Part 5 out of 6
They were found lying stretched in long lines, on their backs, with
their mouths open, and their lances beside them; or else they were
piled up pell-mell so that it was often necessary to dig out a whole
heap in order to discover those they were wanting. Then the torch
would be passed slowly over their faces. They had received complicated
wounds from hideous weapons. Greenish strips hung from their
foreheads; they were cut in pieces, crushed to the marrow, blue from
strangulation, or broadly cleft by the elephants' ivory. Although they
had died at almost the same time there existed differences between
their various states of corruption. The men of the North were puffed
up with livid swellings, while the more nervous Africans looked as
though they had been smoked, and were already drying up. The
Mercenaries might be recognised by the tattooing on their hands: the
old soldiers of Antiochus displayed a sparrow-hawk; those who had
served in Egypt, the head of the cynosephalus; those who had served
with the princes of Asia, a hatchet, a pomegranate, or a hammer; those
who had served in the Greek republics, the side-view of a citadel or
the name of an archon; and some were to be seen whose arms were
entirely covered with these multiplied symbols, which mingled with
their scars and their recent wounds.
Four great funeral piles were erected for the men of Latin race, the
Samnites, Etruscans, Campanians, and Bruttians.
The Greeks dug pits with the points of their swords. The Spartans
removed their red cloaks and wrapped them round the dead; the
Athenians laid them out with their faces towards the rising sun; the
Cantabrians buried them beneath a heap of pebbles; the Nasamonians
bent them double with ox-leather thongs, and the Garamantians went and
interred them on the shore so that they might be perpetually washed by
the waves. But the Latins were grieved that they could not collect the
ashes in urns; the Nomads regretted the heat of the sands in which
bodies were mummified, and the Celts, the three rude stones beneath a
rainy sky at the end of an islet-covered gulf.
Vociferations arose, followed by the lengthened silence. This was to
oblige the souls to return. Then the shouting was resumed persistently
at regular intervals.
They made excuses to the dead for their inability to honour them as
the rites prescribed: for, owing to this deprivation, they would pass
for infinite periods through all kinds of chances and metamorphoses;
they questioned them and asked them what they desired; others loaded
them with abuse for having allowed themselves to be conquered.
The bloodless faces lying back here and there on wrecks of armour
showed pale in the light of the great funeral-pile; tears provoked
tears, the sobs became shriller, the recognitions and embracings more
frantic. Women stretched themselves on the corpses, mouth to mouth and
brow to brow; it was necessary to beat them in order to make them
withdraw when the earth was being thrown in. They blackened their
cheeks; they cut off their hair; they drew their own blood and poured
it into the pits; they gashed themselves in imitation of the wounds
that disfigured the dead. Roarings burst forth through the crashings
of the cymbals. Some snatched off their amulets and spat upon them.
The dying rolled in the bloody mire biting their mutilated fists in
their rage; and forty-three Samnites, quite a "sacred spring," cut one
another's throats like gladiators. Soon wood for the funeral-piles
failed, the flames were extinguished, every spot was occupied; and
weary from shouting, weakened, tottering, they fell asleep close to
their dead brethren, those who still clung to life full of anxieties,
and the others desiring never to wake again.
In the greyness of the dawn some soldiers appeared on the outskirts of
the Barbarians, and filed past with their helmets raised on the points
of their pikes; they saluted the Mercenaries and asked them whether
they had no messages to send to their native lands.
Others approached, and the Barbarians recognised some of their former
The Suffet had proposed to all the captives that they should serve in
his troops. Several had fearlessly refused; and quite resolved neither
to support them nor to abandon them to the Great Council, he had sent
them away with injunctions to fight no more against Carthage. As to
those who had been rendered docile by the fear of tortures, they had
been furnished with the weapons taken from the enemy; and they were
now presenting themselves to the vanquished, not so much in order to
seduce them as out of an impulse of pride and curiosity.
At first they told of the good treatment which they had received from
the Suffet; the Barbarians listened to them with jealousy although
they despised them. Then at the first words of reproach the cowards
fell into a passion; they showed them from a distance their own swords
and cuirasses and invited them with abuse to come and take them. The
Barbarians picked up flints; all took to flght; and nothing more could
be seen on the summit of the mountain except the lance-points
projecting above the edge of the palisades.
Then the Barbarians were overwhelmed with a grief that was heavier
than the humiliation of the defeat. They thought of the emptiness of
their courage, and they stood with their eyes fixed and grinding their
The same thought came to them all. They rushed tumultuously upon the
Carthaginian prisoners. It chanced that the Suffet's soldiers had been
unable to discover them, and as he had withdrawn from the field of
battle they were still in the deep pit.
They were ranged on the ground on a flattened spot. Sentries formed a
circle round them, and the women were allowed to enter thirty or forty
at a time. Wishing to profit by the short time that was allowed to
them, they ran from one to the other, uncertain and panting; then
bending over the poor bodies they struck them with all their might
like washerwomen beating linen; shrieking their husband's names they
tore them with their nails and put out their eyes with the bodkins of
their hair. The men came next and tortured them from their feet, which
they cut off at the ankles, to their foreheads, from which they took
crowns of skin to put upon their own heads. The Eaters of Uncleanness
were atrocious in their devices. They envenomed the wounds by pouring
into them dust, vinegar, and fragments of pottery; others waited
behind; blood flowed, and they rejoiced like vintagers round fuming
Matho, however, was seated on the ground, at the very place where he
had happened to be when the battle ended, his elbows on his knees, and
his temples in his hands; he saw nothing, heard nothing, and had
ceased to think.
At the shrieks of joy uttered by the crowd he raised his head. Before
him a strip of canvas caught on a flagpole, and trailing on the
ground, sheltered in confused fashion blankets, carpets, and a lion's
skin. He recognised his tent; and he riveted his eyes upon the ground
as though Hamilcar's daughter, when she disappeared, had sunk into the
The torn canvas flapped in the wind; the long rags of it sometimes
passed across his mouth, and he perceived a red mark like the print of
a hand. It was the hand of Narr' Havas, the token of their alliance.
Then Matho rose. He took a firebrand which was still smoking, and
threw it disdainfully upon the wrecks of his tent. Then with the toe
of his cothurn he pushed the things which fell out back towards the
flame so that nothing might be left.
Suddenly, without any one being able to guess from what point he had
sprung up, Spendius reappeared.
The former slave had fastened two fragments of a lance against his
thigh; he limped with a piteous look, breathing forth complaints the
"Remove that," said Matho to him. "I know that you are a brave
fellow!" For he was so crushed by the injustice of the gods that he
had not strength enough to be indignant with men.
Spendius beckoned to him and led him to a hollow of the mountain,
where Zarxas and Autaritus were lying concealed.
They had fled like the slave, the one although he was cruel, and the
other in spite of his bravery. But who, said they, could have expected
the treachery of Narr' Havas, the burning of the camp of the Libyans,
the loss of the zaimph, the sudden attack by Hamilcar, and, above all,
his manoeuvres which forced them to return to the bottom of the
mountain beneath the instant blows of the Carthaginians? Spendius made
no acknowledgement of his terror, and persisted in maintaining that
his leg was broken.
At last the three chiefs and the schalischim asked one another what
decision should now be adopted.
Hamilcar closed the road to Carthage against them; they were caught
between his soldiers and the provinces belonging to Narr' Havas; the
Tyrian towns would join the conquerors; the Barbarians would find
themselves driven to the edge of the sea, and all those united forces
would crush them. This would infallibly happen.
Thus no means presented themselves of avoiding the war. Accordingly
they must prosecute it to the bitter end. But how were they to make
the necessity of an interminable battle understood by all these
disheartened people, who were still bleeding from their wounds.
"I will undertake that!" said Spendius.
Two hours afterwards a man who came from the direction of Hippo-
Zarytus climbed the mountain at a run. He waved some tablets at arm's
length, and as he shouted very loudly the Barbarians surrounded him.
The tablets had been despatched by the Greek soldiers in Sardinia.
They recommended their African comrades to watch over Gisco and the
other captives. A Samian trader, one Hipponax, coming from Carthage,
had informed them that a plot was being organised to promote their
escape, and the Barbarians were urged to take every precaution; the
Republic was powerful.
Spendius's stratagem did not succeed at first as he had hoped. This
assurance of the new peril, so far from exciting frenzy, raised fears;
and remembering Hamilcar's warning, lately thrown into their midst,
they expected something unlooked for and terrible. The night was spent
in great distress; several even got rid of their weapons, so as to
soften the Suffet when he presented himself.
But on the following day, at the third watch, a second runner
appeared, still more breathless, and blackened with dust. The Greek
snatched from his hand a roll of papyrus covered with Phoenician
writing. The Mercenaries were entreated not to be disheartened; the
brave men of Tunis were coming with large reinforcements.
Spendius first read the letter three times in succession; and held up
by two Cappadocians, who bore him seated on their shoulders, he had
himself conveyed from place to place and re-read it. For seven hours
He reminded the Mercenaries of the promises of the Great Council; the
Africans of the cruelties of the stewards, and all the Barbarians of
the injustice of Carthage. The Suffet's mildness was only a bait to
capture them; those who surrendered would be sold as slaves, and the
vanquished would perish under torture. As to flight, what routes could
they follow? Not a nation would receive them. Whereas by continuing
their efforts they would obtain at once freedom, vengeance, and money!
And they would not have long to wait, since the people of Tunis, the
whole of Libya, was rushing to relieve them. He showed the unrolled
papyrus: "Look at it! read! see their promises! I do not lie."
Dogs were straying about with their black muzzles all plastered with
red. The men's uncovered heads were growing hot in the burning sun. A
nauseous smell exhaled from the badly buried corpses. Some even
projected from the earth as far as the waist. Spendius called them to
witness what he was saying; then he raised his fists in the direction
Matho, moreover, was watching him, and to cover his cowardice he
displayed an anger by which he gradually found himself carried away.
Devoting himself to the gods he heaped curses upon the Carthaginians.
The torture of the captives was child's play. Why spare them, and be
ever dragging this useless cattle after one? "No! we must put an end
to it! their designs are known! a single one might ruin us! no pity!
Those who are worthy will be known by the speed of their legs and the
force of their blows."
Then they turned again upon the captives. Several were still in the
last throes; they were finished by the thrust of a heel in the mouth
or a stab with the point of a javelin.
Then they thought of Gisco. Nowhere could he be seen; they were
disturbed with anxiety. They wished at once to convince themselves of
his death and to participate in it. At last three Samnite shepherds
discovered him at a distance of fifteen paces from the spot where
Matho's tent lately stood. They recognised him by his long beard and
they called the rest.
Stretched on his back, his arms against his hips, and his knees close
together, he looked like a dead man laid out for the tomb.
Nevertheless his wasted sides rose and fell, and his eyes, wide-opened
in his pallid face, gazed in a continuous and intolerable fashion.
The Barbarians looked at him at first with great astonishment. Since
he had been living in the pit he had been almost forgotten; rendered
uneasy by old memories they stood at a distance and did not venture to
raise their hands against him.
But those who were behind were murmuring and pressed forward when a
Garamantian passed through the crowd; he was brandishing a sickle; all
understood his thought; their faces purpled, and smitten with shame
The man with the curved steel approached Gisco. He took his head, and,
resting it upon his knee, sawed it off with rapid strokes; it fell; to
great jets of blood made a hole in the dust. Zarxas leaped upon it,
and lighter than a leopard ran towards the Carthaginians.
Then when he had covered two thirds of the mountain he drew Gisco's
head from his breast by the beard, whirled his arm rapidly several
times,--and the mass, when thrown at last, described a long parabola
and disappeared behind the Punic entrenchments.
Soon at the edge of the palisades there rose two crossed standards,
the customary sign for claiming a corpse.
Then four heralds, chosen for their width of chest, went out with
great clarions, and speaking through the brass tubes declared that
henceforth there would be between Carthaginians and Barbarians neither
faith, pity, nor gods, that they refused all overtures beforehand, and
that envoys would be sent back with their hands cut off.
Immediately afterwards, Spendius was sent to Hippo-Zarytus to procure
provisions; the Tyrian city sent them some the same evening. They ate
greedily. Then when they were strengthened they speedily collected the
remains of their baggage and their broken arms; the women massed
themselves in the centre, and heedless of the wounded left weeping
behind them, they set out along the edge of the shore like a herd of
wolves taking its departure.
They were marching upon Hippo-Zarytus, resolved to take it, for they
had need of a town.
Hamilcar, as he perceived them at a distance, had a feeling of despair
in spite of the pride which he experienced in seeing them fly before
him. He ought to have attacked them immediately with fresh troops.
Another similar day and the war was over! If matters were protracted
they would return with greater strength; the Tyrian towns would join
them; his clemency towards the vanquished had been of no avail. He
resolved to be pitiless.
The same evening he sent the Great Council a dromedary laden with
bracelets collected from the dead, and with horrible threats ordered
another army to be despatched.
All had for a long time believed him lost; so that on learning his
victory they felt a stupefaction which was almost terror. The vaguely
announced return of the zaimph completed the wonder. Thus the gods and
the might of Carthage seemed now to belong to him.
None of his enemies ventured upon complaint or recrimination. Owing to
the enthusiasm of some and the pusillanimity of the rest, an army of
five thousand men was ready before the interval prescribed had
This army promptly made its way to Utica in order to support the
Suffet's rear, while three thousand of the most notable citizens
embarked in vessels which were to land them at Hippo-Zarytus, whence
they were to drive back the Barbarians.
Hanno had accepted the command; but he intrusted the army to his
lieutenant, Magdassin, so as to lead the troops which were to be
disembarked himself, for he could no longer endure the shaking of the
litter. His disease had eaten away his lips and nostrils, and had
hollowed out a large hole in his face; the back of his throat could be
seen at a distance of ten paces, and he knew himself to be so hideous
that he wore a veil over his head like a woman.
Hippo-Zarytus paid no attention to his summonings nor yet to those of
the Barbarians; but every morning the inhabitants lowered provisions
to the latter in baskets, and shouting from the tops of the towers
pleaded the exigencies of the Republic and conjured them to withdraw.
By means of signs they addressed the same protestations to the
Carthaginians, who were stationed on the sea.
Hanno contented himself with blockading the harbour without risking an
attack. However, he permitted the judges of Hippo-Zarytus to admit
three hundred soldiers. Then he departed to the Cape Grapes, and made
a long circuit so as to hem in the Barbarians, an inopportune and even
dangerous operation. His jealousy prevented him from relieving the
Suffet; he arrested his spies, impeded him in all his plans, and
compromised the success of the enterprise. At last Hamilcar wrote to
the Great Council to rid himself of Hanno, and the latter returned to
Carthage furious at the baseness of the Ancients and the madness of
his colleague. Hence, after so many hopes, the situation was now still
more deplorable; but there was an effort not to reflect upon it and
even not to talk about it.
As if all this were not sufficient misfortune at one time, news came
that the Sardinian Mercenaries had crucified their general, seized the
strongholds, and everywhere slaughtered those of Chanaanitish race.
The Roman people threatened the Republic with immediate hostilities
unless she gave twelve hundred talents with the whole of the island of
Sardinia. They had accepted the alliance of the Barbarians, and they
despatched to them flat-bottomed boats laden with meal and dried meat.
The Carthaginians pursued these, and captured five hundred men; but
three days afterwards a fleet coming from Byzacena, and conveying
provisions to Carthage, foundered in a storm. The gods were evidently
declaring against her.
Upon this the citizens of Hippo-Zarytus, under pretence of an alarm,
made Hanno's three hundred men ascend their walls; then coming behind
them they took them by the legs, and suddenly threw them over the
ramparts. Some who were not killed were pursued, and went and drowned
themselves in the sea.
Utica was enduring the presence of soldiers, for Magdassin had acted
like Hanno, and in accordance with his orders and deaf to Hamilcar's
prayers, was surrounding the town. As for these, they were given wine
mixed with mandrake, and were then slaughtered in their sleep. At the
same time the Barbarians arrived; Magdassin fled; the gates were
opened, and thenceforward the two Tyrian towns displayed an obstinate
devotion to their new friends and an inconceivable hatred to their
This abandonment of the Punic cause was a counsel and a precedent.
Hopes of deliverance revived. Populations hitherto uncertain hesitated
no longer. Everywhere there was a stir. The Suffet learnt this, and he
had no assistance to look for! He was now irrevocably lost.
He immediately dismissed Narr' Havas, who was to guard the borders of
his kingdom. As for himself, he resolved to re-enter Carthage in order
to obtain soldiers and begin the war again.
The Barbarians posted at Hippo-Zarytus perceived his army as it
descended the mountain.
Where could the Carthaginians be going? Hunger, no doubt, was urging
them on; and, distracted by their sufferings, they were coming in
spite of their weakness to give battle. But they turned to the right:
they were fleeing. They might be overtaken and all be crushed. The
Barbarians dashed in pursuit of them.
The Carthaginians were checked by the river. It was wide this time and
the west wind had not been blowing. Some crossed by swimming, and the
rest on their shields. They resumed their march. Night fell. They were
out of sight.
The Barbarians did not stop; they went higher to find a narrower
place. The people of Tunis hastened thither, bringing those of Utica
along with them. Their numbers increased at every bush; and the
Carthaginians, as they lay on the ground, could hear the tramping of
their feet in the darkness. From time to time Barca had a volley of
arrows discharged behind him to check them, and several were killed.
When day broke they were in the Ariana Mountains, at the spot where
the road makes a bend.
Then Matho, who was marching at the head, thought that he could
distinguish something green on the horizon on the summit of an
eminence. Then the ground sank, and obelisks, domes, and houses
appeared! It was Carthage. He leaned against a tree to keep himself
from falling, so rapidly did his heart beat.
He thought of all that had come to pass in his existence since the
last time that he had passed that way! It was an infinite surprise, it
stunned him. Then he was transported with joy at the thought of seeing
Salammbo again. The reasons which he had for execrating her returned
to his recollection, but he very quickly rejected them. Quivering and
with straining eyeballs he gazed at the lofty terrace of a palace
above the palm trees beyond Eschmoun; a smile of ecstasy lighted his
face as if some great light had reached him; he opened his arms, and
sent kisses on the breeze, and murmured: "Come! come!" A sigh swelled
his breast, and two long tears like pearls fell upon his beard.
"What stays you?" cried Spendius. "Make haste! Forward! The Suffet is
going to escape us! But your knees are tottering, and you are looking
at me like a drunken man!"
He stamped with impatience and urged Matho, his eyes twinkling as at
the approach of an object long aimed at.
"Ah! we have reached it! We are there! I have them!"
He had so convinced and triumphant an air that Matho was surprised
from his torpor, and felt himself carried away by it. These words,
coming when his distress was at its height, drove his despair to
vengeance, and pointed to food for his wrath. He bounded upon one of
the camels that were among the baggage, snatched up its halter, and
with the long rope, struck the stragglers with all his might, running
right and left alternately, in the rear of the army, like a dog
driving a flock.
At this thundering voice the lines of men closed up; even the lame
hurried their steps; the intervening space lessened in the middle of
the isthmus. The foremost of the Barbarians were marching in the dust
raised by the Carthaginians. The two armies were coming close, and
were on the point of touching. But the Malqua gate, the Tagaste gate,
and the great gate of Khamon threw wide their leaves. The Punic square
divided; three columns were swallowed up, and eddied beneath the
porches. Soon the mass, being too tightly packed, could advance no
further; pikes clashed in the air, and the arrows of the Barbarians
were shivering against the walls.
Hamilcar was to be seen on the threshold of Khamon. He turned round
and shouted to his men to move aside. He dismounted from his horse;
and pricking it on the croup with the sword which he held, sent it
against the Barbarians.
It was a black stallion, which was fed on balls of meal, and would
bend its knees to allow its master to mount. Why was he sending it
away? Was this a sacrifice?
The noble horse galloped into the midst of the lances, knocked down
men, and, entangling its feet in its entrails, fell down, then rose
again with furious leaps; and while they were moving aside, trying to
stop it, or looking at it in surprise, the Carthaginians had united
again; they entered, and the enormous gate shut echoing behind them.
It would not yield. The Barbarians came crushing against it;--and for
some minutes there was an oscillation throughout the army, which
became weaker and weaker, and at last ceased.
The Carthaginians had placed soldiers on the aqueduct, they began to
hurl stones, balls, and beams. Spendius represented that it would be
best not to persist. The Barbarians went and posted themselves further
off, all being quite resolved to lay siege to Carthage.
The rumour of the war, however, had passed beyond the confines of the
Punic empire; and from the pillars of Hercules to beyond Cyrene
shepherds mused on it as they kept their flocks, and caravans talked
about it in the light of the stars. This great Carthage, mistress of
the seas, splendid as the sun, and terrible as a god, actually found
men who were daring enough to attack her! Her fall even had been
asserted several times; and all had believed it for all wished it: the
subject populations, the tributary villages, the allied provinces, the
independent hordes, those who execrated her for her tyranny or were
jealous of her power, or coveted her wealth. The bravest had very
speedily joined the Mercenaries. The defeat at the Macaras had checked
all the rest. At last they had recovered confidence, had gradually
advanced and approached; and now the men of the eastern regions were
lying on the sandhills of Clypea on the other side of the gulf. As
soon as they perceived the Barbarians they showed themselves.
They were not Libyans from the neighbourhood of Carthage, who had long
composed the third army, but nomads from the tableland of Barca,
bandits from Cape Phiscus and the promontory of Dernah, from Phazzana
and Marmarica. They had crossed the desert, drinking at the brackish
wells walled in with camels' bones; the Zuaeces, with their covering
of ostrich feathers, had come on quadrigae; the Garamantians, masked
with black veils, rode behind on their painted mares; others were
mounted on asses, onagers, zebras, and buffaloes; while some dragged
after them the roofs of their sloop-shaped huts together with their
families and idols. There were Ammonians with limbs wrinkled by the
hot water of the springs; Atarantians, who curse the sun; Troglodytes,
who bury their dead with laughter beneath branches of trees; and the
hideous Auseans, who eat grass-hoppers; the Achyrmachidae, who eat
lice; and the vermilion-painted Gysantians, who eat apes.
All were ranged along the edge of the sea in a great straight line.
Afterwards they advanced like tornadoes of sand raised by the wind. In
the centre of the isthmus the throng stopped, the Mercenaries who were
posted in front of them, close to the walls, being unwilling to move.
Then from the direction of Ariana appeared the men of the West, the
people of the Numidians. In fact, Narr' Havas governed only the
Massylians; and, moreover, as they were permitted by custom to abandon
their king when reverses were sustained, they had assembled on the
Zainus, and then had crossed it at Hamilcar's first movement. First
were seen running up all the hunters from Malethut-Baal and Garaphos,
clad in lions' skins, and with the staves of their pikes driving small
lean horses with long manes; then marched the Gaetulians in cuirasses
of serpents' skin; then the Pharusians, wearing lofty crowns made of
wax and resin; and the Caunians, Macarians, and Tillabarians, each
holding two javelins and a round shield of hippopotamus leather. They
stopped at the foot of the Catacombs among the first pools of the
But when the Libyans had moved away, the multitude of the Negroes
appeared like a cloud on a level with the ground, in the place which
the others had occupied. They were there from the White Harousch, the
Black Harousch, the desert of Augila, and even from the great country
of Agazymba, which is four months' journey south of the Garamantians,
and from regions further still! In spite of their red wooden jewels,
the filth of their black skin made them look like mulberries that had
been long rolling in the dust. They had bark-thread drawers, dried-
grass tunics, fallow-deer muzzles on their heads; they shook rods
furnished with rings, and brandished cows' tails at the end of sticks,
after the fashion of standards, howling the while like wolves.
Then behind the Numidians, Marusians, and Gaetulians pressed the
yellowish men, who are spread through the cedar forests beyond Taggir.
They had cat-skin quivers flapping against their shoulders, and they
led in leashes enormous dogs, which were as high as asses, and did not
Finally, as though Africa had not been sufficiently emptied, and it
had been necessary to seek further fury in the very dregs of the
races, men might be seen behind the rest, with beast-like profiles and
grinning with idiotic laughter--wretches ravaged by hideous diseases,
deformed pigmies, mulattoes of doubtful sex, albinos whose red eyes
blinked in the sun; stammering out unintelligible sounds, they put a
finger into their mouths to show that they were hungry.
The confusion of weapons was as great as that of garments and peoples.
There was not a deadly invention that was not present--from wooden
daggers, stone hatchets and ivory tridents, to long sabres toothed
like saws, slender, and formed of a yielding copper blade. They
handled cutlasses which were forked into several branches like
antelopes' horns, bills fastened to the ends of ropes, iron triangles,
clubs and bodkins. The Ethiopians from the Bambotus had little
poisoned darts hidden in their hair. Many had brought pebbles in bags.
Others, empty handed, chattered with their teeth.
This multitude was stirred with a ceaseless swell. Dromedaries,
smeared all over with tar-like streaks, knocked down the women, who
carried their children on their hips. The provisions in the baskets
were pouring out; in walking, pieces of salt, parcels of gum, rotten
dates, and gourou nuts were crushed underfoot; and sometimes on
vermin-covered bosoms there would hang a slender cord supporting a
diamond that the Satraps had sought, an almost fabulous stone,
sufficient to purchase an empire. Most of them did not even know what
they desired. They were impelled by fascination or curiosity; and
nomads who had never seen a town were frightened by the shadows of the
The isthmus was now hidden by men; and this long surface, whereon the
tents were like huts amid an inundation, stretched as far as the first
lines of the other Barbarians, which were streaming with steel and
were posted symmetrically upon both sides of the aqueduct.
The Carthaginians had not recovered from the terror caused by their
arrival when they perceived the siege-engines sent by the Tyrian towns
coming straight towards them like monsters and like buildings--with
their masts, arms, ropes, articulations, capitals and carapaces, sixty
carroballistas, eighty onagers, thirty scorpions, fifty tollenos,
twelve rams, and three gigantic catapults which hurled pieces of rock
of the weight of fifteen talents. Masses of men clinging to their
bases pushed them on; at every step a quivering shook them, and in
this way they arrived in front of the walls.
But several days were still needed to finish the preparations for the
siege. The Mercenaries, taught by their defeats, would not risk
themselves in useless engagements; and on both sides there was no
haste, for it was well known that a terrible action was about to open,
and that the result of it would be complete victory or complete
Carthage might hold out for a long time; her broad walls presented a
series of re-entrant and projecting angles, an advantageous
arrangement for repelling assaults.
Nevertheless a portion had fallen down in the direction of the
Catacombs, and on dark nights lights could be seen in the dens of
Malqua through the disjointed blocks. These in some places overlooked
the top of the ramparts. It was here that the Mercenaries' wives, who
had been driven away by Matho, were living with their new husbands. On
seeing the men again their hearts could stand it no longer. They waved
their scarfs at a distance; then they came and chatted in the darkness
with the soldiers through the cleft in the wall, and one morning the
Great Council learned that they had all fled. Some had passed through
between the stones; others with greater intrepidity had let themselves
down with ropes.
At last Spendius resolved to accomplish his design.
The war, by keeping him at a distance, had hitherto prevented him; and
since the return to before Carthage, it seemed to him that the
inhabitants suspected his enterprise. But soon they diminished the
sentries on the aqueduct. There were not too many people for the
defence of the walls.
The former slave practised himself for some days in shooting arrows at
the flamingoes on the lake. Then one moonlight evening he begged Matho
to light a great fire of straw in the middle of the night, while all
his men were to shout at the same time; and taking Zarxas with him, he
went away along the edge of the gulf in the direction of Tunis.
When on a level with the last arches they returned straight towards
the aqueduct; the place was unprotected: they crawled to the base of
The sentries on the platform were walking quietly up and down.
Towering flames appeared; clarions rang; and the soldiers on vedette,
believing that there was an assault, rushed away in the direction of
One man had remained. He showed black against the background of the
sky. The moon was shining behind him, and his shadow, which was of
extravagant size, looked in the distance like an obelisk proceeding
across the plain.
They waited until he was in position just before them. Zarxas seized
his sling, but whether from prudence or from ferocity Spendius stopped
him. "No, the whiz of the bullet would make a noise! Let me!"
Then he bent his bow with all his strength, resting the lower end of
it against the great toe of his left foot; he took aim, and the arrow
The man did not fall. He disappeared.
"If he were wounded we should hear him!" said Spendius; and he mounted
quickly from story to story as he had done the first time, with the
assistance of a rope and a harpoon. Then when he had reached the top
and was beside the corpse, he let it fall again. The Balearian
fastened a pick and a mallet to it and turned back.
The trumpets sounded no longer. All was now quiet. Spendius had raised
one of the flag-stones and, entering the water, had closed it behind
Calculating the distance by the number of his steps, he arrived at the
exact spot where he had noticed an oblique fissure; and for three
hours until morning he worked in continuous and furious fashion,
breathing with difficulty through the interstices in the upper flag-
tones, assailed with anguish, and twenty times believing that he was
going to die. At last a crack was heard, and a huge stone ricocheting
on the lower arches rolled to the ground,--and suddenly a cataract, an
entire river, fell from the skies onto the plain. The aqueduct, being
cut through in the centre, was emptying itself. It was death to
Carthage and victory for the Barbarians.
In an instant the awakened Carthaginians appeared on the walls, the
houses, and the temples. The Barbarians pressed forward with shouts.
They danced in delirium around the great waterfall, and came up and
wet their heads in it in the extravagance of their joy.
A man in a torn, brown tunic was perceived on the summit of the
aqueduct. He stood leaning over the very edge with both hands on his
hips, and was looking down below him as though astonished at his work.
Then he drew himself up. He surveyed the horizon with a haughty air
which seemed to say: "All that is now mine!" The applause of the
Barbarians burst forth, while the Carthaginians, comprehending their
disaster at last, shrieked with despair. Then he began to run about
the platform from one end to the other,--and like a chariot-driver
triumphant at the Olympic Games, Spendius, distraught with pride,
raised his arms aloft.
The Barbarians had no need of a circumvallation on the side of Africa,
for it was theirs. But to facilitate the approach to the walls, the
entrenchments bordering the ditch were thrown down. Matho next divided
the army into great semicircles so as to encompass Carthage the
better. The hoplites of the Mercenaries were placed in the first rank,
and behind them the slingers and horsemen; quite at the back were the
baggage, chariots, and horses; and the engines bristled in front of
this throng at a distance of three hundred paces from the towers.
Amid the infinite variety of their nomenclature (which changed several
times in the course of the centuries) these machines might be reduced
to two systems: some acted like slings, and the rest like bows.
The first, which were the catapults, was composed of a square frame
with two vertical uprights and a horizontal bar. In its anterior
portion was a cylinder, furnished with cables, which held back a great
beam bearing a spoon for the reception of projectiles; its base was
caught in a skein of twisted thread, and when the ropes were let go it
sprang up and struck against the bar, which, checking it with a shock,
multiplied its power.
The second presented a more complicated mechanism. A cross-bar had its
centre fixed on a little pillar, and from this point of junction there
branched off at right angles a short of channel; two caps containing
twists of horse-hair stood at the extremities of the cross-bar; two
small beams were fastened to them to hold the extremities of a rope
which was brought to the bottom of the channel upon a tablet of
bronze. This metal plate was released by a spring, and sliding in
grooves impelled the arrows.
The catapults were likewise called onagers, after the wild asses which
fling up stones with their feet, and the ballistas scorpions, on
account of a hook which stood upon the tablet, and being lowered by a
blow of the fist, released the spring.
Their construction required learned calculations; the wood selected
had to be of the hardest substance, and their gearing all of brass;
they were stretched with levers, tackle-blocks, capstans or tympanums;
the direction of the shooting was changed by means of strong pivots;
they were moved forward on cylinders, and the most considerable of
them, which were brought piece by piece, were set up in front of the
Spendius arranged three great catapults opposite the three principle
angles; he placed a ram before every gate, a ballista before every
tower, while carroballistas were to move about in the rear. But it was
necessary to protect them against the fire thrown by the besieged, and
first of all to fill up the trench which separated them from the
They pushed forward galleries formed of hurdles of green reeds, and
oaken semicircles like enormous shields gliding on three wheels; the
workers were sheltered in little huts covered with raw hides and
stuffed with wrack; the catapults and ballistas were protected by rope
curtains which had been steeped in vinegar to render them
incombustible. The women and children went to procure stones on the
strand, and gathered earth with their hands and brought it to the
The Carthaginians also made preparations.
Hamilcar had speedily reassured them by declaring that there was
enough water left in the cisterns for one hundred and twenty-three
days. This assertion, together with his presence, and above all that
of the zaimph among them, gave them good hopes. Carthage recovered
from its dejection; those who were not of Chanaanitish origin were
carried away by the passion of the rest.
The slaves were armed, the arsenals were emptied, and every citizen
had his own post and his own employment. Twelve hundred of the
fugitives had survived, and the Suffet made them all captains; and
carpenters, armourers, blacksmiths, and goldsmiths were intrusted with
the engines. The Carthaginians had kept a few in spite of the
conditions of the peace with Rome. These were repaired. They
understood such work.
The two northern and eastern sides, being protected by the sea and the
gulf, remained inaccessible. On the wall fronting the Barbarians they
collected tree-trunks, mill-stones, vases filled with sulphur, and
vats filled with oil, and built furnaces. Stones were heaped up on the
platforms of the towers, and the houses bordering immediately on the
rampart were crammed with sand in order to strengthen it and increase
The Barbarians grew angry at the sight of these preparations. They
wished to fight at once. The weights which they put into the catapults
were so extravagantly heavy that the beams broke, and the attack was
At last on the thirteenth day of the month of Schabar,--at sunrise,--a
great blow was heard at the gate of Khamon.
Seventy-five soldiers were pulling at ropes arranged at the base of a
gigantic beam which was suspended horizontally by chains hanging from
a framework, and which terminated in a ram's head of pure brass. It
had been swathed in ox-hides; it was bound at intervals with iron
bracelets; it was thrice as thick as a man's body, one hundred and
twenty cubits long, and under the crowd of naked arms pushing it
forward and drawing it back, it moved to and fro with a regular
The other rams before the other gates began to be in motion. Men might
be seen mounting from step to step in the hollow wheels of the
tympanums. The pulleys and caps grated, the rope curtains were
lowered, and showers of stones and showers of arrows poured forth
simultaneously; all the scattered slingers ran up. Some approached the
rampart hiding pots of resin under their shields; then they would hurl
these with all their might. This hail of bullets, darts, and flames
passed above the first ranks in the form of a curve which fell behind
the walls. But long cranes, used for masting vessels, were reared on
the summit of the ramparts; and from them there descended some of
those enormous pincers which terminated in two semicircles toothed on
the inside. They bit the rams. The soldiers clung to the beam and drew
it back. The Carthaginians hauled in order to pull it up; and the
action was prolonged until the evening.
When the Mercenaries resumed their task on the following day, the tops
of the walls were completely carpeted with bales of cotton, sails, and
cushions; the battlements were stopped up with mats; and a line of
forks and blades, fixed upon sticks, might be distinguished among the
cranes on the rampart. A furious resistance immediately began.
Trunks of trees fastened to cables fell and rose alternately and
battered the rams; cramps hurled by the ballistas tore away the roofs
of the huts; and streams of flints and pebbles poured from the
platforms of the towers.
At last the rams broke the gates of Khamon and Tagaste. But the
Carthaginians had piled up such an abundance of materials on the
inside that the leaves did not open. They remained standing.
Then they drove augers against the walls; these were applied to the
joints of the blocks, so as to detach the latter. The engines were
better managed, the men serving them were divided into squads, and
they were worked from morning till evening without interruption and
with the monotonous precision of a weaver's loom.
Spendius returned to them untiringly. It was he who stretched the
skeins of the ballistas. In order that the twin tensions might
completely correspond, the ropes as they were tightened were struck on
the right and left alternately until both sides gave out an equal
sound. Spendius would mount upon the timbers. He would strike the
ropes softly with the extremity of his foot, and strain his ears like
a musician tuning a lyre. Then when the beam of the catapult rose,
when the pillar of the ballista trembled with the shock of the spring,
when the stones were shooting in rays, and the darts pouring in
streams, he would incline his whole body and fling his arms into the
air as though to follow them.
The soldiers admired his skill and executed his commands. In the
gaiety of their work they gave utterance to jests on the names of the
machines. Thus the plyers for seizing the rams were called "wolves,"
and the galleries were covered with "vines"; they were lambs, or they
were going to gather the grapes; and as they loaded their pieces they
would say to the onagers: "Come, pick well!" and to the scorpions:
"Pierce them to the heart!" These jokes, which were ever the same,
kept up their courage.
Nevertheless the machines did not demolish the rampart. It was formed
of two walls and was completely filled with earth. The upper portions
were beaten down, but each time the besieged raised them again. Matho
ordered the construction of wooden towers which should be as high as
the towers of stone. They cast turf, stakes, pebbles and chariots with
their wheels into the trench so as to fill it up the more quickly; but
before this was accomplished the immense throng of the Barbarians
undulated over the plain with a single movement and came beating
against the foot of the walls like an overflowing sea.
They moved forward the rope ladders, straight ladders, and sambucas,
the latter consisting of two poles from which a series of bamboos
terminating in a moveable bridge were lowered by means of tackling.
They formed numerous straight lines resting against the wall, and the
Mercenaries mounted them in files, holding their weapons in their
hands. Not a Carthaginian showed himself; already two thirds of the
rampart had been covered. Then the battlements opened, vomiting flames
and smoke like dragon jaws; the sand scattered and entered the joints
of their armour; the petroleum fastened on their garments; the liquid
lead hopped on their helmets and made holes in their flesh; a rain of
sparks splashed against their faces, and eyeless orbits seemed to weep
tears as big as almonds. There were men all yellow with oil, with
their hair in flames. They began to run and set fire to the rest. They
were extinguished in mantles steeped in blood, which were thrown from
a distance over their faces. Some who had no wounds remained
motionless, stiffer than stakes, their mouths open and their arms
The assault was renewed for several days in succession, the
Mercenaries hoping to triumph by extraordinary energy and audacity.
Sometimes a man raised on the shoulders of another would drive a pin
between the stones, and then making use of it as a step to reach
further, would place a second and a third; and, protected by the edge
of the battlements, which stood out from the wall, they would
gradually raise themselves in this way; but on reaching a certain
height they always fell back again. The great trench was full to
overflowing; the wounded were massed pell-mell with the dead and dying
beneath the footsteps of the living. Calcined trunks formed black
spots amid opened entrails, scattered brains, and pools of blood; and
arms and legs projecting half way out of a heap, would stand straight
up like props in a burning vineyard.
The ladders proving insufficient the tollenos were brought into
requisition,--instruments consisting of a long beam set transversely
upon another, and bearing at its extremity a quadrangular basket which
would hold thirty foot-soldiers with their weapons.
Matho wished to ascend in the first that was ready. Spendius stopped
Some men bent over a capstan; the great beam rose, became horizontal,
reared itself almost vertically, and being overweighted at the end,
bent like a huge reed. The soldiers, who were crowded together, were
hidden up to their chins; only their helmet-plumes could be seen. At
last when it was twenty cubits high in the air it turned several times
to the right and to the left, and then was depressed; and like a giant
arm holding a cohort of pigmies in its hand, it laid the basketful of
men upon the edge of the wall. They leaped into the crowd and never
All the other tollenos were speedily made ready. But a hundred times
as many would have been needed for the capture of the town. They were
utilised in a murderous fashion: Ethiopian archers were placed in the
baskets; then, the cables having been fastened, they remained
suspended and shot poisoned arrows. The fifty tollenos commanding the
battlements thus surrounded Carthage like monstrous vultures; and the
Negroes laughed to see the guards on the rampart dying in grievous
Hamilcar sent hoplites to these posts, and every morning made them
drink the juice of certain herbs which protected them against the
One evening when it was dark he embarked the best of his soldiers on
lighters and planks, and turning to the right of the harbour,
disembarked on the Taenia. Then he advanced to the first lines of the
Barbarians, and taking them in flank, made a great slaughter. Men
hanging to ropes would descend at night from the top of the wall with
torches in their hands, burn the works of the Mercenaries, and then
mount up again.
Matho was exasperated; every obstacle strengthened his wrath, which
led him into terrible extravagances. He mentally summoned Salammbo to
an interview; then he waited. She did not come; this seemed to him
like a fresh piece of treachery,--and henceforth he execrated her. If
he had seen her corpse he would perhaps have gone away. He doubled the
outposts, he planted forks at the foot of the rampart, he drove
caltrops into the ground, and he commanded the Libyans to bring him a
whole forest that he might set it on fire and burn Carthage like a den
Spendius went on obstinately with the siege. He sought to invent
terrible machines such as had never before been constructed.
The other Barbarians, encamped at a distance on the isthmus, were
amazed at these delays; they murmured, and they were let loose.
Then they rushed with their cutlasses and javelins, and beat against
the gates with them. But the nakedness of their bodies facilitating
the infliction of wounds, the Carthaginians massacred them freely; and
the Mercenaries rejoiced at it, no doubt through jealousy about the
plunder. Hence there resulted quarrels and combats between them. Then,
the country having been ravaged, provisions were soon scarce. They
grew disheartened. Numerous hordes went away, but the crowd was so
great that the loss was not apparent.
The best of them tried to dig mines, but the earth, being badly
supported, fell in. They began again in other places, but Hamilcar
always guessed the direction that they were taking by holding his ear
against a bronze shield. He bored counter-mines beneath the path along
which the wooden towers were to move, and when they were pushed
forward they sank into the holes.
At last all recognised that the town was impregnable, unless a long
terrace was raised to the same height as the walls, so as to enable
them to fight on the same level. The top of it should be paved so that
the machines might be rolled along. Then Carthage would find it quite
impossible to resist.
The town was beginning to suffer from thirst. The water which was
worth two kesitahs the bath at the opening of the siege was now sold
for a shekel of silver; the stores of meat and corn were also becoming
exhausted; there was a dread of famine, and some even began to speak
of useless mouths, which terrified every one.
From the square of Khamon to the temple of Melkarth the streets were
cumbered with corpses; and, as it was the end of the summer, the
combatants were annoyed by great black flies. Old men carried off the
wounded, and the devout continued the fictitious funerals for their
relatives and friends who had died far away during the war. Waxen
statues with clothes and hair were displayed across the gates. They
melted in the heat of the tapers burning beside them; the paint flowed
down upon their shoulders, and tears streamed over the faces of the
living, as they chanted mournful songs beside them. The crowd
meanwhile ran to and fro; armed bands passed; captains shouted orders,
while the shock of the rams beating against the rampart was constantly
The temperature became so heavy that the bodies swelled and would no
longer fit into the coffins. They were burned in the centre of the
courts. But the fires, being too much confined, kindled the
neighbouring walls, and long flames suddenly burst from the houses
like blood spurting from an artery. Thus Moloch was in possession of
Carthage; he clasped the ramparts, he rolled through the streets, he
devoured the very corpses.
Men wearing cloaks made of collected rags in token of despair,
stationed themselves at the corners of the cross-ways. They declaimed
against the Ancients and against Hamilcar, predicted complete ruin to
the people, and invited them to universal destruction and license. The
most dangerous were the henbane-drinkers; in their crisis they
believed themselves wild beasts, and leaped upon the passers-by to
rend them. Mobs formed around them, and the defence of Carthage was
forgotten. The Suffet devised the payment of others to support his
In order to retain the genius of the gods within the town their images
had been covered with chains. Black veils were placed upon the Pataec
gods, and hair-cloths around the altars; and attempts were made to
excite the pride and jealousy of the Baals by singing in their ears:
"Thou art about to suffer thyself to be vanquished! Are the others
perchance more strong? Show thyself! aid us! that the peoples may not
say: 'Where are now their gods?'"
The colleges of the pontiffs were agitated by unceasing anxiety. Those
of Rabbetna were especially afraid--the restoration of the zaimph
having been of no avail. They kept themselves shut up in the third
enclosure which was as impregnable as a fortress. Only one among them,
the high priest Schahabarim, ventured to go out.
He used to visit Salammbo. But he would either remain perfectly
silent, gazing at her with fixed eyeballs, or else would be lavish of
words, and the reproaches that he uttered were harder than ever.
With inconceivable inconsistency he could not forgive the young girl
for carrying out his commands; Schahabarim had guessed all, and this
haunting thought revived the jealousies of his impotence. He accused
her of being the cause of the war. Matho, according to him, was
besieging Carthage to recover the zaimph; and he poured out
imprecations and sarcasms upon this Barbarian who pretended to the
possession of holy things. Yet it was not this that the priest wished
But just now Salammbo felt no terror of him. The anguish which she
used formerly to suffer had left her. A strange peacefulness possessed
her. Her gaze was less wandering, and shone with limpid fire.
Meanwhile the python had become ill again; and as Salammbo, on the
contrary, appeared to be recovering, old Taanach rejoiced in the
conviction that by its decline it was taking away the languor of her
One morning she found it coiled up behind the bed of ox-hides, colder
than marble, and with its head hidden by a heap of worms. Her cries
brought Salammbo to the spot. She turned it over for a while with the
tip of her sandal, and the slave was amazed at her insensibility.
Hamilcar's daughter no longer prolonged her fasts with so much
fervour. She passed whole days on the top of her terrace, leaning her
elbows against the balustrade, and amusing herself by looking out
before her. The summits of the walls at the end of the town cut uneven
zigzags upon the sky, and the lances of the sentries formed what was
like a border of corn-ears throughout their length. Further away she
could see the manoeuvres of the Barbarians between the towers; on days
when the siege was interrupted she could even distinguish their
occupations. They mended their weapons, greased their hair, and washed
their bloodstained arms in the sea; the tents were closed; the beasts
of burden were feeding; and in the distance the scythes of the
chariots, which were all ranged in a semicircle, looked like a silver
scimitar lying at the base of the mountains. Schahabarim's talk
recurred to her memory. She was waiting for Narr' Havas, her
betrothed. In spite of her hatred she would have liked to see Matho
again. Of all the Carthaginians she was perhaps the only one who would
have spoken to him without fear.
Her father often came into her room. He would sit down panting on the
cushions, and gaze at her with an almost tender look, as if he found
some rest from her fatigues in the sight of her. He sometimes
questioned her about her journey to the camp of the Mercenaries. He
even asked her whether any one had urged her to it; and with a shake
of the head she answered, No,--so proud was Salammbo of having saved
But the Suffet always came back to Matho under pretence of making
military inquiries. He could not understand how the hours which she
had spent in the tent had been employed. Salammbo, in fact, said
nothing about Gisco; for as words had an effective power in
themselves, curses, if reported to any one, might be turned against
him; and she was silent about her wish to assassinate, lest she should
be blamed for not having yielded to it. She said that the schalischim
appeared furious, that he had shouted a great deal, and that he had
then fallen asleep. Salammbo told no more, through shame perhaps, or
else because she was led by her extreme ingenuousness to attach but
little importance to the soldier's kisses. Moreover, it all floated
through her head in a melancholy and misty fashion, like the
recollection of a depressing dream; and she would not have known in
what way or in what words to express it.
One evening when they were thus face to face with each other, Taanach
came in looking quite scared. An old man with a child was yonder in
the courts, and wished to see the Suffet.
Hamilcar turned pale, and then quickly replied:
"Let him come up!"
Iddibal entered without prostrating himself. He held a young boy,
covered with a goat's-hair cloak, by the hand, and at once raised the
hood which screened his face.
"Here he is, Master! Take him!"
The Suffet and the slave went into a corner of the room.
The child remained in the centre standing upright, and with a gaze of
attention rather than of astonishment he surveyed the ceiling, the
furniture, the pearl necklaces trailing on the purple draperies, and
the majestic maiden who was bending over towards him.
He was perhaps ten years old, and was not taller than a Roman sword.
His curly hair shaded his swelling forehead. His eyeballs looked as if
they were seeking for space. The nostrils of his delicate nose were
broad and palpitating, and upon his whole person was displayed the
indefinable splendour of those who are destined to great enterprises.
When he had cast aside his extremely heavy cloak, he remained clad in
a lynx skin, which was fastened about his waist, and he rested his
little naked feet, which were all white with dust, resolutely upon the
pavement. But he no doubt divined that important matters were under
discussion, for he stood motionless, with one hand behind his back,
his chin lowered, and a finger in his mouth.
At last Hamilcar attracted Salammbo with a sign and said to her in a
"You will keep him with you, you understand! No one, even though
belonging to the house, must know of his existence!"
Then, behind the door, he again asked Iddibal whether he was quite
sure that they had not been noticed.
"No!" said the slave, "the streets were empty."
As the war filled all the provinces he had feared for his master's
son. Then, not knowing where to hide him, he had come along the coasts
in a sloop, and for three days Iddibal had been tacking about in the
gulf and watching the ramparts. At last, that evening, as the environs
of Khamon seemed to be deserted, he had passed briskly through the
channel and landed near the arsenal, the entrance to the harbour being
But soon the Barbarians posted an immense raft in front of it in order
to prevent the Carthaginians from coming out. They were again rearing
the wooden towers, and the terrace was rising at the same time.
Outside communications were cut off and an intolerable famine set in.
The besieged killed all the dogs, all the mules, all the asses, and
then the fifteen elephants which the Suffet had brought back. The
lions of the temple of Moloch had become ferocious, and the hierodules
no longer durst approach them. They were fed at first with the wounded
Barbarians; then they were thrown corpses that were still warm; they
refused them, and they all died. People wandered in the twilight along
the old enclosures, and gathered grass and flowers among the stones to
boil them in wine, wine being cheaper than water. Others crept as far
as the enemy's outposts, and entered the tents to steal food, and the
stupefied Barbarians sometimes allowed them to return. At last a day
arrived when the Ancients resolved to slaughter the horses of Eschmoun
privately. They were holy animals whose manes were plaited by the
pontiffs with gold ribbons, and whose existence denoted the motion of
the sun--the idea of fire in its most exalted form. Their flesh was
cut into equal portions and buried behind the altar. Then every
evening the Ancients, alleging some act of devotion, would go up to
the temple and regale themselves in secret, and each would take away a
piece beneath his tunic for his children. In the deserted quarters
remote from the walls, the inhabitants, whose misery was not so great,
had barricaded themselves through fear of the rest.
The stones from the catapults, and the demolitions commanded for
purposes of defence, had accumulated heaps of ruins in the middle of
the streets. At the quietest times masses of people would suddenly
rush along with shouts; and from the top of the Acropolis the
conflagrations were like purple rags scattered upon the terraces and
twisted by the wind.
The three great catapults did not stop in spite of all these works.
Their ravages were extraordinary: thus a man's head rebounded from the
pediment of the Syssitia; a woman who was being confined in the street
of Kinisdo was crushed by a block of marble, and her child was carried
with the bed as far as the crossways of Cinasyn, where the coverlet
The most annoying were the bullets of the slingers. They fell upon the
roofs, and in the gardens, and in the middle of the courts, while
people were at table before a slender meal with their hearts big with
sighs. These cruel projectiles bore engraved letters which stamped
themselves upon the flesh;--and insults might be read on corpses such
as "pig," "jackal," "vermin," and sometimes jests: "Catch it!" or "I
have well deserved it!"
The portion of the rampart which extended from the corner of the
harbours to the height of the cisterns was broken down. Then the
people of Malqua found themselves caught between the old enclosure of
Byrsa behind, and the Barbarians in front. But there was enough to be
done in thickening the wall and making it as high as possible without
troubling about them; they were abandoned; all perished; and although
they were generally hated, Hamilcar came to be greatly abhorred.
On the morrow he opened the pits in which he kept stores of corn, and
his stewards gave it to the people. For three days they gorged
Their thirst, however, only became the more intolerable, and they
could constantly see before them the long cascade formed by the clear
falling water of the aqueduct. A thin vapour, with a rainbow beside
it, went up from its base, beneath the rays of the sun, and a little
stream curving through the plain fell into the gulf.
Hamilcar did not give way. He was reckoning upon an event, upon
something decisive and extraordinary.
His own slaves tore off the silver plates from the temple of Melkarth;
four long boats were drawn out of the harbour, they were brought by
means of capstans to the foot of the Mappalian quarter, the wall
facing the shore was bored, and they set out for the Gauls to buy
Mercenaries there at no matter what price. Nevertheless, Hamilcar was
distressed at his inability to communicate with the king of the
Numidians, for he knew that he was behind the Barbarians, and ready to
fall upon them. But Narr' Havas, being too weak, was not going to make
any venture alone; and the Suffet had the rampart raised twelve palms
higher, all the material in the arsenals piled up in the Acropolis,
and the machines repaired once more.
Sinews taken from bulls' necks, or else stags' hamstrings, were
commonly employed for the twists of the catapults. However, neither
stags nor bulls were in existence in Carthage. Hamilcar asked the
Ancients for the hair of their wives; all sacrificed it, but the
quantity was not sufficient. In the buildings of the Syssitia there
were twelve hundred marriageable slaves destined for prostitution in
Greece and Italy, and their hair, having been rendered elastic by the
use of unguents, was wonderfully well adapted for engines of war. But
the subsequent loss would be too great. Accordingly it was decided
that a choice should be made of the finest heads of hair among the
wives of the plebeians. Careless of their country's needs, they
shrieked in despair when the servants of the Hundred came with
scissors to lay hands upon them.
The Barbarians were animated with increased fury. They could be seen
in the distance taking fat from the dead to grease their machines,
while others pulled out the nails and stitched them end to end to make
cuirasses. They devised a plan of putting into the catapults vessels
filled with serpents which had been brought by the Negroes; the clay
pots broke on the flag-stones, the serpents ran about, seemed to
multiply, and, so numerous were they, to issue naturally from the
walls. Then the Barbarians, not satisfied with their invention,
improved upon it; they hurled all kinds of filth, human excrements,
pieces of carrion, corpses. The plague reappeared. The teeth of the
Carthaginians fell out of their mouths, and their gums were
discoloured like those of camels after too long a journey.
The machines were set up on the terrace, although the latter did not
as yet reach everywhere to the height of the rampart. Before the
twenty-three towers on the fortification stood twenty-three others of
wood. All the tollenos were mounted again, and in the centre, a little
further back, appeared the formidable helepolis of Demetrius
Poliorcetes, which Spendius had at last reconstructed. Of pyramidical
shape, like the pharos of Alexandria, it was one hundred and thirty
cubits high and twenty-three wide, with nine stories, diminishing as
they approached the summit, and protected by scales of brass; they
were pierced with numerous doors and were filled with soldiers, and on
the upper platform there stood a catapult flanked by two ballistas.
Then Hamilcar planted crosses for those who should speak of surrender,
and even the women were brigaded. The people lay in the streets and
waited full of distress.
Then one morning before sunrise (it was the seventh day of the month
of Nyssan) they heard a great shout uttered by all the Barbarians
simultaneously; the leaden-tubed trumpets pealed, and the great
Paphlagonian horns bellowed like bulls. All rose and ran to the
A forest of lances, pikes, and swords bristled at its base. It leaped
against the wall, the ladders grappled them; and Barbarians' heads
appeared in the intervals of the battlements.
Beams supported by long files of men were battering at the gates; and,
in order to demolish the wall at places where the terrace was wanting,
the Mercenaries came up in serried cohorts, the first line crawling,
the second bending their hams, and the others rising in succession to
the last who stood upright; while elsewhere, in order to climb up, the
tallest advanced in front and the lowest in the rear, and all rested
their shields upon their helmets with their left arms, joining them
together at the edges so tightly that they might have been taken for
an assemblage of large tortoises. The projectiles slid over these
The Carthaginians threw down mill-stones, pestles, vats, casks, beds,
everything that could serve as a weight and could knock down. Some
watched at the embrasures with fisherman's nets, and when the
Barbarian arrived he found himself caught in the meshes, and struggled
like a fish. They demolished their own battlements; portions of wall
fell down raising a great dust; and as the catapults on the terrace
were shooting over against one another, the stones would strike
together and shiver into a thousand pieces, making a copious shower
upon the combatants.
Soon the two crowds formed but one great chain of human bodies; it
overflowed into the intervals in the terrace, and, somewhat looser at
the two extremities, swayed perpetually without advancing. They
clasped one another, lying flat on the ground like wrestlers. They
crushed one another. The women leaned over the battlements and
shrieked. They were dragged away by their veils, and the whiteness of
their suddenly uncovered sides shone in the arms of the Negroes as the
latter buried their daggers in them. Some corpses did not fall, being
too much pressed by the crowd, and, supported by the shoulders of
their companions, advanced for some minutes quite upright and with
staring eyes. Some who had both temples pierced by a javelin swayed
their heads about like bears. Mouths, opened to shout, remained
gaping; severed hands flew through the air. Mighty blows were dealt,
which were long talked of by the survivors.
Meanwhile arrows darted from the towers of wood and stone. The
tollenos moved their long yards rapidly; and as the Barbarians had
sacked the old cemetery of the aborigines beneath the Catacombs, they
hurled the tombstones against the Carthaginians. Sometimes the cables
broke under the weight of too heavy baskets, and masses of men, all
with uplifted arms, would fall from the sky.
Up to the middle of the day the veterans had attacked the Taenia
fiercely in order to penetrate into the harbour and destroy the fleet.
Hamilcar had a fire of damp straw lit upon the roofing of Khamon, and
as the smoke blinded them they fell back to left, and came to swell
the horrible rout which was pressing forward in Malqua. Some
syntagmata composed of sturdy men, chosen expressly for the purpose,
had broken in three gates. They were checked by lofty barriers made of
planks studded with nails, but a fourth yielded easily; they dashed
over it at a run and rolled into a pit in which there were hidden
snares. At the south-west gate Autaritus and his men broke down the
rampart, the fissure in which had been stopped up with bricks. The
ground behind rose, and they climbed it nimbly. But on the top they
found a second wall composed of stones and long beams lying quite flat
and alternating like the squares on a chess-board. It was a Gaulish
fashion, and had been adapted by the Suffet to the requirements of the
situation; the Gauls imagined themselves before a town in their own
country. Their attack was weak, and they were repulsed.
All the roundway, from the street of Khamon as far as the Green
Market, now belonged to the Barbarians, and the Samnites were
finishing off the dying with blows of stakes; or else with one foot on
the wall were gazing down at the smoking ruins beneath them, and the
battle which was beginning again in the distance.
The slingers, who were distributed through the rear, were still
shooting. But the springs of the Acarnanian slings had broken from
use, and many were throwing stones with the hand like shepherds; the
rest hurled leaden bullets with the handle of a whip. Zarxas, his
shoulders covered with his long black hair, went about everywhere, and
led on the Barbarians. Two pouches hung at his hips; he thrust his
left hand into them continually, while his right arm whirled round
like a chariot-wheel.
Matho had at first refrained from fighting, the better to command the
Barbarians all at once. He had been seen along the gulf with the
Mercenaries, near the lagoon with the Numidians, and on the shores of
the lake among the Negroes, and from the back part of the plain he
urged forward masses of soldiers who came ceaselessly against the
ramparts. By degrees he had drawn near; the smell of blood, the sight
of carnage, and the tumult of clarions had at last made his heart
leap. Then he had gone back into his tent, and throwing off his
cuirass had taken his lion's skin as being more convenient for battle.
The snout fitted upon his head, bordering his face with a circle of
fangs; the two fore-paws were crossed upon his breast, and the claws
of the hinder ones fell beneath his knees.
He had kept on his strong waist-belt, wherein gleamed a two-edged axe,
and with his great sword in both hands he had dashed impetuously
through the breach. Like a pruner cutting willow-branches and trying
to strike off as much as possible so as to make the more money, he
marched along mowing down the Carthaginians around him. Those who
tried to seize him in flank he knocked down with blows of the pommel;
when they attacked him in front he ran them through; if they fled he
clove them. Two men leaped together upon his back; he bounded
backwards against a gate and crushed them. His sword fell and rose. It
shivered on the angle of a wall. Then he took his heavy axe, and front
and rear he ripped up the Carthaginians like a flock of sheep. They
scattered more and more, and he was quite alone when he reached the
second enclosure at the foot of the Acropolis. The materials which had
been flung from the summit cumbered the steps and were heaped up
higher than the wall. Matho turned back amid the ruins to summons his
He perceived their crests scattered over the multitude; they were
sinking and their wearers were about to perish; he dashed towards
them; then the vast wreath of red plumes closed in, and they soon
rejoined him and surrounded him. But an enormous crowd was discharging
from the side streets. He was caught by the hips, lifted up and
carried away outside the ramparts to a spot where the terrace was
Matho shouted a command and all the shields sank upon the helmets; he
leaped upon them in order to catch hold somewhere so as to re-enter
Carthage; and, flourishing his terrible axe, ran over the shields,
which resembled waves of bronze, like a marine god, with brandished
trident, over his billows.
However, a man in a white robe was walking along the edge of the
rampart, impassible, and indifferent to the death which surrounded
him. Sometimes he would spread out his right hand above his eyes in
order to find out some one. Matho happened to pass beneath him.
Suddenly his eyeballs flamed, his livid face contracted; and raising
both his lean arms he shouted out abuse at him.
Matho did not hear it; but he felt so furious and cruel a look
entering his heart that he uttered a roar. He hurled his long axe at
him; some people threw themselves upon Schahabarim; and Matho seeing
him no more fell back exhausted.
A terrible creaking drew near, mingled with the rhythm of hoarse
voices singing together.
It was the great helepolis surrounded by a crowd of soldiers. They
were dragging it with both hands, hauling it with ropes, and pushing
it with their shoulders,--for the slope rising from the plain to the
terrace, although extremely gentle, was found impracticable for
machines of such prodigious weight. However, it had eight wheels
banded with iron, and it had been advancing slowly in this way since
the morning, like a mountain raised upon another. Then there appeared
an immense ram issuing from its base. The doors along the three fronts
which faced the town fell down, and cuirassed soldiers appeared in the
interior like pillars of iron. Some might be seen climbing and
descending the two staircases which crossed the stories. Some were
waiting to dart out as soon as the cramps of the doors touched the
walls; in the middle of the upper platform the skeins of the ballistas
were turning, and the great beam of the catapult was being lowered.
Hamilcar was at that moment standing upright on the roof of Melkarth.
He had calculated that it would come directly towards him, against
what was the most invulnerable place in the wall, which was for that
very reason denuded of sentries. His slaves had for a long time been
bringing leathern bottles along the roundway, where they had raised
with clay two transverse partitions forming a sort of basin. The water
was flowing insensibly along the terrace, and strange to say, it
seemed to cause Hamilcar no anxiety.
But when the helepolis was thirty paces off, he commanded planks to be
placed over the streets between the houses from the cisterns to the
rampart; and a file of people passed from hand to hand helmets and
amphoras, which were emptied continually. The Carthaginians, however,
grew indignant at this waste of water. The ram was demolishing the
wall, when suddenly a fountain sprang forth from the disjointed
stones. Then the lofty brazen mass, nine stories high, which contained
and engaged more than three thousand soldiers, began to rock gently
like a ship. In fact, the water, which had penetrated the terrace, had
broken up the path before it; its wheels stuck in the mire; the head
of Spendius, with distended cheeks blowing an ivory cornet, appeared
between leathern curtains on the first story. The great machine, as
though convulsively upheaved, advanced perhaps ten paces; but the
ground softened more and more, the mire reached to the axles, and the
helepolis stopped, leaning over frightfully to one side. The catapult
rolled to the edge of the platform, and carried away by the weight of
its beam, fell, shattering the lower stories beneath it. The soldiers
who were standing on the doors slipped into the abyss, or else held on
to the extremities of the long beams, and by their weight increased
the inclination of the helepolis, which was going to pieces with
creakings in all its joints.
The other Barbarians rushed up to help them, massing themselves into a
compact crowd. The Carthaginians descended from the rampart, and,
assailing them in the rear, killed them at leisure. But the chariots
furnished with sickles hastened up, and galloped round the outskirts
of the multitude. The latter ascended the wall again; night came on;
and the Barbarians gradually retired.
Nothing could now be seen on the plain but a sort of perfectly black,
swarming mass, which extended from the bluish gulf to the purely white
lagoon; and the lake, which had received streams of blood, stretched
further away like a great purple pool.
The terrace was now so laden with corpses that it looked as though it
had been constructed of human bodies. In the centre stood the
helepolis covered with armour; and from time to time huge fragments
broke off from it, like stones from a crumbling pyramid. Broad tracks
made by the streams of lead might be distinguished on the walls. A
broken-down wooden tower burned here and there, and the houses showed
dimly like the stages of a ruined ampitheatre. Heavy fumes of smoke
were rising, and rolling with them sparks which were lost in the dark
The Carthaginians, however, who were consumed by thirst, had rushed to
the cisterns. They broke open the doors. A miry swamp stretched at the
What was to be done now? Moreover, the Barbarians were countless, and
when their fatigue was over they would begin again.
The people deliberated all night in groups at the corners of the
streets. Some said that they ought to send away the women, the sick,
and the old men; others proposed to abandon the town, and found a
colony far away. But vessels were lacking, and when the sun appeared
no decision had been made.
There was no fighting that day, all being too much exhausted. The
sleepers looked like corpses.
Then the Carthaginians, reflecting upon the cause of their disasters,
remembered that they had not dispatched to Phoenicia the annual
offering due to Tyrian Melkarth, and a great terror came upon them.
The gods were indignant with the Republic, and were, no doubt, about
to prosecute their vengeance.
They were considered as cruel masters, who were appeased with
supplications and allowed themselves to be bribed with presents. All
were feeble in comparison with Moloch the Devourer. The existence, the
very flesh of men, belonged to him; and hence in order to preserve it,
the Carthaginians used to offer up a portion of it to him, which
calmed his fury. Children were burned on the forehead, or on the nape
of the neck, with woollen wicks; and as this mode of satisfying Baal
brought in much money to the priests, they failed not to recommend it
as being easier and more pleasant.
This time, however, the Republic itself was at stake. But as every
profit must be purchased by some loss, and as every transaction was
regulated according to the needs of the weaker and the demands of the
stronger, there was no pain great enough for the god, since he
delighted in such as was of the most horrible description, and all
were now at his mercy. He must accordingly be fully gratified.
Precedents showed that in this way the scourge would be made to
disappear. Moreover, it was believed that an immolation by fire would
purify Carthage. The ferocity of the people was predisposed towards
it. The choice, too, must fall exclusively upon the families of the
The Ancients assembled. The sitting was a long one. Hanno had come to
it. As he was now unable to sit he remained lying down near the door,
half hidden among the fringes of the lofty tapestry; and when the
pontiff of Moloch asked them whether they would consent to surrender
their children, his voice suddenly broke forth from the shadow like
the roaring of a genius in the depths of a cavern. He regretted, he
said, that he had none of his own blood to give; and he gazed at
Hamilcar, who faced him at the other end of the hall. The Suffet was
so much disconcerted by this look that it made him lower his eyes. All
successively bent their heads in approval; and in accordance with the
rites he had to reply to the high priest: "Yes; be it so." Then the
Ancients decreed the sacrifice in traditional circumlocution,--because
there are things more troublesome to say than to perform.
The decision was almost immediately known in Carthage, and
lamentations resounded. The cries of women might everywhere be heard;
their husbands consoled them, or railed at them with remonstrances.
But three hours afterwards extraordinary tidings were spread abroad:
the Suffet had discovered springs at the foot of the cliff. There was
a rush to the place. Water might be seen in holes dug in the sand, and
some were already lying flat on the ground and drinking.
Hamilcar did not himself know whether it was by the determination of
the gods or through the vague recollection of a revelation which his
father had once made to him; but on leaving the Ancients he had gone
down to the shore and had begun to dig the gravel with his slaves.
He gave clothing, boots, and wine. He gave all the rest of the corn
that he was keeping by him. He even let the crowd enter his palace,
and he opened kitchens, stores, and all the rooms,--Salammbo's alone
excepted. He announced that six thousand Gaulish Mercenaries were
coming, and that the king of Macedonia was sending soldiers.
But on the second day the springs diminished, and on the evening of
the third they were completely dried up. Then the decree of the
Ancients passed everywhere from lip to lip, and the priests of Moloch
began their task.
Men in black robes presented themselves in the houses. In many
instances the owners had deserted them under pretence of some
business, or of some dainty that they were going to buy; and the
servants of Moloch came and took the children away. Others themselves
surrendered them stupidly. Then they were brought to the temple of
Tanith, where the priestesses were charged with their amusement and
support until the solemn day.
They visited Hamilcar suddenly and found him in his gardens.
"Barca! we come for that that you know of--your son!" They added that
some people had met him one evening during the previous moon in the
centre of the Mappalian district being led by an old man.
He was as though suffocated at first. But speedily understanding that
any denial would be in vain, Hamilcar bowed; and he brought them into
the commercial house. Some slaves who had run up at a sign kept watch
all round about it.
He entered Salammbo's room in a state of distraction. He seized
Hannibal with one hand, snatched up the cord of a trailing garment
with the other, tied his feet and hands with it, thrust the end into
his mouth to form a gag, and hid him under the bed of the ox-hides by
letting an ample drapery fall to the ground.
Afterwards he walked about from right to left, raised his arms,
wheeled round, bit his lips. Then he stood still with staring eyelids,
and panted as though he were about to die.
But he clapped his hands three times. Giddenem appeared.
"Listen!" he said, "go and take from among the slaves a male child
from eight to nine years of age, with black hair and swelling
forehead! Bring him here! make haste!"
Giddenem soon entered again, bringing forward a young boy.
He was a miserable child, at once lean and bloated; his skin looked
greyish, like the infected rag hanging to his sides; his head was sunk
between his shoulders, and with the back of his hand he was rubbing
his eyes, which were filled with flies.
How could he ever be confounded with Hannibal! and there was no time
to choose another. Hamilcar looked at Giddenem; he felt inclined to
"Begone!" he cried; and the master of the slaves fled.
The misfortune which he had so long dreaded was therefore come, and
with extravagant efforts he strove to discover whether there was not
some mode, some means to escape it.
Abdalonim suddenly spoke from behind the door. The Suffet was being
asked for. The servants of Moloch were growing impatient.
Hamilcar repressed a cry as though a red hot iron had burnt him; and
he began anew to pace the room like one distraught. Then he sank down
beside the balustrade, and, with his elbows on his knees, pressed his
forehead into his shut fists.
The porphyry basin still contained a little clear water for Salammbo's
ablutions. In spite of his repugnance and all his pride, the Suffet
dipped the child into it, and, like a slave merchant, began to wash
him and rub him with strigils and red earth. Then he took two purple
squares from the receptacles round the wall, placed one on his breast
and the other on his back, and joined them together on the collar
bones with two diamond clasps. He poured perfume upon his head, passed
an electrum necklace around his neck, and put on him sandals with
heels of pearl,--sandals belonging to his own daughter! But he stamped
with shame and vexation; Salammbo, who busied herself in helping him,
was as pale as he. The child, dazzled by such splendour, smiled and,
growing bold even, was beginning to clap his hands and jump, when
Hamilcar took him away.
He held him firmly by the arm as though he were afraid of losing him,
and the child, who was hurt, wept a little as he ran beside him.
When on a level with the ergastulum, under a palm tree, a voice was
raised, a mournful and supplicant voice. It murmured: "Master! oh!
Hamilcar turned and beside him perceived a man of abject appearance,
one of the wretches who led a haphazard existence in the household.
"What do you want?" said the Suffet.
The slave, who trembled horribly, stammered:
"I am his father!"
Hamilcar walked on; the other followed him with stooping loins, bent
hams, and head thrust forward. His face was convulsed with unspeakable
anguish, and he was choking with suppressed sobs, so eager was he at
once to question him, and to cry: "Mercy!"
At last he ventured to touch him lightly with one finger on the elbow.
"Are you going to--?" He had not the strength to finish, and Hamilcar
stopped quite amazed at such grief.
He had never thought--so immense was the abyss separating them from
each other--that there could be anything in common between them. It
even appeared to him a sort of outrage, an encroachment upon his own
privileges. He replied with a look colder and heavier than an
executioner's axe; the slave swooned and fell in the dust at his feet.
Hamilcar strode across him.
The three black-robed men were waiting in the great hall, and standing
against the stone disc. Immediately he tore his garments, and rolled
upon the pavement uttering piercing cries.
"Ah! poor little Hannibal! Oh! my son! my consolation! my hope! my
life! Kill me also! take me away! Woe! Woe!" He ploughed his face with
his nails, tore out his hair, and shrieked like the women who lament
at funerals. "Take him away then! my suffering is too great! begone!
kill me like him!" The servants of Moloch were astonished that the
great Hamilcar was so weak-spirited. They were almost moved by it.
A noise of naked feet became audible, with a broken throat-rattling
like the breathing of a wild beast speeding along, and a man, pale,
terrible, and with outspread arms appeared on the threshold of the
third gallery, between the ivory pots; he exclaimed:
Hamilcar threw himself with a bound upon the slave, and covering the
man's mouth with his hand exclaimed still more loudly:
"It is the old man who reared him! he calls him 'my child!' it will
make him mad! enough! enough!" And hustling away the three priests and
their victim he went out with them and with a great kick shut the door
Hamilcar strained his ears for some minutes in constant fear of seeing
them return. He then thought of getting rid of the slave in order to
be quite sure that he would see nothing; but the peril had not wholly
disappeared, and, if the gods were provoked at the man's death, it
might be turned against his son. Then, changing his intention, he sent
him by Taanach the best from his kitchens--a quarter of a goat, beans,
and preserved pomegranates. The slave, who had eaten nothing for a
long time, rushed upon them; his tears fell into the dishes.
Hamilcar at last returned to Salammbo, and unfastened Hannibal's
cords. The child in exasperation bit his hand until the blood came. He
repelled him with a caress.
To make him remain quiet Salammbo tried to frighten him with Lamia, a
"But where is she?" he asked.
He was told that brigands were coming to put him into prison. "Let
them come," he rejoined, "and I will kill them!"
Then Hamilcar told him the frightful truth. But he fell into a passion
with his father, contending that he was quite able to annihilate the
whole people, since he was the master of Carthage.
At last, exhausted by his exertions and anger, he fell into a wild
sleep. He spoke in his dreams, his back leaning against a scarlet
cushion; his head was thrown back somewhat, and his little arm,
outstretched from his body, lay quite straight in an attitude of
When the night had grown dark Hamilcar lifted him up gently, and,
without a torch, went down the galley staircase. As he passed through
the mercantile house he took up a basket of grapes and a flagon of
pure water; the child awoke before the statue of Aletes in the vault
of gems, and he smiled--like the other--on his father's arm at the
brilliant lights which surrounded him.
Hamilcar felt quite sure that his son could not be taken from him. It
was an impenetrable spot communicating with the beach by a
subterranean passage which he alone knew, and casting his eyes around
he inhaled a great draught of air. Then he set him down upon a stool
beside some golden shields. No one at present could see him; he had no
further need for watching; and he relieved his feelings. Like a mother
finding her first-born that was lost, he threw himself upon his son;
he clasped him to his breast, he laughed and wept at the same time, he
called him by the fondest names and covered him with kisses; little
Hannibal was frightened by this terrible tenderness and was silent
Hamilcar returned with silent steps, feeling the walls around him, and
came into the great hall where the moonlight entered through one of
the apertures in the dome; in the centre the slave lay sleeping after
his repast, stretched at full length upon the marble pavement. He
looked at him and was moved with a sort of pity. With the tip of his
cothurn he pushed forward a carpet beneath his head. Then he raised
his eyes and gazed at Tanith, whose slender crescent was shining in
the sky, and felt himself stronger than the Baals and full of contempt
The arrangements for the sacrifice were already begun.
Part of a wall in the temple of Moloch was thrown down in order to
draw out the brazen god without touching the ashes of the altar. Then
as soon as the sun appeared the hierodules pushed it towards the
square of Khamon.
It moved backwards sliding upon cylinders; its shoulders overlapped
the walls. No sooner did the Carthaginians perceive it in the distance
than they speedily took to flight, for the Baal could be looked upon
with impunity only when exercising his wrath.
A smell of aromatics spread through the streets. All the temples had
just been opened simultaneously, and from them there came forth
tabernacles borne upon chariots, or upon litters carried by the
pontiffs. Great plumes swayed at the corners of them, and rays were
emitted from their slender pinnacles which terminated in balls of
crystal, gold, silver or copper.
These were the Chanaanitish Baalim, offshoots of the supreme Baal, who
were returning to their first cause to humble themselves before his
might and annihilate themselves in his splendour.
Melkarth's pavilion, which was of fine purple, sheltered a petroleum
flare; on Khamon's, which was of hyacinth colour, there rose an ivory
phallus bordered with a circle of gems; between Eschmoun's curtains,
which were as blue as the ether, a sleeping python formed a circle
with his tail, and the Pataec gods, held in the arms of their priests,
looked like great infants in swaddling clothes with their heels
touching the ground.
Then came all the inferior forms of the Divinity: Baal-Samin, god of
celestial space; Baal-Peor, god of the sacred mountains; Baal-Zeboub,
god of corruption, with those of the neighbouring countries and
congenerous races: the Iarbal of Libya, the Adramelech of Chaldaea,
the Kijun of the Syrians; Derceto, with her virgin's face, crept on
her fins, and the corpse of Tammouz was drawn along in the midst of a
catafalque among torches and heads of hair. In order to subdue the
kings of the firmament to the Sun, and prevent their particular
influences from disturbing his, diversely coloured metal stars were
brandished at the end of long poles; and all were there, from the dark
Neblo, the genius of Mercury, to the hideous Rahab, which is the
constellation of the Crocodile. The Abbadirs, stones which had fallen
from the moon, were whirling in slings of silver thread; little
loaves, representing the female form, were born on baskets by the
priests of Ceres; others brought their fetishes and amulets; forgotten
idols reappeared, while the mystic symbols had been taken from the
very ships as though Carthage wished to concentrate herself wholly
upon a single thought of death and desolation.
Before each tabernacle a man balanced a large vase of smoking incense
on his head. Clouds hovered here and there, and the hangings,
pendants, and embroideries of the sacred pavilions might be
distinguished amid the thick vapours. These advanced slowly owing to
their enormous weight. Sometimes the axles became fast in the streets;
then the pious took advantage of the opportunity to touch the Baalim
with their garments, which they preserved afterwards as holy things.
The brazen statue continued to advance towards the square of Khamon.
The rich, carrying sceptres with emerald balls, set out from the
bottom of Megara; the Ancients, with diadems on their heads, had
assembled in Kinisdo, and masters of the finances, governors of
provinces, sailors, and the numerous horde employed at funerals, all
with the insignia of their magistracies or the instruments of their
calling, were making their way towards the tabernacles which were
descending from the Acropolis between the colleges of the pontiffs.
Out of deference to Moloch they had adorned themselves with the most
splendid jewels. Diamonds sparkled on their black garments; but their
rings were too large and fell from their wasted hands,--nor could
there have been anything so mournful as this silent crowd where
earrings tapped against pale faces, and gold tiaras clasped brows
contracted with stern despair.
At last the Baal arrived exactly in the centre of the square. His
pontiffs arranged an enclosure with trellis-work to keep off the
multitude, and remained around him at his feet.
The priests of Khamon, in tawny woollen robes, formed a line before
their temple beneath the columns of the portico; those of Eschmoun, in
linen mantles with necklaces of koukouphas' heads and pointed tiaras,
posted themselves on the steps of the Acropolis; the priests of
Melkarth, in violet tunics, took the western side; the priests of the
Abbadirs, clasped with bands of Phrygian stuffs, placed themselves on
the east, while towards the south, with the necromancers all covered
with tattooings, and the shriekers in patched cloaks, were ranged the
curates of the Pataec gods, and the Yidonim, who put the bone of a
dead man into their mouths to learn the future. The priests of Ceres,
who were dressed in blue robes, had prudently stopped in the street of
Satheb, and in low tones were chanting a thesmophorion in the Megarian
From time to time files of men arrived, completely naked, their arms
outstretched, and all holding one another by the shoulders. From the
depths of their breasts they drew forth a hoarse and cavernous
intonation; their eyes, which were fastened upon the colossus, shone
through the dust, and they swayed their bodies simultaneously, and at
equal distances, as though they were all affected by a single
movement. They were so frenzied that to restore order the hierodules
compelled them, with blows of the stick, to lie flat upon the ground,
with their faces resting against the brass trellis-work.
Then it was that a man in a white robe advanced from the back of the
square. He penetrated the crowd slowly, and people recognised a priest
of Tanith--the high-priest Schahabarim. Hootings were raised, for the
tyranny of the male principle prevailed that day in all consciences,
and the goddess was actually so completely forgotten that the absence
of her pontiffs had not been noticed. But the amazement was increased
when he was seen to open one of the doors of the trellis-work intended
for those who intended to offer up victims. It was an outrage to their
god, thought the priests of Moloch, that he had just committed, and
they sought with eager gestures to repel him. Fed on the meat of the
holocausts, clad in purple like kings, and wearing triple-storied
crowns, they despised the pale eunuch, weakened with his macerations,
and angry laughter shook their black beards, which were displayed on
their breasts in the sun.
Schahabarim walked on, giving no reply, and, traversing the whole
enclosure with deliberation, reached the legs of the colossus; then,
spreading out both arms, he touched it on both sides, which was a
solemn form of adoration. For a long time Rabbet had been torturing
him, and in despair, or perhaps for lack of a god that completely
satisfied his ideas, he had at last decided for this one.
The crowd, terrified by this act of apostasy, uttered a lengthened
murmur. It was felt that the last tie which bound their souls to a
merciful divinity was breaking.
But owing to his mutilation, Schahabarim could take no part in the
cult of the Baal. The men in the red cloaks shut him out from the
enclosure; then, when he was outside, he went round all the colleges
in succession, and the priest, henceforth without a god, disappeared
into the crowd. It scattered at his approach.
Meanwhile a fire of aloes, cedar, and laurel was burning between the
legs of the colossus. The tips of its long wings dipped into the
flame; the unguents with which it had been rubbed flowed like sweat
over its brazen limbs. Around the circular flagstone on which its feet
rested, the children, wrapped in black veils, formed a motionless
circle; and its extravagantly long arms reached down their palms to
them as though to seize the crown that they formed and carry it to the
The rich, the Ancients, the women, the whole multitude, thronged
behind the priests and on the terraces of the houses. The large
painted stars revolved no longer; the tabernacles were set upon the
ground; and the fumes from the censers ascended perpendicularly,
spreading their bluish branches through the azure like gigantic trees.
Many fainted; others became inert and petrified in their ecstasy.
Infinite anguish weighed upon the breasts of the beholders. The last
shouts died out one by one,--and the people of Carthage stood
breathless, and absorbed in the longing of their terror.
At last the high priest of Moloch passed his left hand beneath the
children's veils, plucked a lock of hair from their foreheads, and
threw it upon the flames. Then the men in the red cloaks chanted the
"Homage to thee, Sun! king of the two zones, self-generating Creator,
Father and Mother, Father and Son, God and Goddess, Goddess and God!"
And their voices were lost in the outburst of instruments sounding
simultaneously to drown the cries of the victims. The eight-stringed
scheminiths, the kinnors which had ten strings, and the nebals which
had twelve, grated, whistled, and thundered. Enormous leathern bags,
bristling with pipes, made a shrill clashing noise; the tabourines,
beaten with all the players' might, resounded with heavy, rapid blows;
and, in spite of the fury of the clarions, the salsalim snapped like
The hierodules, with a long hook, opened the seven-storied
compartments on the body of the Baal. They put meal into the highest,
two turtle-doves into the second, an ape into the third, a ram into
the fourth, a sheep into the fifth, and as no ox was to be had for the
sixth, a tawny hide taken from the sanctuary was thrown into it. The
seventh compartment yawned empty still.
Before undertaking anything it was well to make trial of the arms of
the god. Slender chainlets stretched from his fingers up to his
shoulders and fell behind, where men by pulling them made the two
hands rise to a level with the elbows, and come close together against
the belly; they were moved several times in succession with little
abrupt jerks. Then the instruments were still. The fire roared.
The pontiffs of Moloch walked about on the great flagstone scanning
An individual sacrifice was necessary, a perfectly voluntary oblation,
which was considered as carrying the others along with it. But no one
had appeared up to the present, and the seven passages leading from
the barriers to the colossus were completely empty. Then the priests,
to encourage the people, drew bodkins from their girdles and gashed
their faces. The Devotees, who were stretched on the ground outside,
were brought within the enclosure. A bundle of horrible irons was
thrown to them, and each chose his own torture. They drove in spits
between their breasts; they split their cheeks; they put crowns of
thorns upon their heads; then they twined their arms together, and
surrounded the children in another large circle which widened and
contracted in turns. They reached to the balustrade, they threw
themselves back again, and then began once more, attracting the crowd
to them by the dizziness of their motion with its accompanying blood
By degrees people came into the end of the passages; they flung into
the flames pearls, gold vases, cups, torches, all their wealth; the
offerings became constantly more numerous and more splendid. At last a
man who tottered, a man pale and hideous with terror, thrust forward a
child; then a little black mass was seen between the hands of the
colossus, and sank into the dark opening. The priests bent over the
edge of the great flagstone,--and a new song burst forth celebrating
the joys of death and of new birth into eternity.
The children ascended slowly, and as the smoke formed lofty eddies as
it escaped, they seemed at a distance to disappear in a cloud. Not one
stirred. Their wrists and ankles were tied, and the dark drapery
prevented them from seeing anything and from being recognised.
Hamilcar, in a red cloak, like the priests of Moloch, was beside the
Baal, standing upright in front of the great toe of its right foot.
When the fourteenth child was brought every one could see him make a
great gesture of horror. But he soon resumed his former attitude,
folded his arms, and looked upon the ground. The high pontiff stood on
the other side of the statue as motionless as he. His head, laden with
an Assyrian mitre, was bent, and he was watching the gold plate on his
breast; it was covered with fatidical stones, and the flame mirrored
in it formed irisated lights. He grew pale and dismayed. Hamilcar bent
his brow; and they were both so near the funeral-pile that the hems of
their cloaks brushed it as they rose from time to time.
The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer.
Every time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch
spread out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the
people, vociferating: "They are not men but oxen!" and the multitude
round about repeated: "Oxen! oxen!" The devout exclaimed: "Lord! eat!"
and the priests of Proserpine, complying through terror with the needs
of Carthage, muttered the Eleusinian formula: "Pour out rain! bring
The victims, when scarcely at the edge of the opening, disappeared
like a drop of water on a red-hot plate, and white smoke rose amid the
great scarlet colour.
Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished
for more. In order to furnish him with a larger supply, the victims
were piled up on his hands with a big chain above them which kept them
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