Monday, August 11, 2008


There was once a town known to antiquity as Saguntum. The ruins are located to the northwest of Valencia Spain in a very fertile area. After the First Punic War, Rome and Carthage agreed to a separation of their spheres of influence. As long as Carthage did not go past the Erbo River, Rome did not care what they did in Spain. According to Thomas Madden in his book Empires of Trust, it is as the Carthaginians are absorbing all of Hispania that Saguntum went to Rome to ask for the protection of the Roman Republic. Other sources say the protection of Saguntum was part of the treaty ending the First Punic War.

What is known is Carthage under Hannibal did lay siege to the town for eight long and deadly months. The citizens of Saguntum pleaded with Rome for help. Rome dispatched ambassadors to first plead with Hannibal to stop his siege. He refused and then sent his agents back to Carthage to ensure they supported him. Next Rome sent a delegation to Carthage and demanded they stop Hannibal. This laid the stage for a most dramatic scene.
When the Carthaginians finally stopped talking, one of the Roman senators walked forward to the assembly, gathering up the folds of his toga as he went. When he stopped to address them, it looked as if he was carrying something in those folds - and indeed he was. With a calm and steady voice he said, "Here we bring you both war and peace. Take whichever you wish." A shout rose up in the council. These oligarchs of Carthage were not used to having ultimatums flung at them. They angrily told the Romans to leave whichever they wished. And so the Roman senator let drop the folds of his toga saying, "Then I leave you war." The Carthaginians accepted the gift. - pg 103-104, Empires of Trust.

Thus the Second Punic War started. Saguntum's walls were finally breached after eight months. and Rome had not come to their aide. Instead many people in that destroyed city, after Hannibal demanded their surrender, destroyed their treasures and killed themselves.

Next spring would bring Hannibal across the Alps and into Italy where for 17 years he would run wild in the hinterlands. The Romans, even as allies deserted them and the defeat at Cannae, hung on. One of Hannibal's most effective weapons on splitting up Rome's allies was Rome's failure to support Saguntum. The Roman generals launched attacks into Spain and managed to cut off Hannibal's supply lines which further slowed down his rampage. Then the Republic was blessed with a new general, Publius Scipio, who invaded North Africa and took the war to Carthage's doorstep. This made Carthage recall Hannibal to defend the homeland. And Scipio defeated Hannibal and forced a new treaty upon the Carthaginians, henceforth they would lose Spain and content themselves with their capitol. Thus ended the Second Punic War.

Just something to think about as people try to compare everything happening now with things that only happened 60 years ago. There are far more examples than that to study and learn lessons from.


Freedom Fighter said...

Well said!

"There is nothing new under the Sun" - Eccliastes

Except (I hope you don't mind a small correction) the name of thr river you're referring to is the Ebro, I think..


J_G said...

Great story Anna. History does repeat itself and it's to us to never let people for the lesson or the history behind it.

J_G said...

Try this again; Great story Anna. History does repeat itself and it's up to us to never let people forget the lesson or the history behind it.

it's late!!

Mike's America said...

Interesting, but that example is too many millenia removed to connect well with current events.

Indigo Red said...

I disagree, Mike. The example from long ago is exceptionally apt for today. The Romans didn't make the small gesture to defend a friend an dlost an empire. The US has not stepped up to defend a friend and will lose not an empire, but trust and influence.

I also disagree with jg. History does not repeat itself. History is just the flow of the future through the present to become the past. It is humans who repeat the mistakes made previously over and over believing the oft repeated mistake will one day actually work. History itsely can, at best, rhymn.

Anna said...

ff, yep tis Ebro. Typos R Us.

Jennifer, lol. No problem. Mike, like Indigo, I disagree with you. If we study similar events of the past, hopefully we can learn what not to do and thus prevent a similar crisis from erupting in the future. But this requires wisdom on the part of humans. Alas some cling to looking away and imperil everyone else.

Indigo, Rome did not lose its empire during the Second Punic War, but they came darn close because Hannibal spent 17 years in Italy. It was not until Rome took the war to Carthage that they won the war and kept their empire of allies. And from this point on, Carthage was in decline. Guess this would count as another lesson.

I just hope this causes some to think a bit harder and maybe make better decisions.