Part 6 out of 6
in their place. Some devout persons had at the beginning wished to
count them, to see whether their number corresponded with the days of
the solar year; but others were brought, and it was impossible to
distinguish them in the giddy motion of the horrible arms. This lasted
for a long, indefinite time until the evening. Then the partitions
inside assumed a darker glow, and burning flesh could be seen. Some
even believed that they could descry hair, limbs, and whole bodies.
Night fell; clouds accumulated above the Baal. The funeral-pile, which
was flameless now, formed a pyramid of coals up to his knees;
completely red like a giant covered with blood, he looked, with his
head thrown back, as though he were staggering beneath the weight of
In proportion as the priests made haste, the frenzy of the people
increased; as the number of the victims was diminishing, some cried
out to spare them, others that still more were needful. The walls,
with their burden of people, seemed to be giving way beneath the
howlings of terror and mystic voluptuousness. Then the faithful came
into the passages, dragging their children, who clung to them; and
they beat them in order to make them let go, and handed them over to
the men in red. The instrument-players sometimes stopped through
exhaustion; then the cries of the mothers might be heard, and the
frizzling of the fat as it fell upon the coals. The henbane-drinkers
crawled on all fours around the colossus, roaring like tigers; the
Yidonim vaticinated, the Devotees sang with their cloven lips; the
trellis-work had been broken through, all wished for a share in the
sacrifice;--and fathers, whose children had died previously, cast
their effigies, their playthings, their preserved bones into the fire.
Some who had knives rushed upon the rest. They slaughtered one
another. The hierodules took the fallen ashes at the edge of the
flagstone in bronze fans, and cast them into the air that the
sacrifice might be scattered over the town and even to the region of
The loud noise and great light had attracted the Barbarians to the
foot of the walls; they clung to the wreck of the helepolis to have a
better view, and gazed open-mouthed in horror.
THE PASS OF THE HATCHET
The Carthaginians had not re-entered their houses when the clouds
accumulated more thickly; those who raised their heads towards the
colossus could feel big drops on their foreheads, and the rain fell.
It fell the whole night plentifully, in floods; the thunder growled;
it was the voice of Moloch; he had vanquished Tanith; and she, being
now fecundated, opened up her vast bosom in heaven's heights.
Sometimes she could be seen in a clear and luminous spot stretched
upon cushions of cloud; and then the darkness would close in again as
though she were still too weary and wished to sleep again; the
Carthaginians, all believing that water is brought forth by the moon,
shouted to make her travail easy.
The rain beat upon the terraces and overflowed them, forming lakes in
the courts, cascades on the staircases, and eddies at the corners of
the streets. It poured in warm heavy masses and urgent streams; big
frothy jets leaped from the corners of all the buildings; and it
seemed as though whitish cloths hung dimly upon the walls, and the
washed temple-roofs shone black in the gleam of the lightning.
Torrents descended from the Acropolis by a thousand paths; houses
suddenly gave way, and small beams, plaster, rubbish, and furniture
passed along in streams which ran impetuously over the pavement.
Amphoras, flagons, and canvases had been placed out of doors; but the
torches were extinguished; brands were taken from the funeral-pile of
the Baal, and the Carthaginians bent back their necks and opened their
mouths to drink. Others by the side of the miry pools, plunged their
arms into them up to the armpits, and filled themselves so abundantly
with water that they vomited it forth like buffaloes. The freshness
gradually spread; they breathed in the damp air with play of limb, and
in the happiness of their intoxication boundless hope soon arose. All
their miseries were forgotten. Their country was born anew.
They felt the need, as it were, of directing upon others the
extravagant fury which they had been unable to employ against
themselves. Such a sacrifice could not be in vain; although they felt
no remorse they found themselves carried away by the frenzy which
results from complicity in irreparable crimes.
The Barbarians had encountered the storm in their ill-closed tents;
and they were still quite chilled on the morrow as they tramped
through the mud in search of their stores and weapons, which were
spoiled and lost.
Hamilcar went himself to see Hanno, and, in virtue of his plenary
powers, intrusted the command to him. The old Suffet hesitated for a
few minutes between his animosity and his appetite for authority, but
he accepted nevertheless.
Hamilcar next took out a galley armed with a catapult at each end. He
placed it in the gulf in front of the raft; then he embarked his
stoutest troops on board such vessels as were available. He was
apparently taking to flight; and running northward before the wind he
disappeared into the mist.
But three days afterwards, when the attack was about to begin again,
some people arrived tumultuously from the Libyan coast. Barca had come
among them. He had carried off provisions everywhere, and he was
spreading through the country.
Then the Barbarians were indignant as though he were betraying them.
Those who were most weary of the siege, and especially the Gauls, did
not hesitate to leave the walls in order to try and rejoin him.
Spendius wanted to reconstruct the helepolis; Matho had traced an
imaginary line from his tent to Megara, and inwardly swore to follow
it, and none of their men stirred. But the rest, under the command of
Autaritus, went off, abandoning the western part of the rampart, and
so profound was the carelessness exhibited that no one even thought of
Narr' Havas spied them from afar in the mountains. During the night he
led all his men along the sea-shore on the outer side of the Lagoon,
and entered Carthage.
He presented himself as a saviour with six thousand men all carrying
meal under their cloaks, and forty elephants laden with forage and
dried meat. The people flocked quickly around them; they gave them
names. The sight of these strong animals, sacred to Baal, gave the
Carthaginians even more joy than the arrival of such relief; it was a
token of the tenderness of the god, a proof that he was at last about
to interfere in the war to defend them.
Narr' Havas received the compliments of the Ancients. Then he ascended
to Salammbo's palace.
He had not seen her again since the time when in Hamilcar's tent amid
the five armies he had felt her little, cold, soft hand fastened to
his own; she had left for Carthage after the betrothal. His love,
which had been diverted by other ambitions, had come back to him; and
now he expected to enjoy his rights, to marry her, and take her.
Salammbo did not understand how the young man could ever become her
master! Although she asked Tanith every day for Matho's death, her
horror of the Libyan was growing less. She vaguely felt that the hate
with which he had persecuted her was something almost religious,--and
she would fain have seen in Narr' Havas's person a reflection, as it
were, of that malice which still dazzled her. She desired to know him
better, and yet his presence would have embarrassed her. She sent him
word that she could not receive him.
Moreover, Hamilcar had forbidden his people to admit the King of the
Numidians to see her; by putting off his reward to the end of the war
he hoped to retain his devotion;--and, through dread of the Suffet,
Narr' Havas withdrew.
But he bore himself haughtily towards the Hundred. He changed their
arrangements. He demanded privileges for his men, and placed them on
important posts; thus the Barbarians stared when they perceived
Numidians on the towers.
The surprise of the Carthaginians was greater still when three hundred
of their own people, who had been made prisoners during the Sicilian
war, arrived on board an old Punic trireme. Hamilcar, in fact, had
secretly sent back to the Quirites the crews of the Latin vessels,
taken before the defection of the Tyrian towns; and, to reciprocate
the courtesy, Rome was now sending him back her captives. She scorned
the overtures of the Mercenaries in Sardinian, and would not even
recognise the inhabitants of Utica as subjects.
Hiero, who was ruling at Syracuse, was carried away by this example.
For the preservation of his own States it was necessary that an
equilibrium should exist between the two peoples; he was interested,
therefore, in the safety of the Chanaanites, and he declared himself
their friend, and sent them twelve hundred oxen, with fifty-three
thousand nebels of pure wheat.
A deeper reason prompted aid to Carthage. It was felt that if the
Mercenaries triumphed, every one, from soldier to plate-washer, would
rise, and that no government and no house could resist them.
Meanwhile Hamilcar was scouring the eastern districts. He drove back
the Gauls, and all the Barbarians found that they were themselves in
something like a state of siege.
Then he set himself to harass them. He would arrive and then retire,
and by constantly renewing this manoeuvre, he gradually detached them
from their encampments. Spendius was obliged to follow them, and in
the end Matho yielded in like manner.
He did not pass beyond Tunis. He shut himself up within its walls.
This persistence was full of wisdom, for soon Narr' Havas was to be
seen issuing from the gate of Khamon with his elephants and soldiers.
Hamilcar was recalling him, but the other Barbarians were already
wandering about in the provinces in pursuit of the Suffet.
The latter had received three thousand Gauls from Clypea. He had
horses brought to him from Cyrenaica, and armour from Brutium, and
began the war again.
Never had his genius been so impetuous and fertile. For five moons he
dragged his enemies after him. He had an end to which he wished to
The Barbarians had at first tried to encompass him with small
detachments, but he always escaped them. They ceased to separate then.
Their army amounted to about forty thousand men, and several times
they enjoyed the sight of seeing the Carthaginians fall back.
The horsemen of Narr' Havas were what they found most tormenting.
Often, at times of the greatest weariness, when they were advancing
over the plains, and dozing beneath the weight of their arms, a great
line of dust would suddenly rise on the horizon; there would be a
galloping up to them, and a rain of darts would pour from the bosom of
a cloud filled with flaming eyes. The Numidians in their white cloaks
would utter loud shouts, raise their arms, press their rearing
stallions with their knees, and, wheeling them round abruptly, would
then disappear. They had always supplies of javelins and dromedaries
some distance off, and they would return more terrible than before,
howl like wolves, and take to flight like vultures. The Barbarians
posted at the extremities of the files fell one by one; and this would
continue until evening, when an attempt would be made to enter the
Although they were perilous for elephants, Hamilcar made his way in
among them. He followed the long chain which extends from the
promontory of Hermaeum to the top of Zagouan. This, they believed, was
a device for hiding the insufficiency of his troops. But the continual
uncertainty in which he kept them exasperated them at last more than
any defeat. They did not lose heart, and marched after him.
At last one evening they surprised a body of velites amid some big
rocks at the entrance of a pass between the Silver Mountain and the
Lead Mountain; the entire army was certainly in front of them, for a
noise of footsteps and clarions could be heard; the Carthaginians
immediately fled through the gorge. It descended into a plain, and was
shaped like an iron hatchet with a surrounding of lofty cliffs. The
Barbarians dashed into it in order to overtake the velites; quite at
the bottom other Carthaginians were running tumultuously amid
galloping oxen. A man in a red cloak was to be seen; it was the
Suffet; they shouted this to one another; and they were carried away
with increased fury and joy. Several, from laziness or prudence, had
remained on the threshold of the pass. But some cavalry, debouching
from a wood, beat them down upon the rest with blows of pike and
sabre; and soon all the Barbarians were below in the plain.
Then this great human mass, after swaying to and fro for some time,
stood still; they could discover no outlet.
Those who were nearest to the pass went back again, but the passage
had entirely disappeared. They hailed those in front to make them go
on; they were being crushed against the mountain, and from a distance
they inveighed against their companions, who were unable to find the
In fact the Barbarians had scarcely descended when men who had been
crouching behind the rocks raised the latter with beams and overthrew
them, and as the slope was steep the huge blocks had rolled down pell-
mell and completely stopped up the narrow opening.
At the other extremity of the plain stretched a long passage, split in
gaps here and there, and leading to a ravine which ascended to the
upper plateau, where the Punic army was stationed. Ladders had been
placed beforehand in this passage against the wall of cliff; and,
protected by the windings of the gaps, the velites were able to seize
and mount them before being overtaken. Several even made their way to
the bottom of the ravine; they were drawn up with cables, for the
ground at this spot was of moving sand, and so much inclined that it
was impossible to climb it even on the knees. The Barbarians arrived
almost immediately. But a portcullis, forty cubits high, and made to
fit the intervening space exactly, suddenly sank before them like a
rampart fallen from the skies.
The Suffet's combinations had therefore succeeded. None of the
Mercenaries knew the mountain, and, marching as they did at the head
of their columns, they had drawn on the rest. The rocks, which were
somewhat narrow at the base, had been easily cast down; and, while all
were running, his army had raised shouts, as of distress, on the
horizon. Hamilcar, it is true, might have lost his velites, only half
of whom remained, but he would have sacrificed twenty times as many
for the success of such an enterprise.
The Barbarians pressed forward until morning, in compact files, from
one end of the plain to the other. They felt the mountain with their
hands, seeking to discover a passage.
At last day broke; and they perceived all about them a great white
wall hewn with the pick. And no means of safety, no hope! The two
natural outcomes from this blind alley were closed by the portcullis
and the heaps of rocks.
Then they all looked at one another without speaking. They sank down
in collapse, feeling an icy coldness in their loins, and an
overwhelming weight upon their eyelids.
They rose, and bounded against the rocks. But the lowest were weighted
by the pressure of the others, and were immovable. They tried to cling
to them so as to reach the top, but the bellying shape of the great
masses rendered all hold impossible. They sought to cleave the ground
on both sides of the gorge, but their instruments broke. They made a
large fire with the tent poles, but the fire could not burn the
They returned to the portcullis; it was garnished with long nails as
thick as stakes, as sharp as the spines of a porcupine, and closer
than the hairs of a brush. But they were animated by such rage that
they dashed themselves against it. The first were pierced to the
backbone, those coming next surged over them, and all fell back,
leaving human fragments and bloodstained hair on those horrible
When their discouragement was somewhat abated, they made an
examination of the provisions. The Mercenaries, whose baggage was
lost, possessed scarcely enough for two days; and all the rest found
themselves destitute,--for they had been awaiting a convoy promised by
the villages of the South.
However, some bulls were roaming about, those which the Carthaginians
had loosed in the gorge to attract the Barbarians. They killed them
with lance thrusts and ate them, and when their stomachs were filled
their thoughts were less mournful.
The next day they slaughtered all the mules to the number of about
forty; then they scraped the skins, boiled the entrails, pounded the
bones, and did not yet despair; the army from Tunis had no doubt been
warned, and was coming.
But on the evening of the fifth day their hunger increased; they
gnawed their sword-belts, and the little sponges which bordered the
bottom of their helmets.
These forty thousand men were massed into the species of hippodrome
formed by the mountain about them. Some remained in front of the
portcullis, or at the foot of the rocks; the rest covered the plain
confusedly. The strong shunned one another, and the timid sought out
the brave, who, nevertheless, were unable to save them.
To avoid infection, the corpses of the velites had been speedily
buried; and the position of the graves was no longer visible.
All the Barbarians lay drooping on the ground. A veteran would pass
between their lines here and there; and they would howl curses against
the Carthaginians, against Hamilcar, and against Matho, although he
was innocent of their disaster; but it seemed to them that their pains
would have been less if he had shared them. Then they groaned, and
some wept softly like little children.
They came to the captains and besought them to grant them something
that would alleviate their sufferings. The others made no reply; or,
seized with fury, would pick up a stone and fling it in their faces.
Several, in fact, carefully kept a reserve of food in a hole in the
ground--a few handfuls of dates, or a little meal; and they ate this
during the night, with their heads bent beneath their cloaks. Those
who had swords kept them naked in their hands, and the most suspicious
remained standing with their backs against the mountain.
They accused their chiefs and threatened them. Autaritus was not
afraid of showing himself. With the Barbaric obstinacy which nothing
could discourage, he would advance twenty times a day to the rocks at
the bottom, hoping every time to find them perchance displaced; and
swaying his heavy fur-covered shoulders, he reminded his companions of
a bear coming forth from its cave in springtime to see whether the
snows are melted.
Spendius, surrounded by the Greeks, hid himself in one of the gaps; as
he was afraid, he caused a rumour of his death to be spread.
They were now hideously lean; their skin was overlaid with bluish
marblings. On the evening of the ninth day three Iberians died.
Their frightened companions left the spot. They were stripped, and the
white, naked bodies lay in the sunshine on the sand.
Then the Garamantians began to prowl slowly round about them. They
were men accustomed to existence in solitude, and they reverenced no
god. At last the oldest of the band made a sign, and bending over the
corpses they cut strips from them with their knives, then squatted
upon their heels and ate. The rest looked on from a distance; they
uttered cries of horror;--many, nevertheless, being, at the bottom of
their souls, jealous of such courage.
In the middle of the night some of these approached, and, dissembling
their eagerness, asked for a small mouthful, merely to try, they said.
Bolder ones came up; their number increased; there was soon a crowd.
But almost all of them let their hands fall on feeling the cold flesh
on the edge of their lips; others, on the contrary, devoured it with
That they might be led away by example, they urged one another on
mutually. Such as had at first refused went to see the Garamantians,
and returned no more. They cooked the pieces on coals at the point of
the sword; they salted them with dust, and contended for the best
morsels. When nothing was left of the three corpses, their eyes ranged
over the whole plain to find others.
But were they not in possession of Carthaginians--twenty captives
taken in the last encounter, whom no one had noticed up to the
present? These disappeared; moreover, it was an act of vengeance.
Then, as they must live, as the taste for this food had become
developed, and as they were dying, they cut the throats of the water-
carriers, grooms, and all the serving-men belonging to the
Mercenaries. They killed some of them every day. Some ate much,
recovered strength, and were sad no more.
Soon this resource failed. Then the longing was directed to the
wounded and sick. Since they could not recover, it was as well to
release them from their tortures; and, as soon as a man began to
stagger, all exclaimed that he was now lost, and ought to be made use
of for the rest. Artifices were employed to accelerate their death;
the last remnant of their foul portion was stolen from them; they were
trodden on as though by inadvertence; those in the last throes wishing
to make believe that they were strong, strove to stretch out their
arms, to rise, to laugh. Men who had swooned came to themselves at the
touch of a notched blade sawing off a limb;--and they still slew,
ferociously and needlessly, to sate their fury.
A mist heavy and warm, such as comes in those regions at the end of
winter, sank on the fourteenth day upon the army. This change of
temperature brought numerous deaths with it, and corruption was
developed with frightful rapidity in the warm dampness which was kept
in by the sides of the mountain. The drizzle that fell upon the
corpses softened them, and soon made the plain one broad tract of
rottenness. Whitish vapours floated overhead; they pricked the
nostrils, penetrated the skin, and troubled the sight; and the
Barbarians thought that through the exhalations of the breath they
could see the souls of their companions. They were overwhelmed with
immense disgust. They wished for nothing more; they preferred to die.
Two days afterwards the weather became fine again, and hunger seized
them once more. It seemed to them that their stomachs were being
wrenched from them with tongs. Then they rolled about in convulsions,
flung handfuls of dust into their mouths, bit their arms, and burst
into frantic laughter.
They were still more tormented by thirst, for they had not a drop of
water, the leathern bottles having been completely dried up since the
ninth day. To cheat their need they applied their tongues to the metal
plates on their waist-belts, their ivory pommels, and the steel of
their swords. Some former caravan-leaders tightened their waists with
ropes. Others sucked a pebble. They drank urine cooled in their brazen
And they still expected the army from Tunis! The length of time which
it took in coming was, according to their conjectures, an assurance of
its early arrival. Besides, Matho, who was a brave fellow, would not
desert them. "'Twill be to-morrow!" they would say to one another; and
then to-morrow would pass.
At the beginning they had offered up prayers and vows, and practised
all kinds of incantations. Just now their only feeling to their
divinities was one of hatred, and they strove to revenge themselves by
believing in them no more.
Men of violent disposition perished first; the Africans held out
better than the Gauls. Zarxas lay stretched at full length among the
Balearians, his hair over his arm, inert. Spendius found a plant with
broad leaves filled abundantly with juice, and after declaring that it
was poisonous, so as to keep off the rest, he fed himself upon it.
They were too weak to knock down the flying crows with stones.
Sometimes when a gypaetus was perched on a corpse, and had been
mangling it for a long time, a man would set himself to crawl towards
it with a javelin between his teeth. He would support himself with one
hand, and after taking a good aim, throw his weapon. The white-
feathered creature, disturbed by the noise, would desist and look
about in tranquil fashion like a cormorant on a rock, and would then
again thrust in its hideous, yellow beak, while the man, in despair,
would fall flat on his face in the dust. Some succeeded in discovering
chameleons and serpents. But it was the love of life that kept them
alive. They directed their souls to this idea exclusively, and clung
to existence by an effort of the will that prolonged it.
The most stoical kept close to one another, seated in a circle here
and there, among the dead in the middle of the plain; and wrapped in
their cloaks they gave themselves up silently to their sadness.
Those who had been born in towns recalled the resounding streets, the
taverns, theatres, baths, and the barbers' shops where there are tales
to be heard. Others could once more see country districts at sunset,
when the yellow corn waves, and the great oxen ascend the hills again
with the ploughshares on their necks. Travellers dreamed of cisterns,
hunters of their forests, veterans of battles; and in the somnolence
that benumbed them their thoughts jostled one another with the
precipitancy and clearness of dreams. Hallucinations came suddenly
upon them; they sought for a door in the mountain in order to flee,
and tried to pass through it. Others thought that they were sailing in
a storm and gave orders for the handling of a ship, or else fell back
in terror, perceiving Punic battalions in the clouds. There were some
who imagined themselves at a feast, and sang.
Many through a strange mania would repeat the same word or continually
make the same gesture. Then when they happened to raise their heads
and look at one another they were choked with sobs on discovering the
horrible ravages made in their faces. Some had ceased to suffer, and
to while away the hours told of the perils which they had escaped.
Death was certain and imminent to all. How many times had they not
tried to open up a passage! As to implore terms from the conqueror, by
what means could they do so? They did not even know where Hamilcar
The wind was blowing from the direction of the ravine. It made the
sand flow perpetually in cascades over the portcullis; and the cloaks
and hair of the Barbarians were being covered with it as though the
earth were rising upon them and desirous of burying them. Nothing
stirred; the eternal mountain seemed still higher to them every
Sometimes flights of birds darted past beneath the blue sky in the
freedom of the air. The men closed their eyes that they might not see
At first they felt a buzzing in their ears, their nails grew black,
the cold reached to their breasts; they lay upon their sides and
expired without a cry.
On the nineteenth day two thousand Asiatics were dead, with fifteen
hundred from the Archipelago, eight thousand from Libya, the youngest
of the Mercenaries and whole tribes--in all twenty thousand soldiers,
or half of the army.
Autaritus, who had only fifty Gauls left, was going to kill himself in
order to put an end to this state of things, when he thought he saw a
man on the top of the mountain in front of him.
Owing to his elevation this man did not appear taller than a dwarf.
However, Autaritus recognised a shield shaped like a trefoil on his
left arm. "A Carthaginian!" he exclaimed, and immediately throughout
the plain, before the portcullis and beneath the rocks, all rose. The
soldier was walking along the edge of the precipice; the Barbarians
gazed at him from below.
Spendius picked up the head of an ox; then having formed a diadem with
two belts, he fixed it on the horns at the end of a pole in token of
pacific intentions. The Carthaginian disappeared. They waited.
At last in the evening a sword-belt suddenly fell from above like a
stone loosened from the cliff. It was made of red leather covered with
embroidery, with three diamond stars, and stamped in the centre, it
bore the mark of the Great Council: a horse beneath a palm-tree. This
was Hamilcar's reply, the safe-conduct that he sent them.
They had nothing to fear; any change of fortune brought with it the
end of their woes. They were moved with extravagant joy, they embraced
one another, they wept. Spendius, Autaritus, and Zarxas, four
Italiotes, a Negro and two Spartans offered themselves as envoys. They
were immediately accepted. They did not know, however, by what means
they should get away.
But a cracking sounded in the direction of the rocks; and the most
elevated of them, after rocking to and fro, rebounded to the bottom.
In fact, if they were immovable on the side of the Barbarians--for it
would have been necessary to urge them up an incline plane, and they
were, moreover, heaped together owing to the narrowness of the gorge--
on the others, on the contrary, it was sufficient to drive against
them with violence to make them descend. The Carthaginians pushed
them, and at daybreak they projected into the plain like the steps of
an immense ruined staircase.
The Barbarians were still unable to climb them. Ladders were held out
for their assistance; all rushed upon them. The discharge of a
catapult drove the crowd back; only the Ten were taken away.
They walked amid the Clinabarians, leaning their hands on the horses'
croups for support.
Now that their first joy was over they began to harbour anxieties.
Hamilcar's demands would be cruel. But Spendius reassured them.
"I will speak!" And he boasted that he knew excellent things to say
for the safety of the army.
Behind all the bushes they met with ambushed sentries, who prostrated
themselves before the sword-belt which Spendius had placed over his
When they reached the Punic camp the crowd flocked around them, and
they thought that they could hear whisperings and laughter. The door
of a tent opened.
Hamilcar was at the very back of it seated on a stool beside a table
on which there shone a naked sword. He was surrounded by captains, who
He started back on perceiving these men, and then bent over to examine
Their pupils were strangely dilated, and there was a great black
circle round their eyes, which extended to the lower parts of their
ears; their bluish noses stood out between their hollow cheeks, which
were chinked with deep wrinkles; the skin of their bodies was too
large for their muscles, and was hidden beneath a slate-coloured dust;
their lips were glued to their yellow teeth; they exhaled an
infectious odour; they might have been taken for half-opened tombs,
for living sepulchres.
In the centre of the tent, on a mat on which the captains were about
to sit down, there was a dish of smoking gourds. The Barbarians
fastened their eyes upon it with a shivering in all their limbs, and
tears came to their eyelids; nevertheless they restrained themselves.
Hamilcar turned away to speak to some one. Then they all flung
themselves upon it, flat on the ground. Their faces were soaked in the
fat, and the noise of their deglutition was mingled with the sobs of
joy which they uttered. Through astonishment, doubtless, rather than
pity, they were allowed to finish the mess. Then when they had risen
Hamilcar with a sign commanded the man who bore the sword-belt to
speak. Spendius was afraid; he stammered.
Hamilcar, while listening to him, kept turning round on his finger a
big gold ring, the same which had stamped the seal of Carthage upon
the sword-belt. He let it fall to the ground; Spendius immediately
picked it up; his servile habits came back to him in the presence of
his master. The others quivered with indignation at such baseness.
But the Greek raised his voice and spoke for a long time in rapid,
insidious, and even violent fashion, setting forth the crimes of
Hanno, whom he knew to be Barca's enemy, and striving to move
Hamilcar's pity by the details of their miseries and the recollection
of their devotion; in the end he became forgetful of himself, being
carried away by the warmth of his temper.
Hamilcar replied that he accepted their excuses. Peace, then, was
about to be concluded, and now it would be a definitive one! But he
required that ten Mercenaries, chosen by himself, should be delivered
up to him without weapons or tunics.
They had not expected such clemency; Spendius exclaimed: "Ah! twenty
if you wish, master!"
"No! ten will suffice," replied Hamilcar quietly.
They were sent out of the tent to deliberate. As soon as they were
alone, Autaritus protested against the sacrifice of their companions,
and Zarxas said to Spendius:
"Why did you not kill him? his sword was there beside you!"
"Him!" said Spendius. "Him! him!" he repeated several times, as though
the thing had been impossible, and Hamilcar were an immortal.
They were so overwhelmed with weariness that they stretched themselves
on their backs on the ground, not knowing at what resolution to
Spendius urged them to yield. At last they consented, and went in
Then the Suffet put his hand into the hands of the ten Barbarians in
turn, and pressed their thumbs; then he rubbed it on his garment, for
their viscous skin gave a rude, soft impression to the touch, a greasy
tingling which induced horripilation. Afterwards he said to them:
"You are really all the chiefs of the Barbarians, and you have sworn
"Yes!" they replied.
"Without constraint, from the bottom of your souls, with the intention
of fulfilling your promises?"
They assured him that they were returning to the rest in order to
"Well!" rejoined the Suffet, "in accordance with the convention
concluded between myself, Barca, and the ambassadors of the
Mercenaries, it is you whom I choose and shall keep!"
Spendius fell swooning upon the mat. The Barbarians, as though
abandoning him, pressed close together; and there was not a word, not
Their companions, who were waiting for them, not seeing them return,
believed themselves betrayed. The envoys had no doubt given themselves
up to the Suffet.
They waited for two days longer; then on the morning of the third,
their resolution was taken. With ropes, picks, and arrows, arranged
like rungs between strips of canvas, they succeeded in scaling the
rocks; and leaving the weakest, about three thousand in number, behind
them, they began their march to rejoin the army at Tunis.
Above the gorge there stretched a meadow thinly sown with shrubs; the
Barbarians devoured the buds. Afterwards they found a field of beans;
and everything disappeared as though a cloud of grasshoppers had
passed that way. Three hours later they reached a second plateau
bordered by a belt of green hills.
Among the undulations of these hillocks, silvery sheaves shone at
intervals from one another; the Barbarians, who were dazzled by the
sun, could perceive confusedly below great black masses supporting
them; these rose, as though they were expanding. They were lances in
towers on elephants terribly armed.
Besides the spears on their breasts, the bodkin tusks, the brass
plates which covered their sides, and the daggers fastened to their
knee-caps, they had at the extremity of their tusks a leathern
bracelet, in which the handle of a broad cutlass was inserted; they
had set out simultaneously from the back part of the plain, and were
advancing on both sides in parallel lines.
The Barbarians were frozen with a nameless terror. They did not even
try to flee. They already found themselves surrounded.
The elephants entered into this mass of men; and the spurs on their
breasts divided it, the lances on their tusks upturned it like
ploughshares; they cut, hewed, and hacked with the scythes on their
trunks; the towers, which were full of phalaricas, looked like
volcanoes on the march; nothing could be distinguished but a large
heap, whereon human flesh, pieces of brass and blood made white spots,
grey sheets and red fuses. The horrible animals dug out black furrows
as they passed through the midst of it all.
The fiercest was driven by a Numidian who was crowned with a diadem of
plumes. He hurled javelins with frightful quickness, giving at
intervals a long shrill whistle. The great beasts, docile as dogs,
kept an eye on him during the carnage.
The circle of them narrowed by degrees; the weakened Barbarians
offered no resistance; the elephants were soon in the centre of the
plain. They lacked space; they thronged half-rearing together, and
their tusks clashed against one another. Suddenly Narr' Havas quieted
them, and wheeling round they trotted back to the hills.
Two syntagmata, however, had taken refuge on the right in a bend of
ground, had thrown away their arms, and were all kneeling with their
faces towards the Punic tents imploring mercy with uplifted arms.
Their legs and hands were tied; then when they were stretched on the
ground beside one another the elephants were brought back.
Their breasts cracked like boxes being forced; two were crushed at
every step; the big feet sank into the bodies with a motion of the
haunches which made the elephants appear lame. They went on to the
The level surface of the plain again became motionless. Night fell.
Hamilcar was delighting himself with the spectacle of his vengeance,
but suddenly he started.
He saw, and all saw, some more Barbarians six hundred paces to the
left on the summit of a peak! In fact four hundred of the stoutest
Mercenaries, Etruscans, Libyans, and Spartans had gained the heights
at the beginning, and had remained there in uncertainty until now.
After the massacre of their companions they resolved to make their way
through the Carthaginians; they were already descending in serried
columns, in a marvellous and formidable fashion.
A herald was immediately despatched to them. The Suffet needed
soldiers; he received them unconditionally, so greatly did he admire
their bravery. They could even, said the man of Carthage, come a
little nearer, to a place, which he pointed out to them, where they
would find provisions.
The Barbarians ran thither and spent the night in eating. Then the
Carthaginians broke into clamours against the Suffet's partiality for
Did he yield to these outbursts of insatiable hatred or was it a
refinement of treachery? The next day he came himself, without a sword
and bare-headed, with an escort of Clinabarians, and announced to them
that having too many to feed he did not intend to keep them.
Nevertheless, as he wanted men and he knew of no means of selecting
the good ones, they were to fight together to the death; he would then
admit the conquerors into his own body-guard. This death was quite as
good as another;--and then moving his soldiers aside (for the Punic
standards hid the horizon from the Mercenaries) he showed them the one
hundred and ninety-two elephants under Narr' Havas, forming a single
straight line, their trunks brandishing broad steel blades like giant
arms holding axes above their heads.
The Barbarians looked at one another silently. It was not death that
made them turn pale, but the horrible compulsion to which they found
The community of their lives had brought about profound friendship
among these men. The camp, with most, took the place of their country;
living without a family they transferred the needful tenderness to a
companion, and they would fall asleep in the starlight side by side
under the same cloak. And then in their perpetual wanderings through
all sorts of countries, murders, and adventures, they had contracted
affections, one for the other, in which the stronger protected the
younger in the midst of battles, helped him to cross precipices,
sponged the sweat of fevers from his brow, and stole food for him, and
the weaker, a child perhaps, who had been picked up on the roadside,
and had then become a Mercenary, repaid this devotion by a thousand
They exchanged their necklaces and earrings, presents which they had
made to one another in former days, after great peril, or in hours of
intoxication. All asked to die, and none would strike. A young fellow
might be seen here and there, saying to another whose beard was grey:
"No! no! you are more robust! you will avenge us, kill me!" and the
man would reply: "I have fewer years to live! Strike to the heart, and
think no more about it!" Brothers gazed on one another with clasped
hands, and friend bade friend eternal farewells, standing and weeping
upon his shoulder.
They threw off their cuirasses that the sword-points might be thrust
in the more quickly. Then there appeared the marks of the great blows
which they had received for Carthage, and which looked like
inscriptions on columns.
They placed themselves in four equal ranks, after the fashion of
gladiators, and began with timid engagements. Some had even bandaged
their eyes, and their swords waved gently through the air like blind
men's sticks. The Carthaginians hooted, and shouted to them that they
were cowards. The Barbarians became animated, and soon the combat as
general, headlong, and terrible.
Sometimes two men all covered with blood would stop, fall into each
other's arms, and die with mutual kisses. None drew back. They rushed
upon the extended blades. Their delirium was so frenzied that the
Carthaginians in the distance were afraid.
At last they stopped. Their breasts made a great hoarse noise, and
their eyeballs could be seen through their long hair, which hung down
as though it had come out of a purple bath. Several were turning round
rapidly, like panthers wounded in the forehead. Others stood
motionless looking at a corpse at their feet; then they would suddenly
tear their faces with their nails, take their swords with both hands,
and plunge them into their own bodies.
There were still sixty left. They asked for drink. They were told by
shouts to throw away their swords, and when they had done so water was
brought to them.
While they were drinking, with their faces buried in the vases, sixty
Carthaginians leaped upon them and killed them with stiletos in the
Hamilcar had done this to gratify the instincts of his army, and, by
means of this treachery, to attach it to his own person.
The war, then, was ended; at least he believed that it was; Matho
would not resist; in his impatience the Suffet commanded an immediate
His scouts came to tell him that a convoy had been descried, departing
towards the Lead Mountain. Hamilcar did not trouble himself about it.
The Mercenaries once annihilated, the Nomads would give him no further
trouble. The important matter was to take Tunis. He advanced by forced
marches upon it.
He had sent Narr' Havas to Carthage with the news of his victory; and
the King of the Numidians, proud of his success, visited Salammbo.
She received him in her gardens under a large sycamore tree, amid
pillows of yellow leather, and with Taanach beside her. Her face was
covered with a white scarf, which, passing over her mouth and
forehead, allowed only her eyes to be seen; but her lips shone in the
transparency of the tissue like the gems on her fingers, for Salammbo
had both her hands wrapped up, and did not make a gesture during the
Narr' Havas announced the defeat of the Barbarians to her. She thanked
him with a blessing for the services which he had rendered to her
father. Then he began to tell her about the whole campaign.
The doves on the palm trees around them cooed softly, and other birds
fluttered amid the grass: ring-necked glareolas, Tartessus quails and
Punic guinea-fowl. The garden, long uncultivated, had multiplied its
verdure; coloquintidas mounted into the branches of cassias, the
asclepias was scattered over fields of roses, all kinds of vegetation
formed entwinings and bowers; and here and there, as in the woods,
sun-rays, descending obliquely, marked the shadow of a leaf upon the
ground. Domestic animals, grown wild again, fled at the slightest
noise. Sometimes a gazelle might be seen trailing scattered peacocks'
feathers after its little black hoofs. The clamours of the distant
town were lost in the murmuring of the waves. The sky was quite blue,
and not a sail was visible on the sea.
Narr' Havas had ceased speaking; Salammbo was looking at him without
replying. He wore a linen robe with flowers painted on it, and with
gold fringes at the hem; two silver arrows fastened his plaited hair
at the tips of his ears; his right hand rested on a pike-staff adorned
with circles of electrum and tufts of hair.
As she watched him a crowd of dim thoughts absorbed her. This young
man, with his gentle voice and feminine figure, captivated her eyes by
the grace of his person, and seemed to her like an elder sister sent
by the Baals to protect her. The recollection of Matho came upon her,
nor did she resist the desire to learn what had become of him.
Narr' Havas replied that the Carthaginians were advancing towards
Tunis to take it. In proportion as he set forth their chances of
success and Matho's weaknesses, she seemed to rejoice in extraordinary
hope. Her lips trembled, her breast panted. When he finally promised
to kill him himself, she exclaimed: "Yes! kill him! It must be so!"
The Numidian replied that he desired this death ardently, since he
would be her husband when the war was over.
Salammbo started, and bent her head.
But Narr' Havas, pursuing the subject, compared his longings to
flowers languishing for rain, or to lost travellers waiting for the
day. He told her, further, that she was more beautiful than the moon,
better than the wind of morning or than the face of a guest. He would
bring for her from the country of the Blacks things such as there were
none in Carthage, and the apartments in their house should be sanded
with gold dust.
Evening fell, and odours of balsam were exhaled. For a long time they
looked at each other in silence, and Salammbo's eyes, in the depths of
her long draperies, resembled two stars in the rift of a cloud. Before
the sun set he withdrew.
The Ancients felt themselves relieved of a great anxiety, when he left
Carthage. The people had received him with even more enthusiastic
acclamations than on the first occasion. If Hamilcar and the King of
the Numidians triumphed alone over the Mercenaries it would be
impossible to resist them. To weaken Barca they therefore resolved to
make the aged Hanno, him whom they loved, a sharer in the deliverance
He proceeded immediately towards the western provinces, to take his
vengeance in the very places which had witnessed his shame. But the
inhabitants and the Barbarians were dead, hidden, or fled. Then his
anger was vented upon the country. He burnt the ruins of the ruins, he
did not leave a single tree nor a blade of grass; the children and the
infirm, that were met with, were tortured; he gave the women to his
soldiers to be violated before they were slaughtered.
Often, on the crests of the hills, black tents were struck as though
overturned by the wind, and broad, brilliantly bordered discs, which
were recognised as being chariot-wheels, revolved with a plaintive
sound as they gradually disappeared in the valleys. The tribes, which
had abandoned the siege of Carthage, were wandering in this way
through the provinces, waiting for an opportunity, or for some victory
to be gained by the Mercenaries, in order to return. But, whether from
terror or famine, they all took the roads to their native lands, and
Hamilcar was not jealous of Hanno's successes. Nevertheless he was in
a hurry to end matters; he commanded him to fall back upon Tunis; and
Hanno, who loved his country, was under the walls of the town on the
For its protection it had its aboriginal population, twelve thousand
Mercenaries, and, in addition, all the Eaters of Uncleanness, for like
Matho they were riveted to the horizon of Carthage, and plebs and
schalischim gazed at its lofty walls from afar, looking back in
thought to boundless enjoyments. With this harmony of hatred,
resistance was briskly organised. Leathern bottles were taken to make
helmets; all the palm-trees in the gardens were cut down for lances;
cisterns were dug; while for provisions they caught on the shores of
the lake big white fish, fed on corpses and filth. Their ramparts,
kept in ruins now by the jealousy of Carthage, were so weak that they
could be thrown down with a push of the shoulder. Matho stopped up the
holes in them with the stones of the houses. It was the last struggle;
he hoped for nothing, and yet he told himself that fortune was fickle.
As the Carthaginians approached they noticed a man on the rampart who
towered over the battlements from his belt upwards. The arrows that
flew about him seemed to frighten him no more than a swarm of
swallows. Extraordinary to say, none of them touched him.
Hamilcar pitched his camp on the south side; Narr' Havas, to his
right, occupied the plain of Rhades, and Hanno the shore of the lake;
and the three generals were to maintain their respective positions, so
as all to attack the walls simultaneously.
But Hamilcar wished first to show the Mercenaries that he would punish
them like slaves. He had the ten ambassadors crucified beside one
another on a hillock in front of the town.
At the sight of this the besieged forsook the rampart.
Matho had said to himself that if he could pass between the walls and
Narr' Havas's tents with such rapidity that the Numidians had not time
to come out, he could fall upon the rear of the Carthaginian infantry,
who would be caught between his division and those inside. He dashed
out with his veterans.
Narr' Havas perceived him; he crossed the shore of the lake, and came
to warn Hanno to dispatch men to Hamilcar's assistance. Did he believe
Barca too weak to resist the Mercenaries? Was it a piece of treachery
or folly? No one could ever learn.
Hanno, desiring to humiliate his rival, did not hesitate. He shouted
orders to sound the trumpets, and his whole army rushed upon the
Barbarians. The latter returned, and ran straight against the
Carthaginians; they knocked them down, crushed them under their feet,
and, driving them back in this way, reached the tent of Hanno, who was
then surrounded by thirty Carthaginians, the most illustrious of the
He appeared stupefied by their audacity; he called for his captains.
Every one thrust his fist under his throat, vociferating abuse. The
crowd pressed on; and those who had their hands on him could scarce
retain their hold. However, he tried to whisper to them: "I will gave
you whatever you want! I am rich! Save me!" They dragged him along;
heavy as he was his feet did not touch the ground. The Ancients had
been carried off. His terror increased. "You have beaten me! I am your
captive! I will ransom myself! Listen to me, my friends!" and borne
along by all those shoulders which were pressed against his sides, he
repeated: "What are you going to do? What do you want? You can see
that I am not obstanite! I have always been good-natured!"
A gigantic cross stood at the gate. The Barbarians howled: "Here!
here!" But he raised his voice still higher; and in the names of their
gods he called upon them to lead him to the schalischim, because he
wished to confide to him something on which their safety depended.
They paused, some asserting that it was right to summon Matho. He was
Hanno fell upon the grass; and he saw around him other crosses also,
as though the torture by which he was about to perish had been
multiplied beforehand; he made efforts to convince himself that he was
mistaken, that there was only one, and even to believe that there were
none at all. At last he was lifted up.
"Speak!" said Matho.
He offered to give up Hamilcar; then they would enter Carthage and
both be kings.
Matho withdrew, signing to the others to make haste. It was a
stratagem, he thought, to gain time.
The Barbarian was mistaken; Hanno was in an extremity when
consideration is had to nothing, and, moreover, he so execrated
Hamilcar that he would have sacrificed him and all his soldiers on the
slightest hope of safety.
The Ancients were languishing on the ground at the foot of the
crosses; ropes had already been passed beneath their armpits. Then the
old Suffet, understanding that he must die, wept.
They tore off the clothes that were still left on him--and the horror
of his person appeared. Ulcers covered the nameless mass; the fat on
his legs hid the nails on his feet; from his fingers there hung what
looked like greenish strips; and the tears streaming through the
tubercles on his cheeks gave to his face an expression of frightful
sadness, for they seemed to take up more room than on another human
face. His royal fillet, which was half unfastened, trailed with his
white hair in the dust.
They thought that they had no ropes strong enough to haul him up to
the top of the cross, and they nailed him upon it, after the Punic
fashion, before it was erected. But his pride awoke in his pain. He
began to overwhelm them with abuse. He foamed and twisted like a
marine monster being slaughtered on the shore, and predicted that they
would all end more horribly still, and that he would be avenged.
He was. On the other side of the town, whence there now escaped jets
of flame with columns of smoke, the ambassadors from the Mercenaries
were in their last throes.
Some who had swooned at first had just revived in the freshness of the
wind; but their chins still rested upon their breasts, and their
bodies had fallen somewhat, in spite of the nails in their arms, which
were fastened higher than their heads; from their heels and hands
blood fell in big, slow drops, as ripe fruit falls from the branches
of a tree,--and Carthage, gulf, mountains, and plains all appeared to
them to be revolving like an immense wheel; sometimes a cloud of dust,
rising from the ground, enveloped them in its eddies; they burned with
horrible thirst, their tongues curled in their mouths, and they felt
an icy sweat flowing over them with their departing souls.
Nevertheless they had glimpses, at an infinite depth, of streets,
marching soldiers, and the swinging of swords; and the tumult of
battle reached them dimly like the noise of the sea to shipwrecked men
dying on the masts of a ship. The Italiotes, who were sturdier than
the rest, were still shrieking. The Lacedaemonians were silent, with
eyelids closed; Zarxas, once so vigorous, was bending like a broken
reed; the Ethiopian beside him had his head thrown back over the arms
of the cross; Autaritus was motionless, rolling his eyes; his great
head of hair, caught in a cleft in the wood, fell straight upon his
forehead, and his death-rattle seemed rather to be a roar of anger. As
to Spendius, a strange courage had come to him; he despised life now
in the certainty which he possessed of an almost immediate and an
eternal emancipation, and he awaited death with impassibility.
Amid their swooning, they sometimes started at the brushing of
feathers passing across their lips. Large wings swung shadows around
them, croakings sounded in the air; and as Spendius's cross was the
highest, it was upon his that the first vulture alighted. Then he
turned his face towards Autaritus, and said slowly to him with an
"Do you remember the lions on the road to Sicca?"
"They were our brothers!" replied the Gaul, as he expired.
The Suffet, meanwhile, had bored through the walls and reached the
citadel. The smoke suddenly disappeared before a gust of wind,
discovering the horizon as far as the walls of Carthage; he even
thought that he could distinguish people watching on the platform of
Eschmoun; then, bringing back his eyes, he perceived thirty crosses of
extravagant size on the shore of the Lake, to the left.
In fact, to render them still more frightful, they had been
constructed with tent-poles fastened end to end, and the thirty
corpses of the Ancients appeared high up in the sky. They had what
looked like white butterflies on their breasts; these were the
feathers of the arrows which had been shot at them from below.
A broad gold ribbon shone on the summit of the highest; it hung down
to the shoulder, there being no arm on that side, and Hamilcar had
some difficulty in recognising Hanno. His spongy bones had given way
under the iron pins, portions of his limbs had come off, and nothing
was left on the cross but shapeless remains, like the fragments of
animals that are hung up on huntsmen's doors.
The Suffet could not have known anything about it; the town in front
of him masked everything that was beyond and behind; and the captains
who had been successively sent to the two generals had not re-
appeared. Then fugitives arrived with the tale of the rout, and the
Punic army halted. This catastrophe, falling upon them as it did in
the midst of their victory, stupefied them. Hamilcar's orders were no
longer listened to.
Matho took advantage of this to continue his ravages among the
Hanno's camp having been overthrown, he had returned against them. The
elephants came out; but the Mercenaries advanced through the plain
shaking about flaming firebrands, which they had plucked from the
walls, and the great beasts, in fright, ran headlong into the gulf,
where they killed one another in their struggles, or were drowned
beneath the weight of their cuirasses. Narr' Havas had already
launched his cavalry; all threw themselves face downwards upon the
ground; then, when the horses were within three paces of them, they
sprang beneath their bellies, ripped them open with dagger-strokes,
and half the Numidians had perished when Barca came up.
The exhausted Mercenaries could not withstand his troops. They retired
in good order to the mountain of the Hot Springs. The Suffet was
prudent enough not to pursue them. He directed his course to the
mouths of the Macaras.
Tunis was his; but it was now nothing but a heap of smoking rubbish.
The ruins fell through the breaches in the walls to the centre of the
plain; quite in the background, between the shores of the gulf, the
corpses of the elephants drifting before the wind conflicted, like an
archipelago of black rocks floating on the water.
Narr' Havas had drained his forests of these animals, taking young and
old, male and female, to keep up the war, and the military force of
his kingdom could not repair the loss. The people who had seen them
perishing at a distance were grieved at it; men lamented in the
streets, calling them by their names like deceased friends: "Ah! the
Invincible! the Victory! the Thunderer! the Swallow!" On the first
day, too, there was no talk except of the dead citizens. But on the
morrow the tents of the Mercenaries were seen on the mountain of the
Hot Springs. Then so deep was the despair that many people, especially
women, flung themselves headlong from the top of the Acropolis.
Hamilcar's designs were not known. He lived alone in his tent with
none near him but a young boy, and no one ever ate with them, not even
excepting Narr' Havas. Nevertheless he showed great deference to the
latter after Hanno's defeat; but the king of the Numidians had too
great an interest in becoming his son not to distrust him.
This inertness veiled skilful manoeuvres. Hamilcar seduced the heads
of the villages by all sorts of artifices; and the Mercenaries were
hunted, repulsed, and enclosed like wild beasts. As soon as they
entered a wood, the trees caught fire around them; when they drank of
a spring it was poisoned; the caves in which they hid in order to
sleep were walled up. Their old accomplices, the populations who had
hitherto defended them, now pursued them; and they continually
recognised Carthaginian armour in these bands.
Many had their faces consumed with red tetters; this, they thought,
had come to them through touching Hanno. Others imagined that it was
because they had eaten Salammbo's fishes, and far from repenting of
it, they dreamed of even more abominable sacrileges, so that the
abasement of the Punic Gods might be still greater. They would fain
have exterminated them.
In this way they lingered for three months along the eastern coast,
and then behind the mountain of Selloum, and as far as the first sands
of the desert. They sought for a place of refuge, no matter where.
Utica and Hippo-Zarytus alone had not betrayed them; but Hamilcar was
encompassing these two towns. Then they went northwards at haphazard
without even knowing the various routes. Their many miseries had
confused their understandings.
The only feeling left them was one of exasperation, which went on
developing; and one day they found themselves again in the gorges of
Cobus and once more before Carthage!
Then the actions multiplied. Fortune remained equal; but both sides
were so wearied that they would willingly have exchanged these
skirmishes for a great battle, provided that it were really the last.
Matho was inclined to carry this proposal himself to the Suffet. One
of his Libyans devoted himself for the purpose. All were convinced as
they saw him depart that he would not return.
He returned the same evening.
Hamilcar accepted the challenge. The encounter should take place the
following day at sunrise, in the plain of Rhades.
The Mercenaries wished to know whether he had said anything more, and
the Libyan added:
"As I remained in his presence, he asked me what I was waiting for.
'To be killed!' I replied. Then he rejoined: 'No! begone! that will be
to-morrow with the rest.'"
This generosity astonished the Barbarians; some were terrified by it,
and Matho regretted that the emissary had not been killed.
He had still remaining three thousand Africans, twelve hundred Greeks,
fifteen hundred Campanians, two hundred Iberians, four hundred
Etruscans, five hundred Samnites, forty Gauls, and a troop of Naffurs,
nomad bandits met with in the date region--in all seven thousand two
hundred and nineteen soldiers, but not one complete syntagmata. They
had stopped up the holes in their cuirasses with the shoulder-blades
of quadrupeds, and replaced their brass cothurni with worn sandals.
Their garments were weighted with copper or steel plates; their coats
of mail hung in tatters about them, and scars appeared like purple
threads through the hair on their arms and faces.
The wraiths of their dead companions came back to their souls and
increased their energy; they felt, in a confused way, that they were
the ministers of a god diffused in the hearts of the oppressed, and
were the pontiffs, so to speak, of universal vengeance! Then they were
enraged with grief at what was extravagant injustice, and above all by
the sight of Carthage on the horizon. They swore an oath to fight for
one another until death.
The beasts of burden were killed, and as much as possible was eaten so
as to gain strength; afterwards they slept. Some prayed, turning
towards different constellations.
The Carthaginians arrived first in the plain. They rubbed the edges of
their shields with oil to make the arrows glide off them easily; the
foot-soldiers who wore long hair took the precaution of cutting it on
the forehead; and Hamilcar ordered all bowls to be inverted from the
fifth hour, knowing that it is disadvantageous to fight with the
stomach too full. His army amounted to fourteen thousand men, or about
double the number of the Barbarians. Nevertheless, he had never felt
such anxiety; if he succumbed it would mean the annihilation of the
Republic, and he would perish on the cross; if, on the contrary, he
triumphed, he would reach Italy by way of the Pyrenees, the Gauls, and
the Alps, and the empire of the Barcas would become eternal. Twenty
times during the night he rose to inspect everything himself, down to
the most trifling details. As to the Carthaginians, they were
exasperated by their lengthened terror. Narr' Havas suspected the
fidelity of his Numidians. Moreover, the Barbarians might vanquish
them. A strange weakness had come upon him; every moment he drank
large cups of water.
But a man whom he did not know opened his tent and laid on the ground
a crown of rock-salt, adorned with hieratic designs formed with
sulphur, and lozenges of mother-of-pearl; a marriage crown was
sometimes sent to a betrothed husband; it was a proof of love, a sort
Nevertheless Hamilcar's daughter had no tenderness for Narr' Havas.
The recollection of Matho disturbed her in an intolerable manner; it
seemed to her that the death of this man would unburden her thoughts,
just as people to cure themselves of the bite of a viper crush it upon
the wound. The king of the Numidians was depending upon her; he
awaited the wedding with impatience, and, as it was to follow the
victory, Salammbo made him this present to stimulate his courage. Then
his distress vanished, and he thought only of the happiness of
possessing so beautiful a woman.
The same vision had assailed Matho; but he cast it from him
immediately, and his love, that he thus thrust back, was poured out
upon his companions in arms. He cherished them like portions of his
own person, of his hatred,--and he felt his spirit higher, and his
arms stronger; everything that he was to accomplish appeared clearly
before him. If sighs sometimes escaped him, it was because he was
thinking of Spendius.
He drew up the Barbarians in six equal ranks. He posted the Etruscans
in the centre, all being fastened to a bronze chain; the archers were
behind, and on the wings he distributed the Naffurs, who were mounted
on short-haired camels, covered with ostrich feathers.
The Suffet arranged the Carthaginians in similar order. He placed the
Clinabarians outside the infantry next to the velites, and the
Numidians beyond; when day appeared, both sides were thus in line face
to face. All gazed at each other from a distance, with round fierce
eyes. There was at first some hesitation; at last both armies moved.
The Barbarians advanced slowly so as not to become out of breath,
beating the ground with their feet; the centre of the Punic army
formed a convex curve. Then came the burst of a terrible shock, like
the crash of two fleets in collision. The first rank of the Barbarians
had quickly opened up, and the marksmen, hidden behind the others,
discharged their bullets, arrows, and javelins. The curve of the
Carthaginians, however, flattened by degrees, became quite straight,
and then bent inwards; upon this, the two sections of the velites drew
together in parallel lines, like the legs of a compass that is being
closed. The Barbarians, who were attacking the phalanx with fury,
entered the gap; they were being lost; Matho checked them,--and while
the Carthaginian wings continued to advance, he drew out the three
inner ranks of his line; they soon covered his flanks, and his army
appeared in triple array.
But the Barbarians placed at the extremities were the weakest,
especially those on the left, who had exhausted their quivers, and the
troop of velites, which had at last come up against them, was cutting
them up greatly.
Matho made them fall back. His right comprised Campanians, who were
armed with axes; he hurled them against the Carthaginian left; the
centre attacked the enemy, and those at the other extremity, who were
out of peril, kept the velites at a distance.
Then Hamilcar divided his horsemen into squadrons, placed hoplites
between them, and sent them against the Mercenaries.
Those cone-shaped masses presented a front of horses, and their
broader sides were filled and bristling with lances. The Barbarians
found it impossible to resist; the Greek foot-soldiers alone had
brazen armour, all the rest had cutlasses on the end of poles, scythes
taken from the farms, or swords manufactured out of the fellies of
wheels; the soft blades were twisted by a blow, and while they were
engaged in straightening them under their heels, the Carthaginians
massacred them right and left at their ease.
But the Etruscans, riveted to their chain, did not stir; those who
were dead, being prevented from falling, formed an obstruction with
their corpses; and the great bronze line widened and contracted in
turn, as supple as a serpent, and as impregnable as a wall. The
Barbarians would come to re-form behind it, pant for a minute, and
then set off again with the fragments of their weapons in their hands.
Many already had none left, and they leaped upon the Carthaginians,
biting their faces like dogs. The Gauls in their pride stripped
themselves of the sagum; they showed their great white bodies from a
distance, and they enlarged their wounds to terrify the enemy. The
voice of the crier announcing the orders could no longer be heard in
the midst of the Punic syntagmata; their signals were being repeated
by the standards, which were raised above the dust, and every one was
swept away in the swaying of the great mass that surrounded him.
Hamilcar commanded the Numidians to advance. But the Naffurs rushed to
Clad in vast black robes, with a tuft of hair on the top of the skull,
and a shield of rhinoceros leather, they wielded a steel which had no
handle, and which they held by a rope; and their camels, which
bristled all over with feathers, uttered long, hoarse cluckings. Each
blade fell on a precise spot, then rose again with a smart stroke
carrying off a limb with it. The fierce beasts galloped through the
syntagmata. Some, whose legs were broken, went hopping along like
The Punic infantry turned in a body upon the Barbarians, and cut them
off. Their maniples wheeled about at intervals from one another. The
more brilliant Carthaginian weapons encircled them like golden crowns;
there was a swarming movement in the centre, and the sun, striking
down upon the points of the swords, made them glitter with white
flickering gleams. However, files of Clinabarians lay stretched upon
the plain; some Mercenaries snatched away their armour, clothed
themselves in it, and then returned to the fray. The deluded
Carthaginians were several times entangled in their midst. They would
stand stupidly motionless, or else would back, surge again, and
triumphant shouts rising in the distance seemed to drive them along
like derelicts in a storm. Hamilcar was growing desperate; all was
about to perish beneath the genius of Matho and the invincible courage
of the Mercenaries.
But a great noise of tabourines burst forth on the horizon. It was a
crowd of old men, sick persons, children of fifteen years of age, and
even women, who, being unable to withstand their distress any longer,
had set out from Carthage, and, for the purpose of placing themselves
under the protection of something formidable, had taken from
Hamilcar's palace the only elephant that the Republic now possessed,--
that one, namely, whose trunk had been cut off.
Then it seemed to the Carthaginians that their country, forsaking its
walls, was coming to command them to die for her. They were seized
with increased fury, and the Numidians carried away all the rest.
The Barbarians had set themselves with their backs to a hillock in the
centre of the plain. They had no chance of conquering, or even of
surviving; but they were the best, the most intrepid, and the
The people from Carthage began to throw spits, larding-pins and
hammers, over the heads of the Numidians; those whom consuls had
feared died beneath sticks hurled by women; the Punic populace was
exterminating the Mercenaries.
The latter had taken refuge on the top of the hill. Their circle
closed up after every fresh breach; twice it descended to be
immediately repulsed with a shock; and the Carthaginians stretched
forth their arms pell-mell, thrusting their pikes between the legs of
their companions, and raking at random before them. They slipped in
the blood; the steep slope of the ground made the corpses roll to the
bottom. The elephant, which was trying to climb the hillock, was up to
its belly; it seemed to be crawling over them with delight; and its
shortened trunk, which was broad at the extremity, rose from time to
time like an enormous leech.
Then all paused. The Carthaginians ground their teeth as they gazed at
the hill, where the Barbarians were standing.
At last they dashed at them abruptly, and the fight began again. The
Mercenaries would often let them approach, shouting to them that they
wished to surrender; then, with frightful sneers, they would kill
themselves at a blow, and as the dead fell, the rest would mount upon
them to defend themselves. It was a kind of pyramid, which grew larger
Soon there were only fifty, then only twenty, only three, and lastly
only two--a Samnite armed with an axe, and Matho who still had his
The Samnite with bent hams swept his axe alternately to the right and
left, at the same time warning Matho of the blows that were being
aimed at him. "Master, this way! that way! stoop down!"
Matho had lost his shoulder-pieces, his helmet, his cuirass; he was
completely naked, and more livid than the dead, with his hair quite
erect, and two patches of foam at the corners of his lips,--and his
sword whirled so rapidly that it formed an aureola around him. A stone
broke it near the guard; the Samnite was killed and the flood of
Carthaginians closed in, they touched Matho. Then he raised both his
empty hands towards heaven, closed his eyes, and, opening out his arms
like a man throwing himself from the summit of a promontory into the
sea, hurled himself among the pikes.
They moved away before him. Several times he ran against the
Carthaginians. But they always drew back and turned their weapons
His foot struck against a sword. Matho tried to seize it. He felt
himself tied by the wrists and knees, and fell.
Narr' Havas had been following him for some time, step by step, with
one of the large nets used for capturing wild beasts, and, taking
advantage of the moment when he stooped down, had involved him in it.
Then he was fastened on the elephants with his four limbs forming a
cross; and all those who were not wounded escorted him, and rushed
with great tumult towards Carthage.
The news of the victory had arrived in some inexplicable way at the
third hour of the night; the clepsydra of Khamon had just completed
the fifth as they reached Malqua; then Matho opened his eyes. There
were so many lights in the houses that the town appeared to be all in
An immense clamour reached him dimly; and lying on his back he looked
at the stars.
Then a door closed and he was wrapped in darkness.
On the morrow, at the same hour, the last of the men left in the Pass
of the Hatchet expired.
On the day that their companions had set out, some Zuaeces who were
returning had tumbled the rocks down, and had fed them for some time.
The Barbarians constantly expected to see Matho appear,--and from
discouragement, from languor, and from the obstinacy of sick men who
object to change their situation, they would not leave the mountain;
at last the provisions were exhausted and the Zuaeces went away. It
was known that they numbered scarcely more than thirteen hundred men,
and there was no need to employ soldiers to put an end to them.
Wild beasts, especially lions, had multiplied during the three years
that the war had lasted. Narr' Havas had held a great battue, and--
after tying goats at intervals--had run upon them and so driven them
towards the Pass of the Hatchet;--and they were now all living in it
when a man arrived who had been sent by the Ancients to find out what
there was left of the Barbarians.
Lions and corpses were lying over the tract of the plain, and the dead
were mingled with clothes and armour. Nearly all had the face or an
arm wanting; some appeared to be still intact; others were completely
dried up, and their helmets were filled with powdery skulls; feet
which had lost their flesh stood out straight from the knemides;
skeletons still wore their cloaks; and bones, cleaned by the sun, made
gleaming spots in the midst of the sand.
The lions were resting with their breasts against the ground and both
paws stretched out, winking their eyelids in the bright daylight,
which was heightened by the reflection from the white rocks. Others
were seated on their hind-quarters and staring before them, or else
were sleeping, rolled into a ball and half hidden by their great
manes; they all looked well fed, tired, and dull. They were as
motionless as the mountain and the dead. Night was falling; the sky
was striped with broad red bands in the west.
In one of the heaps, which in an irregular fashion embossed the plain,
something rose up vaguer than a spectre. Then one of the lions set
himself in motion, his monstrous form cutting a black shadow on the
background of the purple sky, and when he was quite close to the man,
he knocked him down with a single blow of his paw.
Then, stretching himself flat upon him, he slowly drew out the
entrails with the edge of his teeth.
Afterwards he opened his huge jaws, and for some minutes uttered a
lengthened roar which was repeated by the echoes in the mountain, and
was finally lost in the solitude.
Suddenly some small gravel rolled down from above. The rustling of
rapid steps was heard, and in the direction of the portcullis and of
the gorge there appeared pointed muzzles and straight ears, with
gleaming, tawny eyes. These were the jackals coming to eat what was
The Carthaginian, who was leaning over the top of the precipice to
look, went back again.
There were rejoicings at Carthage,--rejoicings deep, universal,
extravagant, frantic; the holes of the ruins had been stopped up, the
statues of the gods had been repainted, the streets were strewn with
myrtle branches, incense smoked at the corners of the crossways, and
the throng on the terraces looked, in their variegated garments, like
heaps of flowers blooming in the air.
The shouts of the water-carriers watering the pavement rose above the
continual screaming of voices; slaves belonging to Hamilcar offered in
his name roasted barley and pieces of raw meat; people accosted one
another, and embraced one another with tears; the Tyrian towns were
taken, the nomads dispersed, and all the Barbarians annihilated. The
Acropolis was hidden beneath coloured velaria; the beaks of the
triremes, drawn up in line outside the mole, shone like a dyke of
diamonds; everywhere there was a sense of the restoration of order,
the beginning of a new existence, and the diffusion of vast happiness:
it was the day of Salammbo's marriage with the King of the Numidians.
On the terrace of the temple of Khamon there were three long tables
laden with gigantic plate, at which the priests, Ancients, and the
rich were to sit, and there was a fourth and higher one for Hamilcar,
Narr' Havas, and Salammbo; for as she had saved her country by the
restoration of the zaimph, the people turned her wedding day into a
national rejoicing, and were waiting in the square below till she
But their impatience was excited by another and more acrid longing:
Matho's death has been promised for the ceremony.
It had been proposed at first to flay him alive, to pour lead into his
entrails, to kill him with hunger; he should be tied to a tree, and an
ape behind him should strike him on the head with a stone; he had
offended Tanith, and the cynocephaluses of Tanith should avenge her.
Others were of opinion that he should be led about on a dromedary
after linen wicks, dipped in oil, had been inserted in his body in
several places;--and they took pleasure in the thought of the large
animal wandering through the streets with this man writhing beneath
the fires like a candelabrum blown about by the wind.
But what citizens should be charged with his torture, and why
disappoint the rest? They would have liked a kind of death in which
the whole town might take part, in which every hand, every weapon,
everything Carthaginian, to the very paving-stones in the streets and
the waves in the gulf, could rend him, and crush him, and annihilate
him. Accordingly the Ancients decided that he should go from his
prison to the square of Khamon without any escort, and with his arms
fastened to his back; it was forbidden to strike him to the heart, in
order that he might live the longer; to put out his eyes, so that he
might see the torture through; to hurl anything against his person, or
to lay more than three fingers upon him at a time.
Although he was not to appear until the end of the day, the people
sometimes fancied that he could be seen, and the crowd would rush
towards the Acropolis, and empty the streets, to return with
lengthened murmurings. Some people had remained standing in the same
place since the day before, and they would call on one another from a
distance and show their nails which they had allowed to grow, the
better to bury them into his flesh. Others walked restlessly up and
down; some were as pale as though they were awaiting their own
Suddenly lofty feather fans rose above the heads, behind the Mappalian
district. It was Salammbo leaving her palace; a sigh of relief found
But the procession was long in coming; it marched with deliberation.
First there filed past the priests of the Pataec Gods, then those of
Eschmoun, of Melkarth, and all the other colleges in succession, with
the same insignia, and in the same order as had been observed at the
time of the sacrifice. The pontiffs of Moloch passed with heads bent,
and the multitude stood aside from them in a kind of remorse. But the
priests of Rabbetna advanced with a proud step, and with lyres in
their hands; the priestesses followed them in transparent robes of
yellow or black, uttering cries like birds and writhing like vipers,
or else whirling round to the sound of flutes to imitate the dance of
the stars, while their light garments wafted puffs of delicate scents
through the streets.
The Kedeschim, with painted eyelids, who symbolised the hermaphrodism
of the Divinity, received applause among these women, and, being
perfumed and dressed like them, they resembled them in spite of their
flat breasts and narrower hips. Moreover, on this day the female
principle dominated and confused all things; a mystic voluptuousness
moved in the heavy air; the torches were already lighted in the depths
of the sacred woods; there was to be a great celebration there during
the night; three vessels had brought courtesans from Sicily, and
others had come from the desert.
As the colleges arrived they ranged themselves in the courts of the
temples, on the outer galleries, and along double staircases which
rose against the walls, and drew together at the top. Files of white
robes appeared between the colonnades, and the architecture was
peopled with human statues, motionless as statues of stone.
Then came the masters of the exchequer, the governors of the
provinces, and all the rich. A great tumult prevailed below. Adjacent
streets were discharging the crowd, hierodules were driving it back
with blows of sticks; and then Salammbo appeared in a litter
surmounted by a purple canopy, and surrounded by the Ancients crowned
with their golden tiaras.
Thereupon an immense shout arose; the cymbals and crotala sounded more
loudly, the tabourines thundered, and the great purple canopy sank
between the two pylons.
It appeared again on the first landing. Salammbo was walking slowly
beneath it; then she crossed the terrace to take her seat behind on a
kind of throne cut out of the carapace of a tortoise. An ivory stool
with three steps was pushed beneath her feet; two Negro children knelt
on the edge of the first step, and sometimes she would rest both arms,
which were laden with rings of excessive weight, upon their heads.
From ankle to hip she was covered with a network of narrow meshes
which were in imitation of fish scales, and shone like mother-of-
pearl; her waist was clasped by a blue zone, which allowed her breasts
to be seen through two crescent-shaped slashings; the nipples were
hidden by carbuncle pendants. She had a headdress made of peacock's
feathers studded with gems; an ample cloak, as white as snow, fell
behind her,--and with her elbows at her sides, her knees pressed
together, and circles of diamonds on the upper part of her arms, she
remained perfectly upright in a hieratic attitude.
Her father and her husband were on two lower seats, Narr' Havas
dressed in a light simar and wearing his crown of rock-salt, from
which there strayed two tresses of hair as twisted as the horns of
Ammon; and Hamilcar in a violet tunic figured with gold vine branches,
and with a battle-sword at his side.
The python of the temple of Eschmoun lay on the ground amid pools of
pink oil in the space enclosed by the tables, and, biting its tail,
described a large black circle. In the middle of the circle there was
a copper pillar bearing a crystal egg; and, as the sun shone upon it,
rays were emitted on every side.
Behind Salammbo stretched the priests of Tanith in linen robes; on her
right the Ancients, in their tiaras, formed a great gold line, and on
the other side the rich with their emerald sceptres a great green
line,--while quite in the background, where the priests of Moloch were
ranged, the cloaks looked like a wall of purple. The other colleges
occupied the lower terraces. The multitude obstructed the streets. It
reached to the house-tops, and extended in long files to the summit of
the Acropolis. Having thus the people at her feet, the firmament above
her head, and around her the immensity of the sea, the gulf, the
mountains, and the distant provinces, Salammbo in her splendour was
blended with Tanith, and seemed the very genius of Carthage, and its
The feast was to last all night, and lamps with several branches were
planted like trees on the painted woollen cloths which covered the low
tables. Large electrum flagons, blue glass amphoras, tortoise-shell
spoons, and small round loaves were crowded between the double row of
pearl-bordered plates; bunches of grapes with their leaves had been
rolled round ivory vine-stocks after the fashion of the thyrsus;
blocks of snow were melting on ebony trays, and lemons, pomegranates,
gourds, and watermelons formed hillocks beneath the lofty silver
plate; boars with open jaws were wallowing in the dust of spices;
hares, covered with their fur, appeared to be bounding amid the
flowers; there were shells filled with forcemeat; the pastry had
symbolic shapes; when the covers of the dishes were removed doves flew
The slaves, meanwhile, with tunics tucked up, were going about on
tiptoe; from time to time a hymn sounded on the lyres, or a choir of
voices rose. The clamour of the people, continuous as the noise of the
sea, floated vaguely around the feast, and seemed to lull it in a
broader harmony; some recalled the banquet of the Mercenaries; they
gave themselves up to dreams of happiness; the sun was beginning to go
down, and the crescent of the moon was already rising in another part
of the sky.
But Salammbo turned her head as though some one had called her; the
people, who were watching her, followed the direction of her eyes.
The door of the dungeon, hewn in the rock at the foot of the temple,
on the summit of the Acropolis, had just opened; and a man was
standing on the threshold of this black hole.
He came forth bent double, with the scared look of fallow deer when
The light dazzled him; he stood motionless awhile. All had recognised
him, and they held their breath.
In their eyes the body of this victim was something peculiarly theirs,
and was adorned with almost religious splendour. They bent forward to
see him, especially the women. They burned to gaze upon him who had
caused the deaths of their children and husbands; and from the bottom
of their souls there sprang up in spite of themselves an infamous
curiosity, a desire to know him completely, a wish mingled with
remorse which turned to increased execration.
At last he advanced; then the stupefaction of surprise disappeared.
Numbers of arms were raised, and he was lost to sight.
The staircase of the Acropolis had sixty steps. He descended them as
though he were rolled down in a torrent from the top of a mountain;
three times he was seen to leap, and then he alighted below on his
His shoulders were bleeding, his breast was panting with great shocks;
and he made such efforts to burst his bonds that his arms, which were
crossed on his naked loins, swelled like pieces of a serpent.
Several streets began in front of him, leading from the spot at which
he found himself. In each of them a triple row of bronze chains
fastened to the navels of the Pataec gods extended in parallel lines
from one end to the other; the crowd was massed against the houses,
and servants, belonging to the Ancients, walked in the middle
One of them drove him forward with a great blow; Matho began to move.
They thrust their arms over the chains shouting out that the road had
been left too wide for him; and he passed along, felt, pricked, and
slashed by all those fingers; when he reached the end of one street
another appeared; several times he flung himself to one side to bite
them; they speedily dispersed, the chains held him back, and the crowd
burst out laughing.
A child rent his ear; a young girl, hiding the point of a spindle in
her sleeve, split his cheek; they tore handfuls of hair from him and
strips of flesh; others smeared his face with sponges steeped in filth
and fastened upon sticks. A stream of blood started from the right
side of his neck, frenzy immediately set in. This last Barbarian was
to them a representative of all the Barbarians, and all the army; they
were taking vengeance on him for their disasters, their terrors, and
their shame. The rage of the mob developed with its gratification; the
curving chains were over-strained, and were on the point of breaking;
the people did not feel the blows of the slaves who struck at them to
drive them back; some clung to the projections of the houses; all the
openings in the walls were stopped up with heads; and they howled at
him the mischief that they could not inflict upon him.
It was atrocious, filthy abuse mingled with ironical encouragements
and imprecations; and, his present tortures not being enough for them,
they foretold to him others that should be still more terrible in
This vast baying filled Carthage with stupid continuity. Frequently a
single syllable--a hoarse, deep, and frantic intonation--would be
repeated for several minutes by the entire people. The walls would
vibrate with it from top to bottom, and both sides of the street would
seem to Matho to be coming against him, and carrying him off the
ground, like two immense arms stifling him in the air.
Nevertheless he remembered that he had experienced something like it
before. The same crowd was on the terraces, there were the same looks
and the same wrath; but then he had walked free, all had then
dispersed, for a god covered him;--and the recollection of this,
gaining precision by degrees, brought a crushing sadness upon him.
Shadows passed before his eyes; the town whirled round in his head,
his blood streamed from a wound in his hip, he felt that he was dying;
his hams bent, and he sank quite gently upon the pavement.
Some one went to the peristyle of the temple of Melkarth, took thence
the bar of a tripod, heated red hot in the coals, and, slipping it
beneath the first chain, pressed it against his wound. The flesh was
seen to smoke; the hootings of the people drowned his voice; he was
Six paces further on, and he fell a third and again a fourth time; but
some new torture always made him rise. They discharged little drops of
boiling oil through tubes at him; they strewed pieces of broken glass
beneath his feet; still he walked on. At the corner of the street of
Satheb he leaned his back against the wall beneath the pent-house of a
shop, and advanced no further.
The slaves of the Council struck him with their whips of hippopotamus
leather, so furiously and long that the fringes of their tunics were
drenched with sweat. Matho appeared insensible; suddenly he started
off and began to run at random, making a noise with his lips like one
shivering with severe cold. He threaded the street of Boudes, and the
street of Soepo, crossed the Green Market, and reached the square of
He now belonged to the priests; the slaves had just dispersed the
crowd, and there was more room. Matho gazed round him and his eyes
At the first step that he had taken she had risen; then, as he
approached, she had involuntarily advanced by degrees to the edge of
the terrace; and soon all external things were blotted out, and she
saw only Matho. Silence fell in her soul,--one of those abysses
wherein the whole world disappears beneath the pressure of a single
thought, a memory, a look. This man who was walking towards her
Excepting his eyes he had no appearance of humanity left; he was a
long, perfectly red shape; his broken bonds hung down his thighs, but
they could not be distinguished from the tendons of his wrists, which
were laid quite bare; his mouth remained wide open; from his eye-
sockets there darted flames which seemed to rise up to his hair;--and
the wretch still walked on!
He reached the foot of the terrace. Salammbo was leaning over the
balustrade; those frightful eyeballs were scanning her, and there rose
within her a consciousness of all that he had suffered for her.
Although he was in his death agony she could see him once more
kneeling in his tent, encircling her waist with his arms, and
stammering out gentle words; she thirsted to feel them and hear them
again; she did not want him to die! At this moment Matho gave a great
start; she was on the point of shrieking aloud. He fell backwards and
did not stir again.
Salammbo was borne back, nearly swooning, to her throne by the priests
who flocked about her. They congratulated her; it was her work. All
clapped their hands and stamped their feet, howling her name.
A man darted upon the corpse. Although he had no beard he had the
cloak of a priest of Moloch on his shoulder, and in his belt that
species of knife which they employed for cutting up the sacred meat,
and which terminated, at the end of the handle, in a golden spatula.
He cleft Matho's breast with a single blow, then snatched out the
heart and laid it upon the spoon; and Schahabarim, uplifting his arm,
offered it to the sun.
The sun sank behind the waves; his rays fell like long arrows upon the
red heart. As the beatings diminished the planet sank into the sea;
and at the last palpitation it disappeared.
Then from the gulf to the lagoon, and from the isthmus to the pharos,
in all the streets, on all the houses, and on all the temples, there
was a single shout; sometimes it paused, to be again renewed; the
buildings shook with it; Carthage was convulsed, as it were, in the
spasm of Titanic joy and boundless hope.
Narr' Havas, drunk with pride, passed his left arm beneath Salammbo's
waist in token of possession; and taking a gold patera in his right
hand, he drank to the Genius of Carthage.
Salammbo rose like her husband, with a cup in her hand, to drink also.
She fell down again with her head lying over the back of the throne,--
pale, stiff, with parted lips,--and her loosened hair hung to the
Thus died Hamilcar's daughter for having touched the mantle of Tanith.
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