CHAPTER XIX. THE THIRD PUNIC WAR, AND FALL OF CARTHAGE.
Fifty years had passed since Zama. It was a period of great commercial prosperity for Carthage, but her government was weakened by the quarrels of conflicting factions.
MASINISSA, King of Numidia, an ally of the Romans, was a continual source of annoyance to Carthage. He made inroads upon her territory, and, as she was bound by her treaty not to war upon any allies of Rome, her only recourse was to complain to the Senate. In 157 an embassy was sent to inquire into the troubles. MARCUS PORCIUS CATO, the chief of the embassy, was especially alarmed at the prosperity of the city, and from that time never ceased to urge its destruction. The embassy did not reach any decision, but allowed matters to go on as they might. Finally, when some sympathizers with Masinissa were banished from the city, he attacked and defeated the Carthaginians, compelled their army to pass under the yoke, and afterwards treacherously destroyed it (150). Carthage was compelled to give up some of her territory, and pay $5,000,000 indemnity.
After this victory, matters came to a crisis. The city must be disciplined for warring with an ally of Rome. Cato never failed to close any speech he might make in the Senate with the same cruel words, Delenda est Carthago, "Carthage must be destroyed." The people of Carthage were called to account. Desponding and broken- hearted, they sent ambassadors to Rome. The answer given them was obscure. They were requested to make reparation to Rome, and at the same time they were assured that nothing should be undertaken against Carthage herself. But in 149 the Consuls crossed with a large army into Sicily, where the troops were organized, and Carthaginian ambassadors were expected.
When they appeared, the Consuls declared that the Senate did not wish to encroach upon the freedom of the people, but only desired some security; for this purpose it demanded that, within thirty days, three hundred children of the noblest families should be delivered into their hands as hostages. This demand was met. The Romans then coolly crossed over to Africa, and informed the Carthaginians that they were ready to treat with them on any question not previously settled.
When the ambassadors again appeared before the Consuls, they were told that Carthage must deliver over all her arms and artillery; for, they said, as Rome was able to protect her, there was no need of Carthage possessing arms. Hard as was this command, it was obeyed. They were then told that Carthage had indeed shown her good will, but that Rome had no control over the city so long as it was fortified. The preservation of peace, therefore, required that the people should quit the city, give up their navy, and build a new town without walls at a distance of ten miles from the sea. The indignation and fury which this demand excited were intense. The gates were instantly closed, and all the Romans and Italians who happened to be within the city were massacred.
The Romans, who expected to find a defenceless population, imagined that the storming of the place would be an easy matter. But despair had suggested to the Carthaginians means of defence in every direction. All assaults were repelled. Everybody was engaged day and night in the manufacture of arms. Nothing can be more heartrending than this last struggle of despair. Every man and every woman labored to the uttermost for the defence of the city with a furious enthusiasm.
Two years after the siege began, PUBLIUS CORNELIUS SCIPIO AFRICÁNUS, the Younger, was elected Consul while but thirty-seven (under the legal age), for the express purpose of giving him charge of the siege. After two years of desperate fighting and splendid heroism on the part of the defenders, the famished garrison could hold out no longer.
Carthage fell in 146, and the ruins of the city burned for seventeen days. The destruction was complete. A part of her territory was given to Numidia. The rest was made a Roman province, and called AFRICA.
The year 149 saw the death of two men who had been Carthage's most bitter enemies, but who were not allowed to see her downfall, - MASINISSA and CATO, the one aged ninety, the other eighty-five.
Masinissa's (239-149) hostility dates from the time he failed to get the promised hand of Hasdrubal's daughter, Sophonisba, who was given to his rival, Syphax. After the battle of Zama, most of the possessions of Syphax fell to Masinissa, and among them this same Sophonisba, whom he married. Scipio, however, fearing her influence over him, demanded her as a Roman captive, whereupon she took poison. Masinissa was a courageous prince, but a convenient tool for the Romans.
CATO THE ELDER (Major), (234-149,) whose long public career was a constant struggle with the enemies of the state abroad, and with the fashions of his countrymen at home, was a type of the oldRoman character, with a stern sense of duty that forbade his neglecting the interests of state, farm, or household. In 184, in his capacity as Censor, he acted with extreme rigor. He zealously asserted old-fashioned principles, and opposed the growing tendency to luxury. All innovations were in his eyes little less than crimes. He was the author of several works, one of which, a treatise on agriculture, has been preserved.
Cicero's "Cato Major" represents him in his eighty-fourth year discoursing about old age with Africánus the younger, and Laelius, a friend of the latter.