Livy on the Discussion between Hannibal and Scipio (202bc)


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Polybius, Book 15, Chapters 3-8

Livy, Book 30, Chapters 28-37

3.1. The consequence of this was that the war began afresh, the cause of its renewal being more serious and more productive of bitter feeling than the original one.  2. For the Romans, thinking that they had been treacherously attacked, set their hearts on getting the better of the Carthaginians, and the latter, conscious of their guilt, were ready to suffer anything rather than fall into the power of the Romans...

28.1. This was a period of steadily increasing hope, but also anxiety, for the Roman people. No-one could honestly say for certain whether they should be cheerful or fearful. The fact that Hannibal had at last abandoned Italy after sixteen years of war, leaving the country totally in the possession of the Roman people, was surely a cause for rejoicing; but the fact that he had transported the whole of his army safely back to Africa gave even more serious grounds for alarm.  28.2. The threat had not passed; only shifted its location. After all, it was said, the recently deceased Quintus Fabius had proved an all too accurate prophet of the wrath to come, when he warned that Hannibal would be a far more terrible enemy in his own land than he had ever been abroad.  28.3. Scipio was not going to war with the king of an ignorant tribe of barbarians such as Syphax, whose armies were usually led by a camp-peddlar like Statorius; nor with his father-in-law, Hasdrubal [Gisgo], the speediest general in the world - when it came to running away; nor with a bunch of emergency levies, recruited at short notice from farm workers armed with pitchforks.

28.4. This time the fight was with Hannibal, someone born in the army headquarters of his father, one of the bravest generals in the world, brought up and educated in the profession of arms, a fighting man while still a boy, a general when barely out of his teens;  28.5. and now, with enough victories to his credit for an old, old man, (though only forty five). Had he not filled the provinces of Spain and Gaul, the land of Italy from the Alps to the Straits of Messina, with the monuments of all his mighty deeds? Furthermore, he led an army, whose length of service matched his own, an army hardened by sufferings beyond human capacity to endure, an army steeped a thousand times in the blood of Roman armies, and enriched with the spoils of generals, not just soldiers.  28.6. Many of those who would come face to face with Scipio in battle had themselves slain praetors, generals, and Roman consuls with their own hands; many would be Mural or Vallarian Crowns; many had wandered at leisure through captured camps or Rome’s surrendered cities.  28.7. All the fasces of Rome’s magistrates today would not equal those which Hannibal could now display, captured from Rome’s dead military commanders.

28.8. As they explored such terrors in their minds, people simply increased their own general level of anxiety. For many years they had grown used to seeing war waged before their very eyes in different parts of Italy, without much hope of any near likelihood of a finish to the fighting; but now, it added to their anxieties and raised the whole level of public expectation that the two generals, Scipio and Hannibal, were getting ready for their final showdown.  28.9. Those who had the greatest confidence and hope that Scipio would win were the ones who were the most on tenterhooks, the closer they imagined victory to be. 

28.10. At Carthage feelings were very much the same. There were many who regretted that they had sought to make peace, when they thought of Hannibal and his great achievements; but the next moment they would remember that they had twice been defeated by Scipio, that Syphax was a captive, and that they had been driven out of Spain and Italy – all this thanks to the courage and military genius of one man, Scipio. He became their bogeyman, a figure of dread, the agent of Fate, a general born to bring them to destruction.

5.1.  The Carthaginians, when they saw their towns being sacked, sent to Hannibal begging him not to delay, but to approach the enemy and decide matters by a battle.  2. After listening to the messengers he bade them in reply pay attention to other matters and be at their ease about this; for he himself would judge when it was time.  3. After a few days he shifted his camp from the neighbourhood of Adrumetum and advancing encamped near Zama. This is a town lying five days' journey to the west of Carthage. 
4. From here he sent out three spies, wishing to find out where the Romans were encamped, and what disposition their general had made in his camp.  5. When these men were caught and brought before him Scipio was so far from punishing them, as is the usual practice, that on the contrary he ordered a tribune to attend them and point out clearly the exact arrangement of the camp.  6. After this had been done he asked them if the officer had explained everything to them with due diligence.  7. When they answered that he had done so, he furnished them with provisions and an escort, and told them to report carefully to Hannibal what had happened to them.

29.1. Hannibal had reached Hadrumetum where he remained a few days for his men to recover from the effects of the voyage, when breathless couriers announced that all the country round Carthage was occupied by Roman arms. He at once hurried by forced marches to Zama. Zama is a five days' march from Carthage. 

29.2. The scouts whom he had sent forward to reconnoitre were captured by the Roman outposts and conducted to Scipio. Scipio placed them in charge of the military tribunes and gave orders for them to be taken round the camp where they were to look at everything they wished to see without fear.  29.3. After asking them whether they had examined all to their satisfaction, he sent them back with an escort to Hannibal.

8. On their return Hannibal was so much struck with admiration of Scipio's magnanimity and daring, that he conceived, curiously enough, a strong desire to meet him and converse with him.  9. Having decided on this he sent a herald saying that he desired to discuss the whole situation with him,  10. and Scipio, on receiving the herald's message, assented to the request and said he would send to Hannibal fixing a place and hour for the interview.  11. Upon this the herald returned to his own camp. 

12. Next day Massanissa arrived with six thousand foot  13. and four thousand horse. Scipio received him kindly, congratulating him on having brought under his dominion all the former subjects of Syphax.

29.4. Hannibal derived no pleasure from their report. They told him that Masinissa had arrived that very day, with some 6000 infantry and 4000 cavalry, though he was particularly struck by his opponent’s obvious confidence, which he felt must surely have some basis in reality.  29.5. He was fully aware that he himself was the reason for the war and that by his arrival he had broken the terms of the armistice and any hope of a permanent peace treaty. But he calculated that he was likely to get rather more generous terms, if he negotiated a peace before he was defeated and while his army was still intact. So he sent an envoy to Scipio to ask for a chance to hold discussions.  29.6. Whether he did this on his own initiative or on the instructions of his government, I have no way of telling. 

29.7. Valerius Antias records that he was defeated by Scipio in a preliminary encounter, in which he lost 12,000 men and a further 1700 taken prisoner. It was after this that he went to Scipio’s camp as an official envoy with ten other colleagues.

[Scipio] then broke up his camp and on reaching a town called Margaron encamped there, selecting a spot which was favourably situated in other respects and had water within the throw of a javelin.  6.1. From here he sent to the Carthaginian general saying that he was now ready for the meeting.  2. When Hannibal heard this he broke up his camp and on getting within a distance of not more than thirty stades of the Romans encamped on a hill which appeared to be convenient for his present design, but was rather too far away from water, and indeed his men suffered considerable hardship owing to this.  3. On the following day both generals came out of their camps accompanied by a few horsemen, and then, leaving their escorts behind, met each other alone, having an interpreter with them. 

4. Hannibal first saluted Scipio and began to speak as follows:

29.8. Scipio agreed to talks, so both generals advanced their camps, so that they could be close enough to meet more conveniently.  29.9. Scipio established his camp close to the city of Naraggara in a generally favourable position, very close to a source of water. Hannibal chose a small hill about four miles away, thoroughly satisfactory in all other respects, except that it was some distance from any water-source. Between the two a meeting place was chosen, in open ground to avoid any possibility of ambush. The armies were moved back from the meeting point by an exactly equal distance, and there the two generals met, each with a single interpreter.

They were the two greatest generals of their age, the equals of any king or commander of any nation, in the whole of human history.  30.2. At first neither said a word, as if each was awe-struck at the sight of the other, each lost in admiration of his opponent.

Hannibal was the first to speak.

4. "Would that neither the Romans had ever coveted any possessions outside Italy, nor the Carthaginians any outside Africa;  5. for both these were very fine empires and empires of which it might be said on the whole that Nature herself had fixed their limits.  6. But now that in the first place we went to war with each other for the possession of Sicily and next for that of Spain, now that, finally refusing to listen to the admonition of τύχη, we have gone so far that your native soil was once in imminent danger and our own still is,  7. what remains but to consider by what means we can avert the anger of the gods and compose our present contention?  8. I myself am ready to do so as I learnt by actual experience how fickle τύχη is, and how by a slight turn of the scale either way she brings about changes of the greatest moment, as if she were sporting with little children.  7.1. But I fear that you, Publius, both because you are very young and because success has constantly attended you both in Spain and in Africa, and you have never up to now at least fallen into the counter-current of τύχη, will not be convinced by my words, however worthy of credit they may be.  2 Consider things by the light of one example, an example not drawn from remote times, but from our own.  3. I, then, am that Hannibal who after the battle of Cannae became master of almost the whole of Italy, who not long afterwards advanced even up to Rome, and encamping at forty stades from the walls deliberated with myself how I should treat you and your native soil.  4. And now here am I in Africa on the point of negotiating with you, a Roman, for the safety of myself and my country.  5. Consider this, I beg you, and be not overproud, but take such counsel at the present juncture as a mere man can take, and that is ever to choose the most good and the least evil.  6. What man of sense, I ask, would rush into such danger as that which confronts you now? If you conquer you will add but little to the fame of your country and your own, but if you suffer defeat you will utterly efface the memory of all that was grand and glorious in your past.  7. What then is the end I would gain by this interview?  8. I propose that all the countries that were formerly a subject of dispute between us, that is Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain, shall belong to Rome and that Carthage shall never make war upon Rome on account of them. Likewise that the other islands lying between Italy and Africa shall belong to Rome.  9. Such terms of peace would, I am convinced, be most secure for the Carthaginians and most honourable to you and to all the Romans."

30.3. “It was I who first began this war against the Roman people. And though I seemed so often to have victory in my grasp, fate has willed it that I should also be the first to seek for peace. I come of my own free will, and I am glad that it is you from whom I seek it; there is no-one I would rather ask it of.  30.4. I am glad, too, that it will not be the least of your many great achievements that it was you that Hannibal surrendered to, who had claimed so many victories over Rome’s other generals, and that it was you that brought an end to a war made famous by your countrymen’s defeats before my own.  30.5. This is indeed one of Fortuna’s richest jokes that I first took up arms when your father was consul, I fought against him first of all Rome’s generals, and now without my arms I am here to seek peace terms from his son. 

30.6. It would have been better if the gods had given our ancestors a different attitude of mind, a willingness to be content with what they had: Rome with Italy, Carthage with Africa.  30.7. For you Sicily and Sardinia are barely adequate reward for the loss of so many fleets, and armies, and outstanding generals. But sadly though we may regret the past, we cannot change it.  30.8. We fought to capture what belonged to others; now we fight to defend what is our own. Our war was fought in Italy as well as Africa; yours in Africa as well as Italy. You saw the arms and standards of a Punic army at your gates and beneath the walls of Rome; we now hear the roar of a Roman camp from the walls of Carthage.  30.9. The luck has turned and Fortuna is on your side – something we greatly feared and you desired above all else. But the issue we must now decide upon is peace; and for both of us peace is the greatest prize of all. Whatever we decide upon, our two states will ratify. All we now need is quiet and sensible discussions.

30.10. As for myself, time sees me now an old man returning home to the native land he left while still a boy. Success and failure have long since taught me that philosophy is a better guide to action than any reliance upon Fortuna.  30.11. You are young and luck has always been on your side. This, I fear, will make you too aggressive when what we need it quiet diplomacy. The man who has never been deceived by Fortuna rarely thinks carefully about the uncertainties of mortal destiny. 

30.12. You stand today where I once stood at Trasimene and Cannae. Almost before you reached military age, you held supreme command. Whatever risks you took, however bold, Fortuna never let you down.  30.13. You avenged your father’s and your uncle’s deaths, and in so doing, from your family’s calamities, like battle honours you won a glorious renown for courage and filial devotion. Spain was lost; you won it back by driving out four Carthaginian armies.  30.14. They made you consul, when others lacked the guts to fight for Italy; but you went further, and sailed out to Africa. There you slaughtered two armies, captured and fired two camps, took prisoner Syphax, our most powerful ruler, and seized innumerable cities in his kingdom and our empire. And now, finally, you have dragged me out of Italy after sixteen years of stubborn occupation of that land.  30.15. To men of action, victory can often seem a greater prize than peace. I too was once a man of action, indifferent to practical decisions; and once upon a time on me too Fortuna smiled.  30.16. But if, when all goes well, the gods would only give us the blessing of good sense, we would bear in mind not only what has already happened, but also what may happen in the future. Forget everything else; I am proof enough of how Fortuna changes.  30.17. Not so long ago I pitched my camp between the river Anio and Rome. You saw me preparing to attack, about to scale the battlements of Rome. Look at me now: bereaved of two brothers, heroes both and famous generals, standing before the walls of my beleaguered country, pleading with you to spare my city those ordeals with which I once threatened yours.

30.18. The more Fortuna smiles upon you, the less she should be trusted. You are basking in success; we are in the depths. Peace is yours to give, and the rewards will bring you many blessings; peace is ours to beg for, and for us there are no honourable rewards - we beg because we must.  30.19. The certainty of peace is a better thing by far than a victory you can only hope for. Peace is yours to give; victory rests in the hands of the gods. Do not leave so many years of glorious success to depend upon the lottery of a single hour.  30.20. Compare your own strength with the power of Fortuna and the chance of battle, which we share. For both of us, swords will be drawn and men’s lives lost; nowhere less certainly than in battle does victory come in answer to our hopes.  30.21. If you prove victorious, you will add far less to the glory you can already claim by making peace, than you will lose, if for you the outcome is defeat. All the glory that you have and hope for, Fortuna can turn away in a single hour.  30.22. If you make peace, Publius Cornelius, yours is the world and everything that’s in it; if not, then you must take whatever Fortuna may grant.  30.23. There are not many examples of courage linked to success. Remember Marcus Atilius Regulus, who once stood here victorious on Carthaginian soil. My ancestors sued for peace, which he refused. He rode his luck to the limits and failed to rein it in; it galloped away with him. The higher you rise, the further you fall – and his fall was truly terrible.

30.24. The one that grants peace has the right to dictate the terms, not the one that seeks it. But perhaps we Carthaginians deserve to propose some penalties for ourselves.  30.25. We are willing to concede that all the territories for which we went to war belong to you: Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, and all the Mediterranean islands lying between Italy and Africa.  30.26. Since that is how the gods have ordained it, we are content to be confined within the boundaries of Africa and to see you an imperial power ruling over foreign kingdoms by land and sea. 

30.27. I cannot deny that Carthage’s good faith must be suspect, because we lacked sincerity in seeking peace and patience in waiting for it when offered. The integrity of any peace agreement much depends on those who seek it.  30.28. I understand, Scipio, that your senators turned down our overtures of peace, in part because our envoys lacked sufficient status.  30.29. But now it is I, Hannibal, that ask for peace. I would not ask for it unless I felt it was to our advantage, and that is why I shall defend the peace which I have asked for. I was responsible for that war, and as long as heaven was on my side, I worked to see that none of my people regretted my decision. In the same way I shall now work with all my might to see that none regret the peace that I have gained for them.”

8.1. Hannibal having spoken so, Scipio replied. He said that neither for the war about Sicily, nor for that about Spain, were the Romans responsible,  2. but the Carthaginians were evidently the authors of both, as Hannibal himself was well aware. The gods, too, had testified to this by bestowing victory not on the unjust aggressors but on those who had taken up arms to defend themselves.  3. No one, he said, was more awake than himself to the fickleness of τύχη and as far as it was in his power he took into consideration the uncertainty of human affairs.  4. "But as for the conditions you propose," he continued, "if before the Romans had crossed to Africa you had retired from Italy and then proposed them, I think your expectations would not have been disappointed.  5. But now that you have been forced reluctantly to leave Italy, and that we, having crossed into Africa, are in command of the open country, the situation is manifestly much changed.  6. And — for this is the most important question — what is the position we have now reached?  7. When your countrymen were beaten and begged for peace we framed a treaty in writing in which it was stipulated, in addition to your present proposals, that Carthaginians should give up their prisoners without ransom, that they should surrender their ships of war, and that they should pay us five thousand talents, and finally that they should give hostages for the performance of those conditions.  8. We jointly sent envoys to Rome to submit them to the senate and the people, we Romans stating that we agreed to the terms offered and you Carthaginians entreating that they might be accepted.  9. The senate agreed and the people also gave their consent.  10. The Carthaginians, after their request had been granted, most treacherously violated the peace.  11. What remains to be done? Put yourself in my place and tell me. Shall we withdraw the most onerous of the conditions imposed? That would be to reward your countrymen for their treachery and teach them to continue to betray their benefactors.  12. Or shall we grant their present request in the hope of earning their gratitude? But now after obtaining their request by earnest supplication, the moment they conceived the slightest hope from your return, they at once treated us as enemies and foes.  13. If we added some conditions even more onerous we might in that case refer the treaty to our popular assembly, but if we withdraw some of the conditions it would be useless even to make mention of this conference at Rome.  14. Of what further use then is our interview? Either put yourselves and your country at our mercy or fight and conquer us."

31.1. The Roman general’s reply went roughly as follows:

I am very well aware, Hannibal, that it was the hopes raised by your return that led the Carthaginians to breach the terms of the armistice and wreck any hope of future peace.  31.2. You have been very frank about it, while contriving to leave out of your current proposals anything in the terms of the original agreement that was not already in our possession. 

31.3. You want your fellow citizens to recognise what a huge burden you are lifting from their shoulders; but I too must strive to make sure that they make no profit from their treachery by excluding any of those previous conditions from the terms of any settlement on which we may agree today.  31.4. You are actually asking to profit from your treachery, even though you do not deserve to retain even the original conditions. Our ancestors did not start the war in Sicily; we did not start the war in Spain. In Sicily it was our allies, the Mamertines, who were under threat; in Spain it was the sack of Saguntum, which drove us to take up arms in two just and holy wars.  31.5. You have acknowledged, and the gods are witnesses to the truth of what you say, that you are the aggressors. Justice and the laws of heaven gave us victory in Sicily; they have given us victory in the recent war; and they will do so again if we fight here.

31.6. As for myself, I am all too aware of human weakness, and there is no need to lecture me on the power of Fortuna; I know very well that all our deeds are subject to a thousand strokes of luck.  31.7. If you had come to me to ask for peace of your own free will before you abandoned Italy, embarked your army, and withdrew to Africa, and if I had rejected your proposals out of hand, I would be all too willing to admit that my conduct was high-handed and unfair. 

31.8. But now I have no such inhibitions, when we are here in Africa, on the eve of battle, and I have dragged you protesting and against your will to these negotiations

31.9. Therefore, if you have anything you wish to add to the peace conditions previously proposed, as compensation perhaps for the losses to our ships and their supplies which you destroyed during the armistice, and for the violence done to our ambassadors, then I will have something to take back to our authorities. But if that is too much for you, prepare for war, since peace you clearly find intolerable.”