The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Etext Book III From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States
Book Third Chapter VI
The War Under Hannibal From Cannae to Zama
After this day folly alone could counsel a continuance of the war on the part of Carthage. on the other hand it was in the power of the Roman general immediately to begin the siege of the capital, which was neither protected nor provisioned, and, unless unforeseen accidents should intervene, now to subject Carthage to the fate which Hannibal had wished to bring upon Rome. Scipio did not do so; he granted peace (553), but no longer upon the former terms. Besides the concessions which had already in the last negotiations been demanded in favour of Rome and of Massinissa, an annual contribution of 200 talents (48,000 pounds) was imposed for fifty years on the Carthaginians; and they had to bind themselves that they would not wage war against Rome or its allies or indeed beyond the bounds of Africa at all, and that in Africa they would not wage war beyond their own territory without having sought the permission of Rome -- the practical effect of which was that Carthage became tributary and lost her political independence. It even appears that the Carthaginians were bound in certain cases to furnish ships of war to the Roman fleet.
Scipio has been accused of granting too favourable conditions to the enemy, lest he might be obliged to hand over the glory of terminating the most severe war which Rome had waged, along with his command, to a successor. The charge might have had some foundation, had the first proposals been carried out; it seems to have no warrant in reference to the second. His position in Rome was not such as to make the favourite of the people, after the victory of Zama, seriously apprehensive of recall -- already before the victory an attempt to supersede him had been referred by the senate to the burgesses, and by them decidedly rejected. Nor do the conditions themselves warrant such a charge. The Carthaginian city never, after its hands were thus tied and a powerful neighbour was placed by its side, made even an attempt to withdraw from Roman supremacy, still less to enter into rivalry with Rome; besides, every one who cared to know knew that the war just terminated had been undertaken much more by Hannibal than by Carthage, and that it was absolutely impossible to revive the gigantic plan of the patriot party. It might seem little in the eyes of the vengeful Italians, that only the five hundred surrendered ships of war perished in the flames, and not the hated city itself; spite and pedantry might contend for the view that an opponent is only really vanquished when he is annihilated, and might censure the man who had disdained to punish more thoroughly the crime of having made Romans tremble. Scipio thought otherwise; and we have no reason and therefore no right to assume that the Roman was in this instance influenced by vulgar motives rather than by the noble and magnanimous impulses which formed part of his character. It was not the consideration of his own possible recall or of the mutability of fortune, nor was it any apprehension of the outbreak of a Macedonian war at certainly no distant date, that prevented the self-reliant and confident hero, with whom everything had hitherto succeeded beyond belief, from accomplishing the destruction of the unhappy city, which fifty years afterwards his adopted grandson was commissioned to execute, and which might indeed have been equally well accomplished now. It is much more probable that the two great generals, on whom the decision of the political question now devolved, offered and accepted peace on such terms in order to set just and reasonable limits on the one hand to the furious vengeance of the victors, on the other to the obstinacy and imprudence of the vanquished. The noble-mindedness and statesmanlike gifts of the great antagonists are no less apparent in the magnanimous submission of Hannibal to what was inevitable, than in the wise abstinence of Scipio from an extravagant and insulting use of victory. Is it to be supposed that one so generous, unprejudiced, and intelligent should not have asked himself of what benefit it could be to his country, now that the political power of the Carthaginian city was annihilated, utterly to destroy that ancient seat of commerce and of agriculture, and wickedly to overthrow one of the main pillars of the then existing civilization? The time had not yet come when the first men of Rome lent themselves to destroy the civilization of their neighbours, and frivolously fancied that they could wash away from themselves the eternal infamy of the nation by shedding an idle tear.
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