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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Sack of Carthage
By Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)
 
IN a part of the city where the fire had subsided, we were excited by loud cries; rather of indignation, we thought, than of such as fear or lament or threaten or exhort: and we pressed forward to disperse the multitude. Our horses often plunged in the soft dust, and in the holes whence the pavement had been removed for missiles; and often reared up and snorted violently at smells which we could not perceive, but which we discovered to rise from bodies, mutilated and half burnt, of soldiers and horses,—laid bare, some partly, some wholly, by the march of the troop. Although the distance from the place whence we parted to that where we heard the cries was very short, yet from the incumbrances in that street, and from the dust and smoke issuing out of others, we were some time before we reached it. On our near approach, two old men threw themselves on the ground before us, and the elder spake thus: “Our age, O Romans, neither will nor ought to be our protection: we are, or rather we have been, judges of this land; and to the uttermost of our power we have invited our countrymen to resist you. The laws are now yours.”  1
  The expectation of the people was intense and silent: we had heard some groans; and now the last words of the old man were taken up by others,—by men in agony.  2
  “Yes, O Romans!” said the elder who accompanied him that had addressed us, “the laws are yours; and none punish more severely than you do treason and parricide. Let your horses turn this corner, and you will see before you traitors and parricides.”  3
  We entered a small square: it had been a market-place; the roofs of the stalls were demolished, and the stones of several columns (thrown down to extract the cramps of iron and the lead that fastened them) served for the spectators, male and female, to mount on. Five men were nailed on crosses; two others were nailed against a wall, from scarcity (as we were told) of wood.  4
  “Can seven men have murdered their parents in the same year?” cried I.  5
  “No, nor has any of the seven,” replied the first who had spoken. “But when heavy impositions were laid upon those who were backward in voluntary contributions, these men, among the richest in our city, protested by the gods that they had no gold or silver left. They protested truly.”  6
  “And they die for this! inhuman, insatiable, inexorable wretch!”  7
  “Their books,” added he, unmoved at my reproaches, “were seized by public authority and examined. It was discovered that instead of employing their riches in external or internal commerce, or in manufactories, or in agriculture; instead of reserving it for the embellishment of the city or the utility of the citizens; instead of lending it on interest to the industrious and the needy,—they had lent it to foreign kings and tyrants, some of whom were waging unjust wars by these very means, and others were enslaving their own country. For so heinous a crime the laws had appointed no specific punishment. On such occasions the people and elders vote in what manner the delinquent shall be prosecuted, lest any offender should escape with impunity, from their humanity or improvidence. Some voted that these wretches should be cast amid the panthers; the majority decreed them (I think wisely) a more lingering and more ignominious death.”  8
  The men upon the crosses held down their heads, whether from shame or pain or feebleness. The sunbeams were striking them fiercely; sweat ran from them, liquefying the blood that had blackened and hardened on their hands and feet. A soldier stood by the side of each, lowering the point of his spear to the ground; but no one of them gave it up to us. A centurion asked the nearest of them how he dared to stand armed before him.  9
  “Because the city is in ruins and the laws still live,” said he. “At the first order of the conqueror or the elders, I surrender my spear.”  10
  “What is your pleasure, O commander?” said the elder.  11
  “That an act of justice be the last public act performed by the citizens of Carthage, and that the sufferings of these wretches be not abridged.”  12
 
 
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