Part 4 out of 6
Then, not knowing where he was nor how to find Spendius, assailed with
anguish, scared, and lost in the darkness, he returned more
impetuously by the same road. The dawn as growing grey when from the
top of the mountain he perceived the town with the carcases of the
engines blackened by the flames and looking like giant skeletons
leaning against the walls.
All was peaceful amid extraordinary silence and heaviness. Among his
soldiers on the verge of the tents men were sleeping nearly naked,
each upon his back, or with his forehead against his arm which was
supported by his cuirass. Some were unwinding bloodstained bandages
from their legs. Those who were doomed to die rolled their heads about
gently; others dragged themselves along and brought them drink. The
sentries walked up and down along the narrow paths in order to warm
themselves, or stood in a fierce attitude with their faces turned
towards the horizon, and their pikes on their shoulders. Matho found
Spendius sheltered beneath a rag of canvas, supported by two sticks
set in the ground, his knee in his hands and his head cast down.
They remained for a long time without speaking.
At last Matho murmured: "Conquered!"
Spendius rejoined in a gloomy voice: "Yes, conquered!"
And to all questions he replied by gestures of despair.
Meanwhile sighs and death-rattles reached them. Matho partially opened
the canvas. Then the sight of the soldiers reminded him of another
disaster on the same spot, and he ground his teeth: "Wretch! once
Spendius interrupted him: "You were not there either."
"It is a curse!" exclaimed Matho. "Nevertheless, in the end I will
get at him! I will conquer him! I will slay him! Ah! if I had been
there!--" The thought of having missed the battle rendered him even
more desperate than the defeat. He snatched up his sword and threw it
upon the ground. "But how did the Carthaginians beat you?"
The former slave began to describe the manoeuvres. Matho seemed to see
them, and he grew angry. The army from Utica ought to have taken
Hamilcar in the rear instead of hastening to the bridge.
"Ah! I know!" said Spendius.
"You ought to have made your ranks twice as deep, avoided exposing the
velites against the phalanx, and given free passage to the elephants.
Everything might have been recovered at the last moment; there was no
necessity to fly."
"I saw him pass along in his large red cloak, with uplifted arms and
higher than the dust, like an eagle flying upon the flank of the
cohorts; and at every nod they closed up or darted forward; the throng
carried us towards each other; he looked at me, and I felt the cold
steel as it were in my heart."
"He selected the day, perhaps?" whispered Matho to himself.
They questioned each other, trying to discover what it was that had
brought the Suffet just when circumstances were most unfavourable.
They went on to talk over the situation, and Spendius, to extenuate
his fault, or to revive his courage, asserted that some hope still
"And if there be none, it matters not!" said Matho; "alone, I will
carry on the war!"
"And I too!" exclaimed the Greek, leaping up; he strode to and fro,
his eyes sparkling, and a strange smile wrinkled his jackal face.
"We will make a fresh start; do not leave me again! I am not made for
battles in the sunlight--the flashing of swords troubles my sight; it
is a disease, I lived too long in the ergastulum. But give me walls to
scale at night, and I will enter the citadels, and the corpses shall
be cold before cock-crow! Show me any one, anything, an enemy, a
treasure, a woman,--a woman," he repeated, "were she a king's
daughter, and I will quickly bring your desire to your feet. You
reproach me for having lost the battle against Hanno, nevertheless I
won it back again. Confess it! my herd of swine did more for us than a
phalanx of Spartans." And yielding to the need that he felt of
exalting himself and taking his revenge, he enumerated all that he had
done for the cause of the Mercenaries. "It was I who urged on the Gaul
in the Suffet's gardens! And later, at Sicca, I maddened them all with
fear of the Republic! Gisco was sending them back, but I prevented the
interpreters speaking. Ah! how their tongues hung out of their mouths!
do you remember? I brought you into Carthage; I stole the zaimph. I
led you to her. I will do more yet: you shall see!" He burst out
laughing like a madman.
Matho regarded him with gaping eyes. He felt in a measure
uncomfortable in the presence of this man, who was at once so cowardly
and so terrible.
The Greek resumed in jovial tones and cracking his fingers:
"Evoe! Sun after run! I have worked in the quarries, and I have drunk
Massic wine beneath a golden awning in a vessel of my own like a
Ptolemaeus. Calamity should help to make us cleverer. By dint of work
we may make fortune bend. She loves politicians. She will yield!"
He returned to Matho and took him by the arm.
"Master, at present the Carthaginians are sure of their victory. You
have quite an army which has not fought, and your men obey YOU. Place
them in the front: mine will follow to avenge themselves. I have still
three thousand Carians, twelve hundred slingers and archers, whole
cohorts! A phalanx even might be formed; let us return!"
Matho, who had been stunned by the disaster, had hitherto thought of
no means of repairing it. He listened with open mouth, and the bronze
plates which circled his sides rose with the leapings of his heart. He
picked up his sword, crying:
"Follow me; forward!"
But when the scouts returned, they announced that the Carthaginian
dead had been carried off, that the bridge was in ruins, and that
Hamilcar had disappeared.
IN THE FIELD
Hamilcar had thought that the Mercenaries would await him at Utica, or
that they would return against him; and finding his forces
insufficient to make or to sustain an attack, he had struck southwards
along the right bank of the river, thus protecting himself immediately
from a surprise.
He intended first to wink at the revolt of the tribes and to detach
them all from the cause of the Barbarians; then when they were quite
isolated in the midst of the provinces he would fall upon them and
In fourteen days he pacified the region comprised between Thouccaber
and Utica, with the towns of Tignicabah, Tessourah, Vacca, and others
further to the west. Zounghar built in the mountains, Assoura
celebrated for its temple, Djeraado fertile in junipers, Thapitis, and
Hagour sent embassies to him. The country people came with their hands
full of provisions, implored his protection, kissed his feet and those
of the soldiers, and complained of the Barbarians. Some came to offer
him bags containing heads of Mercenaries killed, so they said, by
themselves, but which they had cut off corpses; for many had lost
themselves in their flight, and were found dead here and there beneath
the olive trees and among the vines.
On the morrow of his victory, Hamilcar, to dazzle the people, had sent
to Carthage the two thousand captives taken on the battlefield. They
arrived in long companies of one hundred men each, all with their arms
fastened behind their backs with a bar of bronze which caught them at
the nape of the neck, and the wounded, bleeding as they still were,
running also along; horsemen followed them, driving them on with blows
of the whip.
Then there was a delirium of joy! People repeated that there were six
thousand Barbarians killed; the others would not hold out, and the war
was finished; they embraced one another in the streets, and rubbed the
faces of the Pataec Gods with butter and cinnamomum to thank them.
These, with their big eyes, their big bodies, and their arms raised as
high as the shoulder, seemed to live beneath their freshened paint,
and to participate in the cheerfulness of the people. The rich left
their doors open; the city resounded with the noise of the timbrels;
the temples were illuminated every night, and the servants of the
goddess went down to Malqua and set up stages of sycamore-wood at the
corners of the cross-ways, and prostituted themselves there. Lands
were voted to the conquerors, holocausts to Melkarth, three hundred
gold crowns to the Suffet, and his partisans proposed to decree to him
new prerogatives and honours.
He had begged the Ancients to make overtures to Autaritus for
exchanging all the Barbarians, if necessary, for the aged Gisco, and
the other Carthaginians detained like him. The Libyans and Nomads
composing the army under Autaritus knew scarcely anything of these
Mercenaries, who were men of Italiote or Greek race; and the offer by
the Republic of so many Barbarians for so few Carthaginians, showed
that the value of the former was nothing and that of the latter
considerable. They dreaded a snare. Autaritus refused.
Then the Ancients decreed the execution of the captives, although the
Suffet had written to them not to put them to death. He reckoned upon
incorporating the best of them with his own troops and of thus
instigating defections. But hatred swept away all circumspection.
The two thousand Barbarians were tied to the stelae of the tombs in
the Mappalian quarter; and traders, scullions, embroiderers, and even
women,--the widows of the dead with their children--all who would,
came to kill them with arrows. They aimed slowly at them, the better
to prolong their torture, lowering the weapon and then raising it in
turn; and the multitude pressed forward howling. Paralytics had
themselves brought thither in hand-barrows; many took the precaution
of bringing their food, and remained on the spot until the evening;
others passed the night there. Tents had been set up in which drinking
went on. Many gained large sums by hiring out bows.
Then all these crucified corpses were left upright, looking like so
many red statues on the tombs, and the excitement even spread to the
people of Malqua, who were the descendants of the aboriginal families,
and were usually indifferent to the affairs of their country. Out of
gratitude for the pleasure it had been giving them they now interested
themselves in its fortunes, and felt that they were Carthaginians, and
the Ancients thought it a clever thing to have thus blended the entire
people in a single act of vengeance.
The sanction of the gods was not wanting; for crows alighted from all
quarters of the sky. They wheeled in the air as they flew with loud
hoarse cries, and formed a huge cloud rolling continually upon itself.
It was seen from Clypea, Rhades, and the promontory of Hermaeum.
Sometimes it would suddenly burst asunder, its black spirals extending
far away, as an eagle clove the centre of it, and then departed again;
here and there on the terraces the domes, the peaks of the obelisks,
and the pediments of the temples there were big birds holding human
fragments in their reddened beaks.
Owing to the smell the Carthaginians resigned themselves to unbind the
corpses. A few of them were burnt; the rest were thrown into the sea,
and the waves, driven by the north wind, deposited them on the shore
at the end of the gulf before the camp of Autaritus.
This punishment had no doubt terrified the Barbarians, for from the
top of Eschmoun they could be seen striking their tents, collecting
their flocks, and hoisting their baggage upon asses, and on the
evening of the same day the entire army withdrew.
It was to march to and fro between the mountain of the Hot Springs and
Hippo-Zarytus, and so debar the Suffet from approaching the Tyrian
towns, and from the possibility of a return to Carthage.
Meanwhile the two other armies were to try to overtake him in the
south, Spendius in the east, and Matho in the west, in such a way that
all three should unite to surprise and entangle him. Then they
received a reinforcement which they had not looked for: Narr' Havas
appeared with three hundred camels laden with bitumen, twenty-five
elephants, and six thousand horsemen.
To weaken the Mercenaries the Suffet had judged it prudent to occupy
his attention at a distance in his own kingdom. From the heart of
Carthage he had come to an understanding with Masgaba, a Gaetulian
brigand who was seeking to found an empire. Strengthened by Punic
money, the adventurer had raised the Numidian States with promises of
freedom. But Narr' Havas, warned by his nurse's son, had dropped into
Cirta, poisoned the conquerors with the water of the cisterns, struck
off a few heads, set all right again, and had just arrived against the
Suffet more furious than the Barbarians.
The chiefs of the four armies concerted the arrangements for the war.
It would be a long one, and everything must be foreseen.
It was agreed first to entreat the assistance of the Romans, and this
mission was offered to Spendius, but as a fugitive he dared not
undertake it. Twelve men from the Greek colonies embarked at Annaba in
a sloop belonging to the Numidians. Then the chiefs exacted an oath of
complete obedience from all the Barbarians. Every day the captains
inspected clothes and boots; the sentries were even forbidden to use a
shield, for they would often lean it against their lance and fall
asleep as they stood; those who had any baggage trailing after them
were obliged to get rid of it; everything was to be carried, in Roman
fashion, on the back. As a precaution against the elephants Matho
instituted a corps of cataphract cavalry, men and horses being hidden
beneath cuirasses of hippopotamus skin bristling with nails; and to
protect the horses' hoofs boots of plaited esparto-grass were made for
It was forbidden to pillage the villages, or to tyrannise over the
inhabitants who were not of Punic race. But as the country was
becoming exhausted, Matho ordered the provisions to be served out to
the soldiers individually, without troubling about the women. At first
the men shared with them. Many grew weak for lack of food. It was the
occasion of many quarrels and invectives, many drawing away the
companions of the rest by the bait or even by the promise of their own
portion. Matho commanded them all to be driven away pitilessly. They
took refuge in the camp of Autaritus; but the Gaulish and Libyan women
forced them by their outrageous treatment to depart.
At last they came beneath the walls of Carthage to implore the
protection of Ceres and Proserpine, for in Byrsa there was a temple
with priests consecrated to these goddesses in expiation of the
horrors formerly committed at the siege of Syracuse. The Syssitia,
alleging their right to waifs and strays, claimed the youngest in
order to sell them; and some fair Lacedaemonian women were taken by
New Carthaginians in marriage.
A few persisted in following the armies. They ran on the flank of the
syntagmata by the side of the captains. They called to their husbands,
pulled them by the cloak, cursed them as they beat their breasts, and
held out their little naked and weeping children at arm's length. The
sight of them was unmanning the Barbarians; they were an embarrassment
and a peril. Several times they were repulsed, but they came back
again; Matho made the horsemen belonging to Narr' Havas charge them
with the point of the lance; and on some Balearians shouting out to
him that they must have women, he replied: "I have none!"
Just now he was invaded by the genius of Moloch. In spite of the
rebellion of his conscience, he performed terrible deeds, imagining
that he was thus obeying the voice of a god. When he could not ravage
the fields, Matho would cast stones into them to render them sterile.
He urged Autaritus and Spendius with repeated messages to make haste.
But the Suffet's operations were incomprehensible. He encamped at
Eidous, Monchar, and Tehent successively; some scouts believed that
they saw him in the neighbourhood of Ischiil, near the frontiers of
Narr' Havas, and it was reported that he had crossed the river above
Tebourba as though to return to Carthage. Scarcely was he in one place
when he removed to another. The routes that he followed always
remained unknown. The Suffet preserved his advantages without offering
battle, and while pursued by the Barbarians seemed to be leading them.
These marches and counter marches were still more fatiguing to the
Carthaginians, and Hamilcar's forces, receiving no reinforcements,
diminished from day to day. The country people were now more backward
in bringing him provisions. In every direction he encountered taciturn
hesitation and hatred; and in spite of his entreaties to the Great
Council no succour came from Carthage.
It was said, perhaps it was believed, that he had need of none. It was
a trick, or his complaints were unnecessary; and Hanno's partisans, in
order to do him an ill turn, exaggerated the importance of his
victory. The troops which he commanded he was welcome to; but they
were not going to supply his demands continually in that way. The war
was quite burdensome enough! it had cost too much, and from pride the
patricians belonging to his faction supported him but slackly.
Then Hamilcar, despairing of the Republic, took by force from the
tribes all that he wanted for the war--grain, oil, wood, cattle, and
men. But the inhabitants were not long in taking flight. The villages
passed through were empty, and the cabins were ransacked without
anything being discerned in them. The Punic army was soon encompassed
by a terrible solitude.
The Carthaginians, who were furious, began to sack the provinces; they
filled up the cisterns and fired the houses. The sparks, being carried
by the wind, were scattered far off, and whole forests were on fire on
the mountains; they bordered the valleys with a crown of flames, and
it was often necessary to wait in order to pass beyond them. Then the
soldiers resumed their march over the warm ashes in the full glare of
Sometimes they would see what looked like the eyes of a tiger cat
gleaming in a bush by the side of the road. This was a Barbarian
crouching upon his heels, and smeared with dust, that he might not be
distinguished from the colour of the foliage; or perhaps when passing
along a ravine those on the wings would suddenly hear the rolling of
stones, and raising their eyes would perceive a bare-footed man
bounding along through the openings of the gorge.
Meanwhile Utica and Hippo-Zarytus were free since the Mercenaries were
no longer besieging them. Hamilcar commanded them to come to his
assistance. But not caring to compromise themselves, they answered him
with vague words, with compliments and excuses.
He went up again abruptly into the North, determined to open up one of
the Tyrian towns, though he were obliged to lay siege to it. He
required a station on the coast, so as to be able to draw supplies and
men from the islands or from Cyrene, and he coveted the harbour of
Utica as being the nearest to Carthage.
The Suffet therefore left Zouitin and turned the lake of Hippo-Zarytus
with circumspection. But he was soon obliged to lengthen out his
regiments into column in order to climb the mountain which separates
the two valleys. They were descending at sunset into its hollow,
funnel-shaped summit, when they perceived on the level of the ground
before them bronze she-wolves which seemed to be running across the
Suddenly large plumes arose and a terrible song burst forth,
accompanied by the rhythm of flutes. It was the army under Spendius;
for some Campanians and Greeks, in their execration of Carthage, had
assumed the ensigns of Rome. At the same time long pikes, shields of
leopard's skin, linen cuirasses, and naked shoulders were seen on the
left. These were the Iberians under Matho, the Lusitanians,
Balearians, and Gaetulians; the horses of Narr' Havas were heard to
neigh; they spread around the hill; then came the loose rabble
commanded by Autaritus--Gauls, Libyans, and Nomads; while the Eaters
of Uncleanness might be recognised among them by the fish bones which
they wore in their hair.
Thus the Barbarians, having contrived their marches with exactness,
had come together again. But themselves surprised, they remained
motionless for some minutes in consultation.
The Suffet had collected his men into an orbicular mass, in such a way
as to offer an equal resistance in every direction. The infantry were
surrounded by their tall, pointed shields fixed close to one another
in the turf. The Clinabarians were outside and the elephants at
intervals further off. The Mercenaries were worn out with fatigue; it
was better to wait till next day; and the Barbarians feeling sure of
their victory occupied themselves the whole night in eating.
They lighted large bright fires, which, while dazzling themselves,
left the Punic army below them in the shade. Hamilcar caused a trench
fifteen feet broad and ten cubits deep to be dug in Roman fashion
round his camp, and the earth thrown out to be raised on the inside
into a parapet, on which sharp interlacing stakes were planted; and at
sunrise the Mercenaries were amazed to perceive all the Carthaginians
thus entrenched as if in a fortress.
They could recognise Hamilcar in the midst of the tents walking about
and giving orders. His person was clad in a brown cuirass cut in
little scales; he was followed by his horse, and stopped from time to
time to point out something with his right arm outstretched.
Then more than one recalled similar mornings when, amid the din of
clarions, he passed slowly before them, and his looks strengthened
them like cups of wine. A kind of emotion overcame them. Those, on the
contrary, who were not acquainted with Hamilcar, were mad with joy at
having caught him.
Nevertheless if all attacked at once they would do one another mutual
injury in the insufficiency of space. The Numidians might dash
through; but the Clinabarians, who were protected by cuirasses, would
crush them. And then how were the palisades to be crossed? As to the
elephants, they were not sufficiently well trained.
"You are all cowards!" exclaimed Matho.
And with the best among them he rushed against the entrenchment. They
were repulsed by a volley of stones; for the Suffet had taken their
abandoned catapults on the bridge.
This want of success produced an abrupt change in the fickle minds of
the Barbarians. Their extreme bravery disappeared; they wished to
conquer, but with the smallest possible risk. According to Spendius
they ought to maintain carefully the position that they held, and
starve out the Punic army. But the Carthaginians began to dig wells,
and as there were mountains surrounding the hill, they discovered
From the summit of their palisade they launched arrows, earth, dung,
and pebbles which they gathered from the ground, while the six
catapults rolled incessantly throughout the length of the terrace.
But the springs would dry up of themselves; the provisions would be
exhausted, and the catapults worn out; the Mercenaries, who were ten
times as numerous, would triumph in the end. The Suffet devised
negotiations so as to gain time, and one morning the Barbarians found
a sheep's skin covered with writing within their lines. He justified
himself for his victory: the Ancients had forced him into the war, and
to show them that he was keeping his word, he offered them the
pillaging of Utica or Hippo-Zarytus at their choice; in conclusion,
Hamilcar declared that he did not fear them because he had won over
some traitors, and thanks to them would easily manage the rest.
The Barbarians were disturbed: this proposal of immediate booty made
them consider; they were apprehensive of treachery, not suspecting a
snare in the Suffet's boasting, and they began to look upon one
another with mistrust. Words and steps were watched; terrors awaked
them in the night. Many forsook their companions and chose their army
as fancy dictated, and the Gauls with Autaritus went and joined
themselves with the men of Cisalpine Gaul, whose language they
The four chiefs met together every evening in Matho's tent, and
squatting round a shield, attentively moved backwards and forwards the
little wooden figures invented by Pyrrhus for the representation of
manoeuvres. Spendius would demonstrate Hamilcar's resources, and with
oaths by all the gods entreat that the opportunity should not be
wasted. Matho would walk about angry and gesticulating. The war
against Carthage was his own personal affair; he was indignant that
the others should interfere in it without being willing to obey him.
Autaritus would divine his speech from his countenance and applaud.
Narr' Havas would elevate his chin to mark his disdain; there was not
a measure he did not consider fatal; and he had ceased to smile. Sighs
would escape him as though he were thrusting back sorrow for an
impossible dream, despair for an abortive enterprise.
While the Barbarians deliberated in uncertainty, the Suffet increased
his defences: he had a second trench dug within the palisades, a
second wall raised, and wooden towers constructed at the corners; and
his slaves went as far as the middle of the outposts to drive caltrops
into the ground. But the elephants, whose allowances were lessened,
struggled in their shackles. To economise the grass he ordered the
Clinabarians to kill the least strong among the stallions. A few
refused to do so, and he had them decapitated. The horses were eaten.
The recollection of this fresh meat was a source of great sadness to
them in the days that followed.
From the bottom of the ampitheatre in which they were confined they
could see the four bustling camps of the Barbarians all around them on
the heights. Women moved about with leathern bottles on their heads,
goats strayed bleating beneath the piles of pikes; sentries were being
relieved, and eating was going on around tripods. In fact, the tribes
furnished them abundantly with provisions, and they did not themselves
suspect how much their inaction alarmed the Punic army.
On the second day the Carthaginians had remarked a troop of three
hundred men apart from the rest in the camp of the nomads. These were
the rich who had been kept prisoners since the beginning of the war.
Some Libyans ranged them along the edge of the trench, took their
station behind them, and hurled javelins, making themselves a rampart
of their bodies. The wretched creatures could scarcely be recognised,
so completely were their faces covered with vermin and filth. Their
hair had been plucked out in places, leaving bare the ulcers on their
heads, and they were so lean and hideous that they were like mummies
in tattered shrouds. A few trembled and sobbed with a stupid look; the
rest cried out to their friends to fire upon the Barbarians. There was
one who remained quite motionless with face cast down, and without
speaking; his long white beard fell to his chain-covered hands; and
the Carthaginians, feeling as it were the downfall of the Republic in
the bottom of their hearts, recognised Gisco. Although the place was a
dangerous one they pressed forward to see him. On his head had been
placed a grotesque tiara of hippopotamus leather incrusted with
pebbles. It was Autaritus's idea; but it was displeasing to Matho.
Hamilcar in exasperation, and resolved to cut his way through in one
way or another, had the palisades opened; and the Carthaginians went
at a furious rate half way up the hill or three hundred paces. Such a
flood of Barbarians descended upon them that they were driven back to
their lines. One of the guards of the Legion who had remained outside
was stumbling among the stones. Zarxas ran up to him, knocked him
down, and plunged a dagger into his throat; he drew it out, threw
himself upon the wound--and gluing his lips to it with mutterings of
joy, and startings which shook him to the heels, pumped up the blood
by breastfuls; then he quietly sat down upon the corpse, raised his
face with his neck thrown back the better to breathe in the air, like
a hind that has just drunk at a mountain stream, and in a shrill voice
began to sing a Balearic song, a vague melody full of prolonged
modulations, with interruptions and alternations like echoes answering
one another in the mountains; he called upon his dead brothers and
invited them to a feast;--then he let his hands fall between his legs,
slowly bent his head, and wept. This atrocious occurrence horrified
the Barbarians, especially the Greeks.
From that time forth the Carthaginians did not attempt to make any
sally; and they had no thought of surrender, certain as they were that
they would perish in tortures.
Nevertheless the provisions, in spite of Hamilcar's carefulness,
diminished frightfully. There was not left per man more than ten
k'hommers of wheat, three hins of millet, and twelve betzas of dried
fruit. No more meat, no more oil, no more salt food, and not a grain
of barley for the horses, which might be seen stretching down their
wasted necks seeking in the dust for blades of trampled straw. Often
the sentries on vedette upon the terrace would see in the moonlight a
dog belonging to the Barbarians coming to prowl beneath the
entrenchment among the heaps of filth; it would be knocked down with a
stone, and then, after a descent had been effected along the palisades
by means of the straps of a shield, it would be eaten without a word.
Sometimes horrible barkings would be heard and the man would not come
up again. Three phalangites, in the fourth dilochia of the twelfth
syntagmata, killed one another with knives in a dispute about a rat.
All regretted their families, and their houses; the poor their hive-
shaped huts, with the shells on the threshold and the hanging net, and
the patricians their large halls filled with bluish shadows, where at
the most indolent hour of the day they used to rest listening to the
vague noise of the streets mingled with the rustling of the leaves as
they stirred in their gardens;--to go deeper into the thought of this,
and to enjoy it more, they would half close their eyelids, only to be
roused by the shock of a wound. Every minute there was some
engagement, some fresh alarm; the towers were burning, the Eaters of
Uncleanness were leaping across the palisades; their hands would be
struck off with axes; others would hasten up; an iron hail would fall
upon the tents. Galleries of rushen hurdles were raised as a
protection against the projectiles. The Carthaginians shut themselves
up within them and stirred out no more.
Every day the sun coming over the hill used, after the early hours, to
forsake the bottom of the gorge and leave them in the shade. The grey
slopes of the ground, covered with flints spotted with scanty lichen,
ascended in front and in the rear, and above their summits stretched
the sky in its perpetual purity, smoother and colder to the eye than a
metal cupola. Hamilcar was so indignant with Carthage that he felt
inclined to throw himself among the Barbarians and lead them against
her. Moreover, the porters, sutlers, and slaves were beginning to
murmur, while neither people, nor Great Council, nor any one sent as
much as a hope. The situation was intolerable, especially owing to the
thought that it would become worse.
At the news of the disaster Carthage had leaped, as it were, with
anger and hate; the Suffet would have been less execrated if he had
allowed himself to be conquered from the first.
But time and money were lacking for the hire of other Mercenaries. As
to a levy of soldiers in the town, how were they to be equipped?
Hamilcar had taken all the arms! and then who was to command them? The
best captains were down yonder with him! Meanwhile, some men
despatched by the Suffet arrived in the streets with shouts. The Great
Council were roused by them, and contrived to make them disappear.
It was an unnecessary precaution; every one accused Barca of having
behaved with slackness. He ought to have annihilated the Mercenaries
after his victory. Why had he ravaged the tribes? The sacrifices
already imposed had been heavy enough! and the patricians deplored
their contributions of fourteen shekels, and the Syssitia their two
hundred and twenty-three thousand gold kikars; those who had given
nothing lamented like the rest. The populace was jealous of the New
Carthaginians, to whom he had promised full rights of citizenship; and
even the Ligurians, who had fought with such intrepidity, were
confounded with the Barbarians and cursed like them; their race became
a crime, the proof of complicity. The traders on the threshold of
their shops, the workmen passing plumb-line in hand, the vendors of
pickle rinsing their baskets, the attendants in the vapour baths and
the retailers of hot drinks all discussed the operations of the
campaign. They would trace battle-plans with their fingers in the
dust, and there was not a sorry rascal to be found who could not have
corrected Hamilcar's mistakes.
It was a punishment, said the priests, for his long-continued impiety.
He had offered no holocausts; he had not purified his troops; he had
even refused to take augurs with him; and the scandal of sacrilege
strengthened the violence of restrained hate, and the rage of betrayed
hopes. People recalled the Sicilian disasters, and all the burden of
his pride that they had borne for so long! The colleges of the
pontiffs could not forgive him for having seized their treasure, and
they demanded a pledge from the Great Council to crucify him should he
The heats of the month of Eloul, which were excessive in that year,
were another calamity. Sickening smells rose from the borders of the
Lake, and were wafted through the air together with the fumes of the
aromatics that eddied at the corners of the streets. The sounds of
hymns were constantly heard. Crowds of people occupied the staircases
of the temples; all the walls were covered with black veils; tapers
burnt on the brows of the Pataec Gods, and the blood of camels slain
for sacrifice ran along the flights of stairs forming red cascades
upon the steps. Carthage was agitated with funereal delirium. From the
depths of the narrowest lanes, and the blackest dens, there issued
pale faces, men with viper-like profiles and grinding their teeth. The
houses were filled with the women's piercing shrieks, which, escaping
through the gratings, caused those who stood talking in the squares to
turn round. Sometimes it was thought that the Barbarians were
arriving; they had been seen behind the mountain of the Hot Springs;
they were encamped at Tunis; and the voices would multiply and swell,
and be blended into one single clamour. Then universal silence would
reign, some remaining where they had climbed upon the frontals of the
buildings, screening their eyes with their open hand, while the rest
lay flat on their faces at the foot of the ramparts straining their
ears. When their terror had passed off their anger would begin again.
But the conviction of their own impotence would soon sink them into
the same sadness as before.
It increased every evening when all ascended the terraces, and bowing
down nine times uttered a loud cry in salutation of the sun, as it
sank slowly behind the lagoon, and then suddenly disappeared among the
mountains in the direction of the Barbarians.
They were waiting for the thrice holy festival when, from the summit
of a funeral pile, an eagle flew heavenwards as a symbol of the
resurrection of the year, and a message from the people to their Baal;
they regarded it as a sort of union, a method of connecting themselves
with the might of the Sun. Moreover, filled as they now were with
hatred, they turned frankly towards homicidal Moloch, and all forsook
Tanith. In fact, Rabetna, having lost her veil, was as if she had been
despoiled of part of her virtue. She denied the beneficence of her
waters, she had abandoned Carthage; she was a deserter, an enemy. Some
threw stones at her to insult her. But many pitied her while they
inveighed against her; she was still beloved, and perhaps more deeply
than she had been.
All their misfortunes came, therefore, from the loss of the zaimph.
Salammbo had indirectly participated in it; she was included in the
same ill will; she must be punished. A vague idea of immolation spread
among the people. To appease the Baalim it was without doubt necessary
to offer them something of incalculable worth, a being handsome,
young, virgin, of old family, a descendant of the gods, a human star.
Every day the gardens of Megara were invaded by strange men; the
slaves, trembling on their own account, dared not resist them.
Nevertheless, they did not pass beyond the galley staircase. They
remained below with their eyes raised to the highest terrace; they
were waiting for Salammbo, and they would cry out for hours against
her like dogs baying at the moon.
These clamourings of the populace did not alarm Hamilcar's daughter.
She was disturbed by loftier anxieties: her great serpent, the black
python, was drooping; and in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the
serpent was at once a national and a private fetish. It was believed
to be the offspring of the dust of the earth, since it emerges from
its depths and has no need of feet to traverse it; its mode of
progression called to mind the undulations of rivers, its temperature
the ancient, viscous, and fecund darkness, and the orbit which it
describes when biting its tail the harmony of the planets, and the
intelligence of Eschmoun.
Salammbo's serpent had several times already refused the four live
sparrows which were offered to it at the full moon and at every new
moon. Its handsome skin, covered like the firmament with golden spots
upon a perfectly black ground, was now yellow, relaxed, wrinkled, and
too large for its body. A cottony mouldiness extended round its head;
and in the corners of its eyelids might be seen little red specks
which appeared to move. Salammbo would approach its silver-wire basket
from time to time, and would draw aside the purple curtains, the lotus
leaves, and the bird's down; but it was continually rolled up upon
itself, more motionless than a withered bind-weed; and from looking at
it she at last came to feel a kind of spiral within her heart, another
serpent, as it were, mounting up to her throat by degrees and
She was in despair of having seen the zaimph, and yet she felt a sort
of joy, an intimate pride at having done so. A mystery shrank within
the splendour of its folds; it was the cloud that enveloped the gods,
and the secret of the universal existence, and Salammbo, horror-
stricken at herself, regretted that she had not raised it.
She was almost always crouching at the back of her apartment, holding
her bended left leg in her hands, her mouth half open, her chin sunk,
her eye fixed. She recollected her father's face with terror; she
wished to go away into the mountains of Phoenicia, on a pilgrimage to
the temple of Aphaka, where Tanith descended in the form of a star;
all kinds of imaginings attracted her and terrified her; moreover, a
solitude which every day became greater encompassed her. She did not
even know what Hamilcar was about.
Wearied at last with her thoughts she would rise, and trailing along
her little sandals whose soles clacked upon her heels at every step,
she would walk at random through the large silent room. The amethysts
and topazes of the ceiling made luminous spots quiver here and there,
and Salammbo as she walked would turn her head a little to see them.
She would go and take the hanging amphoras by the neck; she would cool
her bosom beneath the broad fans, or perhaps amuse herself by burning
cinnamomum in hollow pearls. At sunset Taanach would draw back the
black felt lozenges that closed the openings in the wall; then her
doves, rubbed with musk like the doves of Tanith, suddenly entered,
and their pink feet glided over the glass pavement, amid the grains of
barley which she threw to them in handfuls like a sower in a field.
But on a sudden she would burst into sobs and lie stretched on the
large bed of ox-leather straps without moving, repeating a word that
was ever the same, with open eyes, pale as one dead, insensible, cold;
and yet she could hear the cries of the apes in the tufts of the palm
trees, with the continuous grinding of the great wheel which brought a
flow of pure water through the stories into the porphyry centre-basin.
Sometimes for several days she would refuse to eat. She could see in a
dream troubled stars wandering beneath her feet. She would call
Schahabarim, and when he came she had nothing to say to him.
She could not live without the relief of his presence. But she
rebelled inwardly against this domination; her feeling towards the
priest was one at once of terror, jealousy, hatred, and a species of
love, in gratitude for the singular voluptuousness which she
experienced by his side.
He had recognised the influence of Rabbet, being skilful to discern
the gods who send diseases; and to cure Salammbo he had her apartment
watered with lotions of vervain, and maidenhair; she ate mandrakes
every morning; she slept with her head on a cushion filled with
aromatics blended by the pontiffs; he had even employed baaras, a
fiery-coloured root which drives back fatal geniuses into the North;
lastly, turning towards the polar star, he murmured thrice the
mysterious name of Tanith; but Salammbo still suffered and her anguish
No one in Carthage was so learned as he. In his youth he had studied
at the College of the Mogbeds, at Borsippa, near Babylon; had then
visited Samothrace, Pessinus, Ephesus, Thessaly, Judaea, and the
temples of the Nabathae, which are lost in the sands; and had
travelled on foot along the banks of the Nile from the cataracts to
the sea. Shaking torches with veil-covered face, he had cast a black
cock upon a fire of sandarach before the breast of the Sphinx, the
Father of Terror. He had descended into the caverns of Proserpine; he
had seen the five hundred pillars of the labyrinth of Lemnos revolve,
and the candelabrum of Tarentum, which bore as many sconces on its
shaft as there are days in the year, shine in its splendour; at times
he received Greeks by night in order to question them. The
constitution of the world disquieted him no less than the nature of
the gods; he had observed the equinoxes with the armils placed in the
portico of Alexandria, and accompanied the bematists of Evergetes, who
measure the sky by calculating the number of their steps, as far as
Cyrene; so that there was now growing in his thoughts a religion of
his own, with no distinct formula, and on that very account full of
infatuation and fervour. He no longer believed that the earth was
formed like a fir-cone; he believed it to be round, and eternally
falling through immensity with such prodigious speed that its fall was
From the position of the sun above the moon he inferred the
predominance of Baal, of whom the planet itself is but the reflection
and figure; moreover, all that he saw in terrestrial things compelled
him to recognise the male exterminating principle as supreme. And then
he secretly charged Rabbet with the misfortune of his life. Was it not
for her that the grand-pontiff had once advanced amid the tumult of
cymbals, and with a patera of boiling water taken from him his future
virility? And he followed with a melancholy gaze the men who were
disappearing with the priestesses in the depths of the turpentine
His days were spent in inspecting the censers, the gold vases, the
tongs, the rakes for the ashes of the altar, and all the robes of the
statues down to the bronze bodkin that served to curl the hair of an
old Tanith in the third aedicule near the emerald vine. At the same
hours he would raise the great hangings of the same swinging doors;
would remain with his arms outspread in the same attitude; or prayed
prostrate on the same flag-stones, while around him a people of
priests moved barefooted through the passages filled with an eternal
But Salammbo was in the barrenness of his life like a flower in the
cleft of a sepulchre. Nevertheless he was hard upon her, and spared
her neither penances nor bitter words. His condition established, as
it were, the equality of a common sex between them, and he was less
angry with the girl for his inability to possess her than for finding
her so beautiful, and above all so pure. Often he saw that she grew
weary of following his thought. Then he would turn away sadder than
before; he would feel himself more forsaken, more empty, more alone.
Strange words escaped him sometimes, which passed before Salammbo like
broad lightnings illuminating the abysses. This would be at night on
the terrace when, both alone, they gazed upon the stars, and Carthage
spread below under their feet, with the gulf and the open sea dimly
lost in the colour of the darkness.
He would set forth to her the theory of the souls that descend upon
the earth, following the same route as the sun through the signs of
the zodiac. With outstretched arm he showed the gate of human
generation in the Ram, and that of the return to the gods in
Capricorn; and Salammbo strove to see them, for she took these
conceptions for realities; she accepted pure symbols and even manners
of speech as being true in themselves, a distinction not always very
clear even to the priest.
"The souls of the dead," said he, "resolve themselves into the moon,
as their bodies do into the earth. Their tears compose its humidity;
'tis a dark abode full of mire, and wreck, and tempest."
She asked what would become of her then.
"At first you will languish as light as a vapour hovering upon the
waves; and after more lengthened ordeals and agonies, you will pass
into the forces of the sun, the very source of Intelligence!"
He did not speak, however, of Rabbet. Salammbo imagined that it was
through some shame for his vanquished goddess, and calling her by a
common name which designated the moon, she launched into blessings
upon the soft and fertile planet. At last he exclaimed:
"No! no! she draws all her fecundity from the other! Do you not see
her hovering about him like an amorous woman running after a man in a
field?" And he exalted the virtue of light unceasingly.
Far from depressing her mystic desires, he sought, on the contrary, to
excite them, and he even seemed to take joy in grieving her by the
revelation of a pitiless doctrine. In spite of the pains of her love
Salammbo threw herself upon it with transport.
But the more that Schahabarim felt himself in doubt about Tanith, the
more he wished to believe in her. At the bottom of his soul he was
arrested by remorse. He needed some proof, some manifestation from the
gods, and in the hope of obtaining it the priest devised an enterprise
which might save at once his country and his belief.
Thenceforward he set himself to deplore before Salammbo the sacrilege
and the misfortunes which resulted from it even in the regions of the
sky. Then he suddenly announced the peril of the Suffet, who was
assailed by three armies under the command of Matho--for on account of
the veil Matho was, in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the king, as it
were, of the Barbarians,--and he added that the safety of the Republic
and of her father depended upon her alone.
"Upon me!" she exclaimed. "How can I--?"
But the priest, with a smile of disdain said:
"You will never consent!"
She entreated him. At last Schahabarim said to her:
"You must go to the Barbarians and recover the zaimph!"
She sank down upon the ebony stool, and remained with her arms
stretched out between her knees and shivering in all her limbs, like a
victim at the altar's foot awaiting the blow of the club. Her temples
were ringing, she could see fiery circles revolving, and in her stupor
she had lost the understanding of all things save one, that she was
certainly going to die soon.
But if Rabbetna triumphed, if the zaimph were restored and Carthage
delivered, what mattered a woman's life? thought Schahabarim.
Moreover, she would perhaps obtain the veil and not perish.
He stayed away for three days; on the evening of the fourth she sent
The better to inflame her heart he reported to her all the invectives
howled against Hamilcar in open council; he told her that she had
erred, that she owed reparation for her crime, and that Rabbetna
commanded the sacrifice.
A great uproar came frequently across the Mappalian district to
Megara. Schahabarim and Salammbo went out quickly, and gazed from the
top of the galley staircase.
There were people in the square of Khamon shouting for arms. The
Ancients would not provide them, esteeming such an effort useless;
others who had set out without a general had been massacred. At last
they were permitted to depart, and as a sort of homage to Moloch, or
from a vague need of destruction, they tore up tall cypress trees in
the woods of the temples, and having kindled them at the torches of
the Kabiri, were carrying them through the streets singing. These
monstrous flames advanced swaying gently; they transmitted fires to
the glass balls on the crests of the temples, to the ornaments of the
colossuses and the beaks of the ships, passed beyond the terraces and
formed suns as it were, which rolled through the town. They descended
the Acropolis. The gate of Malqua opened.
"Are you ready?" exclaimed Schahabarim, "or have you asked them to
tell your father that you abandoned him?" She hid her face in her
veils, and the great lights retired, sinking gradually the while to
the edge of the waves.
An indeterminate dread restrained her; she was afraid of Moloch and of
Matho. This man, with his giant stature, who was master of the zaimph,
ruled Rabbetna as much as did Baal, and seemed to her to be surrounded
by the same fulgurations; and then the souls of the gods sometimes
visited the bodies of men. Did not Schahabarim in speaking of him say
that she was to vanquish Moloch? They were mingled with each other;
she confused them together; both of them were pursuing her.
She wished to learn the future, and approached the serpent, for
auguries were drawn from the attitudes of serpents. But the basket was
empty; Salammbo was disturbed.
She found him with his tail rolled round one of the silver balustrades
beside the hanging bed, which he was rubbing in order to free himself
from his old yellowish skin, while his body stretched forth gleaming
and clear like a sword half out of the sheath.
Then on the days following, in proportion as she allowed herself to be
convinced, and was more disposed to succour Tanith, the python
recovered and grew; he seemed to be reviving.
The certainty that Salammbo was giving expression to the will of the
gods then became established in her conscience. One morning she awoke
resolved, and she asked what was necessary to make Matho restore the
"To claim it," said Schahabarim.
"But if he refuses?" she rejoined.
The priest scanned her fixedly with a smile such as she had never
"Yes, what is to be done?" repeated Salammbo.
He rolled between his fingers the extremities of the bands which fell
from his tiara upon his shoulders, standing motionless with eyes cast
down. At last seeing that she did not understand:
"You will be alone with him."
"Well?" she said.
"Alone in his tent."
Schahabarim bit his lips. He sought for some phrase, some
"If you are to die, that will be later," he said; "later! fear
nothing! and whatever he may undertake to do, do not call out! do not
be frightened! You will be humble, you understand, and submissive to
his desire, which is ordained of heaven!"
"But the veil?"
"The gods will take thought for it," replied Schahabarim.
"Suppose you were to accompany me, O father?" she added.
He made her kneel down, and keeping his left hand raised and his right
extended, he swore in her behalf to bring back the mantle of Tanith
into Carthage. With terrible imprecations she devoted herself to the
gods, and each time that Schahabarim pronounced a word she falteringly
He indicated to her all the purifications and fastings that she was to
observe, and how she was to reach Matho. Moreover, a man acquainted
with the routes would accompany her.
She felt as if she had been set free. She thought only of the
happiness of seeing the zaimph again, and she now blessed Schahabarim
for his exhortations.
It was the period at which the doves of Carthage migrated to Sicily to
the mountain of Eryx and the temple of Venus. For several days before
their departure they sought out and called to one another so as to
collect together; at last one evening they flew away; the wind blew
them along, and the big white cloud glided across the sky high above
The horizon was filled with the colour of blood. They seemed to
descend gradually to the waves; then they disappeared as though
swallowed up, and falling of themselves into the jaws of the sun.
Salammbo, who watched them retiring, bent her head, and then Taanach,
believing that she guessed her sorrow, said gently to her:
"But they will come back, Mistress."
"Yes! I know."
"And you will see them again."
"Perhaps!" she said, sighing.
She had not confided her resolve to any one; in order to carry it out
with the greater discretion she sent Taanach to the suburb of Kinisdo
to buy all the things that she required instead of requesting them
from the stewards: vermilion, aromatics, a linen girdle, and new
garments. The old slave was amazed at these preparations, without
daring, however, to ask any questions; and the day, which had been
fixed by Schahabarim, arrived when Salammbo was to set out.
About the twelfth hour she perceived, in the depths of the sycamore
trees, a blind old man with one hand resting on the shoulder of a
child who walked before him, while with the other he carried a kind of
cithara of black wood against his hip. The eunuchs, slaves, and women
had been scrupulously sent away; no one might know the mystery that
Taanach kindled four tripods filled with strobus and cadamomum in the
corners of the apartment; then she unfolded large Babylonian hangings,
and stretched them on cords all around the room, for Salammbo did not
wish to be seen even by the walls. The kinnor-player squatted behind
the door and the young boy standing upright applied a reed flute to
his lips. In the distance the roar of the streets was growing feebler,
violet shadows were lengthening before the peristyles of the temples,
and on the other side of the gulf the mountain bases, the fields of
olive-trees, and the vague yellow lands undulated indefinitely, and
were blended together in a bluish haze; not a sound was to be heard,
and an unspeakable depression weighed in the air.
Salammbo crouched down upon the onyx step on the edge of the basin;
she raised her ample sleeves, fastening them behind her shoulders, and
began her ablutions in methodical fashion, according to the sacred
Next Taanach brought her something liquid and coagulated in an
alabaster phial; it was the blood of a black dog slaughtered by barren
women on a winter's night amid the rubbish of a sepulchre. She rubbed
it upon her ears, her heels, and the thumb of her right hand, and even
her nail remained somewhat red, as if she had crushed a fruit.
The moon rose; then the cithara and the flute began to play together.
Salammbo unfastened her earrings, her necklace, her bracelets, and her
long white simar; she unknotted the band in her hair, shaking the
latter for a few minutes softly over her shoulders to cool herself by
thus scattering it. The music went on outside; it consisted of three
notes ever the same, hurried and frenzied; the strings grated, the
flute blew; Taanach kept time by striking her hands; Salammbo, with a
swaying of her whole body, chanted prayers, and her garments fell one
after another around her.
The heavy tapestry trembled, and the python's head appeared above the
cord that supported it. The serpent descended slowly like a drop of
water flowing along a wall, crawled among the scattered stuffs, and
then, gluing its tail to the ground, rose perfectly erect; and his
eyes, more brilliant than carbuncles, darted upon Salammbo.
A horror of cold, or perhaps a feeling of shame, at first made her
hesitate. But she recalled Schahabarim's orders and advanced; the
python turned downwards, and resting the centre of its body upon the
nape of her neck, allowed its head and tail to hang like a broken
necklace with both ends trailing to the ground. Salammbo rolled it
around her sides, under her arms and between her knees; then taking it
by the jaw she brought the little triangular mouth to the edge of her
teeth, and half shutting her eyes, threw herself back beneath the rays
of the moon. The white light seemed to envelop her in a silver mist,
the prints of her humid steps shone upon the flag-stones, stars
quivered in the depth of the water; it tightened upon her its black
rings that were spotted with scales of gold. Salammbo panted beneath
the excessive weight, her loins yielded, she felt herself dying, and
with the tip of its tail the serpent gently beat her thigh; then the
music becoming still it fell off again.
Taanach came back to her; and after arranging two candelabra, the
lights of which burned in crystal balls filled with water, she tinged
the inside of her hands with Lawsonia, spread vermilion upon her
cheeks, and antimony along the edge of her eyelids, and lengthened her
eyebrows with a mixture of gum, musk, ebony, and crushed legs of
Salammbo seated on a chair with ivory uprights, gave herself up to the
attentions of the slave. But the touchings, the odour of the
aromatics, and the fasts that she had undergone, were enervating her.
She became so pale that Taanach stopped.
"Go on!" said Salammbo, and bearing up against herself, she suddenly
revived. Then she was seized with impatience; she urged Taanach to
make haste, and the old slave grumbled:
"Well! well! Mistress!--Besides, you have no one waiting for you!"
"Yes!" said Salammbo, "some one is waiting for me."
Taanach drew back in surprise, and in order to learn more about it,
"What orders to you give me, Mistress? for if you are to remain
But Salammbo was sobbing; the slave exclaimed:
"You are suffering! what is the matter? Do not go away! take me! When
you were quite little and used to cry, I took you to my heart and made
you laugh with the points of my breasts; you have drained them,
Mistress!" She struck herself upon her dried-up bosom. "Now I am old!
I can do nothing for you! you no longer love me! you hide your griefs
from me, you despise the nurse!" And tears of tenderness and vexation
flowed down her cheeks in the gashes of her tattooing.
"No!" said Salammbo, "no, I love you! be comforted!"
With a smile like the grimace of an old ape, Taanach resumed her task.
In accordance with Schahabarim's recommendations, Salammbo had ordered
the slave to make her magnificent; and she was obeying her mistress
with barbaric taste full at once of refinement and ingenuity.
Over a first delicate and vinous-coloured tunic she passed a second
embroidered with birds' feathers. Golden scales clung to her hips, and
from this broad girdle descended her blue flowing silver-starred
trousers. Next Taanach put upon her a long robe made of the cloth of
the country of Seres, white and streaked with green lines. On the edge
of her shoulder she fastened a square of purple weighted at the hem
with grains of sandastrum; and above all these garments she placed a
black mantle with a flowing train; then she gazed at her, and proud of
her work could not help saying:
"You will not be more beautiful on the day of your bridal!"
"My bridal!" repeated Salammbo; she was musing with her elbow resting
upon the ivory chair.
But Taanach set up before her a copper mirror, which was so broad and
high that she could see herself completely in it. Then she rose, and
with a light touch of her finger raised a lock of her hair which was
falling too low.
Her hair was covered with gold dust, was crisped in front, and hung
down behind over her back in long twists ending in pearls. The
brightness of the candelabra heightened the paint on her cheeks, the
gold on her garments, and the whiteness of her skin; around her waist,
and on her arms, hands and toes, she had such a wealth of gems that
the mirror sent back rays upon her like a sun;--and Salammbo, standing
by the side of Taanach, who leaned over to see her, smiled amid this
Then she walked to and fro embarrassed by the time that was still
Suddenly the crow of a cock resounded. She quickly pinned a long
yellow veil upon her hair, passed a scarf around her neck, thrust her
feet into blue leather boots, and said to Taanach:
"Go and see whether there is not a man with two horses beneath the
Taanach had scarcely re-entered when she was descending the galley
"Mistress!" cried the nurse.
Salammbo turned round with one finger on her mouth as a sign for
discretion and immobility.
Taanach stole softly along the prows to the foot of the terrace, and
from a distance she could distinguish by the light of the moon a
gigantic shadow walking obliquely in the cypress avenue to the left of
Salammbo, a sign which presaged death.
Taanach went up again into the chamber. She threw herself upon the
ground tearing her face with her nails; she plucked out her hair, and
uttered piercing shrieks with all her might.
It occurred to her that they might be heard; then she became silent,
sobbing quite softly with her head in the hands and her face on the
IN THE TENT
The man who guided Salammbo made her ascend again beyond the pharos in
the direction of the Catacombs, and then go down the long suburb of
Molouya, which was full of steep lanes. The sky was beginning to grow
grey. Sometimes palm-wood beams jutting out from the walls obliged
them to bend their heads. The two horses which were at the walk would
often slip; and thus they reached the Teveste gate.
Its heavy leaves were half open; they passed through, and it closed
At first they followed the foot of the ramparts for a time, and at the
height of the cisterns they took their way along the Taenia, a narrow
strip of yellow earth separating the gulf from the lake and extending
as far as Rhades.
No one was to be seen around Carthage, whether on the sea or in the
country. The slate-coloured waves chopped softly, and the light wind
blowing their foam hither and thither spotted them with white rents.
In spite of all her veils, Salammbo shivered in the freshness of the
morning; the motion and the open air dazed her. Then the sun rose; it
preyed on the back of her head, and she involuntarily dozed a little.
The two animals rambled along side by side, their feet sinking into
the silent sand.
When they had passed the mountain of the Hot Springs, they went on at
a more rapid rate, the ground being firmer.
But although it was the season for sowing and ploughing, the fields
were as empty as the desert as far as the eye could reach. Here and
there were scattered heaps of corn; at other places the barley was
shedding its reddened ears. The villages showed black upon the clear
horizon, with shapes incoherently carved.
From time to time a half-calcined piece of wall would be found
standing on the edge of the road. The roofs of the cottages were
falling in, and in the interiors might be distinguished fragments of
pottery, rags of clothing, and all kinds of unrecognisable utensils
and broken things. Often a creature clothed in tatters, with earthy
face and flaming eyes would emerge from these ruins. But he would very
quickly begin to run or would disappear into a hole. Salammbo and her
guide did not stop.
Deserted plains succeeded one another. Charcoal dust which was raised
by their feet behind them, stretched in unequal trails over large
spaces of perfectly white soil. Sometimes they came upon little
peaceful spots, where a brook flowed amid the long grass; and as they
ascended the other bank Salammbo would pluck damp leaves to cool her
hands. At the corner of a wood of rose-bays her horse shied violently
at the corpse of a man which lay extended on the ground.
The slave immediately settled her again on the cushions. He was one of
the servants of the Temple, a man whom Schahabarim used to employ on
With extreme precaution he now went on foot beside her and between the
horses; he would whip the animals with the end of a leathern lace
wound round his arm, or would perhaps take balls made of wheat, dates,
and yolks of eggs wrapped in lotus leaves from a scrip hanging against
his breast, and offer them to Salammbo without speaking, and running
all the time.
In the middle of the day three Barbarians clad in animals' skins
crossed their path. By degrees others appeared wandering in troops of
ten, twelve, or twenty-five men; many were driving goats or a limping
cow. Their heavy sticks bristled with brass points; cutlasses gleamed
in their clothes, which were savagely dirty, and they opened their
eyes with a look of menace and amazement. As they passed some sent
them a vulgar benediction; others obscene jests, and Schahabarim's man
replied to each in his own idiom. He told them that this was a sick
youth going to be cured at a distant temple.
However, the day was closing in. Barkings were heard, and they
Then in the twilight they perceived an enclosure of dry stones
shutting in a rambling edifice. A dog was running along the top of the
wall. The slave threw some pebbles at him and they entered a lofty
A woman was crouching in the centre warming herself at a fire of
brushwood, the smoke of which escaped through the holes in the
ceiling. She was half hidden by her white hair which fell to her
knees; and unwilling to answer, she muttered with idiotic look words
of vengeance against the Barbarians and the Carthaginians.
The runner ferreted right and left. Then he returned to her and
demanded something to eat. The old woman shook her head, and murmured
with her eyes fixed upon the charcoal:
"I was the hand. The ten fingers are cut off. The mouth eats no more."
The slave showed her a handful of gold pieces. She rushed upon them,
but soon resumed her immobility.
At last he placed a dagger which he had in his girdle beneath her
throat. Then, trembling, she went and raised a large stone, and
brought back an amphora of wine with fish from Hippo-Zarytus preserved
Salammbo turned away from this unclean food, and fell asleep on the
horses' caparisons which were spread in a corner of the hall.
He awoke her before daylight.
The dog was howling. The slave went up to it quietly, and struck off
its head with a single blow of his dagger. Then he rubbed the horses'
nostrils with blood to revive them. The old woman cast a malediction
at him from behind. Salammbo perceived this, and pressed the amulet
which she wore above her heart.
They resumed their journey.
From time to time she asked whether they would not arrive soon. The
road undulated over little hills. Nothing was to be heard but the
grating of the grasshoppers. The sun heated the yellowed grass; the
ground was all chinked with crevices which in dividing formed, as it
were, monstrous paving-stones. Sometimes a viper passed, or eagles
flew by; the slave still continued running. Salammbo mused beneath her
veils, and in spite of the heat did not lay them aside through fear of
soiling her beautiful garments.
At regular distances stood towers built by the Carthaginians for the
purpose of keeping watch upon the tribes. They entered these for the
sake of the shade, and then set out again.
For prudence sake they had made a wide detour the day before. But they
met with no one just now; the region being a sterile one, the
Barbarians had not passed that way.
Gradually the devastation began again. Sometimes a piece of mosaic
would be displayed in the centre of a field, the sole remnant of a
vanished mansion; and the leafless olive trees looked at a distance
like large bushes of thorns. They passed through a town in which
houses were burnt to the ground. Human skeletons might be seen along
the walls. There were some, too, of dromedaries and mules. Half-gnawed
carrion blocked the streets.
Night fell. The sky was lowering and cloudy.
They ascended again for two hours in a westerly direction, when
suddenly they perceived a quantity of little flames before them.
These were shining at the bottom of an ampitheatre. Gold plates, as
they displaced one another, glanced here and there. These were the
cuirasses of the Clinabarians in the Punic camp; then in the
neighbourhood they distinguished other and more numerous lights, for
the armies of the Mercenaries, now blended together, extended over a
Salammbo made a movement as though to advance. But Schahabarim's man
took her further away, and they passed along by the terrace which
enclosed the camp of the Barbarians. A breach became visible in it,
and the slave disappeared.
A sentry was walking upon the top of the entrenchment with a bow in
his hand and a pike on his shoulder.
Salammbo drew still nearer; the Barbarian knelt and a long arrow
pierced the hem of her cloak. Then as she stood motionless and
shrieking, he asked her what she wanted.
"To speak to Matho," she replied. "I am a fugitive from Carthage."
He gave a whistle, which was repeated at intervals further away.
Salammbo waited; her frightened horse moved round and round, sniffing.
When Matho arrived the moon was rising behind her. But she had a
yellow veil with black flowers over her face, and so many draperies
about her person, that it was impossible to make any guess about her.
From the top of the terrace he gazed upon this vague form standing up
like a phantom in the penumbrae of the evening.
At last she said to him:
"Lead me to your tent! I wish it!"
A recollection which he could not define passed through his memory. He
felt his heart beating. The air of command intimidated him.
"Follow me!" he said.
The barrier was lowered, and immediately she was in the camp of the
It was filled with a great tumult and a great throng. Bright fires
were burning beneath hanging pots; and their purpled reflections
illuminating some places left others completely in the dark. There was
shouting and calling; shackled horses formed long straight lines amid
the tents; the latter were round and square, of leather or of canvas;
there were huts of reeds, and holes in the sand such as are made by
dogs. Soldiers were carting faggots, resting on their elbows on the
ground, or wrapping themselves up in mats and preparing to sleep; and
Salammbo's horse sometimes stretched out a leg and jumped in order to
pass over them.
She remembered that she had seen them before; but their beards were
longer now, their faces still blacker, and their voices hoarser.
Matho, who walked before her, waved them off with a gesture of his arm
which raised his red mantle. Some kissed his hands; others bending
their spines approached him to ask for orders, for he was now
veritable and sole chief of the Barbarians; Spendius, Autaritus, and
Narr' Havas had become disheartened, and he had displayed so much
audacity and obstinacy that all obeyed him.
Salammbo followed him through the entire camp. His tent was at the
end, three hundred feet from Hamilcar's entrenchments.
She noticed a wide pit on the right, and it seemed to her that faces
were resting against the edge of it on a level with the ground, as
decapitated heads might have done. However, their eyes moved, and from
these half-opened mouths groanings escaped in the Punic tongue.
Two Negroes holding resin lights stood on both sides of the door.
Matho drew the canvas abruptly aside. She followed him. It was a deep
tent with a pole standing up in the centre. It was lighted by a large
lamp-holder shaped like a lotus and full of a yellow oil wherein
floated handfuls of burning tow, and military things might be
distinguished gleaming in the shade. A naked sword leaned against a
stool by the side of a shield; whips of hippopotamus leather, cymbals,
bells, and necklaces were displayed pell-mell on baskets of esparto-
grass; a felt rug lay soiled with crumbs of black bread; some copper
money was carelessly heaped upon a round stone in a corner, and
through the rents in the canvas the wind brought the dust from
without, together with the smell of the elephants, which might be
heard eating and shaking their chains.
"Who are you?" said Matho.
She looked slowly around her without replying; then her eyes were
arrested in the background, where something bluish and sparkling fell
upon a bed of palm-branches.
She advanced quickly. A cry escaped her. Matho stamped his foot behind
"Who brings you here? why do you come?"
"To take it!" she replied, pointing to the zaimph, and with the other
hand she tore the veils from her head. He drew back with his elbows
behind him, gaping, almost terrified.
She felt as if she were leaning on the might of the gods; and looking
at him face to face she asked him for the zaimph; she demanded it in
words abundant and superb.
Matho did not hear; he was gazing at her, and in his eyes her garments
were blended with her body. The clouding of the stuffs, like the
splendour of her skin, was something special and belonging to her
alone. Her eyes and her diamonds sparkled; the polish of her nails
continued the delicacy of the stones which loaded her fingers; the two
clasps of her tunic raised her breasts somewhat and brought them
closer together, and he in thought lost himself in the narrow interval
between them whence there fell a thread holding a plate of emeralds
which could be seen lower down beneath the violet gauze. She had as
earrings two little sapphire scales, each supporting a hollow pearl
filled with liquid scent. A little drop would fall every moment
through the holes in the pearl and moisten her naked shoulder. Matho
watched it fall.
He was carried away by ungovernable curiosity; and, like a child
laying his hand upon a strange fruit, he tremblingly and lightly
touched the top of her chest with the tip of his finger: the flesh,
which was somewhat cold, yielded with an elastic resistance.
This contact, though scarcely a sensible one, shook Matho to the very
depths of his nature. An uprising of his whole being urged him towards
her. He would fain have enveloped her, absorbed her, drunk her. His
bosom was panting, his teeth were chattering.
Taking her by the wrists he drew her gently to him, and then sat down
upon a cuirass beside the palm-tree bed which was covered with a
lion's skin. She was standing. He looked up at her, holding her thus
between his knees, and repeating:
"How beautiful you are! how beautiful you are!"
His eyes, which were continually fixed upon hers, pained her; and the
uncomfortableness, the repugnance increased in so acute a fashion that
Salammbo put a constraint upon herself not to cry out. The thought of
Schahabarim came back to her, and she resigned herself.
Matho still kept her little hands in his own; and from time to time,
in spite of the priest's command, she turned away her face and tried
to thrust him off by jerking her arms. He opened his nostrils the
better to breathe in the perfume which exhaled from her person. It was
a fresh, indefinable emanation, which nevertheless made him dizzy,
like the smoke from a perfuming-pan. She smelt of honey, pepper,
incense, roses, with another odour still.
But how was she thus with him in his tent, and at his disposal? Some
one no doubt had urged her. She had not come for the zaimph. His arms
fell, and he bent his head whelmed in sudden reverie.
To soften him Salammbo said to him in a plaintive voice:
"What have I done to you that you should desire my death?"
"I saw you one evening by the light of my burning gardens amid fuming
cups and my slaughtered slaves, and your anger was so strong that you
bounded towards me and I was obliged to fly! Then terror entered into
Carthage. There were cries of the devastation of the towns, the
burning of the country-seats, the massacre of the soldiery; it was you
who had ruined them, it was you who had murdered them! I hate you!
Your very name gnaws me like remorse! You are execrated more than the
plague, and the Roman war! The provinces shudder at your fury, the
furrows are full of corpses! I have followed the traces of your fires
as though I were travelling behind Moloch!"
Matho leaped up; his heart was swelling with colossal pride; he was
raised to the stature of a god.
With quivering nostrils and clenched teeth she went on:
"As if your sacrilege were not enough, you came to me in my sleep
covered with the zaimph! Your words I did not understand; but I could
see that you wished to drag me to some terrible thing at the bottom of
Matho, writhing his arms, exclaimed:
"No! no! it was to give it to you! to restore it to you! It seemed to
me that the goddess had left her garment for you, and that it belonged
to you! In her temple or in your house, what does it matter? are you
not all-powerful, immaculate, radiant and beautiful even as Tanith?"
And with a look of boundless adoration he added:
"Unless perhaps you are Tanith?"
"I, Tanith!" said Salammbo to herself.
They left off speaking. The thunder rolled in the distance. Some sheep
bleated, frightened by the storm.
"Oh! come near!" he went on, "come near! fear nothing!
"Formerly I was only a soldier mingled with the common herd of the
Mercenaries, ay, and so meek that I used to carry wood on my back for
the others. Do I trouble myself about Carthage! The crowd of its
people move as though lost in the dust of your sandals, and all its
treasures, with the provinces, fleets, and islands, do not raise my
envy like the freshness of your lips and the turn of your shoulders.
But I wanted to throw down its walls that I might reach you to possess
you! Moreover, I was revenging myself in the meantime! At present I
crush men like shells, and I throw myself upon phalanxes; I put aside
the sarissae with my hands, I check the stallions by the nostrils; a
catapult would not kill me! Oh! if you knew how I think of you in the
midst of war! Sometimes the memory of a gesture or of a fold of your
garment suddenly seizes me and entwines me like a net! I perceive your
eyes in the flames of the phalaricas and on the gilding of the
shields! I hear your voice in the sounding of the cymbals. I turn
aside, but you are not there! and I plunge again into the battle!"
He raised his arms whereon his veins crossed one another like ivy on
the branches of a tree. Sweat flowed down his breast between his
square muscles; and his breathing shook his sides with his bronze
girdle all garnished with thongs hanging down to his knees, which were
firmer than marble. Salammbo, who was accustomed to eunuchs, yielded
to amazement at the strength of this man. It was the chastisement of
the goddess or the influence of Moloch in motion around her in the
five armies. She was overwhelmed with lassitude; and she listened in a
state of stupor to the intermittent shouts of the sentinels as they
answered one another.
The flames of the lamp kindled in the squalls of hot air. There came
at times broad lightning flashes; then the darkness increased; and she
could only see Matho's eyeballs like two coals in the night. However,
she felt that a fatality was surrounding her, that she had reached a
supreme and irrevocable moment, and making an effort she went up again
towards the zaimph and raised her hands to seize it.
"What are you doing?" exclaimed Matho.
"I am going back to Carthage," she placidly replied.
He advanced folding his arms and with so terrible a look that her
heels were immediately nailed, as it were, to the spot.
"Going back to Carthage!" He stammered, and, grinding his teeth,
"Going back to Carthage! Ah! you came to take the zaimph, to conquer
me, and then disappear! No, no! you belong to me! and no one now shall
tear you from here! Oh! I have not forgotten the insolence of your
large tranquil eyes, and how you crushed me with the haughtiness of
your beauty! 'Tis my turn now! You are my captive, my slave, my
servant! Call, if you like, on your father and his army, the Ancients,
the rich, and your whole accursed people! I am the master of three
hundred thousand soldiers! I will go and seek them in Lusitania, in
the Gauls, and in the depths of the desert, and I will overthrow your
town and burn all its temples; the triremes shall float on the waves
of blood! I will not have a house, a stone, or a palm tree remaining!
And if men fail me I will draw the bears from the mountains and urge
on the lions! Seek not to fly or I kill you!"
Pale and with clenched fists he quivered like a harp whose strings are
about to burst. Suddenly sobs stifled him, and he sank down upon his
"Ah! forgive me! I am a scoundrel, and viler than scorpions, than mire
and dust! Just now while you were speaking your breath passed across
my face, and I rejoiced like a dying man who drinks lying flat on the
edge of a stream. Crush me, if only I feel your feet! curse me, if
only I hear your voice! Do not go! have pity! I love you! I love you!"
He was on his knees on the ground before her; and he encircled her
form with both his arms, his head thrown back, and his hands
wandering; the gold discs hanging from his ears gleamed upon his
bronzed neck; big tears rolled in his eyes like silver globes; he
sighed caressingly, and murmured vague words lighter than a breeze and
sweet as a kiss.
Salammbo was invaded by a weakness in which she lost all consciousness
of herself. Something at once inward and lofty, a command from the
gods, obliged her to yield herself; clouds uplifted her, and she fell
back swooning upon the bed amid the lion's hair. The zaimph fell, and
enveloped her; she could see Matho's face bending down above her
"Moloch, thou burnest me!" and the soldier's kisses, more devouring
than flames, covered her; she was as though swept away in a hurricane,
taken in the might of the sun.
He kissed all her fingers, her arms, her feet, and the long tresses of
her hair from one end to the other.
"Carry it off," he said, "what do I care? take me away with it! I
abandon the army! I renounce everything! Beyond Gades, twenty days'
journey into the sea, you come to an island covered with gold dust,
verdure, and birds. On the mountains large flowers filled with smoking
perfumes rock like eternal censers; in the citron trees, which are
higher than cedars, milk-coloured serpents cause the fruit to fall
upon the turf with the diamonds in their jaws; the air is so mild that
it keeps you from dying. Oh! I shall find it, you will see. We shall
live in crystal grottoes cut out at the foot of the hills. No one
dwells in it yet, or I shall become the king of the country."
He brushed the dust off her cothurni; he wanted her to put a quarter
of a pomegranate between her lips; he heaped up garments behind her
head to make a cushion for her. He sought for means to serve her, and
to humble himself, and he even spread the zaimph over her feet as if
it were a mere rug.
"Have you still," he said, "those little gazelle's horns on which your
necklaces hang? You will give them to me! I love them!" For he spoke
as if the war were finished, and joyful laughs broke from him. The
Mercenaries, Hamilcar, every obstacle had now disappeared. The moon
was gliding between two clouds. They could see it through an opening
in the tent. "Ah, what nights have I spent gazing at her! she seemed
to me like a veil that hid your face; you would look at me through
her; the memory of you was mingled with her beams; then I could no
longer distinguish you!" And with his head between her breasts he wept
"And this," she thought, "is the formidable man who makes Carthage
He fell asleep. Then disengaging herself from his arm she put one foot
to the ground, and she perceived that her chainlet was broken.
The maidens of the great families were accustomed to respect these
shackles as something that was almost religious, and Salammbo,
blushing, rolled the two pieces of the golden chain around her ankles.
Carthage, Megara, her house, her room, and the country that she had
passed through, whirled in tumultuous yet distinct images through her
memory. But an abyss had yawned and thrown them far back to an
infinite distance from her.
The storm was departing; drops of water splashing rarely, one by one,
made the tent-roof shake.
Matho slept like a drunken man, stretched on his side, and with one
arm over the edge of the couch. His band of pearls was raised
somewhat, and uncovered his brow; his teeth were parted in a smile;
they shone through his black beard, and there was a silent and almost
outrageous gaiety in his half-closed eyelids.
Salammbo looked at him motionless, her head bent and her hands
A dagger was displayed on the table of cypress-wood at the head of the
bed; the sight of the gleaming blade fired her with a sanguinary
desire. Mournful voices lingered at a distance in the shade, and like
a chorus of geniuses urged her on. She approached it; she seized the
steel by the handle. At the rustling of her dress Matho half opened
his eyes, putting forth his mouth upon her hands, and the dagger fell.
Shouts arose; a terrible light flashed behind the canvas. Matho raised
the latter; they perceived the camp of the Libyans enveloped in great
Their reed huts were burning, and the twisting stems burst in the
smoke and flew off like arrows; black shadows ran about distractedly
on the red horizon. They could hear the shrieks of those who were in
the huts; the elephants, oxen, and horses plunged in the midst of the
crowd crushing it together with the stores and baggage that were being
rescued from the fire. Trumpets sounded. There were calls of "Matho!
Matho!" Some people at the door tried to get in.
"Come along! Hamilcar is burning the camp of Autaritus!"
He made a spring. She found herself quite alone.
Then she examined the zaimph; and when she had viewed it well she was
surprised that she had not the happiness which she had once imagined
to herself. She stood with melancholy before her accomplished dream.
But the lower part of the tent was raised, and a monstrous form
appeared. Salammbo could at first distinguish only the two eyes and a
long white beard which hung down to the ground; for the rest of the
body, which was cumbered with the rags of a tawny garment, trailed
along the earth; and with every forward movement the hands passed into
the beard and then fell again. Crawling in this way it reached her
feet, and Salammbo recognised the aged Gisco.
In fact, the Mercenaries had broken the legs of the captive Ancients
with a brass bar to prevent them from taking to flight; and they were
all rotting pell-mell in a pit in the midst of filth. But the
sturdiest of them raised themselves and shouted when they heard the
noise of platters, and it was in this way that Gisco had seen
Salammbo. He had guessed that she was a Carthaginian woman by the
little balls of sandastrum flapping against her cothurni; and having a
presentiment of an important mystery he had succeeded, with the
assistance of his companions, in getting out of the pit; then with
elbows and hands he had dragged himself twenty paces further on as far
as Matho's tent. Two voices were speaking within it. He had listened
outside and had heard everything.
"It is you!" she said at last, almost terrified.
"Yes, it is I!" he replied, raising himself on his wrists. "They think
me dead, do they not?"
She bent her head. He resumed:
"Ah! why have the Baals not granted me this mercy!" He approached so
close he was touching her. "They would have spared me the pain of
Salammbo sprang quickly back, so much afraid was she of this unclean
being, who was as hideous as a larva and nearly as terrible as a
"I am nearly one hundred years old," he said. "I have seen Agathocles;
I have seen Regulus and the eagles of the Romans passing over the
harvests of the Punic fields! I have seen all the terrors of battles
and the sea encumbered with the wrecks of our fleets! Barbarians whom
I used to command have chained my four limbs like a slave that has
committed murder. My companions are dying around me, one after the
other; the odour of their corpses awakes me in the night; I drive away
the birds that come to peck out their eyes; and yet not for a single
day have I despaired of Carthage! Though I had seen all the armies of
the earth against her, and the flames of the siege overtop the height
of the temples, I should have still believed in her eternity! But now
all is over! all is lost! The gods execrate her! A curse upon you who
have quickened her ruin by your disgrace!"
She opened her lips.
"Ah! I was there!" he cried. "I heard you gurgling with love like a
prostitute; then he told you of his desire, and you allowed him to
kiss your hands! But if the frenzy of your unchastity urged you to it,
you should at least have done as do the fallow deer, which hide
themselves in their copulations, and not have displayed your shame
beneath your father's very eyes!"
"What?" she said.
"Ah! you did not know that the two entrenchments are sixty cubits from
each other and that your Matho, in the excess of his pride, has posted
himself just in front of Hamilcar. Your father is there behind you;
and could I climb the path which leads to the platform, I should cry
to him: 'Come and see your daughter in the Barbarian's arms! She has
put on the garment of the goddess to please him; and in yielding her
body to him she surrenders with the glory of your name the majesty of
the gods, the vengeance of her country, even the safety of Carthage!'"
The motion of his toothless mouth moved his beard throughout its
length; his eyes were riveted upon her and devoured her; panting in
the dust he repeated:
"Ah! sacrilegious one! May you be accursed! accursed! accursed!"
Salammbo had drawn back the canvas; she held it raised at arm's
length, and without answering him she looked in the direction of
"It is this way, is it not?" she said.
"What matters it to you? Turn away! Begone! Rather crush your face
against the earth! It is a holy spot which would be polluted by your
She threw the zaimph about her waist, and quickly picked up her veils,
mantle, and scarf. "I hasten thither!" she cried; and making her
escape Salammbo disappeared.
At first she walked through the darkness without meeting any one, for
all were betaking themselves to the fire; the uproar was increasing
and great flames purpled the sky behind; a long terrace stopped her.
She turned round to right and left at random, seeking for a ladder, a
rope, a stone, something in short to assist her. She was afraid of
Gisco, and it seemed to her that shouts and footsteps were pursuing
her. Day was beginning to break. She perceived a path in the thickness
of the entrenchment. She took the hem of her robe, which impeded her,
in her teeth, and in three bounds she was on the platform.
A sonorous shout burst forth beneath her in the shade, the same which
she had heard at the foot of the galley staircase, and leaning over
she recognised Schahabarim's man with his coupled horses.
He had wandered all night between the two entrenchments; then
disquieted by the fire, he had gone back again trying to see what was
passing in Matho's camp; and, knowing that this spot was nearest to
his tent, he had not stirred from it, in obedience to the priest's
He stood up on one of the horses. Salammbo let herself slide down to
him; and they fled at full gallop, circling the Punic camp in search
of a gate.
Matho had re-entered his tent. The smoky lamp gave but little light,
and he also believed that Salammbo was asleep. Then he delicately
touched the lion's skin on the palm-tree bed. He called but she did
not answer; he quickly tore away a strip of the canvas to let in some
light; the zaimph was gone.
The earth trembled beneath thronging feet. Shouts, neighings, and
clashing of armour rose in the air, and clarion flourishes sounded the
charge. It was as though a hurricane were whirling around him.
Immoderate frenzy made him leap upon his arms, and he dashed outside.
The long files of the Barbarians were descending the mountain at a
run, and the Punic squares were advancing against them with a heavy
and regular oscillation. The mist, rent by the rays of the sun, formed
little rocking clouds which as they rose gradually discovered
standards, helmets, and points of pikes. Beneath the rapid evolutions
portions of the earth which were still in the shadow seemed to be
displaced bodily; in other places it looked as if huge torrents were
crossing one another, while thorny masses stood motionless between
them. Matho could distinguish the captains, soldiers, heralds, and
even the serving-men, who were mounted on asses in the rear. But
instead of maintaining his position in order to cover the foot-
soldiers, Narr' Havas turned abruptly to the right, as though he
wished himself to be crushed by Hamilcar.
His horsemen outstripped the elephants, which were slackening their
speed; and all the horses, stretching out their unbridled heads,
galloped at so furious a rate that their bellies seemed to graze the
earth. Then suddenly Narr' Havas went resolutely up to a sentry. He
threw away his sword, lance, and javelins, and disappeared among the
The king of the Numidians reached Hamilcar's tent, and pointing to his
men, who were standing still at a distance, he said:
"Barca! I bring them to you. They are yours."
Then he prostrated himself in token of bondage, and to prove his
fidelity recalled all his conduct from the beginning of the war.
First, he had prevented the siege of Carthage and the massacre of the
captives; then he had taken no advantage of the victory over Hanno
after the defeat at Utica. As to the Tyrian towns, they were on the
frontiers of his kingdom. Finally he had not taken part in the battle
of the Macaras; and he had even expressly absented himself in order to
evade the obligation of fighting against the Suffet.
Narr' Havas had in fact wished to aggrandise himself by encroachments
upon the Punic provinces, and had alternately assisted and forsaken
the Mercenaries according to the chances of victory. But seeing that
Hamilcar would ultimately prove the stronger, he had gone over to him;
and in his desertion there was perhaps something of a grudge against
Matho, whether on account of the command or of his former love.
The Suffet listened without interrupting him. The man who thus
presented himself with an army where vengeance was his due was not an
auxiliary to be despised; Hamilcar at once divined the utility of such
an alliance in his great projects. With the Numidians he would get rid
of the Libyans. Then he would draw off the West to the conquest of
Iberia; and, without asking Narr' Havas why he had not come sooner, or
noticing any of his lies, he kissed him, striking his breast thrice
against his own.
It was to bring matters to an end and in despair that he had fired the
camp of the Libyans. This army came to him like a relief from the
gods; dissembling his joy he replied:
"May the Baals favour you! I do not know what the Republic will do for
you, but Hamilcar is not ungrateful."
The tumult increased; some captains entered. He was arming himself as
"Come, return! You will use your horsemen to beat down their infantry
between your elephants and mine. Courage! exterminate them!"
And Narr' Havas was rushing away when Salammbo appeared.
She leaped down quickly from her horse. She opened her ample cloak and
spreading out her arms displayed the zaimph.
The leathern tent, which was raised at the corners, left visible the
entire circuit of the mountain with its thronging soldiers, and as it
was in the centre Salammbo could be seen on all sides. An immense
shouting burst forth, a long cry of triumph and hope. Those who were
marching stopped; the dying leaned on their elbows and turned round to
bless her. All the Barbarians knew now that she had recovered the
zaimph; they saw her or believed that they saw her from a distance;
and other cries, but those of rage and vengeance, resounded in spite
of the plaudits of the Carthaginians. Thus did the five armies in
tiers upon the mountain stamp and shriek around Salammbo.
Hamilcar, who was unable to speak, nodded her his thanks. His eyes
were directed alternately upon the zaimph and upon her, and he noticed
that her chainlet was broken. Then he shivered, being seized with a
terrible suspicion. But soon recovering his impassibility he looked
sideways at Narr' Havas without turning his face.
The king of the Numidians held himself apart in a discreet attitude;
on his forehead he bore a little of the dust which he had touched when
prostrating himself. At last the Suffet advanced towards him with a
look full of gravity.
"As a reward for the services which you have rendered me, Narr' Havas,
I give you my daughter. Be my son," he added, "and defend your
Narr' Havas gave a great gesture of surprise; then he threw himself
upon Hamilcar's hands and covered them with kisses.
Salammbo, calm as a statue, did not seem to understand. She blushed a
little as she cast down her eyelids, and her long curved lashes made
shadows upon her cheeks.
Hamilcar wished to unite them immediately in indissoluble betrothal. A
lance was placed in Salammbo's hands and by her offered to Narr'
Havas; their thumbs were tied together with a thong of ox-leather;
then corn was poured upon their heads, and the grains that fell around
them rang like rebounding hail.
Twelve hours afterwards all that remained of the Mercenaries was a
heap of wounded, dead, and dying.
Hamilcar had suddenly emerged from the bottom of the gorge, and again
descended the western slope that looked towards Hippo-Zarytus, and the
space being broader at this spot he had taken care to draw the
Barbarians into it. Narr' Havas had encompassed them with his horse;
the Suffet meanwhile drove them back and crushed them. Then, too, they
were conquered beforehand by the loss of the zaimph; even those who
cared nothing about it had experienced anguish and something akin to
enfeeblement. Hamilcar, not indulging his pride by holding the field
of battle, had retired a little further off on the left to some
heights, from which he commanded them.
The shape of the camps could be recognised by their sloping palisades.
A long heap of black cinders was smoking on the side of the Libyans;
the devastated soil showed undulations like the sea, and the tents
with their tattered canvas looked like dim ships half lost in the
breakers. Cuirasses, forks, clarions, pieces of wood, iron and brass,
corn, straw, and garments were scattered about among the corpses; here
and there a phalarica on the point of extinction burned against a heap
of baggage; in some places the earth was hidden with shields; horses'
carcasses succeeded one another like a series of hillocks; legs,
sandals, arms, and coats of mail were to be seen, with heads held in
their helmets by the chin-pieces and rolling about like balls; heads
of hair were hanging on the thorns; elephants were lying with their
towers in pools of blood, with entrails exposed, and gasping. The foot
trod on slimy things, and there were swamps of mud although no rain
This confusion of dead bodies covered the whole mountain from top to
Those who survived stirred as little as the dead. Squatting in unequal
groups they looked at one another scared and without speaking.
The lake of Hippo-Zarytus shone at the end of a long meadow beneath
the setting sun. To the right an agglomeration of white houses
extended beyond a girdle of walls; then the sea spread out
indefinitely; and the Barbarians, with their chins in their hands,
sighed as they thought of their native lands. A cloud of grey dust was
The evening wind blew; then every breast dilated, and as the freshness
increased, the vermin might be seen to forsake the dead, who were
colder now, and to run over the hot sand. Crows, looking towards the
dying, rested motionless on the tops of the big stones.
When night had fallen yellow-haired dogs, those unclean beasts which
followed the armies, came quite softly into the midst of the
Barbarians. At first they licked the clots of blood on the still tepid
stumps; and soon they began to devour the corpses, biting into the
stomachs first of all.
The fugitives reappeared one by one like shadows; the women also
ventured to return, for there were still some of them left, especially
among the Libyans, in spite of the dreadful massacre of them by the
Some took ropes' ends and lighted them to use as torches. Others held
crossed pikes. The corpses were placed upon these and were conveyed
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