Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hamilcar - by Cornelius Nepos

Cornelius Nepos wrote brief essays on a number of characters involved in the history of Hannibal, including Hannibal's father Hamilcar Barca.

Hamilcar's success in Sicily; his defence of Eryx, and honourable capitulation, I.----His suppression of the rebellion raised by the Carthaginian mercenaries, II.----He takes his son Hannibal with him into Spain, and his son-in-law Hasdrubal, III.----Is killed in battle in Spain, IV.

I. HAMILCAR the Carthaginian, the son of Hannibal, and surnamed Barcas, began in the first Punic war, but towards the end of it, to hold the command of the army in Sicily; and though, before his coming, the efforts of the Carthaginians were unsuccessful both by sea and land, he, after he arrived, never gave way to the enemy,226 or afforded them any opportunity of doing him harm, but, on the contrary, often attacked the foe when occasion presented itself, and always came off with the advantage. Afterwards, though the Carthaginians had lost almost every place in Sicily, he so ably defended Eryx, 227 that there seemed to be no war going on there. In the meantime, the Carthaginians, having been defeated at sea, near the islands called Aegates,228 by Caius Lutatius, the Roman consul, resolved on putting an end to the war, and left the settlement of the matter to the judgment of Hamilcar, who, though he ardently desired to continue in arms, thought it, nevertheless, necessary to submit to make peace, because he saw that his country, exhausted by the expenses of the war, was no longer in a condition to bear the pressure of it; but such was his feeling on the occasion, that he soon meditated, if the affairs of his country should be but in a small degree improved, to resume the war, and to pursue the Romans with hostilities, until they should indisputably obtain the mastery, or, being conquered, should make submission. With this resolution he concluded a peace, but showed such a spirit in the transaction, that when Catulus refused to desist from hostilities unless Hamilcar, with such of his men as were in possession of Eryx, should lay down their arms and quit Sicily, Hamilcar replied, that, though his country submitted, he himself would rather perish on the spot than return home under such disgrace, for that it was not consistent with his spirit to resign to his enemies arms which he had received from his country as a defence against enemies.

II. Catulus yielded to his resolution. But Hamilcar, when he arrived at Carthage, found the republic in a far different condition than he had expected; for, through the long continuance of foreign troubles, so violent a rebellion had broken out at home, that Carthage was never in such danger, except when it was actually destroyed. In the first place, the mercenary troops, who had served against the Romans, and the number of whom amounted to twenty thousand, revolted; and these drew the whole of Africa over to their side, and laid siege to Carthage itself. With these disasters the Carthaginians were so much alarmed, that they requested aid even from the Romans, and obtained it. But at last, when they were almost sunk into despair, they made Hamilcar general, who not only repulsed the enemy from the walls of Carthage, though they amounted to a hundred thousand men in arms, but reduced them to such a condition, that being shut up in a confined space, they perished in greater numbers by famine than by the sword. All the towns that had revolted, and among them Utica and Hippo, the strongest cities of all Africa, he brought back to their allegiance to his country. Nor was he satisfied with these successes, but extended even the bounds of the Carthaginian empire, and re-established such tranquillity through all Africa, that there seemed to have been no war in it for many years.

III. These objects being executed according to his desire, he then, by dint of a spirit confident and incensed against the Romans, contrived, in order more easily to find a pretext for going to war with them, to be sent as commander-in-chief with an army into Spain, and took with him thither his son Hannibal, then nine years old. There also accompanied him a young man named Hasdrubal, a person of high birth and great beauty, who, as some said, was beloved by Hamilcar with less regard to his character than was becoming; for so great a man could not fail to have slanderers. Hence it happened that Hasdrubal was forbidden by the censor of public morals to associate with him; but Hamilcar then gave him his daughter in marriage, because, according to their usages, a son-in-law could not be interdicted the society of his father-in-law. We have inserted this notice of Hasdrubal, because, after Hamilcar was killed, he took the command of the army, and achieved great exploits; and he was also the first that corrupted the ancient manners of the Carthaginians by bribery. After his death Hannibal received the command from the army.

IV. Hamilcar, however, after he had crossed the sea, and arrived in Spain, executed some great undertakings with excellent success; he subdued some very powerful and warlike nations, and supplied all Africa with horses, arms, men, and money. But as he was meditating to carry the war into Italy, in the ninth year after his arrival in Spain, he was killed in a battle with the Vettones.

His constant hatred to the Romans seems to have been the chief cause of producing the second Punic war; for Hannibal, his son, was so wrought upon by the continual instigations of his father, that he would have chosen to die rather than not make trial of the Romans.

Text and notes from Lives of Eminent Commanders (De viris illustribus)

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