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CHAPTER II: AT SICCA
Two days afterwards the Mercenaries left Carthage.
They had each received a piece of gold on the condition that they should go into
camp at Sicca, and they had been told with all sorts of caresses:
"You are the saviours of Carthage! But you would starve it if you remained there;
it would become insolvent. Withdraw! The Republic will be grateful to you later for
all this condescension. We are going to levy taxes immediately; your pay shall be
in full, and galleys shall be equipped to take you back to your native lands."
They did not know how to reply to all this talk. These men, accustomed as they
were to war, were wearied by residence in a town; there was difficulty in
convincing them, and the people mounted the walls to see them go away.
They defiled through the street of Khamon, and the Cirta gate, pell-mell, archers
with hoplites, captains with soldiers, Lusitanians with Greeks. They marched with
a bold step, rattling their heavy cothurni on the paving stones. Their armour was
dented by the catapult, and their faces blackened by the sunburn of battles.
Hoarse cries issued from their thick bears, their tattered coats of mail flapped
upon the pommels of their swords, and through the holes in the brass might be
seen their naked limbs, as frightful as engines of war. Sarissae, axes, spears, felt
caps and bronze helmets, all swung together with a single motion. They filled the
street thickly enough to have made the walls crack, and the long mass of armed
soldiers overflowed between the lofty bitumen-smeared houses six storys high.
Behind their gratings of iron or reed the women, with veiled heads, silently
watched the Barbarians pass.
The terraces, fortifications, and walls were hidden beneath the crowd of
Carthaginians, who were dressed in garments of black. The sailors' tunics
showed like drops of blood among the dark multitude, and nearly naked children,
whose skin shone beneath their copper bracelets, gesticulated in the foliage of
the columns, or amid the branches of a palm tree. Some of the Ancients were
posted on the platform of the towers, and people did not know why a personage
with a long beard stood thus in a dreamy attitude here and there. He appeared in
the distance against the background of the sky, vague as a phantom and
motionless as stone.
All, however, were oppressed with the same anxiety; it was feared that the
Barbarians, seeing themselves so strong, might take a fancy to stay. But they
were leaving with so much good faith that the Carthaginians grew bold and
mingled with the soldiers. They overwhelmed them with protestations and
embraces. Some with exaggerated politeness and audacious hypocrisy even
sought to induce them not to leave the city. They threw perfumes, flowers, and
pieces of silver to them. They gave them amulets to avert sickness; but they had
spit upon them three times to attract death, or had enclosed jackal's hair within
them to put cowardice into their hearts. Aloud, they invoked Melkarth's favour,
and in a whisper, his curse.
Then came the mob of baggage, beasts of burden, and stragglers. The sick
groaned on the backs of dromedaries, while others limped along leaning on