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CHAPTER VII: HAMILCAR BARCA
The Announcer of the Moons, who watched on the summit of the temple of
Eschmoun every night in order to signal the disturbances of the planet with his
trumpet, one morning perceived towards the west something like a bird skimming
the surface of the sea with its long wings.
It was a ship with three tiers of oars and with a horse carved on the prow. The
sun was rising; the Announcer of the Moons put up his hand before his eyes, and
then grasping his clarion with outstretched arms sounded a loud brazen cry over
People came out of every house; they would not believe what was said; they
disputed with one another; the mole was covered with people. At last they
recognised Hamilcar's trireme.
It advanced in fierce and haughty fashion, cleaving the foam around it, the
lateen-yard quite square and the sail bulging down the whole length of the mast;
its gigantic oars kept time as they beat the water; every now and then the
extremity of the keel, which was shaped like a plough-share, would appear, and
the ivory-headed horse, rearing both its feet beneath the spur which terminated
the prow, would seem to be speeding over the plains of the sea.
As it rounded the promontory the wind ceased, the sail fell, and a man was seen
standing bareheaded beside the pilot. It was he, Hamilcar, the Suffet! About his
sides he wore gleaming sheets of steel; a red cloak, fastened to his shoulders,
left his arms visible; two pearls of great length hung from his ears, and his black,
bushy beard rested on his breast.
The galley, however, tossing amid the rocks, was proceeding along the side of
the mole, and the crowd followed it on the flag-stones, shouting:
"Greeting! blessing! Eye of Khamon! ah! deliver us! 'Tis the fault of the rich! they
want to put you to death! Take care of yourself, Barca!"
He made no reply, as if the loud clamour of oceans and battles had completely
deafened him. But when he was below the staircase leading down from the
Acropolis, Hamilcar raised his head, and looked with folded arms upon the
temple of Eschmoun. His gaze mounted higher still, to the great pure sky; he
shouted an order in a harsh voice to his sailors; the trireme leaped forward; it
grazed the idol set up at the corner of the mole to stay the storms; and in the
merchant harbour, which was full of filth, fragments of wood, and rinds of fruit, it
pushed aside and crushed against the other ships moored to stakes and
terminating in crocodiles' jaws. The people hastened thither, and some threw
themselves into the water to swim to it. It was already at the very end before the
gate which bristled with nails. The gate rose, and the trireme disappeared
beneath the deep arch.
The Military Harbour was completely separated from the town; when
ambassadors arrived, they had to proceed between two walls through a passage
which had its outlet on the left in front of the temple of Khamon. This great
expanse of water was as round as a cup, and was bordered with quays on which
sheds were built for sheltering the ships. Before each of these rose two pillars