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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

That Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum


Siege of Saguntum.]

In order to check the Carthaginian advance the Romans had long since put themselves forward as protectors of the Greek colonies of Spain. Whether Saguntum was included in the treaties they had made or whether it was a Greek city at all is doubted today, but when Hannibal got into a dispute with that city and attacked it Rome claimed that this violated the treaty which had been made by Hasdrubal. It was in the year 219 B.C. that Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum. The Saguntines defended their city with a heroic valor which Spaniards have many times manifested under like circumstances. When resistance seemed hopeless they endeavored to destroy their wealth and take their own lives. Nevertheless, Hannibal contrived to capture many prisoners, who were given to his soldiers as slaves, and to get a vast booty, part of which he forwarded to Carthage. This arrived when the Carthaginians were discussing the question of Saguntum with a Roman embassy, and, coupled with patriotic pride, it caused them to sustain Hannibal and to declare war on Rome in the year 218 B.C.

[Sidenote: Expulsion of the Carthaginians by the Romans.]

Hannibal had already organized a great army of over 100,000 men, in great part Spanish troops, and had started by the land route for Italy. His brilliant achievements in Italy, reflecting, though they do, not a little glory on Spain, belong rather

to the history of Rome. The Romans had hoped to detain him in Spain, and had sent Gn?us Scipio to accomplish this end. When he arrived in Spain he found that Hannibal had already gone. He remained, however, and with the aid of another army under his brother, Publius Cornelius Scipio, was able to overrun a great part of Catalonia and Valencia. In this campaign the natives followed their traditional practice of allying, some with one side, others with the other. Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal was at length able to turn the tide, defeating the two Scipios in 211 B.C. He then proceeded to the aid of Hannibal in Italy, but his defeat at the battle of the Metaurus was a deathblow to Carthage in the war against Rome. The Romans, meanwhile, renewed the war in Spain, where the youthful Publius Cornelius Scipio, son of the Scipio of the same name who had been killed in Spain, had been placed in command. By reckless daring and good fortune rather than by military skill Scipio won several battles and captured the great city of Cartagena. He ingratiated himself with native tribes by promises to restore their liberty and by several generous acts calculated to please them,--as, for example, his return of a native girl who had been given to him, on learning that she was on the point of being married to a native prince. These practices helped him to win victory after victory, despite several instances of desperate resistance, until at length in 206 B.C. the Carthaginians abandoned the peninsula. It was this same Scipio who later defeated Hannibal at Zama, near Carthage, in 202 B.C., whereby he brought the war to an end and gained for himself the surname Africanus.

[Sidenote: Results of Carthaginian occupation.]

The Carthaginians had been in Spain for over two hundred years, and, as was natural, had influenced the customs of the natives. Nevertheless, their rule was rather a continuation, on a grander scale, of the Phoenician civilization. From the standpoint of race, too, they and their Berber and Numidian allies, who entered with them, were perhaps of the same blood as the primitive Iberians. They had developed far beyond them, however, and their example assisted the native tribesmen to attain to a higher culture than had hitherto been acquired. If Rome was to mould Spanish civilization, it must not be forgotten that the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians had already prepared the way.

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