The Corner

Attitudes to a Foreign Army

The following conversation takes place between two young officers in

Hannibal’s army, in G.A. Henty’s THE CARTHAGINIAN BOY, a fictionalized

account of the Second Punic War.

Hannibal has made a dramatic march right across Gaul (Spain and southern

France), over the Alps, and down into Italy. At that time, Roman control

over the various Celtic tribes of northern Italy was not ironclad, and

Hannibal hoped to detach some of these tribes to his side. That’s the topic

of the discussion.

“…Still, these chiefs [of the hill tribes] all offered alliance to

Hannibal as he went south, and the success which has attended us should

surely bind them to our interests. They are ever willing to join the

winning side, and so far fortune has been wholly with us.”

“That is so, Malchus, but then they see that the tribes of the plains still

hold aloof from us and pin their faith on Rome. They must know that we are

receiving no reinforcements to fill the gaps made in battle, and may well

fear to provoke the anger of Rome by taking part with us before our success

is, as they consider, absolutely secure.”

“On the same grounds, then, Trebon, they will be equally unwilling to offend

us by any hostility until the scale is decidedly weighed down against us.

Hannibal’s anger might be as terrible as that of the Romans.”

“There is something in that, Malchus, but not so much as you think. If Rome

wins, Rome will have ample time and ample power, with the aid of all her

native allies, to punish any who may have declared against her. On the

other hand, should Carthage triumph, they may consider it probable that we

should sack and burn Rome and then retire, or that if we remain here there

will be so much to arrange, so many tribes in the plains to subjugate and

pacify that we shall be little likely to undertake expeditions in the

mountains. Therefore, you see, prudent men would decide for Rome.”

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