The Carthaginians And Civilization

Carthaginians, Civilization, Tyrians, ancient, Phoenicians, history, warThe Carthaginians were indebted to the Tyrians, not only for their origin, but their manners, language, customs, laws, religion, and the great application to commerce, as will appear from every part of the sequel. They spoke the same language with the Tyrians, and these the same with the Canaanites and Israelites, that is the Hebrew tongue, or at least a language which was entirely derived from it. Their names had commonly some particular meaning: thus Hanno signified gracious, bountiful; Dido amiable, or well beloved; Sophonisba, one who keeps faithfully her husband's secrets. From a spirit of religion, they likewise joined the name of God to their own, conformably to the genius of the Hebrews.
Hannibal, which answers to Ananias, signifies Baal (or the Lord) has been gracious to me. Asdrubal, answering to Azarias, implies the Lord will be our succor. It is the same with other names, Adherbal, Maharbal, Mastanabal, etc. The word Poeni, from which Punic is derived, is the same with Phoeni or Phoenicians, because they came originally from Phoenica. In the Poenulus of Plautus is a scene written in the Punic tongue, which has very much exercised the learned.

But the strict union which always subsisted between the Phoenicians and Carthaginians is still more remarkable. When Cambyses had resolved to make war upon the latter, the Phoenicians, who formed the chief strength of his fleet, told him plainly, that they could not serve him against their countrymen; and this declaration obliged that prince to lay aside his design. The Carthaginians, on their side, were never forgetful of the country from whence they came, and to which they owed their origin. They sent regularly every year to Tyre a ship freighted with presents, as a quitrent or acknowledgment paid to their ancient country; and its tutelar gods had an annual sacrifice offered to them by the Carthaginians, who considered them as their protectors. They never failed to send thither the first fruits of their revenues, nor the tithe of the spoils taken from their enemies, as offerings to Hercules, one of the principal gods of Tyre and Carthage. The Tyrians, to secure from Alexander, who was then besieging their city, what they valued above all things, I mean their wives and children, sent them to Carthage, where, at a time that the inhabitants of the latter were involved in a furious war, they were received and entertained with such a kindness and generosity as might be expected from the most tender and opulent parents. Such uninterrupted testimonies of a warm and sincere gratitude do a nation more honor than the greatest conquests and the most glorious victories.

The Religion Of The Carthaginians
It appears from several passages of the history of Carthage, that its generals looked upon it as an indispensable duty to begin and end all their enterprises with the worship of the gods. Hamilcar, father of the great Hannibal, before he entered Spain in a hostile manner, offered up a sacrifice to the gods. And his son, treading in his steps, before he left Spain, and marched against Rome, went to Cadiz in order to pay the vows he made to Hercules, and to offer up new ones, in case that god should be propitious to him. After the battle of Cannae, when he acquainted the Carthaginians with the joyful news, he recommended to them, above all things, the offering up a solemn thanksgiving to the immortal gods, for the several victories he had obtained.
Nor was this religious honoring of the deity on all occasions the ambition of particular persons only, but it was the genius and disposition of the whole nation. Polybius has transmitted to us a treaty of peace concluded between Philip, son of Demetrius king of Macedon, and the Carthagenians, in which the great respect and veneration of the latter for the deity, and their inherent persuasion that the gods assist and preside over human affairs and particularly over the solemn treaties made in their name and presence, are strongly displayed. Mention is therein made of five or six different orders of deities; and this enumeration appears very extraordinary in a public instrument, such as a treaty of peace concluded between two nations. I will here present my readers with the very words of the historian, as it will give some idea of the Carthaginian theology. This treaty was concluded in the presence of Jupiter, Juno and Apollo; in the presence of the demon or genius of the Carthaginians, of Hercules and Iolaus; in the presence of Mars, Triton, and Neptune; in the presence of all the confederate gods of the Carthaginians, and of the sun, the moon, and the earth; in the presence of the rivers, meads, and waters; in the presence of all those gods who possess Carthage. What would we now say to an instrument of this kind, in which the tutelar angels and saints of a kingdom should be introduced!
The Carthaginians had two deities, to whom they paid a more particular worship, and who deserve to have some mention made of them in this place. The first was the goddess of Coelestis, called likewise Urania, or the moon, who was invoked in great calamities, and particularly in droughts, in order to obtain rain: that very virgin Coelestis, says Tertullian, the promiser of rain, - Ista ipsa virgo Coelistis, pluviarum pollicitatrix. Tertullian, speaking of this goddess, and of Aesculapius, gives the heathens of that age a challenge, which is bold indeed, but at the same time very glorious to the cause of Christianity: and declares, that any Christian, who first comes, shall oblige these false gods to confess publicly that they are but devils; and consents that this Christian shall be immediately killed, if he does not extort such a confession from the mouth of these gods. Nisi se daemones confessi fuerint Christiano mentiri non audentes, ibidem illius Christiani procacissimi sanguinem fundite. St. Austin likewise makes frequent mention of this deity. What is now, says he, become of Coelestis, whose empire was once so great in Carthage? This was doubtless the same deity whom Jeremiah calls the queen of heaven; and who was held in so much reverence by the Jewish women, that they addressed their vows, burnt incense, poured out drink-offerings, and made cakes for her with their own hands, ut faciant placentas reginoe coeli: and from whom they boasted their having received all manner of blessings, while they paid her a regular worship; whereas, since they had failed in it, they had been oppressed with misfortunes of every kind.
The second deity particularly adored by the Carthaginians, and in whose honor human sacrifices were offered, was Saturn, known in Scripture by the name of Moloch; and this worship passed from Tyre to Carthage. Philo quotes a passage from Sanchoniathon, which shows, that the kings of Tyre, in great dangers, used to sacrifice their sons to appease the anger of the gods; and that one of them, by this action, procured himself divine honors, and was worshipped as a god, under the name of the planet Saturn: to this doubtless was owing the fable of Saturn devouring his own children. Private persons, when they were desirous of averting any great calamity, took the same method; and, in imitation of their princes, were so very superstitious, that such as had no children purchased those of the poor, in order that they might not be deprived of the merit of such a sacrifice. This custom prevailed long among the Phoenicians and Canaanites, from whom the Israelites borrowed it, though forbidden expressly by Heaven. At first children were inhumanly burned, either in a fiery furnace, like those in the valley of Hinnom, so often mentioned in Scripture, or enclosed in a flaming statue of Saturn. The cries of these unhappy victims were drowned by the uninterrupted noise of drums and trumpets. Mothers made it a merit, and a part of their religion, to view this barbarous spectacle with dry eyes, and without so much as a groan; and if a tear or a sigh stole from them, the sacrifice was less acceptable to the
deity, and all the effects of it were entirely lost. This strength of mind, or rather savage barbarity was carried to such excess, that even mothers would endeavor, with embraces and kisses, to hush the cries of their children; lest, had the victim been offered with an unbecoming grace, and in the midst of tears, is should anger the god; blanditiis et osculis comprimebant vagitum, ne flebilis hostia immolaretur. They afterwards contented themselves with making their children pass through the fire, in which they frequently perished, as appears from several passages of Scripture.
The Carthaginians retained the barbarous custom of offering human sacrifices to their gods, till the ruin of their city: an action which ought to have been called a sacrilege rather than a sacrifice, - Sacrilegium verius quam sacrum. It was suspended only for some years, from the fear they were under of drawing upon themselves the indignation and arms of Darius I. king of Persia, who forbade them the offering up of human sacrifices and the eating the flesh of dogs; but they soon resumed this horrid practice, since, in the reign of Xerxes, the successor to Darius, Gelon, the tyrant of Syracuse, having gained a considerable victory over the Carthaginians in Sicily, ordered, among other conditions of peace, That no more human sacrifices should be offered to Saturn. For during the whole engagement, which lasted from morning till night, Hamilcar, the son of Hanno their general, was perpetually offering up to the gods sacrifices of living men, who were thrown in great numbers on a flaming pile; and seeing his troops routed and put to flight, he himself rushed into it, in order that he might not survive his own disgrace; 590 and to extinguish, says St. Ambrose, speaking of this action, with his own blood, this sacrilegious fire, when he found that it had not proved of service to him.
In times of pestilence they used to sacrifice a great number of children to their gods, unmoved with pity for a tender age, which excites compassion in the most cruel enemies; thus seeking a remedy for their evils in guilt itself, and endeavoring to appease the gods by the most shocking barbarity.

Form Of The Government Of Carthage
The government of Carthage was founded upon principles of the most consummate wisdom, and it is with reason that Aristotle ranks this republic in the number of those that were had in the greatest esteem by the ancients, and which were fit to serve as models for others. He grounds his opinion on a reflection which does great honor to Carthage by remarking, that from its foundation to his time, that is, upwards of five hundred years, no considerable sedition had disturbed the peace, nor any tyrant oppressed the liberty, of that state. Indeed, mixed governments, such as that of Carthage, where the power was divided between the nobles and the people, are subject to two inconveniences; either of degenerating into an abuse of liberty by the seditions of the populace, as frequently happened in Athens, and in all the Grecian republics; or into the oppression of the public liberty by the tyranny of the nobles, as in Athens, Syracuse, Corinth, Thebes, and Rome itself under Sylla and Caesar. It is therefore giving Carthage the highest praise, to observe, that it had found out the art, by the wisdom of its laws, and the harmony of the different parts of its government, to shun, during so long a series of years, two rocks that are so dangerous, and on which others so often split. It were to be wished, that some ancient author had left us an accurate and regular description of the customs and laws of this famous republic. For want of such assistance, we can only give our readers a confused and imperfect idea of them, by collecting the several passages which lie scattered up and down in authors. Christopher Hendrich has obliged the learned world in this particular; and his work has been of great service to me.
The government of Carthage, like that of Sparta and Rome, united three different authorities, which counterpoised and gave mutual assistance to one another. These authorities were, that of the two supreme magistrates called suffetes, that of the senate, and that of the people. There after wards was added the tribunal of one hundred, which had great credit and influence in the republic.

The Suffetes
The power of the suffetes was only annual, and their authority in Carthage answered to that of the consuls at Rome. In authors they are frequently called kings, dictators, consuls; because they exercised the functions of all three. History does not inform us of the manner of their election. They were empowered to assemble the senate, in which they presided, proposed subjects for deliberation, and collected the votes; and they likewise presided in all debates on matters of importance. Their authority was not limited to the city, nor confined to civil affairs; they sometimes had the command of the armies. We find, that when their employment of suffetes expired, they were made praetors, whose office was considerable, since it empowered them to preside in some causes; as also, to propose, and enact new laws, and call to account the receivers of the public revenues, as appears from what Livy relates concerning Hannibal on this head, and which I shall take notice of in the sequel.

The Senate
The senate, composed of persons who were venerable on account of their age, their experience, their birth, their riches, and especially their merit, formed the council of state; and were, if I may use that expression, the soul of the public deliberations. Their number is not exactly known, it must, however, have been very great, since a hundred were selected from it to form a separate assembly, of which I shall immediately have occasion to speak. In the senate, all affairs of consequence were debate, the letters from generals read, the complaints from provinces heard, ambassadors admitted to audience, and peace or war determined, as is seen on many occasions. When the sentiments and votes were unanimous, the senate decided supremely, and there lay no appeal from it. When there was a division, and the senate could not be brought to an agreement, the affair was then brought before the people, on whom the power of deciding thereby devolved. The reader will easily perceive the great wisdom of this regulation; and how happily it is adapted, to crush factions, to produce harmony, and to enforce and corroborate good counsel; such an assembly being extremely jealous of its authority, and not easily prevailed upon to let it pass into other hands. Of this we have a memorable instance in Polybius. ^606 When, after the loss of the battle fought in Africa at the end of the second Punic war, the conditions of peace offered by the victor were read in the senate; Hannibal, observing that one of the senators opposed them, represented in the strongest terms, that as the safety of the republic lay at stake, it was of the utmost importance for the senators to be unanimous in their resolutions, to prevent
such a debate from coming before the people, and he carried his point. This doubtless laid the foundation, in the infancy of the republic, of the senate's power, and raised its authority to so great a height. And the same author observes in another place, that while the senate had the adistration of affairs, the state was governed with great wisdom, and was successful in all its enterprises.

The People
It appears from every thing related hitherto, that even as late as Aristotle's time, who gives so beautiful a picture and bestows so noble an eulogium on the government of Carthage, the people spontaneously left the care of public affairs, and the chief administration of them, to the senate; and this it was which made the republic so powerful. But things changed afterwards; for the people, grown insolent by their wealth and conquests, and forgetting that they owed these blessings to the prudent conduct of the senate, were desirous of having a share in the government, and arrogated to themselves almost the whole power. From that period, the public affairs were transacted wholly by cabals and factions; and this Polybius assigns as one of the chief causes of the ruin of Carthage.
The Young Carthaginian: A Story of the Times of Hannibal

The Tribunal Of The Hundred
This was a body composed of a hundred and four persons; though often, for brevity's sake, they are called only one hundred. These, according to Aristotle, were the same in Carthage as the ephori in Sparta; whence it appears that they were instituted to balance the power of the nobles and the senate; but with this difference, that the ephori were but five in number, and elected annually; whereas these were perpetual, and were upwards of a hundred. It is believed that these centumvirs are the same with the hundred judges mentioned by Justin, who were taken out of the senate, and appointed to inquire into the conduct of their generals. The exorbitant power of Mago's family, which, by its engrossing the chief employments both of the state and the army, had thereby the sole direction and management of all affairs, gave occasion to this establishment. It was intended as a curb to the authority of their generals, which, while the armies were in the field, was almost boundless and absolute; but, by this institution, it became subject to the laws, by the obligation their generals were under of giving an account of their actions before these judges, on their return from the campaign.

Defects In The Government Of Carthage
Aristotle, among other reflections made by him on the government of Carthage, remarks two defects in it, both which, in his opinion, are repugnant to the views of a wise lawgiver, and the maxims of sound policy. The first of these defects was, the investing the same person with different employments, which was considered at Carthage as a proof of uncommon merit. But Aristotle thinks this practice highly prejudicial to a community. For, says this author, a man possessed of but one employment is much more capable of acquitting himself well in the execution of it; because affairs are then examined with greater care, and sooner despatched. We never see, continues our author, either by sea or land, the same officer commanding two different bodies, or the same pilot steering two ships. Besides, the welfare of the state requires, that places and preferments should be divided, in order to excite an emulation among men of merit; whereas the bestowing of them on one man too often dazzles him by so distinguishing a preference, and always fills others with jealousy, discontent, and murmurs. The second defect taken notice of by Aristotle in the government of Carthage, was, that in order for a man to obtain the first posts, a certain estate was required, besides merit and a conspicuous birth; by which means poverty might exclude persons of the most exalted merit, which he considers as a great evil in a government. For then, says he, as virtue is wholly disregarded, and money is all-powerful, because all things are attained by it, the admiration and desire of riches seize and corrupt the whole community. Add to this, that when magistrates and judges are obliged to pay large sums for their employments, they seem to have a right to reimburse themselves.

Trade Of Carthage, The First Source Of Its Wealth And Power
Commerce, strictly speaking, was the occupation of Carthage, the particular object of its industry, and its peculiar and predominant characteristic. It formed the greatest strength, and the chief support of that commonwealth. In a word, we may affirm that the power, the conquests, the credit, and the glory of the Carthaginians, all flowed from their commerce. Situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, and stretching out their arms eastward and westward, the extent of their commerce took in all the known world; and wafted it to the coast of Spain, of Mauritania, of Gaul, and beyond the strait and pillars of Hercules. They sailed to all countries, in order to buy, at a cheap rate, the superfluities of every nation, which, by the wants of others, became necessaries; and these they sold to them at the dearest rate. From Egypt the Carthaginians brought fine flax, paper, corn, sails, and cables for ships; from the coast of the Red Sea, spices, frankincense, perfumes, gold, pearl, and precious stones; from Tyre and Phoenicia, purple and scarlet, rich stuffs, tapestry, costly furniture, and divers curious and exquisite works of arts; in a word, they brought from various countries, all things that can supply the necessities, or are capable of contributing to the comfort, luxury, and the delights of life. They brought back from the western parts of the world, in return for the commodities carried thither, iron, tin, lead, and copper; by the sale of which articles they enriched themselves at the expense of all nations; and put them under a kind of contribution, which was so much the surer, as it was spontaneous. In thus becoming the factors and agents of all nations, they had made themselves lords of the sea; the band which held the east, the west, and south together, and the necessary channel of their communication; so that Carthage rose to be the common city, and the centre of the trade of all those nations which the sea separated from one another. The most considerable personages of the city were not ashamed of engaging in trade. They applied themselves to it as industriously as the meanest citizens; and their great wealth did not make them less in love with the diligence, patience, and labor, which are necessary for the acquisition of it. To this they owed their empire of the sea; the splendor of their republic; their being able to dispute for superiority with Rome itself; and their elevation of power, which forced the Romans to carry on a bloody and doubtful war for upwards of forty years, in order to humble and subdue this haughty rival. In short, Rome, even in its triumphant state, thought Carthage was not to be entirely reduced any other way than by depriving that city of the benefits of its commerce, by which it had been so long enabled to resist the whole strength of that mighty republic. However, it is no wonder that, as Carthage came in a manner out of the greatest school of traffic in the world, I mean Tyre, she should have been crowned with such rapid and uninterrupted success. The very vessels in which its founders had been conveyed into Africa, were afterwards employed by them in their trade. They began to make settlements upon the coasts of Spain, in those ports where they unloaded their goods. The ease with which they had founded these settlements, and the conveniences they met with, inspired them with the design of conquering those vast regions; and some time after, Nova Carthago, or New Carthage, gave the Carthaginians an empire in that country, almost equal to that which they enjoyed in Africa.

The Mines Of Spain, The Second Source
Diodorus justly remarks that the gold and silver mines found by the Carthaginians in Spain, were an inexhaustible fund of wealth, that enabled them to sustain such long wars against the Romans. The natives had long been ignorant of these treasures that lay concealed in the bowels of the earth, at least of their use and value. The Phoenicians took advantage of this ignorance, and by bartering some wares of little value for this precious metal, which the natives suffered them to dig up, they amassed infinite wealth. When the Carthaginians had made themselves masters of the country, they dug much deeper into the earth than the old inhabitants of Spain had done, who probably were content with what they could collect on the surface; and the Romans, when they had dispossessed the Carthaginians of Spain, profited by their example, and drew an immense revenue from these mines of gold and silver.

Carthage must be considered as a trading, and at the same time a warlike republic. Its genius, and the nature of its government, led it to traffic; and from the necessity the Carthaginians were under, first of defending themselves against the neighboring nations, and afterwards from a desire of extending their commerce and empire, they became warlike. This double idea gives us, in my opinion, the true plan and character of the Carthaginian republic. We have already spoken of its commerce. The military power of the Carthaginians consisted in their alliances with kings; in tributary nations, from which they drew both men and money; in some troops raised from among their own citizens; and in mercenary soldiers, purchased of neighboring states, without their being obliged to levy or exercise them, because they were already well disciplined and inured to the fatigues of war; for they made choice, in every country, of such soldiers as had the greatest merit and reputation. They drew from Numidia a nimble, bold, impetuous and indefatigable cavalry, which formed the principal strength of their armies; from the Balearian isles, the most expert slingers in the world; from Spain, a steady and invincible infantry; from the coasts of Genoa and Gaul, troops of known valor; and from Greece itself, soldiers fit for all the various operations of war, for the field or the garrison, for besieging or defending cities. In this manner, the Carthaginians sent out at once powerful armies composed of soldiers which were the flower of all the armies in the universe, without depopulating either their fields or cities by new levies; without suspending their manufactures, or disturbing the peaceful artificer; without interrupting their commerce, or weakening their navy. By venal blood they possessed themselves of provinces and kingdoms; and made other nations the instruments of their grandeur and glory, with no other expense of their own than their money, and even this furnished from the traffic they carried on with foreign nations.
If the Carthaginians, in the course of the war, sustained some losses, these were but as so many foreign accidents, which only grazed, as it were, the body of the state, but did not make a deep wound in the bowels or heart of the republic. These losses were speedily repaired, by sums arising out of a flourishing commerce, as from a perpetual sinew of war, by which the government was furnished with new supplies for the purchase of mercenary forces, who were ready at the first summons. And, from the vast extent of the coasts which the Carthaginians possessed, it was easy for them to levy, in a very little time, a sufficient number of sailors and rowers for the working of their fleets, and to procure able pilots and experienced captains to conduct them.
But, as these parts were fortuitously brought together, they did not adhere by any natural, intimate, or necessary tie. No common and reciprocal interest united them in such a manner as to form a solid and unalterable body. Not one individual in these mercenary armies wished sincerely the prosperity of the state. They did not act with the same zeal, nor expose themselves to dangers with equal resolution, for a republic which they considered as foreign, and which consequently was indifferent to them, as they would have done for their native country, whose happiness constitutes that of the several members who compose it.
In great reverses of fortune, the kings in alliance with the Carthaginians might easily be detached from their interest, either by that jealousy which the grandeur of a more powerful neighbor naturally gives; or from the hopes of reaping greater advantages from a new friend; or from the fear of being involved in the misfortunes of an old ally. The tributary nations, being impatient under the weight and disgrace of a yoke which had been forced upon their necks, greatly flattered themselves with the hopes of finding one less galling in changing their masters; or, in case servitude was unavoidable, the choice was indifferent to them, as will appear from many instances in the course of this history. The mercenary forces, accustomed to measure their fidelity by the largeness or continuance of their pay, were ever ready, on the least discontent, or the slightest expectation of a more considerable stipend, to desert to the enemy with whom they had just before fought, and to turn their arms against those who had invited them to their assistance.
Thus the grandeur of the Carthaginians, being sustained only by these foreign supports, was shaken to the very foundation when they were taken away. And if, to this, there happened to be added an interruption of their commerce, by which only they subsisted, arising from the loss of a naval engagement, they imagined themselves to be on the brink of ruin, and abandoned themselves to despondency and despair, as was evidently seen at the end of the first Punic war. Aristotle, in the treatise where he shows the advantages and defects of the government of Carthage, finds no fault with its keeping up none but foreign forces; it is therefore probable that the Carthaginians did not fall into this practice till a long time after. But the rebellions which harassed Carthage in its later years ought to have taught its citizens, that no miseries are comparable to those of a government which is supported only by foreigners; since neither zeal, security, nor obedience, can be expected from them. But this was not the case with the republic of Rome. As the Romans had neither trade nor money, they were not able to hire forces, in order to push on their conquests with the same rapidity as the Carthaginians: but then, as they procured every thing from within themselves, and as all the parts of the state were intimately united, they had surer resources in great misfortunes than the Carthaginians. And for this reason, they never once thought of suing for peace after the battle of Cannae, as the Carthaginians had done in a less imminent danger.
The Carthaginians had, besides, a body of troops, which was not very numerous, levied from among their own citizens; and this was a kind of school, in which the flower of their nobility, and those whose talents and ambition prompted them to aspire to the first dignities, learned the rudiments of the art of war. From among these were selected all the general officers, who were put at the head of the different bodies of their forces, and had the chief command in the armies. This nation was too jealous and suspicious to employ foreign generals. But they were not so distrustful of their own citizens as Rome and Athens; for the Carthaginians, at the same time that they invested them with great power, did not guard against the abuse they might make of it, in order to oppress their country. The command of armies was neither annual, nor limited to any time, as in the two republics above mentioned. Many generals held their commissions for a great number of years. either till the war or their lives ended; though they were still accountable to the commonwealth for their conduct, and liable to be recalled, whenever a real oversight, a misfortune, or the superior interest of a cabal, furnished an opportunity for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009 - The Last Result | Top