something. They requested everything
that they thought fine: a ring, a girdle, sandals, the fringe of a
robe, and when the despoiled Carthaginian cried--"But I have nothing
left. What do you want?" they would reply, "Your wife!" Others even
said, "Your life!"
The military accounts were handed to the captains, read to the
soldiers, and definitively approved. Then they claimed tents; they
received them. Next the polemarchs of the Greeks demanded some of the
handsome suits of armour that were manufactured at Carthage; the Great
Council voted sums of money for their purchase. But it was only fair,
so the horsemen pretended, that the Republic should indemnify them for
their horses; one had lost three at such a siege, another, five during
such a march, another, fourteen in the precipices. Stallions from
Hecatompylos were offered to them, but they preferred money.
Next they demanded that they should be paid in money (in pieces of
money, and not in leathern coins) for all the corn that was owing to
them, and at the highest price that it had fetched during the war; so
that they exacted four hundred times as much for a measure of meal as
they had given for a sack of wheat. Such injustice was exasperating;
but it was necessary, nevertheless, to submit.
Then the delegates from the soldiers and from the Great Council swore
renewed friendship by the Genius of Carthage and the gods of the
Barbarians. They exchanged excuses and caresses with oriental
demonstrativeness and verbosity. Then the soldiers claimed, as a proof
of friendship, the punishment of those who had estranged them from the
Their meaning, it was pretended, was not understood, and they
explained themselves more clearly by saying that they must have
Several times a day, they left their camp, and walked along the foot
of the walls, shouting a demand that the Suffet's head should be
thrown to them, and holding out their robes to receive it.
The Great Council would perhaps have given way but for a last
exaction, more outrageous than the rest; they demanded maidens, chosen
from illustrious families, in marriage for their chiefs. It was an
idea which had emanated from Spendius, and which many thought most
simple and practicable. But the assumption of their desire to mix with
Punic blood made the people indignant; and they were bluntly told that
they were to receive no more. Then they exclaimed that they had been
deceived, and that if their pay did not arrive within three days, they
would themselves go and take it in Carthage.
The bad faith of the Mercenaries was not so complete as their enemies
thought. Hamilcar had made them extravagant promises, vague, it is
true, but at the same time solemn and reiterated. They might have
believed that when they disembarked at Carthage the town would be
abandoned to them, and that they should have treasures divided among
them; and when they saw that scarcely their wages would be paid, the
disillusion touched their pride no less than their greed.
Had not Dionysius, Pyrrhus, Agathocles, and the generals of Alexander
furnished examples of marvellous good fortune? Hercules, whom the
Chanaanites confounded with the sun, was the ideal which shone on the
horizon of armies. They knew that simple soldiers had worn diadems,
and the echoes of crumbling empires would furnish dreams to the Gaul
in his oak forest, to the Ethiopian amid his sands. But there was a
nation always ready to turn courage to account; and the robber driven
from his tribe, the patricide wandering on the roads, the perpetrator
of sacrilege pursued by the gods, all who were starving or in despair
strove to reach the port where the Carthaginian broker was recruiting
soldiers. Usually the Republic kept its promises. This time, however,
the eagerness of its avarice had brought it into perilous disgrace.
Numidians, Libyans, the whole of Africa was about to fall upon
Carthage. Only the sea was open to it, and there it met with the
Romans; so that, like a man assailed by murderers, it felt death all
It was quite necessary to have recourse to Gisco, and the Barbarians
accepted his intervention. One morning they saw the chains of the
harbour lowered, and three flat-bottomed boats passing through the
canal of Taenia entered the lake.
Gisco was visible on the first at the prow. Behind him rose an
enormous chest, higher than a catafalque, and furnished with rings
like hanging crowns. Then appeared the legion of interpreters, with
their hair dressed like sphinxes, and with parrots tattooed on their
breasts. Friends and slaves followed, all without arms, and in such
numbers that they shouldered one another. The three long, dangerously-
loaded barges advanced amid the shouts of the onlooking army.
As soon as Gisco disembarked the soldiers ran to him. He had a sort of
tribune erected with knapsacks, and declared that he should not depart
before he had paid them all in full.
There was an outburst of applause, and it was a long time before he
was able to speak.
Then he censured the wrongs done to the Republic, and to the
Barbarians; the fault lay with a few mutineers who had alarmed
Carthage by their violence. The best proof of good intention on the
part of the latter was that it was he, the eternal adversary of the
Suffet Hanno, who was sent to them. They must not credit the people
with the folly of desiring to provoke brave men, nor with ingratitude
enough not to recognise their services; and Gisco began to pay the
soldiers, commencing with the Libyans. As they had declared that the
lists were untruthful, he made no use of them.
They defiled before him according to nationality, opening their
fingers to show the number of their years of service; they were marked
in succession with green paint on the left arm; the scribes dipped
into the yawning coffer, while others made holes with a style on a
sheet of lead.
A man passed walking heavily like an ox.
"Come up beside me," said the Suffet, suspecting some fraud; "how many
years have you served?"
"Twelve," replied the Libyan.
Gisco slipped his fingers under his chin, for the chin-piece of the
helmet used in course of time to occasion two callosities there; these
were called carobs, and "to have the carobs" was an expression used to
denote a veteran.
"Thief!" exclaimed the Suffet, "your shoulders ought to have what your
face lacks!" and tearing off his tunic he laid bare is back which was
covered with a bleeding scab; he was a labourer from Hippo-Zarytus.
Hootings were raised, and he was decapitated.
As soon as night fell, Spendius went and roused the Libyans, and said
"When the Ligurians, Greeks, Balearians, and men of Italy are paid,
they will return. But as for you, you will remain in Africa, scattered
through your tribes, and without any means of defence! It will be then
that the Republic will take its revenge! Mistrust the journey! Are you
going to believe everything that is said? Both the Suffets are agreed,
and this one is imposing on you! Remember the Island of Bones, and
Xanthippus, whom they sent back to Sparta in a rotten galley!"
"How are we to proceed?" they asked.
"Reflect!" said Spendius.
The two following days were spent in paying the men of Magdala,
Leptis, and Hecatompylos; Spendius went about among the Gauls.
"They are paying off the Libyans, and then they will discharge the
Greeks, the Balearians, the Asiatics and all the rest! But you, who
are few in number, will receive nothing! You will see your native
lands no more! You will have no ships, and they will kill you to save
The Gauls came to the Suffet. Autaritus, he whom he had wounded at
Hamilcar's palace, put questions to him, but was repelled by the
slaves, and disappeared swearing he would be revenged.
The demands and complaints multiplied. The most obstinate penetrated
at night into the Suffet's tent; they took his hands and sought to
move him by making him feel their toothless mouths, their wasted arms,
and the scars of their wounds. Those who had not yet been paid were
growing angry, those who had received the money demanded more for
their horses; and vagabonds and outlaws assumed soldiers' arms and
declared that they were being forgotten. Every minute there arrived
whirlwinds of men, as it were; the tents strained and fell; the
multitude, thick pressed between the ramparts of the camp, swayed with
loud shouts from the gates to the centre. When the tumult grew
excessively violent Gisco would rest one elbow on his ivory sceptre
and stand motionless looking at the sea with his fingers buried in his
Matho frequently went off to speak with Spendius; then he would again
place himself in front of the Suffet, and Gisco could feel his eyes
continually like two flaming phalaricas darted against him. Several
times they hurled reproaches at each other over the heads of the
crowd, but without making themselves heard. The distribution,
meanwhile, continued, and the Suffet found expedients to remove every
The Greeks tried to quibble about differences in currency, but he
furnished them with such explanations that they retired without a
murmur. The Negroes demanded white shells such as are used for trading
in the interior of Africa, but when he offered to send to Carthage for
them they accepted money like the rest.
But the Balearians had been promised something better, namely, women.
The Suffet replied that a whole caravan of maidens was expected for
them, but the journey was long and would require six moons more. When
they were fat and well rubbed with benjamin they should be sent in
ships to the ports of the Balearians.
Suddenly Zarxas, now handsome and vigorous, leaped like a mountebank
upon the shoulders of his friends and cried:
"Have you reserved any of them for the corpses?" at the same time
pointing to the gate of Khamon in Carthage.
The brass plates with which it was furnished from top to bottom shone
in the sun's latest fires, and the Barbarians believed that they could
discern on it a trail of blood. Every time that Gisco wished to speak
their shouts began again. At last he descended with measured steps,
and shut himself up in his tent.
When he left it at sunrise his interpreters, who used to sleep
outside, did not stir; they lay on their backs with their eyes fixed,
their tongues between their teeth, and their faces of a bluish colour.
White mucus flowed from their nostrils, and their limbs were stiff, as
if they had all been frozen by the cold during the night. Each had a
little noose of rushes round his neck.
From that time onward the rebellion was unchecked. The murder of the
Balearians which had been recalled by Zarxas strengthened the distrust
inspired by Spendius. They imagined that the Republic was always
trying to deceive them. An end must be put to it! The interpreters
should be dispensed with! Zarxas sang war songs with a sling around
his head; Autaritus brandished his great sword; Spendius whispered a
word to one or gave a dagger to another. The boldest endeavoured to
pay themselves, while those who were less frenzied wished to have the
distribution continued. No one now relinquished his arms, and the
anger of all combined into a tumultuous hatred of Gisco.
Some got up beside him. So long as they vociferated abuse they were
listened to with patience; but if they tried to utter the least word
in his behalf they were immediately stoned, or their heads were cut
off by a sabre-stroke from behind. The heap of knapsacks was redder
than an altar.
They became terrible after their meal and when they had drunk wine!
This was an enjoyment forbidden in the Punic armies under pain of
death, and they raised their cups in the direction of Carthage in
derision of its discipline. Then they returned to the slaves of the
exchequer and again began to kill. The word "strike," though different
in each language, was understood by all.
Gisco was well aware that he was being abandoned by his country; but
in spite of its ingratitude he would not dishonour it. When they
reminded him that they had been promised ships, he swore by Moloch to
provide them himself at his own expense, and pulling off his necklace
of blue stones he threw it into the crowd as the pledge of his oath.
Then the Africans claimed the corn in accordance with the engagements
made by the Great Council. Gisco spread out the accounts of the
Syssitia traced in violet pigment on sheep skins; and read out all
that had entered Carthage month by month and day by day.
Suddenly he stopped with gaping eyes, as if he had just discovered his
sentence of death among the figures.
The Ancients had, in fact, fraudulently reduced them, and the corn
sold during the most calamitous period of the war was set down at so
low a rate that, blindness apart, it was impossible to believe it.
"Speak!" they shouted. "Louder! Ah! he is trying to lie, the coward!
Don't trust him."
For some time he hesitated. At last he resumed his task.
The soldiers, without suspecting that they were being deceived,
accepted the accounts of the Syssitia as true. But the abundance that
had prevailed at Carthage made them furiously jealous. They broke open
the sycamore chest; it was three parts empty. They had seen such sums
coming out of it, that they thought it inexhaustible; Gisco must have
buried some in his tent. They scaled the knapsacks. Matho led them,
and as they shouted "The money! the money!" Gisco at last replied:
"Let your general give it to you!"
He looked them in the face without speaking, with his great yellow
eyes, and his long face that was paler than his beard. An arrow, held
by its feathers, hung from the large gold ring in his ear, and a
stream of blood was trickling from his tiara upon his shoulder.
At a gesture from Matho all advanced. Gisco held out his arms;
Spendius tied his wrists with a slip knot; another knocked him down,
and he disappeared amid the disorder of the crowd which was stumbling
over the knapsacks.
They sacked his tent. Nothing was found in it except things
indispensable to life; and, on a closer search, three images of
Tanith, and, wrapped up in an ape's skin, a black stone which had
fallen from the moon. Many Carthaginians had chosen to accompany him;
they were eminent men, and all belonged to the war party.
They were dragged outside the tents and thrown into the pit used for
the reception of filth. They were tied with iron chains around the
body to solid stakes, and were offered food at the point of the
Autaritus overwhelmed them with invectives as he inspected them, but
being quite ignorant of his language they made no reply; and the Gaul
from time to time threw pebbles at their faces to make them cry out.
The next day a sort of languor took possession of the army. Now that
their anger was over they were seized with anxiety. Matho was
suffering from vague melancholy. It seemed to him that Salammbo had
indirectly been insulted. These rich men were a kind of appendage to
her person. He sat down in the night on the edge of the pit, and
recognised in their groanings something of the voice of which his
heart was full.
All, however, upbraided the Libyans, who alone had been paid. But
while national antipathies revived, together with personal hatreds, it
was felt that it would be perilous to give way to them. Reprisals
after such an outrage would be formidable. It was necessary,
therefore, to anticipate the vengeance of Carthage. Conventions and
harangues never ceased. Every one spoke, no one was listened to;
Spendius, usually so loquacious, shook his head at every proposal.
One evening he asked Matho carelessly whether there were not springs
in the interior of the town.
"Not one!" replied Matho.
The next day Spendius drew him aside to the bank of the lake.
"Master!" said the former slave, "If your heart is dauntless, I will
bring you into Carthage."
"How?" repeated the other, panting.
"Swear to execute all my commands and to follow me like a shadow!"
Then Matho, raising his arm towards the planet of Chabar, exclaimed:
"By Tanith, I swear!"
"To-morrow after sunset you will wait for me at the foot of the
aqueduct between the ninth and tenth arcades. Bring with you an iron
pick, a crestless helmet, and leathern sandals."
The aqueduct of which he spoke crossed the entire isthmus obliquely,--
a considerable work, afterwards enlarged by the Romans. In spite of
her disdain of other nations, Carthage had awkwardly borrowed this
novel invention from them, just as Rome herself had built Punic
galleys; and five rows of superposed arches, of a dumpy kind of
architecture, with buttresses at their foot and lions' heads at the
top, reached to the western part of the Acropolis, where they sank
beneath the town to incline what was nearly a river into the cisterns
Spendius met Matho here at the hour agreed upon. He fastened a sort of
harpoon to the end of a cord and whirled it rapidly like a sling; the
iron instrument caught fast, and they began to climb up the wall, the
one after the other.
But when they had ascended to the first story the cramp fell back
every time that they threw it, and in order to discover some fissure
they had to walk along the edge of the cornice. At every row of arches
they found that it became narrower. Then the cord relaxed. Several
times it nearly broke.
At last they reached the upper platform. Spendius stooped down from
time to time to feel the stones with his hand.
"Here it is," he said; "let us begin!" And leaning on the pick which
Matho had brought they succeeded in dislodging one of the flagstones.
In the distance they perceived a troop of horse-men galloping on
horses without bridles. Their golden bracelets leaped in the vague
drapings of their cloaks. A man could be seen in front crowned with
ostrich feathers, and galloping with a lance in each hand.
"Narr' Havas!" exclaimed Matho.
"What matter?" returned Spendius, and he leaped into the hole which
they had just made by removing the flagstone.
Matho at his command tried to thrust out one of the blocks. But he
could not move his elbows for want of room.
"We shall return," said Spendius; "go in front." Then they ventured
into the channel of water.
It reached to their waists. Soon they staggered, and were obliged to
swim. Their limbs knocked against the walls of the narrow duct. The
water flowed almost immediately beneath the stones above, and their
faces were torn by them. Then the current carried them away. Their
breasts were crushed with air heavier than that of a sepulchre, and
stretching themselves out as much as possible with their heads between
their arms and their legs close together, they passed like arrows into
the darkness, choking, gurgling, and almost dead. Suddenly all became
black before them, and the speed of the waters redoubled. They fell.
When they came to the surface again, they remained for a few minutes
extended on their backs, inhaling the air delightfully. Arcades, one
behind another, opened up amid large walls separating the various
basins. All were filled, and the water stretched in a single sheet
throughout the length of the cisterns. Through the air-holes in the
cupolas on the ceiling there fell a pale brightness which spread upon
the waves discs, as it were, of light, while the darkness round about
thickened towards the walls and threw them back to an indefinite
distance. The slightest sound made a great echo.
Spendius and Matho commenced to swim again, and passing through the
opening of the arches, traversed several chambers in succession. Two
other rows of smaller basins extended in a parallel direction on each
side. They lost themselves; they turned, and came back again. At last
something offered a resistance to their heels. It was the pavement of
the gallery that ran along the cisterns.
Then, advancing with great precautions, they felt along the wall to
find an outlet. But their feet slipped, and they fell into the great
centre-basins. They had to climb up again, and there they fell again.
They experienced terrible fatigue, which made them feel as if all
their limbs had been dissolved in the water while swimming. Their eyes
closed; they were in the agonies of death.
Spendius struck his hand against the bars of a grating. They shook it,
it gave way, and they found themselves on the steps of a staircase. A
door of bronze closed it above. With the point of a dagger they moved
the bar, which was opened from without, and suddenly the pure open air
The night was filled with silence, and the sky seemed at an
extraordinary height. Clusters of trees projected over the long lines
of walls. The whole town was asleep. The fires of the outposts shone
like lost stars.
Spendius, who had spent three years in the ergastulum, was but
imperfectly acquainted with the different quarters. Matho conjectured
that to reach Hamilcar's palace they ought to strike to the left and
cross the Mappalian district.
"No," said Spendius, "take me to the temple of Tanith."
Matho wished to speak.
"Remember!" said the former slave, and raising his arm he showed him
the glittering planet of Chabar.
Then Matho turned in silence towards the Acropolis.
They crept along the nopal hedges which bordered the paths. The water
trickled from their limbs upon the dust. Their damp sandals made no
noise; Spendius, with eyes that flamed more than torches, searched the
bushes at every step;--and he walked behind Matho with his hands
resting on the two daggers which he carried on his arms, and which
hung from below the armpit by a leathern band.
After leaving the gardens Matho and Spendius found themselves checked
by the rampart of Megara. But they discovered a breach in the great
wall and passed through.
The ground sloped downwards, forming a kind of very broad valley. It
was an exposed place.
"Listen," said Spendius, "and first of all fear nothing! I shall
fulfil my promise--"
He stopped abruptly, and seemed to reflect as though searching for
words,--"Do you remember that time at sunrise when I showed Carthage
to you on Salammbo's terrace? We were strong that day, but you would
listen to nothing!" Then in a grave voice: "Master, in the sanctuary
of Tanith there is a mysterious veil, which fell from heaven and which
covers the goddess."
"I know," said Matho.
Spendius resumed: "It is itself divine, for it forms part of her. The
gods reside where their images are. It is because Carthage possesses
it that Carthage is powerful." Then leaning over to his ear: "I have
brought you with me to carry it off!"
Matho recoiled in horror. "Begone! look for some one else! I will not
help you in this execrable crime!"
"But Tanith is your enemy," retorted Spendius; "she is persecuting you
and you are dying through her wrath. You will be revenged upon her.
She will obey you, and you will become almost immortal and
Matho bent his head. Spendius continued:
"We should succumb; the army would be annihilated of itself. We have
neither flight, nor succour, nor pardon to hope for! What chastisement
from the gods can you be afraid of since you will have their power in
your own hands? Would you rather die on the evening of a defeat, in
misery beneath the shelter of a bush, or amid the outrages of the
populace and the flames of funeral piles? Master, one day you will
enter Carthage among the colleges of the pontiffs, who will kiss your
sandals; and if the veil of Tanith weighs upon you still, you will
reinstate it in its temple. Follow me! come and take it."
Matho was consumed by a terrible longing. He would have liked to
possess the veil while refraining from the sacrilege. He said to
himself that perhaps it would not be necessary to take it in order to
monopolise its virtue. He did not go to the bottom of his thought but
stopped at the boundary, where it terrified him.
"Come on!" he said; and they went off with rapid strides, side by
side, and without speaking.
The ground rose again, and the dwellings were near. They turned again
into the narrow streets amid the darkness. The strips of esparto-grass
with which the doors were closed, beat against the walls. Some camels
were ruminating in a square before heaps of cut grass. Then they
passed beneath a gallery covered with foliage. A pack of dogs were
barking. But suddenly the space grew wider and they recognised the
western face of the Acropolis. At the foot of Byrsa there stretched a
long black mass: it was the temple of Tanith, a whole made up of
monuments and galleries, courts and fore-courts, and bounded by a low
wall of dry stones. Spendius and Matho leaped over it.
This first barrier enclosed a wood of plane-trees as a precaution
against plague and infection in the air. Tents were scattered here and
there, in which, during the daytime, depilatory pastes, perfumes,
garments, moon-shaped cakes, and images of the goddess with
representations of the temple hollowed out in blocks of alabaster,
were on sale.
They had nothing to fear, for on nights when the planet did not
appear, all rites were suspended; nevertheless Matho slackened his
speed, and stopped before the three ebony steps leading to the second
"Forward!" said Spendius.
Pomegranate, almond trees, cypresses and myrtles alternated in regular
succession; the path, which was paved with blue pebbles, creaked
beneath their footsteps, and full-blown roses formed a hanging bower
over the whole length of the avenue. They arrived before an oval hole
protected by a grating. Then Matho, who was frightened by the silence,
said to Spendius:
"It is here that they mix the fresh water and the bitter."
"I have seen all that," returned the former slave, "in Syria, in the
town of Maphug"; and they ascended into the third enclosure by a
staircase of six silver steps.
A huge cedar occupied the centre. Its lowest branches were hidden
beneath scraps of material and necklaces hung upon them by the
faithful. They walked a few steps further on, and the front of the
temple was displayed before them.
Two long porticoes, with their architraves resting on dumpy pillars,
flanked a quadrangular tower, the platform of which was adorned with
the crescent of a moon. On the angles of the porticoes and at the four
corners of the tower stood vases filled with kindled aromatics. The
capitals were laden with pomegranates and coloquintidas. Twining
knots, lozenges, and rows of pearls alternated on the walls, and a
hedge of silver filigree formed a wide semicircle in front of the
brass staircase which led down from the vestibule.
There was a cone of stone at the entrance between a stela of gold and
one of emerald, and Matho kissed his right hand as he passed beside
The first room was very lofty; its vaulted roof was pierced by
numberless apertures, and if the head were raised the stars might be
seen. All round the wall rush baskets were heaped up with the first
fruits of adolescence in the shape of beards and curls of hair; and in
the centre of the circular apartment the body of a woman issued from a
sheath which was covered with breasts. Fat, bearded, and with eyelids
downcast, she looked as though she were smiling, while her hands were
crossed upon the lower part of her big body, which was polished by the
kisses of the crowd.
Then they found themselves again in the open air in a transverse
corridor, wherein there was an altar of small dimensions leaning
against an ivory door. There was no further passage; the priests alone
could open it; for the temple was not a place of meeting for the
multitude, but the private abode of a divinity.
"The enterprise is impossible," said Matho. "You had not thought of
this! Let us go back!" Spendius was examining the walls.
He wanted the veil, not because he had confidence in its virtue
(Spendius believed only in the Oracle), but because he was persuaded
that the Carthaginians would be greatly dismayed on seeing themselves
deprived of it. They walked all round behind in order to find some
Aedicules of different shapes were visible beneath clusters of
turpentine trees. Here and there rose a stone phallus, and large stags
roamed peacefully about, spurning the fallen fir-cones with their
But they retraced their steps between two long galleries which ran
parallel to each other. There were small open cells along their sides,
and tabourines and cymbals hung against their cedar columns from top
to bottom. Women were sleeping stretched on mats outside the cells.
Their bodies were greasy with unguents, and exhaled an odour of spices
and extinguished perfuming-pans; while they were so covered with
tattooings, necklaces, rings, vermilion, and antimony that, but for
the motion of their breasts, they might have been taken for idols as
they lay thus on the ground. There were lotus-trees encircling a
fountain in which fish like Salammbo's were swimming; and then in the
background, against the wall of the temple, spread a vine, the
branches of which were of glass and the grape-bunches of emerald, the
rays from the precious stones making a play of light through the
painted columns upon the sleeping faces.
Matho felt suffocated in the warm atmosphere pressed down upon him by
the cedar partitions. All these symbols of fecundation, these
perfumes, radiations, and breathings overwhelmed him. Through all the
mystic dazzling he kept thinking of Salammbo. She became confused with
the goddess herself, and his loved unfolded itself all the more, like
the great lotus-plants blooming upon the depths of the waters.
Spendius was calculating how much money he would have made in former
days by the sale of these women; and with a rapid glance he estimated
the weight of the golden necklaces as he passed by.
The temple was impenetrable on this side as on the other, and they
returned behind the first chamber. While Spendius was searching and
ferreting, Matho was prostrate before the door supplicating Tanith. He
besought her not to permit the sacrilege, and strove to soften her
with caressing words, such as are used to an angry person.
Spendius noticed a narrow aperture above the door.
"Rise!" he said to Matho, and he made him stand erect with his back
against the wall. Placing one foot in his hands, and then the other
upon his head, he reached up to the air-hole, made his way into it and
disappeared. Then Matho felt a knotted cord--that one which Spendius
had rolled around his body before entering the cisterns--fall upon his
shoulders, and bearing upon it with both hands he soon found himself
by the side of the other in a large hall filled with shadow.
Such an attempt was something extraordinary. The inadequacy of the
means for preventing it was a sufficient proof that it was considered
impossible. The sanctuaries were protected by terror more than by
their walls. Matho expected to die at every step.
However a light was flickering far back in the darkness, and they went
up to it. It was a lamp burning in a shell on the pedestal of a statue
which wore the cap of the Kabiri. Its long blue robe was strewn with
diamond discs, and its heels were fastened to the ground by chains
which sank beneath the pavement. Matho suppressed a cry. "Ah! there
she is! there she is!" he stammered out. Spendius took up the lamp in
order to light himself.
"What an impious man you are!" murmured Matho, following him
The apartment which they entered had nothing in it but a black
painting representing another woman. Her legs reached to the top of
the wall, and her body filled the entire ceiling; a huge egg hung by a
thread from her navel, and she fell head downwards upon the other
wall, reaching as far as the level of the pavement, which was touched
by her pointed fingers.
They drew a hanging aside, in order to go on further; but the wind
blew and the light went out.
Then they wandered about, lost in the complications of the
architecture. Suddenly they felt something strangely soft beneath
their feet. Sparks crackled and leaped; they were walking in fire.
Spendius touched the ground and perceived that it was carefully
carpeted with lynx skins; then it seemed to them that a big cord, wet,
cold, and viscous, was gliding between their legs. Through some
fissures cut in the wall there fell thin white rays, and they advanced
by this uncertain light. At last they distinguished a large black
serpent. It darted quickly away and disappeared.
"Let us fly!" exclaimed Matho. "It is she! I feel her; she is coming."
"No, no," replied Spendius, "the temple is empty."
Then a dazzling light made them lower their eyes. Next they perceived
all around them an infinite number of beasts, lean, panting, with
bristling claws, and mingled together one above another in a
mysterious and terrifying confusion. There were serpents with feet,
and bulls with wings, fishes with human heads were devouring fruit,
flowers were blooming in the jaws of crocodiles, and elephants with
uplifted trunks were sailing proudly through the azure like eagles.
Their incomplete or multiplied limbs were distended with terrible
exertion. As they thrust out their tongues they looked as though they
would fain give forth their souls; and every shape was to be found
among them as if the germ-receptacle had been suddenly hatched and had
burst, emptying itself upon the walls of the hall.
Round the latter were twelve globes of blue crystal, supported by
monsters resembling tigers. Their eyeballs were starting out of their
heads like those of snails, with their dumpy loins bent they were
turning round towards the background where the supreme Rabbet, the
Omnifecund, the last invented, shone splendid in a chariot of ivory.
She was covered with scales, feathers, flowers, and birds as high as
the waist. For earrings she had silver cymbals, which flapped against
her cheeks. Her large fixed eyes gazed upon you, and a luminous stone,
set in an obscene symbol on her brow, lighted the whole hall by its
reflection in red copper mirrors above the door.
Matho stood a step forward; but a flag stone yielded beneath his heels
and immediately the spheres began to revolve and the monsters to roar;
music rose melodious and pealing, like the harmony of the planets; the
tumultuous soul of Tanith was poured streaming forth. She was about to
arise, as lofty as the hall and with open arms. Suddenly the monsters
closed their jaws and the crystal globes revolved no more.
Then a mournful modulation lingered for a time through the air and at
last died away.
"And the veil?" said Spendius.
Nowhere could it be seen. Where was it to be found? How could it be
discovered? What if the priests had hidden it? Matho experienced
anguish of heart and felt as though he had been deceived in his
"This way!" whispered Spendius. An inspiration guided him. He drew
Matho behind Tanith's chariot, where a cleft a cubit wide ran down the
wall from top to bottom.
Then they penetrated into a small and completely circular room, so
lofty that it was like the interior of a pillar. In the centre there
was a big black stone, of semispherical shape like a tabourine; flames
were burning upon it; an ebony cone, bearing a head and two arms, rose
But beyond it seemed as though there were a cloud wherein were
twinkling stars; faces appeared in the depths of its folds--Eschmoun
with the Kabiri, some of the monsters that had already been seen, the
sacred beasts of the Babylonians, and others with which they were not
acquainted. It passed beneath the idol's face like a mantle, and
spread fully out was drawn up on the wall to which it was fastened by
the corners, appearing at once bluish as the night, yellow as the
dawn, purple as the sun, multitudinous, diaphanous, sparkling light.
It was the mantle of the goddess, the holy zaimph which might not be
Both turned pale.
"Take it!" said Matho at last.
Spendius did not hesitate, and leaning upon the idol he unfastened the
veil, which sank to the ground. Matho laid his hand upon it; then he
put his head through the opening, then he wrapped it about his body,
and he spread out his arms the better to view it.
"Let us go!" said Spendius.
Matho stood panting with his eyes fixed upon the pavement. Suddenly he
"But what if I went to her? I fear her beauty no longer! What could
she do to me? I am now more than a man. I could pass through flames or
walk upon the sea! I am transported! Salammbo! Salammbo! I am your
His voice was like thunder. He seemed to Spendius to have grown taller
A sound of footsteps drew near, a door opened, and a man appeared, a
priest with lofty cap and staring eyes. Before he could make a gesture
Spendius had rushed upon him, and clasping him in his arms had buried
both his daggers in his sides. His head rang upon the pavement.
Then they stood for a while, as motionless as the corpse, listening.
Nothing could be heard but the murmuring of the wind through the half-
The latter led into a narrow passage. Spendius advanced along it,
Matho followed him, and they found themselves almost immediately in
the third enclosure, between the lateral porticoes, in which were the
dwellings of the priests.
Behind the cells there must be a shorter way out. They hastened along.
Spendius squatted down at the edge of the fountain and washed his
bloodstained hands. The women slept. The emerald vine shone. They
resumed their advance.
But something was running behind them under the trees; and Matho, who
bore the veil, several times felt that it was being pulled very gently
from below. It was a large cynocephalus, one of those which dwelt at
liberty within the enclosure of the goddess. It clung to the mantle as
though it had been conscious of the theft. They did not dare to strike
it, however, fearing that it might redouble its cries; suddenly its
anger subsided, and it trotted close beside them swinging its body
with its long hanging arms. Then at the barrier it leaped at a bound
into a palm tree.
When they had left the last enclosure they directed their steps
towards Hamilcar's palace, Spendius understanding that it would be
useless to try to dissuade Matho.
They went by the street of the Tanners, the square of Muthumbal, the
green market and the crossways of Cynasyn. At the angle of a wall a
man drew back frightened by the sparkling thing which pierced the
"Hide the zaimph!" said Spendius.
Other people passed them, but without perceiving them.
At last they recognised the houses of Megara.
The pharos, which was built behind them on the summit of the cliff,
lit up the heavens with a great red brightness, and the shadow of the
palace, with its rising terraces, projected a monstrous pyramid, as it
were, upon the gardens. They entered through the hedge of jujube-
trees, beating down the branches with blows of the dagger.
The traces of the feast of the Mercenaries were everywhere still
manifest. The parks were broken up, the trenches drained, the doors of
the ergastulum open. No one was to be seen about the kitchens or
cellars. They wondered at the silence, which was occasionally broken
by the hoarse breathing of the elephants moving in their shackles, and
the crepitation of the pharos, in which a pile of aloes was burning.
Matho, however, kept repeating:
"But where is she? I wish to see her! Lead me!"
"It is a piece of insanity!" Spendius kept saying. "She will call, her
slaves will run up, and in spite of your strength you will die!"
They reached thus the galley staircase. Matho raised his head, and
thought that he could perceive far above a vague brightness, radiant
and soft. Spendius sought to restrain him, but he dashed up the steps.
As he found himself again in places where he had already seen her, the
interval of the days that had passed was obliterated from his memory.
But now had she been singing among the tables; she had disappeared,
and he had since been continually ascending this staircase. The sky
above his head was covered with fires; the sea filled the horizon; at
each step he was surrounded by a still greater immensity, and he
continued to climb upward with that strange facility which we
experience in dreams.
The rustling of the veil as it brushed against the stones recalled his
new power to him; but in the excess of his hope he could no longer
tell what he was to do; this uncertainty alarmed him.
From time to time he would press his face against the quadrangular
openings in the closed apartments, and he thought that in several of
the latter he could see persons asleep.
The last story, which was narrower, formed a sort of dado on the
summit of the terraces. Matho walked round it slowly.
A milky light filled the sheets of talc which closed the little
apertures in the wall, and in their symmetrical arrangement they
looked in the darkness like rows of delicate pearls. He recognised the
red door with the black cross. The throbbing of his heart increased.
He would fain have fled. He pushed the door and it opened.
A galley-shaped lamp hung burning in the back part of the room, and
three rays, emitted from its silver keel, trembled on the lofty
wainscots, which were painted red with black bands. The ceiling was an
assemblage of small beams, with amethysts and topazes amid their
gilding in the knots of the wood. On both the great sides of the
apartment there stretched a very low bed made with white leathern
straps; while above, semi-circles like shells, opened in the thickness
of the wall, suffered a garment to come out and hang down to the
There was an oval basin with a step of onyx round it; delicate
slippers of serpent skin were standing on the edge, together with an
alabaster flagon. The trace of a wet footstep might be seen beyond.
Exquisite scents were evaporating.
Matho glided over the pavement, which was encrusted with gold, mother-
of-pearl, and glass; and, in spite of the polished smoothness of the
ground, it seemed to him that his feet sank as though he were walking
Behind the silver lamp he had perceived a large square of azure held
in the air by four cords from above, and he advanced with loins bent
and mouth open.
Flamingoes' wings, fitted on branches of black coral, lay about among
purple cushions, tortoiseshell strigils, cedar boxes, and ivory
spatulas. There were antelopes' horns with rings and bracelets strung
upon them; and clay vases were cooling in the wind in the cleft of the
wall with a lattice-work of reeds. Several times he struck his foot,
for the ground had various levels of unequal height, which formed a
succession of apartments, as it were, in the room. In the background
there were silver balustrades surrounding a carpet strewn with painted
flowers. At last he came to the hanging bed beside an ebony stool
serving to get into it.
But the light ceased at the edge;--and the shadow, like a great
curtain, revealed only a corner of the red mattress with the extremity
of a little naked foot lying upon its ankle. Then Matho took up the
lamp very gently.
She was sleeping with her cheek in one hand and with the other arm
extended. Her ringlets were spread about her in such abundance that
she appeared to be lying on black feathers, and her ample white tunic
wound in soft draperies to her feet following the curves of her
person. Her eyes were just visible beneath her half-closed eyelids.
The curtains, which stretched perpendicularly, enveloped her in a
bluish atmosphere, and the motion of her breathing, communicating
itself to the cords, seemed to rock her in the air. A long mosquito
Matho stood motionless holding the silver lamp at arm's length; but on
a sudden the mosquito-net caught fire and disappeared, and Salammbo
The fire had gone out of itself. She did not speak. The lamp caused
great luminous moires to flicker on the wainscots.
"What is it?" she said.
"'Tis the veil of the goddess!"
"The veil of the goddess!" cried Salammbo, and supporting herself on
both clenched hands she leaned shuddering out. He resumed:
"I have been in the depths of the sanctuary to seek it for you! Look!"
The Zaimph shone a mass of rays.
"Do you remember it?" said Matho. "You appeared at night in my dreams,
but I did not guess the mute command of your eyes!" She put out one
foot upon the ebony stool. "Had I understood I should have hastened
hither, I should have forsaken the army, I should not have left
Carthage. To obey you I would go down through the caverns of
Hadrumetum into the kingdom of the shades!--Forgive me! it was as
though mountains were weighing upon my days; and yet something drew me
on! I tried to come to you! Should I ever have dared this without the
Gods!--Let us go! You must follow me! or, if you do not wish to do so,
I will remain. What matters it to me!--Drown my soul in your breath!
Let my lips be crushed with kissing your hands!"
"Let me see it!" she said. "Nearer! nearer!"
Day was breaking, and the sheets of talc in the walls were filled with
a vinous colour. Salammbo leaned fainting against the cushions of the
"I love you!" cried Matho.
"Give it!" she stammered out, and they drew closer together.
She kept advancing, clothed in her white trailing simar, and with her
large eyes fastened on the veil. Matho gazed at her, dazzled by the
splendours of her head, and, holding out the zaimph towards her, was
about to enfold her in an embrace. She was stretching out her arms.
Suddenly she stopped, and they stood looking at each other, open-
Then without understanding the meaning of his solicitation a horror
seized upon her. Her delicate eyebrows rose, her lips opened; she
trembled. At last she struck one of the brass pateras which hung at
the corners of the red mattress, crying:
"To the rescue! to the rescue! Back, sacrilegious man! infamous and
accursed! Help, Taanach, Kroum, Ewa, Micipsa, Schaoul!"
And the scared face of Spendius, appearing in the wall between the
clay flagons, cried out these words:
"Fly! they are hastening hither!"
A great tumult came upwards shaking the staircases, and a flood of
people, women, serving-men, and slaves, rushed into the room with
stakes, tomahawks, cutlasses, and daggers. They were nearly paralysed
with indignation on perceiving a man; the female servants uttered
funeral wailings, and the eunuchs grew pale beneath their black skins.
Matho was standing behind the balustrades. With the zaimph which was
wrapped about him, he looked like a sidereal god surrounded by the
firmament. The slaves were going to fall upon him, but she stopped
"Touch it not! It is the mantle of the goddess!"
She had drawn back into a corner; but she took a step towards him, and
stretched forth her naked arm:
"A curse upon you, you who have plundered Tanith! Hatred, vengeance,
massacre, and grief! May Gurzil, god of battles, rend you! may
Mastiman, god of the dead, stifle you! and may the Other--he who may
not be named--burn you!"
Matho uttered a cry as though he had received a sword-thrust. She
repeated several times: "Begone! begone!"
The crowd of servants spread out, and Matho, with hanging head, passed
slowly through the midst of them; but at the door he stopped, for the
fringe of the zaimph had caught on one of the golden stars with which
the flagstones were paved. He pulled it off abruptly with a movement
of his shoulder and went down the staircases.
Spendius, bounding from terrace to terrace, and leaping over the
hedges and trenches, had escaped from the gardens. He reached the foot
of the pharos. The wall was discontinued at this spot, so inaccessible
was the cliff. He advanced to the edge, lay down on his back, and let
himself slide, feet foremost, down the whole length of it to the
bottom; then by swimming he reached the Cape of the Tombs, made a wide
circuit of the salt lagoon, and re-entered the camp of the Barbarians
in the evening.
The sun had risen; and, like a retreating lion, Matho went down the
paths, casting terrible glances about him.
A vague clamour reached his ears. It had started from the palace, and
it was beginning afresh in the distance, towards the Acropolis. Some
said that the treasure of the Republic had been seized in the temple
of Moloch; others spoke of the assassination of a priest. It was
thought, moreover, that the Barbarians had entered the city.
Matho, who did not know how to get out of the enclosures, walked
straight before him. He was seen, and an outcry was raised. Every one
understood; and there was consternation, then immense wrath.
From the bottom of the Mappalian quarter, from the heights of the
Acropolis, from the catacombs, from the borders of the lake, the
multitude came in haste. The patricians left their palaces, and the
traders left their shops; the women forsook their children; swords,
hatchets, and sticks were seized; but the obstacle which had stayed
Salammbo stayed them. How could the veil be taken back? The mere sight
of it was a crime; it was of the nature of the gods, and contact with
it was death.
The despairing priests wrung their hands on the peristyles of the
temples. The guards of the Legion galloped about at random; the people
climbed upon the houses, the terraces, the shoulders of the
colossuses, and the masts of the ships. He went on, nevertheless, and
the rage, and the terror also, increased at each of his steps; the
streets cleared at his approach, and the torrent of flying men
streamed on both sides up to the tops of the walls. Everywhere he
could perceive only eyes opened widely as if to devour him, chattering
teeth and outstretched fists, and Salammbo's imprecations resounded
many times renewed.
Suddenly a long arrow whizzed past, then another, and stones began to
buzz about him; but the missiles, being badly aimed (for there was the
dread of hitting the zaimph), passed over his head. Moreover, he made
a shield of the veil, holding it to the right, to the left, before him
and behind him; and they could devise no expedient. He quickened his
steps more and more, advancing through the open streets. They were
barred with cords, chariots, and snares; and all his windings brought
him back again. At last he entered the square of Khamon where the
Balearians had perished, and stopped, growing pale as one about to
die. This time he was surely lost, and the multitude clapped their
He ran up to the great gate, which was closed. It was very high, made
throughout of heart of oak, with iron nails and sheathed with brass.
Matho flung himself against it. The people stamped their feet with joy
when they saw the impotence of his fury; then he took his sandal, spit
upon it, and beat the immovable panels with it. The whole city howled.
The veil was forgotten now, and they were about to crush him. Matho
gazed with wide vacant eyes upon the crowd. His temples were throbbing
with violence enough to stun him, and he felt a numbness as of
intoxication creeping over him. Suddenly he caught sight of the long
chain used in working the swinging of the gate. With a bound he
grasped it, stiffening his arms, and making a buttress of his feet,
and at last the huge leaves partly opened.
Then when he was outside he took the great zaimph from his neck, and
raised it as high as possible above his head. The material, upborne by
the sea breeze, shone in the sunlight with its colours, its gems, and
the figures of its gods. Matho bore it thus across the whole plain as
far as the soldiers' tents, and the people on the walls watched the
fortune of Carthage depart.
"I ought to have carried her off!" Matho said in the evening to
Spendius. "I should have seized her, and torn her from her house! No
one would have dared to touch me!"
Spendius was not listening to him. Stretched on his back he was taking
delicious rest beside a large jar filled with honey-coloured water,
into which he would dip his head from time to time in order to drink
"What is to be done? How can we re-enter Carthage?"
"I do not know," said Spendius.
Such impassibility exasperated Matho and he exclaimed:
"Why! the fault is yours! You carry me away, and then you forsake me,
coward that you are! Why, pray, should I obey you? Do you think that
you are my master? Ah! you prostituter, you slave, you son of a
slave!" He ground his teeth and raised his broad hand above Spendius.
The Greek did not reply. An earthen lamp was burning gently against
the tent-pole, where the zaimph shone amid the hanging panoply.
Suddenly Matho put on his cothurni, buckled on his brazen jacket of
mail, and took his helmet.
"Where are you going?" asked Spendius.
"I am returning! Let me alone! I will bring her back! And if they show
themselves I will crush them like vipers! I will put her to death,
Spendius! Yes," he repeated, "I will kill her! You shall see, I will
But Spendius, who was listening eagerly, snatched up the zaimph
abruptly and threw it into a corner, heaping up fleeces above it. A
murmuring of voices was heard, torches gleamed, and Narr' Havas
entered, followed by about twenty men.
They wore white woollen cloaks, long daggers, copper necklaces, wooden
earrings, and boots of hyena skin; and standing on the threshold they
leaned upon their lances like herdsmen resting themselves. Narr' Havas
was the handsomest of all; his slender arms were bound with straps
ornamented with pearls. The golden circlet which fastened his ample
garment about his head held an ostrich feather which hung down behind
his shoulder; his teeth were displayed in a continual smile; his eyes
seemed sharpened like arrows, and there was something observant and
airy about his whole demeanour.
He declared that he had come to join the Mercenaries, for the Republic
had long been threatening his kingdom. Accordingly he was interested
in assisting the Barbarians, and he might also be of service to them.
"I will provide you with elephants (my forests are full of them),
wine, oil, barley, dates, pitch and sulphur for sieges, twenty
thousand foot-soldiers and ten thousand horses. If I address myself to
you, Matho, it is because the possession of the zaimph has made you
chief man in the army. Moreover," he added, "we are old friends."
Matho, however, was looking at Spendius, who, seated on the sheep-
skins, was listening, and giving little nods of assent the while.
Narr' Havas continued speaking. He called the gods to witness he
cursed Carthage. In his imprecations he broke a javelin. All his men
uttered simultaneously a loud howl, and Matho, carried away by so much
passion, exclaimed that he accepted the alliance.
A white bull and a black sheep, the symbols of day and night, were
then brought, and their throats were cut on the edge of a ditch. When
the latter was full of blood they dipped their arms into it. Then
Narr' Havas spread out his hand upon Matho's breast, and Matho did the
same to Narr' Havas. They repeated the stain upon the canvas of their
tents. Afterwards they passed the night in eating, and the remaining
portions of the meat were burnt together with the skin, bones, horns,
Matho had been greeted with great shouting when he had come back
bearing the veil of the goddess; even those who were not of the
Chanaanitish religion were made by their vague enthusiasm to feel the
arrival of a genius. As to seizing the zaimph, no one thought of it,
for the mysterious manner in which he had acquired it was sufficient
in the minds of the Barbarians to justify its possession; such were
the thoughts of the soldiers of the African race. The others, whose
hatred was not of such long standing, did not know how to make up
their minds. If they had had ships they would immediately have
Spendius, Narr' Havas, and Matho despatched men to all the tribes on
Carthage was sapping the strength of these nations. She wrung
exorbitant taxes from them, and arrears or even murmurings were
punished with fetters, the axe, or the cross. It was necessary to
cultivate whatever suited the Republic, and to furnish what she
demanded; no one had the right of possessing a weapon; when villages
rebelled the inhabitants were sold; governors were esteemed like wine-
presses, according to the quantity which they succeeded in extracting.
Then beyond the regions immediately subject to Carthage extended the
allies roamed the Nomads, who might be let loose upon them. By this
system the crops were always abundant, the studs skilfully managed,
and the plantations superb.
The elder Cato, a master in the matters of tillage and slaves, was
amazed at it ninety-two years later, and the death-cry which he
repeated continually at Rome was but the exclamation of jealous greed.
During the last war the exactions had been increased, so that nearly
all the towns of Libya had surrendered to Regulus. To punish them, a
thousand talents, twenty thousand oxen, three hundred bags of gold
dust, and considerable advances of grain had been exacted from them,
and the chiefs of the tribes had been crucified or thrown to the
Tunis especially execrated Carthage! Older than the metropolis, it
could not forgive her her greatness, and it fronted her walls
crouching in the mire on the water's edge like a venomous beast
watching her. Transportation, massacres, and epidemics did not weaken
it. It had assisted Archagathas, the son of Agathocles, and the Eaters
of Uncleanness found arms there at once.
The couriers had not yet set out when universal rejoicing broke out in
the provinces. Without waiting for anything they strangled the
comptrollers of the houses and the functionaries of the Republic in
the baths; they took the old weapons that had been concealed out of
the caves; they forged swords with the iron of the ploughs; the
children sharpened javelins at the doors, and the women gave their
necklaces, rings, earrings, and everything that could be employed for
the destruction of Carthage. Piles of lances were heaped up in the
country towns like sheaves of maize. Cattle and money were sent off.
Matho speedily paid the Mercenaries their arrears, and owing to this,
which was Spendius's idea, he was appointed commander-in-chief--the
schalishim of the Barbarians.
Reinforcements of men poured in at the same time. The aborigines
appeared first, and were followed by the slaves from the country;
caravans of Negroes were seized and armed, and merchants on their way
to Carthage, despairing of any more certain profit, mingled with the
Barbarians. Numerous bands were continually arriving. From the heights
of the Acropolis the growing army might be seen.
But the guards of the Legion were posted as sentries on the platform
of the aqueduct, and near them rose at intervals brazen vats, in which
floods of asphalt were boiling. Below in the plain the great crowd
stirred tumultuously. They were in a state of uncertainty, feeling the
embarrassment with which Barbarians are always inspired when they meet
Utica and Hippo-Zarytus refused their alliance. Phoenician colonies
like Carthage, they were self-governing, and always had clauses
inserted in the treaties concluded by the Republic to distinguish them
from the latter. Nevertheless they respected this strong sister of
theirs who protected them, and they did not think that she could be
vanquished by a mass of Barbarians; these would on the contrary be
themselves exterminated. They desired to remain neutral and to live at
But their position rendered them indispensable. Utica, at the foot of
the gulf, was convenient for bringing assistance to Carthage from
without. If Utica alone were taken, Hippo-Zarytus, six hours further
distant along the coast, would take its place, and the metropolis,
being revictualled in this way, would be impregnable.
Spendius wished the siege to be undertaken immediately. Narr' Havas
was opposed to this: an advance should first be made upon the
frontier. This was the opinion of the veterans, and of Matho himself,
and it was decided that Spendius should go to attack Utica, and Matho
Hippo-Zarytus, while in the third place the main body should rest on
Tunis and occupy the plain of Carthage, Autaritus being in command. As
to Narr' Havas, he was to return to his own kingdom to procure
elephants and to scour the roads with his cavalry.
The women cried out loudly against this decision; they coveted the
jewels of the Punic ladies. The Libyans also protested. They had been
summoned against Carthage, and now they were going away from it! The
soldiers departed almost alone. Matho commanded his own companions,
together with the Iberians, Lusitanians, and the men of the West, and
of the islands; all those who spoke Greek had asked for Spendius on
account of his cleverness.
Great was the stupefaction when the army was seen suddenly in motion;
it stretched along beneath the mountain of Ariana on the road to Utica
beside the sea. A fragment remained before Tunis, the rest disappeared
to re-appear on the other shore of the gulf on the outskirts of the
woods in which they were lost.
They were perhaps eighty thousand men. The two Tyrian cities would
offer no resistance, and they would return against Carthage. Already
there was a considerable army attacking it from the base of the
isthmus, and it would soon perish from famine, for it was impossible
to live without the aid of the provinces, the citizens not paying
contributions as they did at Rome. Carthage was wanting in political
genius. Her eternal anxiety for gain prevented her from having the
prudence which results from loftier ambitions. A galley anchored on
the Libyan sands, it was with toil that she maintained her position.
The nations roared like billows around her, and the slightest storm
shook this formidable machine.
The treasury was exhausted by the Roman war and by all that had been
squandered and lost in the bargaining with the Barbarians.
Nevertheless soldiers must be had, and not a government would trust
the Republic! Ptolemaeus had lately refused it two thousand talents.
Moreover the rape of the veil disheartened them. Spendius had clearly
But the nation, feeling that it was hated, clasped its money and its
gods to its heart, and its patriotism was sustained by the very
constitution of its government.
First, the power rested with all, without any one being strong enough
to engross it. Private debts were considered as public debts, men of
Chanaanitish race had a monopoly of commerce, and by multiplying the
profits of piracy with those of usury, by hard dealings in lands and
slaves and with the poor, fortunes were sometimes made. These alone
opened up all the magistracies, and although authority and money were
perpetuated in the same families, people tolerated the oligarchy
because they hoped ultimately to share in it.
The societies of merchants, in which the laws were elaborated, chose
the inspectors of the exchequer, who on leaving office nominated the
hundred members of the Council of the Ancients, themselves dependent
on the Grand Assembly, or general gathering of all the rich. As to the
two Suffets, the relics of the monarchy and the less than consuls,
they were taken from distinct families on the same day. All kinds of
enmities were contrived between them, so that they might mutually
weaken each other. They could not deliberate concerning war, and when
they were vanquished the Great Council crucified them.
The power of Carthage emanated, therefore, from the Syssitia, that is
to say, from a large court in the centre of Malqua, at the place, it
was said, where the first bark of Phoenician sailors had touched, the
sea having retired a long way since then. It was a collection of
little rooms of archaic architecture, built of palm trunks with
corners of stone, and separated from one another so as to accommodate
the various societies separately. The rich crowded there all day to
discuss their own concerns and those of the government, from the
procuring of pepper to the extermination of Rome. Thrice in a moon
they would have their beds brought up to the lofty terrace running
along the wall of the court, and they might be seen from below at
table in the air, without cothurni or cloaks, with their diamond-
covered fingers wandering over the dishes, and their large earrings
hanging down among the flagons,--all fat and lusty, half-naked,
smiling and eating beneath the blue sky, like great sharks sporting in
But just now they were unable to dissemble their anxiety; they were
too pale for that. The crowd which waited for them at the gates
escorted them to their palaces in order to obtain some news from them.
As in times of pestilence, all the houses were shut; the streets would
fill and suddenly clear again; people ascended the Acropolis or ran to
the harbour, and the Great Council deliberated every night. At last
the people were convened in the square of Khamon, and it was decided
to leave the management of things to Hanno, the conqueror of
He was a true Carthaginian, devout, crafty, and pitiless towards the
people of Africa. His revenues equalled those of the Barcas. No one
had such experience in administrative affairs.
He decreed the enrolment of all healthy citizens, he placed catapults
on the towers, he exacted exorbitant supplies of arms, he even ordered
the construction of fourteen galleys which were not required, and he
desired everything to be registered and carefully set down in writing.
He had himself conveyed to the arsenal, the pharos, and the treasuries
of the temples; his great litter was continually to be seen swinging
from step to step as it ascended the staircases of the Acropolis. And
then in his palace at night, being unable to sleep, he would yell out
warlike manoeuvres in terrible tones so as to prepare himself for the
In their extremity of terror all became brave. The rich ranged
themselves in line along the Mappalian district at cockcrow, and
tucking up their robes practised themselves in handling the pike. But
for want of an instructor they had disputes about it. They would sit
down breathless upon the tombs and then begin again. Several even
dieted themselves. Some imagined that it was necessary to eat a great
deal in order to acquire strength, while others who were
inconvenienced by their corpulence weakened themselves with fasts in
order to become thin.
Utica had already called several times upon Carthage for assistance;
but Hanno would not set out until the engines of war had been supplied
with the last screws. He lost three moons more in equipping the one
hundred and twelve elephants that were lodged in the ramparts. They
were the conquerors of Regulus; the people loved them; it was
impossible to treat such old friends too well. Hanno had the brass
plates which adorned their breasts recast, their tusks gilt, their
towers enlarged, and caparisons, edged with very heavy fringes, cut
out of the handsomest purple. Finally, as their drivers were called
Indians (after the first ones, no doubt, who came from the Indies) he
ordered them all to be costumed after the Indian fashion; that is to
say, with white pads round their temples, and small drawers of byssus,
which with their transverse folds looked like two valves of a shell
applied to the hips.
The army under Autaritus still remained before Tunis. It was hidden
behind a wall made with mud from the lake, and protected on the top by
thorny brushwood. Some Negroes had planted tall sticks here and there
bearing frightful faces,--human masks made with birds' feathers, and
jackals' or serpents' heads,--which gaped towards the enemy for the
purpose of terrifying him; and the Barbarians, reckoning themselves
invincible through these means, danced, wrestled, and juggled,
convinced that Carthage would perish before long. Any one but Hanno
would easily have crushed such a multitude, hampered as it was with
herds and women. Moreover, they knew nothing of drill, and Autaritus
was so disheartened that he had ceased to require it.
They stepped aside when he passed by rolling his big blue eyes. Then
on reaching the edge of the lake he would draw back his sealskin
cloak, unfasten the cord which tied up his long red hair, and soak the
latter in the water. He regretted that he had not deserted to the
Romans along with the two thousand Gauls of the temple of Eryx.
Often the sun would suddenly lose his rays in the middle of the day.
Then the gulf and the open sea would seem as motionless as molten
lead. A cloud of brown dust stretching perpendicularly would speed
whirling along; the palm trees would bend and the sky disappear, while
stones would be heard rebounding on the animals' cruppers; and the
Gaul, his lips glued against the holes in his tent, would gasp with
exhaustion and melancholy. His thoughts would be of the scent of the
pastures on autumn mornings, of snowflakes, or of the bellowing of the
urus lost in the fog, and closing his eyelids he would in imagination
behold the fires in long, straw-roofed cottages flickering on the
marshes in the depths of the woods.
Others regretted their native lands as well as he, even though they
might not be so far away. Indeed the Carthaginian captives could
distinguish the velaria spread over the courtyards of their houses,
beyond the gulf on the slopes of Byrsa. But sentries marched round
them continually. They were all fastened to a common chain. Each one
wore an iron carcanet, and the crowd was never weary of coming to gaze
at them. The women would show their little children the handsome robes
hanging in tatters on their wasted limbs.
Whenever Autaritus looked at Gisco he was seized with rage at the
recollection of the insult that he had received, and he would have
killed him but for the oath which he had taken to Narr' Havas. Then he
would go back into his tent and drink a mixture of barley and cumin
until he swooned away from intoxication,--to awake afterwards in broad
daylight consumed with horrible thirst.
Matho, meanwhile, was besieging Hippo-Zarytus. But the town was
protected by a lake, communicating with the sea. It had three lines of
circumvallation, and upon the heights which surrounded it there
extended a wall fortified with towers. He had never commanded in such
an enterprise before. Moreover, he was beset with thoughts of
Salammbo, and he raved in the delight of her beauty as in the
sweetness of a vengeance that transported him with pride. He felt an
acrid, frenzied, permanent want to see her again. He even thought of
presenting himself as the bearer of a flag of truce, in the hope that
once within Carthage he might make his way to her. Often he would
cause the assault to be sounded and waiting for nothing rush upon the
mole which it was sought to construct in the sea. He would snatch up
the stones with his hands, overturn, strike, and deal sword-thrusts
everywhere. The Barbarians would dash on pell-mell; the ladders would
break with a loud crash, and masses of men would tumble into the
water, causing it to fly up in red waves against the walls. Finally
the tumult would subside, and the soldiers would retire to make a
Matho would go and seat himself outside the tents, wipe his blood-
splashed face with his arm, and gaze at the horizon in the direction
In front of him, among the olives, palms, myrtles and planes,
stretched two broad ponds which met another lake, the outlines of
which could not be seen. Behind one mountain other mountains reared
themselves, and in the middle of the immense lake rose an island
perfectly black and pyramidal in form. On the left, at the extremity
of the gulf, were sand-heaps like arrested waves, large and pale,
while the sea, flat as a pavement of lapis-lazuli, ascended by
insensible degrees to the edge of the sky. The verdure of the country
was lost in places beneath long sheets of yellow; carobs were shining
like knobs of coral; vine branches drooped from the tops of the
sycamores; the murmuring of the water could be heard; crested larks
were hopping about, and the sun's latest fires gilded the carapaces of
the tortoises as they came forth from the reeds to inhale the breeze.
Matho would heave deep sighs. He would lie flat on his face, with his
nails buried in the soil, and weep; he felt wretched, paltry,
forsaken. Never would he possess her, and he was unable even to take a
At night when alone in his tent he would gaze upon the zaimph. Of what
use to him was this thing which belonged to the gods?--and doubt crept
into the Barbarian's thoughts. Then, on the contrary, it would seem to
him that the vesture of the goddess was depending from Salammbo, and
that a portion of her soul hovered in it, subtler than a breath; and
he would feel it, breathe it in, bury his face in it, and kiss it with
sobs. He would cover his shoulders with it in order to delude himself
that he was beside her.
Sometimes he would suddenly steal away, stride in the starlight over
the sleeping soldiers as they lay wrapped in their cloaks, spring
upon a horse on reaching the camp gates, and two hours later be at
Utica in Spendius's tent.
At first he would speak of the siege, but his coming was only to ease
his sorrow by talking about Salammbo. Spendius exhorted him to be
"Drive away these trifles from your soul, which is degraded by them!
Formerly you were used to obey; now you command an army, and if
Carthage is not conquered we shall at least be granted provinces. We
shall become kings!"
But how was it that the possession of the zaimph did not give them the
victory? According to Spendius they must wait.
Matho fancied that the veil affected people of Chanaanitish race
exclusively, and, in his Barbarian-like subtlety, he said to himself:
"The zaimph will accordingly do nothing for me, but since they have
lost it, it will do nothing for them."
Afterwards a scruple troubled him. He was afraid of offending Moloch
by worshipping Aptouknos, the god of the Libyans, and he timidly asked
Spendius to which of the gods it would be advisable to sacrifice a
"Keep on sacrificing!" laughed Spendius.
Matho, who could not understand such indifference, suspected the Greek
of having a genius of whom he did not speak.
All modes of worship, as well as all races, were to be met with in
these armies of Barbarians, and consideration was had to the gods of
others, for they too, inspired fear. Many mingled foreign practices
with their native religion. It was to no purpose that they did not
adore the stars; if a constellation were fatal or helpful, sacrifices
were offered to it; an unknown amulet found by chance at a moment of
peril became a divinity; or it might be a name and nothing more, which
would be repeated without any attempt to understand its meaning. But
after pillaging temples, and seeing numbers of nations and slaughters,
many ultimately ceased to believe in anything but destiny and death;--
and every evening these would fall asleep with the placidity of wild
beasts. Spendius had spit upon the images of Jupiter Olympius;
nevertheless he dreaded to speak aloud in the dark, nor did he fail
every day to put on his right boot first.
He reared a long quadrangular terrace in front of Utica, but in
proportion as it ascended the rampart was also heightened, and what
was thrown down by the one side was almost immediately raised again by
the other. Spendius took care of his men; he dreamed of plans and
strove to recall the stratagems which he had heard described in his
travels. But why did Narr' Havas not return? There was nothing but
Hanno had at last concluded his preparations. One night when there was
no moon he transported his elephants and soldiers on rafts across the
Gulf of Carthage. Then they wheeled round the mountain of the Hot
Springs so as to avoid Autaritus, and continued their march so slowly
that instead of surprising the Barbarians in the morning, as the
Suffet had calculated, they did not reach them until it was broad
daylight on the third day.
Utica had on the east a plain which extended to the large lagoon of
Carthage; behind it a valley ran at right angles between two low and
abruptly terminated mountains; the Barbarians were encamped further to
the left in such a way as to blockade the harbour; and they were
sleeping in their tents (for on that day both sides were too weary to
fight and were resting) when the Carthaginian army appeared at the
turning of the hills.
Some camp followers furnished with slings were stationed at intervals
on the wings. The first line was formed of the guards of the Legion in
golden scale-armour, mounted on their big horses, which were without
mane, hair, or ears, and had silver horns in the middle of their
foreheads to make them look like rhinoceroses. Between their squadrons
were youths wearing small helmets and swinging an ashen javelin in
each hand. The long files of the heavy infantry marched behind. All
these traders had piled as many weapons upon their bodies as possible.
Some might be seen carrying an axe, a lance, a club, and two swords
all at once; others bristled with darts like porcupines, and their
arms stood out from their cuirasses in sheets of horn or iron plates.
At last the scaffoldings of the lofty engines appeared: carrobalistas,
onagers, catapults and scorpions, rocking on chariots drawn by mules
and quadrigas of oxen; and in proportion as the army drew out, the
captains ran panting right and left to deliver commands, close up the
files, and preserve the intervals. Such of the Ancients as held
commands had come in purple cassocks, the magnificent fringes of which
tangled in the white straps of their cothurni. Their faces, which were
smeared all over with vermilion, shone beneath enormous helmets
surmounted with images of the gods; and, as they had shields with
ivory borders covered with precious stones, they might have been taken
for suns passing over walls of brass.
But the Carthaginians manoeuvred so clumsily that the soldiers in
derision urged them to sit down. They called out that they were just
going to empty their big stomachs, to dust the gilding of their skin,
and to give them iron to drink.
A strip of green cloth appeared at the top of the pole planted before
Spendius's tent: it was the signal. The Carthaginian army replied to
it with a great noise of trumpets, cymbals, flutes of asses' bones,
and tympanums. The Barbarians had already leaped outside the
palisades, and were facing their enemies within a javelin's throw of
A Balearic slinger took a step forward, put one of his clay bullets
into his thong, and swung round his arm. An ivory shield was shivered,
and the two armies mingled together.
The Greeks made the horses rear and fall back upon their masters by
pricking their nostrils with the points of their lances. The slaves
who were to hurl stones had picked such as were too big, and they
accordingly fell close to them. The Punic foot-soldiers exposed the
right side in cutting with their long swords. The Barbarians broke
their lines; they slaughtered them freely; they stumbled over the
dying and dead, quite blinded by the blood that spurted into their
faces. The confused heap of pikes, helmets, cuirasses and swords
turned round about, widening out and closing in with elastic
contractions. The gaps increased more and more in the Carthaginian
cohorts, the engines could not get out of the sand; and finally the
Suffet's litter (his grand litter with crystal pendants), which from
the beginning might have been seen tossing among the soldiers like a
bark on the waves, suddenly foundered. He was no doubt dead. The
Barbarians found themselves alone.
The dust around them fell and they were beginning to sing, when Hanno
himself appeared on the top of an elephant. He sat bare-headed beneath
a parasol of byssus which was carried by a Negro behind him. His
necklace of blue plates flapped against the flowers on his black
tunic; his huge arms were compressed within circles of diamonds, and
with open mouth he brandished a pike of inordinate size, which spread
out at the end like a lotus, and flashed more than a mirror.
Immediately the earth shook,--and the Barbarians saw all the elephants
of Carthage, with their gilt tusks and blue-painted ears, hastening up
in single line, clothed with bronze and shaking the leathern towers
which were placed above their scarlet caparisons, in each of which
were three archers bending large bows.
The soldiers were barely in possession of their arms; they had taken
up their positions at random. They were frozen with terror; they stood
Javelins, arrows, phalaricas, and masses of lead were already being
showered down upon them from the towers. Some clung to the fringes of
the caparisons in order to climb up, but their hands were struck off
with cutlasses and they fell backwards upon the swords' points. The
pikes were too weak and broke, and the elephants passed through the
phalanxes like wild boars through tufts of grass; they plucked up the
stakes of the camp with their trunks, and traversed it from one end to
the other, overthrowing the tents with their breasts. All the
Barbarians had fled. They were hiding themselves in the hills
bordering the valley by which the Carthaginians had come.
The victorious Hanno presented himself before the gates of Utica. He
had a trumpet sounded. The three Judges of the town appeared in the
opening of the battlements on the summit of a tower.
But the people of Utica would not receive such well-armed guests.
Hanno was furious. At last they consented to admit him with a feeble
The streets were too narrow for the elephants. They had to be left
As soon as the Suffet was in the town the principal men came to greet
him. He had himself taken to the vapour baths, and called for his
Three hours afterwards he was still immersed in the oil of cinnamomum
with which the basin had been filled; and while he bathed he ate
flamingoes' tongues with honied poppy-seeds on a spread ox-hide.
Beside him was his Greek physician, motionless, in a long yellow robe,
directing the re-heating of the bath from time to time, and two young
boys leaned over the steps of the basin and rubbed his legs. But
attention to his body did not check his love for the commonwealth, for
he was dictating a letter to be sent to the Great Council, and as some
prisoners had just been taken he was asking himself what terrible
punishment could be devised.
"Stop!" said he to a slave who stood writing in the hollow of his
hand. "Let some of them be brought to me! I wish to see them!"
And from the bottom of the hall, full of a whitish vapour on which the
torches cast red spots, three Barbarians were thrust forward: a
Samnite, a Spartan, and a Cappadocian.
"Proceed!" said Hanno.
"Rejoice, light of the Baals! your Suffet has exterminated the
ravenous hounds! Blessings on the Republic! Give orders for prayers!"
He perceived the captives and burst out laughing: "Ah! ha! my fine
fellows of Sicca! You are not shouting so loudly to-day! It is I! Do
you recognise me? And where are your swords? What really terrible
fellows!" and he pretended to be desirous to hide himself as if he
were afraid of them. "You demanded horses, women, estates,
magistracies, no doubt, and priesthoods! Why not? Well, I will provide
you with the estates, and such as you will never come out of! You
shall be married to gibbets that are perfectly new! Your pay? it shall
be melted in your mouths in leaden ingots! and I will put you into
good and very exalted positions among the clouds, so as to bring you
close to the eagles!"
The three long-haired and ragged Barbarians looked at him without
understanding what he said. Wounded in the knees, they had been seized
by having ropes thrown over them, and the ends of the great chains on
their hands trailed upon the pavement. Hanno was indignant at their
"On your knees! on your knees! jackals! dust! vermin! excrements! And
they make no reply! Enough! be silent! Let them be flayed alive! No!
He was breathing like a hippopotamus and rolling his eyes. The
perfumed oil overflowed beneath the mass of his body, and clinging to
the scales on his skin, made it look pink in the light of the torches.
"For four days we suffered greatly from the sun. Some mules were lost
in crossing the Macaras. In spite of their position, the extraordinary
courage-- Ah! Demonades! how I suffer! Have the bricks reheated, and
let them be red-hot!"
A noise of rakes and furnaces was heard. The incense smoked more
strongly in the large perfuming pans, and the shampooers, who were
quite naked and were sweating like sponges, crushed a paste composed
of wheat, sulphur, black wine, bitch's milk, myrrh, galbanum and
storax upon his joints. He was consumed with incessant thirst, but the
yellow-robed man did not yield to this inclination, and held out to
him a golden cup in which viper broth was smoking.
"Drink!" said he, "that strength of sun-born serpents may penetrate
into the marrow of your bones, and take courage, O reflection of the
gods! You know, moreover, that a priest of Eschmoun watches those
cruel stars round the Dog from which your malady is derived. They are
growing pale like the spots on your skin, and you are not to die from
"Oh! yes, that is so, is it not?" repeated the Suffet, "I am not to
die from them!" And his violaceous lips gave forth a breath more
nauseous than the exhalation from a corpse. Two coals seemed to burn
in the place of his eyes, which had lost their eyebrows; a mass of
wrinkled skin hung over his forehead; both his ears stood out from his
head and were beginning to increase in size; and the deep lines
forming semicircles round his nostrils gave him a strange and
terrifying appearance, the look of a wild beast. His unnatural voice
was like a roar; he said:
"Perhaps you are right, Demonades. In fact there are many ulcers here
which have closed. I feel robust. Here! look how I am eating!"
And less from greediness than from ostentation, and the desire to
prove to himself that he was in good health, he cut into the
forcemeats of cheese and marjoram, the boned fish, gourds, oysters
with eggs, horse-radishes, truffles, and brochettes of small birds. As
he looked at the prisoners he revelled in the imagination of their
tortures. Nevertheless he remembered Sicca, and the rage caused by all
his woes found vent in the abuse of these three men.
"Ah! traitors! ah! wretches! infamous, accursed creatures! And you
outraged me!--me! the Suffet! Their services, the price of their
blood, say they! Ah! yes! their blood! their blood!" Then speaking to
himself:--"All shall perish! not one shall be sold! It would be better
to bring them to Carthage! I should be seen--but doubtless, I have not
brought chains enough? Write: Send me--How many of them are there? go
and ask Muthumbal! Go! no pity! and let all their hands be cut off and
brought to me in baskets!"
But strange cries at once hoarse and shrill penetrated into the hall
above Hanno's voice and the rattling of the dishes that were being
placed around him. They increased, and suddenly the furious trumpeting
of the elephants burst forth as if the battle were beginning again. A
great tumult was going on around the town.
The Carthaginians had not attempted to pursue the Barbarians. They had
taken up their quarters at the foot of the walls with their baggage,
mules, serving men, and all their train of satraps; and they made
merry in their beautiful pearl-bordered tents, while the camp of the
Mercenaries was now nothing but a heap of ruins in the plain. Spendius
had recovered his courage. He dispatched Zarxas to Matho, scoured the
woods, rallied his men (the losses had been inconsiderable),--and they
were re-forming their lines enraged at having been conquered without a
fight, when they discovered a vat of petroleum which had no doubt been
abandoned by the Carthaginians. Then Spendius had some pigs carried
off from the farms, smeared them with bitumen, set them on fire, and
drove them towards Utica.
The elephants were terrified by the flames and fled. The ground sloped
upwards, javelins were thrown at them, and they turned back;--and with
great blows of ivory and trampling feet they ripped up the
Carthaginians, stifled them, flattened them. The Barbarians descended
the hill behind them; the Punic camp, which was without entrenchments
was sacked at the first rush, and the Carthaginians were crushed
against the gates, which were not opened through fear of the
Day broke, and Matho's foot-soldiers were seen coming up from the
west. At the same time horsemen appeared; they were Narr' Havas with
his Numidians. Leaping ravines and bushes they ran down the fugitives
like greyhounds pursuing hares. This change of fortune interrupted the
Suffet. He called out to be assisted to leave the vapour bath.
The three captives were still before him. Then a Negro (the same who
had carried his parasol in the battle) leaned over to his ear.
"Well?" replied the Suffet slowly. "Ah! kill them!" he added in an
The Ethiopian drew a long dagger from his girdle and the three heads
fell. One of them rebounded among the remains of the feast, and leaped
into the basin, where it floated for some time with open mouth and
staring eyes. The morning light entered through the chinks in the
wall; the three bodies streamed with great bubbles like three
fountains, and a sheet of blood flowed over the mosaics with their
powdering of blue dust. The Suffet dipped his hand into this hot mire
and rubbed his knees with it: it was a cure.
When evening had come he stole away from the town with his escort, and
made his way into the mountain to rejoin his army.
He succeeded in finding the remains of it.
Four days afterward he was on the top of a defile at Gorza, when the
troops under Spendius appeared below. Twenty stout lances might easily
have checked them by attacking the head of their column, but the
Carthaginians watched them pass by in a state of stupefaction. Hanno
recognised the king of the Numidians in the rearguard; Narr' Havas
bowed to him, at the same time making a sign which he did not
The return to Carthage took place amid all kinds of terrors. They
marched only at night, hiding in the olive woods during the day. There
were deaths at every halting-place; several times they believed
themselves lost. At last they reached Cape Hermaeum, where vessels
came to receive them.
Hanno was so fatigued, so desperate--the loss of the elephants in
particular overwhelmed him--that he demanded poison from Demonades in
order to put an end to it all. Moreover he could already feel himself
stretched upon the cross.
Carthage had not strength enough to be indignant with him. Its losses
had amounted to one hundred thousand nine hundred and seventy-two
shekels of silver, fifteen thousand six hundred and twenty-three
shekels of gold, eighteen elephants, fourteen members of the Great
Council, three hundred of the rich, eight thousand citizens, corn
enough for three moons, a considerable quantity of baggage, and all
the engines of war! The defection of Narr' Havas was certain, and both
sieges were beginning again. The army under Autaritus now extended
from Tunis to Rhades. From the top of the Acropolis long columns of
smoke might be seen in the country ascending to the sky; they were the
mansions of the rich, which were on fire.
One man alone could have saved the Republic. People repented that they
had slighted him, and the peace party itself voted holocausts for
The sight of the zaimph had upset Salammbo. At night she thought that
she could hear the footsteps of the goddess, and she would awake
terrified and shrieking. Every day she sent food to the temples.
Taanach was worn out with executing her orders, and Schahabarim never
The Announcer of the Moons, who watched on the summit of the temple of
Eschmoun every night in order to signal the disturbances of the planet
with his trumpet, one morning perceived towards the west something
like a bird skimming the surface of the sea with its long wings.
It was a ship with three tiers of oars and with a horse carved on the
prow. The sun was rising; the Announcer of the Moons put up his hand
before his eyes, and then grasping his clarion with outstretched arms
sounded a loud brazen cry over Carthage.
People came out of every house; they would not believe what was said;
they disputed with one another; the mole was covered with people. At
last they recognised Hamilcar's trireme.
It advanced in fierce and haughty fashion, cleaving the foam around
it, the lateen-yard quite square and the sail bulging down the whole
length of the mast; its gigantic oars kept time as they beat the
water; every now and then the extremity of the keel, which was shaped
like a plough-share, would appear, and the ivory-headed horse, rearing
both its feet beneath the spur which terminated the prow, would seem
to be speeding over the plains of the sea.
As it rounded the promontory the wind ceased, the sail fell, and a man
was seen standing bareheaded beside the pilot. It was he, Hamilcar,
the Suffet! About his sides he wore gleaming sheets of steel; a red
cloak, fastened to his shoulders, left his arms visible; two pearls of
great length hung from his ears, and his black, bushy beard rested on
The galley, however, tossing amid the rocks, was proceeding along the
side of the mole, and the crowd followed it on the flag-stones,
"Greeting! blessing! Eye of Khamon! ah! deliver us! 'Tis the fault of
the rich! they want to put you to death! Take care of yourself,
He made no reply, as if the loud clamour of oceans and battles had
completely deafened him. But when he was below the staircase leading
down from the Acropolis, Hamilcar raised his head, and looked with
folded arms upon the temple of Eschmoun. His gaze mounted higher
still, to the great pure sky; he shouted an order in a harsh voice to
his sailors; the trireme leaped forward; it grazed the idol set up at
the corner of the mole to stay the storms; and in the merchant
harbour, which was full of filth, fragments of wood, and rinds of
fruit, it pushed aside and crushed against the other ships moored to
stakes and terminating in crocodiles' jaws. The people hastened
thither, and some threw themselves into the water to swim to it. It
was already at the very end before the gate which bristled with nails.
The gate rose, and the trireme disappeared beneath the deep arch.
The Military Harbour was completely separated from the town; when
ambassadors arrived, they had to proceed between two walls through a
passage which had its outlet on the left in front of the temple of
Khamon. This great expanse of water was as round as a cup, and was
bordered with quays on which sheds were built for sheltering the
ships. Before each of these rose two pillars bearing the horns of
Ammon on their capitals and forming continuous porticoes all round the
basin. On an island in the centre stood a house for the marine Suffet.
The water was so limpid that the bottom was visible with its paving of
white pebbles. The noise of the streets did not reach so far, and
Hamilcar as he passed recognised the triremes which he had formerly
Not more than twenty perhaps remained, under shelter on the land,
leaning over on their sides or standing upright on their keels, with
lofty poops and swelling prows, and covered with gildings and mystic
symbols. The chimaeras had lost their wings, the Pataec Gods their
arms, the bulls their silver horns;--and half-painted, motionless, and
rotten as they were, yet full of associations, and still emitting the
scent of voyages, they all seemed to say to him, like mutilated
soldiers on seeing their master again, "'Tis we! 'tis we! and YOU too
No one excepting the marine Suffet might enter the admiral's house. So
long as there was no proof of his death he was considered as still in
existence. In this way the Ancients avoided a master the more, and
they had not failed to comply with the custom in respect to Hamilcar.
The Suffet proceeded into the deserted apartments. At every step he
recognised armour and furniture--familiar objects which nevertheless
astonished him, and in a perfuming-pan in the vestibule there even
remained the ashes of the perfumes that had been kindled at his
departure for the conjuration of Melkarth. It was not thus that he had
hoped to return. Everything that he had done, everything that he had
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