Salammbo HTML version

Some country people, riding on asses or running on foot, arrived in the town,
pale, breathless, and mad with fear. They were flying before the army. It had
accomplished the journey from Sicca in three days, in order to reach Carthage
and wholly exterminate it.
The gates were shut. The Barbarians appeared almost immediately; but they
stopped in the middle of the isthmus, on the edge of the lake.
At first they made no hostile announcement. Several approached with palm
branches in their hands. They were driven back with arrows, so great was the
In the morning and at nightfall prowlers would sometimes wander along the walls.
A little man carefully wrapped in a cloak, and with his face concealed beneath a
very low visor, was especially noticed. He would remain whole hours gazing at
the aqueduct, and so persistently that he doubtless wished to mislead the
Carthaginians as to his real designs. Another man, a sort of giant who walked
bareheaded, used to accompany him.
But Carthage was defended throughout the whole breadth of the isthmus: first by
a trench, then by a grassy rampart, and lastly by a wall thirty cubits high, built of
freestone, and in two storys. It contained stables for three hundred elephants
with stores for their caparisons, shackles, and food; other stables again for four
thousand horses with supplies of barley and harness, and barracks for twenty
thousand soldiers with armour and all materials of war. Towers rose from the
second story, all provided with battlements, and having bronze bucklers hung on
cramps on the outside.
This first line of wall gave immediate shelter to Malqua, the sailors' and dyers'
quarter. Masts might be seen whereon purple sails were drying, and on the
highest terraces clay furnaces for heating the pickle were visible.
Behind, the lofty houses of the city rose in an ampitheatre of cubical form. They
were built of stone, planks, shingle, reeds, shells, and beaten earth. The woods
belonging to the temples were like lakes of verdure in this mountain of diversely-
coloured blocks. It was levelled at unequal distances by the public squares, and
was cut from top to bottom by countless intersecting lanes. The enclosures of the
three old quarters which are now lost might be distinguished; they rose here and
there like great reefs, or extended in enormous fronts, blackened, half-covered
with flowers, and broadly striped by the casting of filth, while streets passed
through their yawning apertures like rivers beneath bridges.
The hill of the Acropolis, in the centre of Byrsa, was hidden beneath a disordered
array of monuments. There were temples with wreathed columns bearing bronze
capitals and metal chains, cones of dry stones with bands of azure, copper
cupolas, marble architraves, Babylonian buttresses, obelisks poised on their
points like inverted torches. Peristyles reached to pediments; volutes were
displayed through colonnades; granite walls supported tile partitions; the whole
mounting, half-hidden, the one above the other in a marvellous and