CHAPTER I. THE CONQUESTS OF THE ROMANS.
Between such ambitious and unscrupulous rivals, peace could not long be maintained. To the eye of the philosopher the ascendency of Carthage or of Rome over the countries which border on the Mediterranean was clearly seen. Which were better? Shall the world be governed by a martial, law- making, law-loving, heroic commonwealth, not yet seduced and corrupted by luxury and wealth, or by a commercial, luxurious, selfish nation of merchants, whose only desire is self-indulgence and folly. Providence sides with Rome - although Rome cannot be commended, and is ruled by ambitious and unscrupulous chieftains whose delight is power. If there is to be one great empire more, before Christianity is proclaimed, which shall absorb all other empires, now degenerate and corrupt, let that be given to a people who know how to civilize after they have conquered. Let the sword rather than gold rule the world - enlightened statesmen rather than self-indulgent merchants. So Carthage falls, after three memorable struggles, extending over more than a century, during which she produced the greatest general of antiquity, next to Caesar and Alexander. But not even Hannibal could restore the fortunes of his country, after having inflicted a bitter humiliation on his enemies. That city of merchants, like Tyre and Sidon, must drink of the cup of divine chastisement. Another type of civilization than that furnished by a "mistress of the sea," was needed for Europe, and another rule for Asia and Africa. The Carthaginians taught the Romans, in their contest, how to build ships of war and fight naval battles. As many as three hundred thousand men were engaged in that memorable sea-fight of Ecnomus which opened to Regulus the way to Africa. Three times did the Romans lose their fleets by tempests, and yet they persevered in building new ones. The fortitude of the Romans, in view of the brilliant successes of Hannibal, can never be sufficiently admired. The defeat at Cannae was a catastrophe, but the troops of Fabius, to whom was left the defense of the city, were not discouraged, and with Scipio - religious, self-reliant, and lofty - the tide of victory turned. By the first Punic war, which lasted twenty-two years, Rome gained Sicily; by the second, which opened twenty-three years after the first, and lasted seventeen years, she gained Sardinia, a foothold in Spain and Gaul, and a preponderance throughout the western regions of Europe and Africa; by the third, which occurred fifty years after the second, and continued but four years, she gained all the provinces of Africa ruled by Carthage, and a great part of Spain. Nothing was allowed to remain of the African capital. The departing troops left behind complete desolation. The captives were sold as slaves, or put to death, and enough of spoil rewarded the victors to adorn a triumph only surpassed by that of Paulus on his return from the conquest of Greece.
[Condition of the Macedonian empire.]
[Principles and passions which led to the conquest of Greece.]
In the mean time, in the interval between the second and third Punic wars, occurred the Macedonian wars, which prepared the way for conquests in the East. The great Macedonian empire was split up into several monarchies among the generals of Alexander and their successors. The Ptolemies reigned in Egypt; the successors of Seleucus in Babylonia; those of Antigonus in Syria and Asia Minor; those of Lysimachus in Thrace; and of Cassander in Macedonia. It was the mission of Rome to subdue these monarchies, or rather her good fortune, for she was destined to conquer the world. The principles which animated these wars cannot be defended on high moral grounds, any more than the conquest of India by England, or of Algeria by France. They were based entirely upon ambition - upon the passion for political aggrandizement. I confess I have no sympathy with them. Roman liberties were not jeopardized, nor were these monarchies dangerous rivals like Carthage. The subjugation of Italy was in accordance with what we now call the Monroe doctrine - to obtain the ascendency on her own soil; and even the conquest or of Sicily was no worse than the conquest of Ireland, or what would be the future absorption of Cuba and Jamaica within the limits of the United States. The Emperor Napoleon would probably justify both the humiliation of Carthage and the conquest of Greece and Asia and Egypt, and others would echo his voice in defense of aggressive domination, on some plea of pretended schemes of colonization, and the progress of civilization. But I do not believe in overturning the immutable laws of moral obligation for any questionable policy of expediency. I look upon the great civil wars of the Romans, which followed these conquests, in which so much blood was shed, and in which Marius and Sulla and Caesar and Pompey exhausted the resources of the state, and made an imperial regime necessary, only as the visitation of God in rebuke of such wicked ambition.
[Greece reaps the penalty of the unscrupulous wars of Alexander.]
[Degeneracy of the Greeks.]
[Spoils of Greece fall into the hands of the Romans.]
[The triumph of Paulus.]
[Grecian provinces added to the empire.]