of selfish pride and passion when, after the battle of Zama, he urged the acceptance of peace, and lived to support the disgrace of Carthage with the patient hope of one day repairing it, affords a strong contrast to the cowardly despair with which some of the best of the Romans deprived their country of their service by suicide. Of the extent of his abilities, the history of his 2 life is the best evidence. As a general, his conduct remains uncharged with a single error; for the idle censure which Livy presumes to pass on him for not marching to Rome after the battle of Cannæ is founded on such mere ignorance that it does not deserve any serious notice. His knowledge of human nature and his ascendancy over men's minds are shown by the uninterrupted authority which he exercised alike in his prosperity and adversity over an army composed of so many various and discordant materials, and which had no other bond than the personal character of the leader. As a statesman he was at once manly, disinterested, and sensible; a real reformer of abuses in his domestic policy, and in his measures, with respect to foreign enemies, keeping the just limit between weakness and blind obstinacy. He stands re-3 proached, however, with covetousness by the Carthaginians and with cruelty by the Romans. The first charge is sustained by no facts that have been transınitted to us; and it is a curious circumstance that the very same vice was long imputed by party violence to the great Duke of Marlborough, and that the imputation has been lately proved by his biographer to have been utterly calumni

Of cruelty, indeed, according to modern principles, he can not be acquitted; and his putting to death all the Romans whom he found on his march through Italy, after the battle of the Lake Thrasymenus, was a savage excess of hostility. Yet many instances of courtesy are


recorded of him, even by his enemies, in his treatment of the bodies of the generals who fell in action against him; and certainly, if compared with the ordinary proceedings

of Roman commanders, his actions deserve no peculiar 4 brand of barbarity. Still it is little to his honor that he was not more careless of human suffering than Marcellus or Scipio; nor can the urgency of his circumstances or the evil influence of his friends, to both which Polybius attributes much of the cruelty ascribed to him, be justly admitted as a defense. It is the prevailing crime of men in high station to be forgetful of individual misery so long as it forwards their grand objects; and it is most important that our admiration of great public talents and brilliant successes should not lead us to tolerate an indifference to human suffering.

[blocks in formation]

The description of Scipio should be compared with that of Hannibal, his great rival. Both were men of consummate ability. The student should read the history of the Punic wars, and trace the irresistible advance of Rome to supremacy, as well as the steady decline and the final overthrow of her powerful enemy, Carthage. Arnold, Michelet, and Mommsen may be studied with great advantage on these points. 1 A mind like Scipio's, working its way under the pe

culiar influences of his time and country, can not but move irregularly—it can not but be full of contradictions. Two hundred years later the mind of the dictator, Cæsar, acquiesced contentedly in epicureanism; he retained no more of enthusiasm than was inseparable from the inten

sity of his intellectual power and the fervor of his courage, even amid his utter moral degradation. But Scipio could not be like Cæsar. His mind rose above the state of things around him; his spirit was sclitary and kingly; he was cramped by living among those as his equals whom he felt fitted to guide as from some higher sphere; and he retired at last to Liternum to breathe freels, to enjoy the simplicity of his childhood, since he could not fulfill his natural calling to be a hero-king. So far he stood apart from his countrymen, admired, reverenced, but not loved. But he could not shake off all the influ-2 ences of his time; the virtue, public and private, which still existed at Rome, the reverence paid by the wisest and best men to the religion of their fathers, were elements too congenial to his nature not to retain their hold on it; they cherished that nobleness of soul in him and that faith in the invisible and divine which two centuries of growing unbelief rendered almost impossible in the days of Cæsar. Yet how strange must the conflict be when faith is combined with the highest intellectual power, and its appointed object is no better than pagan ism! Longing to believe, yet repelled by palpable false hood, crossed inevitably with snatches of unbelief, in which hypocrisy is ever close at the door, it breaks out desperately, as it may seem, into the region of dreams and visions and mysterious communings with the invisible, as if longing to find that food in its own creations which no outward objective truth offers to it. The pro-3 portions of belief and unbelief in the human niind in such cases, no human judgment can determine; they are the wonders of history—characters inevitably misrepresented by the vulgar, and viewed even by those who, in some sense, have the key to them as a mystery not fully to be comprehended, and still less explained to others.

The genius which conceived the incomprehensible character of Hamlet would alone be able to describe with intuitive truth the character of Scipio or of Cromwell. With all his greatness, there was a waywardness in him which seems often to accompany genius, a self-idolatry natural enough where there is so keen a consciousness of power and of lofty designs, a self-dependence which feels

even the most sacred external relations to be unessential 4 to its own perfection. Such is the Achilles of Homer

the highest conception of the individual hero relying on himself, and sufficient to himself. But the same poet who conceived the character of Achilles has also drawn that of Hector-of the truly noble because unselfish hero who subdues his genius to make it minister to the good of others, who lives for his relations, his friends, and his country. And as Scipio lived in himself and for himself, like Achilles, so the virtue of Hector was worthily represented in the life of his great rival Hannibal, who, from his childhood to his latest hour, in war and in peace, through glory and through obloquy, amid victories and amid disappointments, ever remembered to what purpose his father had devoted him, and withdrew no thought or desire or deed from their pledged service to his country.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The battle of Salamis was one of the decisive battles of the world. The defeat of the Persians turned back the tide of Oriental invasion, and saved Greece to Christianity and civilization. It was a struggle between Asiatic and European races, between Eastern and Western civilization. If Xerxes had won the battle of Salamis,

Greece might have become what Turkey in Europe is now, and the history of the world would have been changed. The student will find Grote's and Curtius's “ History of Greece" full of interest and instruction.

[ocr errors]

At length the day began to dawn which was to de-1 cide the fate of Greece. As the veil of night rolled gradually away, the Persian fleet was discovered stretching, as far as the eye could reach, along the coast of Attica. Its right wing, consisting of Phænician and Cyprian vessels, was drawn up toward the Bay of Eleusis, while the Ionians occupied the left, toward Peiræus, and the southern entrance of the straits. On the low and barren Island of Psyttaleia, adjacent to that point, a detachment of choice Persian troops had been landed. As the Grecian fleet was concentrated in the harbor of the town of Salamis, it was thus surrounded, as it were, in a net, by the Persians. Xerxes, who attributed the disasters at Artemisium to his own absence, had caused a lofty throne to be erected upon one of the projecting declivities of Mount Ægaleos, opposite the harbor of Salamis, whence he could survey the combat, and stimulate by his presence the courage of his men; while by his side stood scribes, prepared to record the names both of the daring and the backward.

“ A king sat on the rocky bros

Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,

And men, in nations—all were his!
He counted them at break of day-
And, when the sun set, where were they?"

The Grecian commanders lost no time in preparing 2 to meet their multitudinous opponents. The Athenians were posted on the left wing, and consequently opposed

« ElőzőTovább »