The Carthaginians, seeing that the Romans were intercepting their crossing, lowered their masts and cheering each other on in each ship closed with the enemy. As the outfit of each force was just the reverse of what it had been at the battle of Drepana, the result also was naturally the reverse for each. The Romans had reformed their system of shipbuilding and had also put ashore all heavy material except what was required for the battle; their crews rendered excellent service, as their training had got them well together, and the marines they had were men selected from the army for their steadfastness. With the Carthaginians it was just the opposite. Their ships, being loaded, were not in a serviceable condition for battle, while the crews were quite untrained, and had been put on board for the emergency, and their marines were recent levies whose first experience of the least hardship and danger this was. The fact is that, owing to their never having expected the Romans to dispute the sea with them again, they had, in contempt for them, neglected their naval force. So that immediately on engaging they had the worst in many parts of the battle and were soon routed, fifty ships being sunk and seventy captured with their crews. The remainder raising their masts and finding a fair wind got back to Holy Isle, very fortunate in the wind having unexpectedly gone round and helping them just when they required it. As for the Roman Consul he sailed away to Lilybaeum and the legions, and there occupied himself with the disposal of the captured ships and men, a business of some magnitude, as the prisoners made in the battle numbered very nearly ten thousand.
Even on hearing of this unexpected defeat the Carthaginians, had they let themselves be guided by passion and ambition, would readily have continued the war, but when it came to a matter of cool calculation they were quite at a loss. For one thing they were no longer able to send supplies to their forces in Sicily as the enemy commanded the sea, and if they abandoned and in a manner betrayed them, they had neither other men nor other leaders with whom to pursue the war. They therefore at once sent a message to Barcas giving him full powers to deal with the situation. Hamilcar acted thoroughly like the good and prudent leader he was. As long as there had been some reasonable hope in the situation he had left no means, however perilous and venturesome it seemed, unemployed, and if there ever was a general who put to proof in a war every chance of success, it was he. But now that fortunes were reversed and there was no reasonable prospect left of saving the troops under his command, he showed his practical good sense in yielding to circumstance and sending an embassy to treat for peace. For our opinion should be that a general ought to be qualified to discern both when he is victorious and when is beaten. Lutatius readily consented to negotiate, conscious as he was that the Romans were by this time worn out and enfeebled by the war, and he succeeded in putting an end to the contest by a treaty more or less as follows. "There shall be friendship between the Carthaginians and Romans on the following terms if approved by the Roman people. The Carthaginians to evacuate the whole of Sicily and not to make war on Hiero or bear arms against the Syracusans or the allies of the Syracusans. The Carthaginians to give up to the Romans all prisoners without ransom. The Carthaginians to pay to the Romans by instalments in twenty years two thousand two hundred Euboean talents." But when these terms were referred to Rome, the people did not accept the treaty, but sent ten commissioners to examine the matter. On their arrival they made no substantial changes in the terms, but only slight modifications rendering them more severe for Carthage: for they reduced the term of payment by one half, added a thousand talents to the indemnity, and demanded the evacuation by the Carthaginians of all islands lying between Sicily and Italy.
Such then was the end of the war between the Romans and Carthaginians for the possession of Sicily, and such were the terms of peace. It had lasted without a break for twenty-four years and is the longest, most unintermittent, and greatest war we know of. Apart from all the other battles and armaments, the total naval forces engaged were, as I mentioned above, on one occasion more than five hundred quinqueremes and on a subsequent one very nearly seven hundred. Moreover the Romans lost in this war about seven hundred quinqueremes, inclusive of those that perished in the shipwrecks, and the Carthaginians about five hundred. So that those who marvel at the great sea-battles and great fleets of an Antigonus, a Ptolemy, or a Demetrius would, if I mistake not, on inquiring into the history of this war, be much astonished at the huge scale of operations. Again, if we take into consideration the difference between quinqueremes and the triremes in which the Persians fought against the Greeks and the Athenians and Lacedaemonians against each other, we shall find that no forces of such magnitude ever met at sea. This confirms the assertion I ventured to make at the outset that the progress of the Romans was not due to chance and was not involuntary, as some among the Greeks choose to think, but that by schooling themselves in such vast and perilous enterprises it was perfectly natural that they not only gained the courage to aim at universal dominion, but executed their purpose. Some of my readers will wonder what can be the reason why, now that they are masters of the world and far more puissant than formerly, they could neither man so many ships, nor put to sea with such large fleets. Those, however, who are puzzled by this, will be enabled to understand the reason clearly when we come to deal with their political institutions, a subject not to be treated incidentally by the writer or followed inattentively by the reader. It offers a noble spectacle and one almost wholly unrevealed hitherto, owing to the incompetence of the authors who have dealt with it, some of whom sinned from lack of knowledge, while the account given by others is wanting in clearness and entirely unprofitable. As regards, however, the war of which we are speaking, one will find its purpose and prosecution on the part of the two states equally characterized on both sides by enterprise, by lofty spirit, and above all by ambition for supremacy. In individual courage indeed the Romans were far superior on the whole, but the general to whom the palm must be given both for daring and for genius is Hamilcar called Barcas, the actual father of that Hannibal who afterwards made war on the Romans.
Shortly after this treaty it so happened that both states found themselves placed in circumstances peculiarly similar. For at Rome there followed civil war against the Falisci, but this they brought to a speedy and favourable conclusion, taking Falerii in a few days. But the war the Carthaginians had to face was no little or contemptible one, being against their mercenaries, the Numidians and those Libyans who joined in the revolt. In this war they encountered many great perils and finally were in danger of losing not only their territory, but their own liberty and the soil of their native town. For several reasons I think it worth my while to dwell on this war, and, according to the plan I stated at the outset, to give a summary and brief narrative of it. In the first place one could not indicate a better illustration of the nature and character of what is vulgarly known as a truceless war than the circumstances of this one, and secondly one can see very clearly from all that took place what kind of dangers those who employ mercenary forces should foresee and take early precautions to avert, as well as in what lies the great difference of character between a confused herd of barbarians and men who have been brought up in an educated, law-abiding, and civilized community. But the most important thing is that from the events of that period one can get an idea of the causes of the Hannibalic war between the Romans and the Carthaginians. As it is still a matter of dispute, not only among historians, but among the combatants, what were the actual causes of this latter war, it will be useful to students of history if I lay before them the explanation that is nearest to the truth.
It is this. When, at once on the conclusion of the treaty, Barcas had transferred his forces from Eryx to Lilybaeum he immediately resigned his command, and Gesco the commandant there took steps for sending the troops over to Africa. Foreseeing what was likely to happen, he very wisely embarked them in detachments and at certain intervals in order to give the Carthaginians time to pay them their arrears as they arrived and to pack them off to their own countries before the next batch that crossed could catch them up. Such was the idea Gesco had, and he managed to dispatch the troops in this manner, but the Carthaginians partly because, owing to their recent outlay, they were not very while off for money, and partly because they were convinced that the mercenaries would let them off part of their arrears of pay, once they had got them all collected in Carthage, detained them there on their arrival in this hope, confining them to the city. As they committed frequent offences there both by night and by day, the government in the first place, suspicious of their numbers and their present licentious spirit, asked their commanding officers, until arrangements had been made for paying them in full and those who were still missing had arrived, to withdraw them all to a town called Sicca, each man receiving a gold stater for pressing expenses. The troops readily consented to leave the capital, but wished to leave their baggage there, as they had formerly done, thinking that they would be soon returning to be paid off. The Carthaginians, however, were afraid lest, longing to be with their wives or children after their recent protracted absence, they might in many cases refuse to leave Carthage, or, if they did, would come back again to their families, so that there would be no decrease of outrages in the city. In anticipation then of this, they compelled the men, much against their will and in a manner calculated to cause much offence, to take their baggage with them. The mercenaries, when assembled in Sicca, lived in a free and easy manner, having not enjoyed for a long time relaxation of discipline and leisure, things most prejudicial to a force raised abroad, and nearly always the very arch-instigators and sole causes of mutiny. At the same time, as they had nothing else to do, some of them began reckoning up the total pay due to them, all to their own advantage, and having arrived at a most exorbitant result, submitted that this was the sum they should demand from the Carthaginians. The whole force remembered the promises the generals had made to them in critical situations, and had great hopes and indeed quite expected that the government would thus correct in their favour the account of the sum they had earned. The consequence was that when the total force was assembled at Sicca, and when Hanno, who was then commander-in-chief of Africa, came there and not only said that it was impossible to meet their claims and fulfil their hopes, but on the contrary tried by dwelling on the present heavy taxation and general distress of Carthage to induce them to renounce some of their stipulated wage, it produced at once a spirit of dissension and sedition, and the soldiers began to hold constant meetings, sometimes of particular nations and sometimes general.As they were neither all of the same nationality nor spoke the same language, the camp was full of confusion and tumult and what is known as tuvrbh or turbulence. For the Carthaginian practice of employing hired troops of various nationalities is indeed well calculated to prevent them from combining rapidly in acts of insubordination or disrespect to their officers, but in cases of an outburst of anger or of slanderous rumours or disaffection it is most prejudicial to all efforts to convey the truth to them, to calm their passions, or to show the ignorant their error. Indeed, such forces, when once their anger is aroused against anyone, or slander spreads among them, are not content with mere human wickedness, but end by becoming like wild beasts or men deranged, as happened in the present case. Some of these troops were Iberians, some Celts, some Ligurians, and some from the Balearic islands; there were a good many Greek half-breeds, mostly deserters and slaves, but the largest portion consisted of Libyans. It was therefore impossible to assemble them and address them as a body or to do so by any other means; for how could any general be expected to know all their languages? And again to address them through several interpreters, repeating the same thing four or five times, was, if anything, more impracticable. The only means was to make demands or entreaties through their officers, as Hanno continued to attempt on the present occasion, and even these did not understand all that was told them, or at times, after seeming to agree with the general, addressed their troops in just the opposite sense either from ignorance or from malice. The consequence was that everything was in a state of uncertainty, mistrust and confusion. For one thing, they thought the Carthaginians had acted purposely in not communicating with them through the generals who were acquainted with their performances in Sicily and who had made them the promises of bounties, but in sending one who had not been present on any of those occasions. At length, then, refusing to treat with Hanno, thoroughly distrusting their divisional officers, and highly indignant with the Carthaginians, they marched on the capital and encamped at a distance of about one hundred and twenty stades from Carthage at the place called Tunis. They were more than twenty thousand in number.
Now, when there was no mending, it was brought home to the Carthaginians how blind they had been. For they had committed two great mistakes. The first was in collecting at one place so large a body of mercenaries while themselves they could hope for nothing from the fighting power of their civic force. Their second error was even more serious, to let out of their hands the women and children of the mercenaries as well as their movables, all which would have served as hostages, giving themselves greater security in their deliberations about the circumstances and ensuring a more favourable reception for their demands. Still now, in their alarm at the troops encamping so near, they were ready to put up with anything in their eagerness to propitiate them, sending out lavish supplies of provisions which they sold to them at any price they chose to pay and constantly dispatching envoys from the Senate, promising to meet all their demands as far as it was in their power. These increased daily, the mercenaries continuing to invent new claims, gaining confidence as they witnessed the terror and cowardice of the Carthaginians, and being convinced in their arrogance, owing to their success in Sicily against the Roman legions, that not only the Carthaginians, but any other people in the world would not readily face them in arms. When, therefore, the Carthaginians had agreed to their claims for pay, they went a step further and asked for the value of the horses they had lost. This also was conceded, whereupon they maintained that they ought to get the value of the rations of corn due to them for a considerable time at the highest price corn had stood at during the war. In short they always went on devising some new claim, putting matters off so as to make it impossible to come to terms, a great many of them being disaffected and mutinous. However, on the Carthaginians promising to concede everything in their power, they agreed to refer the disputed points to one of the generals who had been present in Sicily. Now to Hamilcar Barcas, with whom they had served there, they were ill disposed, thinking that it was largely his fault that they had been slighted, since he never came himself as an envoy to them and was believed to have resigned his command voluntarily. But being very favourably inclined to Gesco, who had been general in Sicily and had been full of attention to them in other matters and in that of their transport, they submitted the points in dispute to him. Gesco, on reaching Tunis by sea bringing the money, at first conferred privately with the officers, and subsequently held meetings of the troops according to their nationalities. He rebuked them for their past conduct, attempted to enlighten them about the present, but most of all dwelt on the future, begging them to show themselves well-disposed to those in whose pay they had been from the outset. Finally he proceeded to discharge their arrears, paying of each nationality separately. There was a certain Campanian, a runaway Roman slave, called Spendius, a man of great physical strength and remarkable courage in war. He was afraid of his master coming to claim him, when, if given up, he would by Roman law be tortured and put to death. He therefore hesitated at nothing in his endeavour both by speech and action to break off the negotiations with the Carthaginians. He was supported by a Libyan called Mathos, who was indeed a freeman and a member of the force, but had taken a leading part in the late disturbances. Consequently he stood in great fear of being singled out to bear the whole penalty and therefore was of one mind with Spendius. Taking the Libyans aside, he pointed out to them that when the other nations departed to their own countries after being paid off, they would be left to bear the whole weight of the wrath of the Carthaginians, whose object it would be by the punishment they inflicted on them to terrorize all their Libyan subjects. The men were soon stirred by such arguments, and availing themselves of the slender pretext that Gesco while discharging their pay postponed the compensation for the horses and corn, they at once held a meeting. When Spendius and Mathos began to traduce and accuse Gesco and the Carthaginians, they were all ears, and listened with great attention, but if anyone else came forward to offer an opinion, they did not even wait to find out if he were going to speak in favour of Spendius or against him, but at once stoned him to death. Numbers both of the officers and privates perished thus in the different meetings, and in fact this phrase "Stone him" was the only one that became intelligible to all the different nations, owing to the frequency of the act. They used to behave thus mostly when they held meetings after their morning meal in a drunken condition, so that the moment anyone called out "Stone him," the stones flew from all sides and so quickly that it was impossible for anyone who once came forward to address them to escape. As for this reason no one dared any longer to express an opinion, they appointed Mathos and Spendius Generals.
Gesco saw how complete was the disorganization and disturbance, but valuing more than anything the interest of his country and foreseeing that if these troops became utterly deaf to all considerations of humanity, Carthage would evidently be in the gravest danger, he persisted, at great personal risk, in his conciliatory efforts, sometimes conferring privately with their officers, and at other times summoning and addressing meetings of the separate nations. The Libyans, however, had not yet received their pay, and considering it overdue, came to him to demand it in a very insolent manner, when Gesco, thinking to rebuke their presumption, told them to go and ask Mathos their "General" for it. This aroused their anger to such a pitch, that without a moment's delay they, first of all, seized on what money they could lay their hands on and next arrested Gesco and the Carthaginians who were with him. As for Mathos and Spendius, thinking that the most expeditious means of setting war ablaze would be to commit some violation of law or good faith, they co-operated in the excesses of the soldiery, plundering the personal effects as well as the money-chests of the Carthaginians, and after subjecting Gesco and those with him to the outrage of putting them in fetters, gave them into custody. From this time forward they were at open war with Carthage, having bound themselves by certain impious oaths contrary to the principles recognized by all mankind.
Such then was the origin and beginning of the war against the mercenaries, generally known as the Libyan war. Mathos, having so far carried out his purpose, at once sent envoys to the Libyan towns urging them to strike a blow for liberty and imploring their support and practical assistance. Hereupon, when nearly all the Libyans had agreed to join in the revolt against Carthage and willingly contributed troops and supplies, they divided their forces into two and undertook the sieges of Utica and Hippacritae, since these cities had refused to participate in the rebellion.