CHAPTER XIII. ROME AND CARTHAGE BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND PUNIC WARS (241-218).
Twenty-three years elapsed between the First and Second Punic Wars. The Carthaginians were engaged during the first part of this time in crushing a mutiny of their mercenary troops.
Rome, taking advantage of the position in which her rival was placed, seized upon SARDINIA and CORSICA, and, when Carthage objected, threatened to renew the war, and obliged her to pay more than one million dollars as a fine (237).
The acquisition of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica introduced into the government of Rome a new system; viz. the PROVINCIAL SYSTEM.
Heretofore the two chief magistrates of Rome, the Consuls, had exercised their functions over all the Roman possessions. Now Sicily was made what the Romans called a provincia, or PROVINCE. Sardinia and Corsica formed another province (235).
Over each province was placed a Roman governor, called Proconsul. For this purpose two new Praetors were now elected, making four in all. The power of the governor was absolute; he was commander in chief, chief magistrate, and supreme judge.
The finances of the provinces were intrusted to one or more QUAESTORS. All the inhabitants paid as taxes into the Roman treasury one tenth of their produce, and five per cent of the value of their imports and exports. They were not obliged to furnish troops, as were the dependants of Rome in Italy.
The provincial government was a fruitful source of corruption. As the morals of the Romans degenerated, the provinces were plundered without mercy to enrich the coffers of the avaricious governors.
The Adriatic Sea at this time was overrun by Illyrican pirates, who did much damage. Satisfaction was demanded by Rome of Illyricum, but to no purpose. As a last resort, war was declared, and the sea was cleared of the pirates in 229.
"The results of this Illyrican war did not end here, for it was the means of establishing, for the first time, direct political relations between Rome and the states of Greece, to many of which the suppression of piracy was of as much importance as to Rome herself. Alliances were concluded with CORCÝRA, EPIDAMNUS, and APOLLONIA; and embassies explaining the reasons which had brought Roman troops into Greece were sent to the Aetolians and Achaeans, to Athens and Corinth. The admission of the Romans to the Isthmian Games in 228 formally acknowledged them as the allies of the Greek states."
The Romans now began to look with hungry eyes upon GALLIA CISALPÍNA. The appetite for conquest was well whetted. There had been peace with the Gauls since the battle of Lake Vadimónis in 283. The ager publicus, taken from the Gauls then, was still mostly unoccupied. In 232 the Tribune Gaius Flaminius [Footnote: Gaius Flaminius, by his agrarian laws gained the bitter hatred of the nobility. He was the first Governor of Sicily, and there showed himself to be a man of integrity and honesty, a great contrast to many who succeeded him.] carried an agrarian law, to the effect that this land be given to the veterans and the poorer classes. The law was executed, and colonies planted. To the Gauls this seemed but the first step to the occupation of the whole of their country. They all rose in arms except the Cenománi.
This contest continued for ten years, and in 225 Etruria was invaded by an army of 70,000 men. The plans of the invaders, however, miscarried, and they were hemmed in between two Roman armies near TELAMON in 222, and annihilated. The Gallic king was slain at the hands of the Consul MARCUS CLAUDIUS MARCELLUS. PAGE 61 Rome was now mistress of the whole peninsula of Italy, excepting some tribes in Liguria, who resisted a short time longer.
Three military (Latin) colonies were founded to hold the Gauls in check; PLACENTIA and CREMÓNA in the territory of the Insubres, and MUTINA in that of the Boii. The Via Flaminia, the great northern road, was extended from SPOLETIUM to ARIMINUM. [Footnote: During this period the Comitia Centuriáta was reorganized on the basis of tribes (35) instead of money.]
Meanwhile Carthage was not idle. After subduing the revolt of the mercenaries in 237, she formed the project of obtaining SPAIN as compensation for the loss of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Hamilcar Barca, by energetic measures, established (236-228) a firm foothold in Southern and Southeastern Spain.
At his death, his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, continued his work. Many towns were founded, trade prospered, and agriculture flourished. The discovery of rich silver mines near Carthago Nova was a means of enriching the treasury. After the assassination of Hasdrubal, in 220, the ablest leader was Hannibal, son of Hamilcar. Although a young man of but twenty-eight, he had had a life of varied experience. As a boy he had shown great courage and ability in camp under his father. He was a fine athlete, well educated in the duties of a soldier, and could endure long privation of sleep and food. For the last few years he had been in command of the cavalry, and had distinguished himself for personal bravery, as well as by his talents as a leader.
Hannibal resolved to begin the inevitable struggle with Rome at once. He therefore laid siege to Saguntum, a Spanish town allied to Rome. In eight months the place was compelled to capitulate (219).
When Rome demanded satisfaction of Carthage for this insult, and declared herself ready for war, the Carthaginians accepted the challenge, and the Second Punic War began in 218.