The Carthaginians had ever been accustomed to depend for their private supplies on the produce of the country, their public expenses for armaments and commissariat had been met by the revenue they derived from Libya, and they had always been in the habit of employing hired soldiers. At the present moment not did they find themselves deprived of all these resources at one blow, but actually saw them turned against themselves. Consequently they fell into a state of utter depression and despondency, things having turned out quite otherwise than they expected. For they had been much worn by the long continued war for Sicily, and had hoped that the peace would procure them some rest and a grateful period of tranquillity, and what happened was just the reverse, as they were now threatened by the outbreak of a greater and more formidable war. In the former case they were disputing the dominion of Sicily with the Romans, but now, with a civil war on their hands, they were about to fight for their own existence and that of their native city. Besides neither had they a sufficient supply of arms, nor a proper navy, nor the material left to construct one, so many had been the battles in which they had been engaged at sea. They had not even the means of providing supplies and not a single hope of external assistance from friends or allies. So it was now that they thoroughly realized how great is the difference between a war against a foreign state carried on over sea and civil discord and disturbance.
They had chiefly themselves to thank for all these grievous mischances. During the former war they had thought themselves reasonably justified in making their government of the Libyans very harsh. They had exacted from the peasantry, without exception, half of their crops, and had doubled the taxation of the townsmen without allowing exemption from any tax or even a partial abatement to the poor. They had applauded and honoured not those governors who treated the people with gentleness and humanity, but those who procured for Carthage the largest amount of supplies and stores and used the country people most harshly — Hanno for example. The consequence was that the male population required no incitement to revolt — a mere messenger was sufficient — while the women, who had constantly witnessed the arrest of their husbands and fathers for non-payment of taxes, solemnly bound themselves by oath in each city to conceal none of their belongings, and stripping themselves of their jewels contributed them ungrudgingly to the war fund. Mathos and Spendius were thus so well off that not only could they pay the soldiers their arrears, as they had promised in inciting them to mutiny, but found themselves furnished with ample means for a protracted war. This teaches us that it is the right policy not only to look to the present, but to look forward still more attentively to the future.
Yet, although the Carthaginians were in such straits, they first of all appointed Hanno to the command, as he had, they thought, on a former occasion brought matters concerning Hecatompylus in Libya to a satisfactory conclusion; they next busied themselves with enrolling mercenaries and arming the citizens of military age. They also mustered and drilled their civic cavalry and got ready what ships they had left, consisting of triremes, quinqueremes and the largest of their skiffs. Meanwhile Mathos, when about seventy thousand Libyans had joined him, divided them into several forces with which he maintained unmolested the sieges of Utica and Hippacritae, secured his main camp at Tunis and thus shut out the Carthaginians from all outer Libya. Carthage, I should explain, lies in a gulf, on a promontory or peninsula surrounded mostly by the sea and in part by a lake. The isthmus which connects it with Libya is about twenty-five stades in width and on the side of this isthmus which faces the sea, at no great distance from the capital, lies Utica, while Tunis is on the other side by the lake. So that the mutineers, encamped now as they were before both of these towns and thus shutting off Carthage from the land, continued to threaten the capital itself, appearing before the walls sometimes by day and sometimes by night and creating the utmost terror and commotion within.
Hanno was doing fairly well in the matter of outfit, his talent lying in that direction, but when it came to taking the field with his forces, he was another man. He had no idea how to avail himself of opportunities and generally showed an entire lack of experience and energy. It was then that, as regards Utica, he began by coming to the help of the besieged and terrifying the enemy by his strong force of elephants, of which he had no less than a hundred; but when, in consequence of this, he had a chance of gaining a decisive success, he made such poor use of his advantage that he very nearly brought a catastrophe on the besieged, as well as on himself. For bringing from Carthage catapults, missiles and all requirements for a siege and encamping before the city he undertook the assault of the enemy's entrenched camp. When the elephants forced their way into the camp, the enemy unable to face the weight of their attack all evacuated it. Many of them were mangled and killed by the elephants, but those who escaped rallied on a steep hill overgrown with brushwood, relying on the natural security of the position. Hanno had been accustomed to fight with Numidians and Libyans, who once they give way continue their flight for two or three days, trying to get as far away as possible. Thinking then, on the present occasion too, that the war was over and he had secured a complete victory he took no precaution for the safety of his army and camp, but entered the city and occupied himself with the care of his person. The mercenaries, who had rallied on the hill, were men schooled in the daring tactics of Barcas and accustomed from their fighting in Sicily to make in one day repeated retirements followed by fresh attacks. At present, on seeing that the general was absent in the city, while the troops were at their ease owing to their success and streaming out of their camp, they drew themselves up and attacked the camp, putting many to the sword and compelling the rest to take refuge ignominiously under the walls and at the gates. They captured all the baggage and all the arillery of the besieged, which Hanno had brought out of the town and added to his own, thus putting it in the enemy's hands. This was not the only occasion on which he acted so negligently, but a few days later at a place called Gorza, when the enemy were encamped opposite him and owing to their proximity he had four opportunities of beating them, twice in a pitched battle and twice by a surprise attack, he is said in each case to have thrown them away by his heedlessness and lack of judgement.
The Carthaginians, in consequence, seeing that he was mismanaging matters, again appointed Hamilcar Barcas to the command and dispatched him to the war on hand, giving him seventy elephants, all the additional mercenaries they had been able to collect, and the deserters from the enemy, besides their burgher forces, horse and foot, so that in all he had about ten thousand men. Hamilcar, on his very first expedition, struck terror into the enemy by the unexpectedness of the attack, cowing their spirit, raising the siege of Utica, and showing himself worthy of his past exploits and of the high expectations of the populace. What he accomplished in this campaign was as follows. On the neck of land connecting Carthage with Libya is a chain of hills difficult of access and with several passes to the country artificially cut in them. Mathos had posted guards in all those spots which were favourable for the passage of the hills. In addition to this there is a river called Macaras which shuts off in certain places the access from the town to the country. This river is for the most part unfordable owing to the volume of water, and there is only one bridge, which Mathos had also secured, building a town at the bridge-head. So that not only was it impossible for the Carthaginians to reach the country with an army, but it was not even an easy matter for single persons wishing to get through to elude the vigilance of the enemy. Hamilcar, seeing all these obstacles, after passing in review every means and every chance of surmounting this difficulty about a passage, thought of the following plan. He had noticed that when the wind blew strongly from certain quarters the mouth of the river got silted up and the passage became shallow just where it falls into the sea. He therefore got his force ready to march out, and keeping his project to himself, waited for this to occur. When the right time came he started from Carthage at night, and without anyone noticing him, had by daybreak got his army across at the place mentioned. Both those in the city and the enemy were taken by surprise, and Hamilcar advanced through the plain making for the guardians of the bridge. Spendius, on learning what had happened, put his two forces in movement to meet in the plain and render mutual assistance to each other, those from the town near the bridge being not less than ten thousand in number and those from Utica over fifteen thousand. When they got in sight of each other, thinking that they had caught the Carthaginians in a trap between them, they exhorted each other with loud shouts and engaged the enemy. Hamilcar was advancing in the following order. In front were the elephants, after them the cavalry and light-armed troops and last of all the heavy-armed. When he saw that the enemy were attacking him in such precipitation he ordered his whole force to face about. He bade those in front, after facing about, retire with all speed, and reversing the order of those who originally were in the rear he deployed them to await the onslaught of the enemy. The Libyans and mercenaries, thinking that the Carthaginians were afraid of them and retreating, broke their ranks and closed with them vigorously. But when the cavalry, on approaching the line of hoplites, wheeled round again and faced the Libyans, while at the same time the remainder of the Carthaginian army was coming up, the enemy were so much surprised that they at once turned and fled panic-stricken, in the same loose order and confusion in which they had advanced. Consequently some of them came into collision with their comrades who were advancing in their rear with disastrous effect, causing the destruction both of themselves and the latter, but the larger number were trampled to death, the cavalry and elephants attacking them at close quarters. About six thousand Libyans and mercenaries fell and nearly two thousand were made prisoners. The rest escaped, some to the town by the bridge and some to the camp before Utica. Hamilcar, successful in this fashion, followed closely on the retreating enemy and took by assault the town by the bridge, the enemy in it deserting it and flying to Tunis. He next traversed the rest of the country, winning over some towns and taking others by assault. He thus restored some confidence and courage to the Carthaginians, delivering them in a measure from their previous despondency.
Mathos for his own part continued to prosecute the siege of Hippacritae, advising Autaritus, the leader of the Gauls, and Spendius to harass the enemy, keeping away from the plains owing to the numbers of the cavalry and elephants opposed to them but marching along the foothills parallel to the Carthaginians and descending on them whenever they were on difficult ground. While adopting this plan he at the same time sent messages to the Numidians and Libyans, begging them to come to his assistance and not lose the chance of gaining their freedom. Spendius, taking with him from Tunis a force of about six thousand men in all drawn from all the tribes, advanced along the slopes parallel to the Carthaginians. He had also with him Autaritus and his Gauls numbering only about two thousand, the rest of the original corps having deserted to the Romans when encamped near Eryx. Hamilcar had established his camp in a plain surrounded by mountains, and just at this time Spendius was joined by the Numidian and Libyan reinforcements. The Carthaginians, suddenly finding the additional force of Libyans in their front, and that of the Numidians in their rear, while Spendius was on their flank, were in a very difficult situation, from which it was not easy to extricate themselves.
There was a certain Naravas, a Numidian of high rank and full of martial spirit. He had always had that attachment to the Carthaginians which was traditional in his family, and it was now strengthened by his admiration for Hamilcar. Thinking that this was a favourable opportunity for meeting Hamilcar and introducing himself, he rode up to the camp escorted by about a hundred Numidians. Coming close to the palisade he remained there quite fearlessly making signals with his hand. Hamilcar wondered what his object could be and sent out a horseman to meet him, when he said that he desired an interview with the general. The Carthaginian leader remaining still much amazed and distrustful, Naravas handed over his horse and spears to his attendants, and very boldly came into the camp unarmed. The Carthaginians looked on in mixed admiration and amazement at his daring, but they met and received him, and when he was admitted to the interview, he said that he wished all the Carthaginians well but particularly desired the friendship of Barcas, and this was why he had come to introduce himself and offer his cordial assistance in all actions and enterprises. Hamilcar, on hearing this, was so delighted at the young man's courage in coming to him and his simple frankness at their interview that not only did he consent to associate him in his undertakings but swore to give him his daughter in marriage if he remained loyal to Carthage.
The agreement having thus been made, Naravas came in with the Numidians under his command, about two thousand in number, and Hamilcar, thus reinforced, offered battle owing to the enemy. Spendius, after effecting a junction with the Libyans, descended into the plain and attacked the Carthaginians. The battle was a stubborn one, but ended in the victory of Hamilcar, the elephants fighting while and Naravas rendering brilliant services. Autaritus and Spendius escaped, but with the loss of about ten thousand killed and four thousand prisoners. After the victory Hamilcar gave permission to those of the prisoners who chose to join his own army, arming them with the spoils of the fallen enemies; those who were unwilling to do so he collected and addressed saying that up to now he pardoned their offences, and therefore they were free to go their several ways, wherever each man chose, but in future he threatened that if any of them bore arms against Carthage he would if captured meet with inevitable punishment.
About the same time the mercenaries who garrisoned Sardinia, emulous of the exploits of Mathos and Spendius, attacked the Carthaginians in the island. They began by shutting up in the citadel and putting to death Bostar, the commander of the foreign contingent, and his compatriots. Next, when the Carthaginians sent Hanno over in command of a fresh force, this force deserted him and joined the mutineers, who thereupon took him prisoner and at once crucified him. After this, devising the most exquisite torments, they tortured and murdered all the Carthaginians in the island, and when they had got all the towns into their power continued to hold forcible possession of Sardinia, until they quarrelled with the natives, and were driven out by them to Italy. Thus was Sardinia lost to the Carthaginians, an island of great extent, most thickly populated and most fertile. Most authors have described it at length, and I do not think it necessary to repeat statements which no one disputes.
Mathos and Spendius, as well as the Gaul Autaritus, were apprehensive of the effect of Hamilcar's leniency to the prisoners, fearing that the Libyans and the greater part of the mercenaries might thus be won over and hasten to avail themselves of the proffered immunity. They therefore set themselves to devise some infamous crime which would make the hatred of the troops for Carthage more savage. They decided to call a general meeting and at this they introduced a letter-bearer supposed to have been sent by their confederates in Sardinia. The letter advised them to keep careful guard over Gesco and all the others whom they had, as above narrated, treacherously arrested at Tunis, since some persons in the camp were negotiating with the Carthaginians about their release. Spendius, seizing on this pretext, begged them in the first place to have no reliance on the Carthaginian general's reported clemency to the prisoners. "It is not," he said, " with the intention of sparing their lives that he has taken this course regarding his captives, but by releasing them he designs to get us into his power, so that he may take vengeance not on some, but on all of us who trust him." Moreover, he warned them to take care lest by giving up Gesco and the others they incur the contempt of their enemies and seriously damage their own situation by allowing to escape them so able a man and so good a general, who was sure to become their most formidable enemy. He had not finished his speech when in came another post supposed to be from Tunis with a message similar to that from Sardinia. Autaritus the Gaul was the next speaker. He said that the only hope of safety for them was to abandon all reliance on the Carthaginians. Whoever continued to look forward to clemency from them could be no true ally of their own. Therefore he asked them to trust those, to give a hearing to those, to attend to those only who bring the most hateful and bitterest accusations against the Carthaginians, and to regard speakers on the other side as traitors and enemies. Finally, he recommended them to torture and put to death not only Gesco and those arrested with him, but all the Carthaginians they had subsequently taken prisoners. He was much the most effective speaker in their councils, because a number of them could understand him. He had been a long time in the service and had learned Phoenician, a language which had become more or less agreeable to their ears owing to the length of the previous war. His speech therefore met with universal approbation, and he retired from the platform amid applause. Numerous speakers from each nationality now came forward all together, maintaining that the prisoners should be spared at least the infliction of torture in view of Gesco's previous kindness to them. Nothing, however, they said was intelligible, as they were all speaking together and each stating his views in his own language. But the moment it was disclosed that they were begging for a remission of the sentence someone among the audience called out 'Stone them," and they instantly stoned all the speakers to death. These unfortunates, mangled as if by wild beasts, were carried off for burial by their friends. Spendius and his men then led out from the camp Gesco and the other prisoners, in all about seven hundred. Taking them a short distance away, they first of all cut off their hands, beginning with Gesco, that very Gesco whom a short time previously they had selected from all the Carthaginians, proclaiming him their benefactor and referring the points in dispute to him. After cutting off the hands they cut off the wretched men's other extremities too, and after thus mutilating them and breaking their legs, threw them still alive into a trench.