Chapter 11

Carthage and Marseilles

September 22, 2021

THE law of nations which obtained at Carthage, was very extraordinary. All strangers, who traded to Sardinia and towards Hercules’s pillars, this haughty republic sentenced to be drowned.

Her civil polity was equally surprizing. She forbid the Sardinians to cultivate their lands, upon pain of death.

  • She increased her power by her riches, and afterwards her riches by her power.
  • She extended herself along the ocean.

The senate of Carthage ordered Hanno to distribute 30,000 Carthaginians from the Strait of Gibraltar as far as Cerne.

Hanno says that Cerne is as far from the Strait of Gibraltar, as the Strait of Gibraltar was as far from Carthage.

This situation is extremely remarkable.

It lets us see, that Hanno limitted his settlements to the 25th degree of north latitude, that is, to 2-3 degrees south of the Canaries.

Hanno was at Cerne.

  • He traveled South to make further discoveries.
  • He took but little notice of the continent.
  • He followed the coast for 26 days, when he was obliged to return for lack of of provisions.

The Carthaginians, it seems, made no use of this second enterprise.

Scylax* says, that the sea is not † navigable beyond Cerne, because it is shallow, full of mud and seaweeds

In fact, there are many of these in those latitudes. *

The Carthaginian merchants, mentioned by Scylax, might find obstacles, which Hanno, who had 60 vessels of 50 oars each, had surmounted.

Difficulties are just relative. We should not confound an enterprize, in which bravery and resolution must be exerted, with things that require no extraordinary conduct.

The relation of Hanno’s voyage is a fine fragment of antiquity. It was written by the very man that performed it.

His recital is not mingled with ostentation.

Great commanders write their actions with simplicity; because they receive more glory from facts than from words.

The style is agreeable to the subject.

He deals not in the marvellous.

All he says of the climate, of the soil, the behaviour, the manners of the inhabitants, correspond with what is every day seen on this coast of Africa.

One would imagine it the journal of a modern sailor.

He observed from his fleet, that in the daytime there was a prodigious silence on the continent.

In the night, he:

  • heard various musical instruments
  • saw fires everywhere.

Our relations are conformable to this.

The savages:

  • retire into the forests to avoid the heat of the sun
  • light up great fires at night to disperse beasts
  • are passionately fond of music and dancing.

Hanno describes a volcano with all the phænomena of Vesuvius.

He took two hairy women, who chose to die rather than follow the Carthaginians, and whose skins he carried to Carthage.

This is probable.

This narration is so much the more valuable, as it is a monument of Punic antiquity.

From hence alone it has been regarded as fabulons.

For the Romans retained their hatred to the Carthaginians, even after they had destroyed them. But it was victory alone that decided whether we should say, The Punic or the Roman faith.

Some moderns* have imbibed these prejudices.

What happened to the cities described by Hanno, of which even in Pliny’s time there remained no vestiges?

But it would have been a wonder indeed, if any such vestiges had remained.

Was it a Corinth or Athens that Hanno built on those coasts?

He left Carthaginian families in such places as were most commodious for trade, and secured them as well as his hurry would permit, against savages and wild beasts.

The calamities of the Carthaginians put a period to the navigation of Africa;

These families must necessarily then either perish or become savages.

Besides, were the ruins of these cities even still in being, who is it that would venture into the woods and marshes to make the discovery?

We find, however, in Scylax and Polybius, that the Carthaginians had considerable settlements on those coasts.

These are the vestiges of the cities of Hanno.

There are no other, from the same reason that there are no other of Carthage itself.

The Carthaginians were in the high road to wealth.

Had they gone so far as 4 degrees North, and 15 longitude, they would have discovered the gold-coast.

They would then have had a trade of much greater importance than that which is carried on at present on that coast, at a time when America seems to have degraded the riches of all other countries.

  • They would there have found treasures, of which they could never have been deprived by the Romans.

Very suprising things have been said of the riches of Spain. If we may believe Aristotle,> * the Phœnicians, who arrived at Tartessus, found so much silver there, that their ships could not hold it all:

  • They made of this metal their meanest utensils.

The Carthaginians, according to Diodorus, found so much gold and silver in the Pyrenean mountains, that they adorned the anchors of their ships with it.

  • But no foundation can be built on such popular reports.

We find in a fragment of Polybius, cited by Strabo, that the silver mines at the source of the river Bætis, in which 40,000 men were employed, produced to the Romans 25,000 drachmas a day, around 5,000,000 livres a year, at 50 livres to the mark.

The mountains that contained these mines were called the Silver Mountains. It shews they were the Potosi of those times.

At present, the mines of Hanover do not employ 1/4 of the workers. Yet they yield more.

But the Romans had not many copper-mines, and but few of silver.

The Greeks knew only the Attic mines which were of little value.

In the war that broke out for the succession of Spain, a man called the marquis of Rhodes, of whom it was said that he was ruined in golden mines, and enriched in hospitals,> * proposed to the court of France to open the Pyrenean mines.

  • He alledged the example of the Tyrians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans.
  • He was permitted to search, but sought in vain;
  • He still alledged, and found nothing.

The Carthaginians were masters of the gold and silver trade. They were willing to be so of the lead and pewter. These metals were carried by land from the ports of Gaul upon the ocean to those of the Mediterranean.

The Carthaginians wanted to receive them at the first hand. They sent Himilco to make a settlement in the isles called Cassiterides, which are imagined to be those of Scilly.

These voyages from Bætica into England have made some persons imagine that the Carthaginians knew the compass:

but it is very certain that they followed the coasts. There needs no other proof than Himilco’s being four months in sailing from the mouth of the Bætis to England:

Besides the famous piece of history of the Carthaginian> ‡ pilot, who, being followed by a Roman vessel, ran a-ground, that he might not> ∥ shew her the way to England, plainly intimates, that those vessels were very near the shore, when they fell in with each other.

The ancients might have performed voyages, that would make one imagine they had the compass, though they had not.

If a pilot was far from land, and during his voyage had such serene weather, that in the night he could always see a polar star, and in the day the rising and setting of the sun, it is certain he might regulate his course as well as we do now by the compass= but this must be a fortuirous case, and not a regular method of navigation.

We see in the treaty which put an end to the first Punic war, that:

  • Carthage was attentive to preserve the empire of the sea
  • Rome was attentive to preserve the empire of the land.

Hanno, in his negociation with the Romans, declared, that they should not be suffered even to wash their hands in the sea of Sicily; they were not permitted to sail beyond the promontorium pulchrum they were forbid to trade in Sicily, Sardinia, and Africa, except at Carthage: an exception that lets us see there was no design to favour them in their trade with that city.

In early times there had been very great wars between Carthage and Marseilles> ‡ on the subject of fishing.

After the peace they entered jointly into the œconomical commerce. Marseilles at length grew jealous, especially as being equal to her rival in industry, she was become inferior to her in power.

This is the motive of her great fidelity to the Romans.

The war between the latter and the Carthaginians in Spain was a source of riches to Marseilles, which was now become their magazine.

The ruin of Carthage and Corinth still increased the glory of Marseilles.

Had it not been for the civil wars, in which this republic ought on no account to have engaged, she would have been happy under the protection of the Romans, who had not the least jealousy of her commerce.


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