The Barbarians had no need of a circumvallation on the side of Africa, for i_as theirs. But to facilitate the approach to the walls, the entrenchment_ordering the ditch were thrown down. Matho next divided the army into grea_emicircles so as to encompass Carthage the better. The hoplites of th_ercenaries were placed in the first rank, and behind them the slingers an_orsemen; quite at the back were the baggage, chariots, and horses; and th_ngines bristled in front of this throng at a distance of three hundred pace_rom the towers.
Amid the infinite variety of their nomenclature (which changed several time_n the course of the centuries) these machines might be reduced to tw_ystems: some acted like slings, and the rest like bows.
The first, which were the catapults, was composed of a square frame with tw_ertical uprights and a horizontal bar. In its anterior portion was _ylinder, furnished with cables, which held back a great beam bearing a spoo_or the reception of projectiles; its base was caught in a skein of twiste_hread, and when the ropes were let go it sprang up and struck against th_ar, which, checking it with a shock, multiplied its power.
The second presented a more complicated mechanism. A cross-bar had its centr_ixed on a little pillar, and from this point of junction there branched of_t right angles a short of channel; two caps containing twists of horse-hai_tood at the extremities of the cross-bar; two small beams were fastened t_hem to hold the extremities of a rope which was brought to the bottom of th_hannel upon a tablet of bronze. This metal plate was released by a spring, and sliding in grooves impelled the arrows.
The catapults were likewise called onagers, after the wild asses which flin_p stones with their feet, and the ballistas scorpions, on account of a hoo_hich stood upon the tablet, and being lowered by a blow of the fist, release_he spring.
Their construction required learned calculations; the wood selected had to b_f the hardest substance, and their gearing all of brass; they were stretche_ith levers, tackle-blocks, capstans or tympanums; the direction of th_hooting was changed by means of strong pivots; they were moved forward o_ylinders, and the most considerable of them, which were brought piece b_iece, were set up in front of the enemy.
Spendius arranged three great catapults opposite the three principle angles; he placed a ram before every gate, a ballista before every tower, whil_arroballistas were to move about in the rear. But it was necessary to protec_hem against the fire thrown by the besieged, and first of all to fill up th_rench which separated them from the walls.
They pushed forward galleries formed of hurdles of green reeds, and oake_emicircles like enormous shields gliding on three wheels; the workers wer_heltered in little huts covered with raw hides and stuffed with wrack; th_atapults and ballistas were protected by rope curtains which had been steepe_n vinegar to render them incombustible. The women and children went t_rocure stones on the strand, and gathered earth with their hands and brough_t to the soldiers.
The Carthaginians also made preparations.
Hamilcar had speedily reassured them by declaring that there was enough wate_eft in the cisterns for one hundred and twenty-three days. This assertion, together with his presence, and above all that of the zaimph among them, gav_hem good hopes. Carthage recovered from its dejection; those who were not o_hanaanitish origin were carried away by the passion of the rest.
The slaves were armed, the arsenals were emptied, and every citizen had hi_wn post and his own employment. Twelve hundred of the fugitives had survived, and the Suffet made them all captains; and carpenters, armourers, blacksmiths, and goldsmiths were intrusted with the engines. The Carthaginians had kept _ew in spite of the conditions of the peace with Rome. These were repaired.
They understood such work.
The two northern and eastern sides, being protected by the sea and the gulf, remained inaccessible. On the wall fronting the Barbarians they collecte_ree-trunks, mill-stones, vases filled with sulphur, and vats filled with oil, and built furnaces. Stones were heaped up on the platforms of the towers, an_he houses bordering immediately on the rampart were crammed with sand i_rder to strengthen it and increase its thickness.
The Barbarians grew angry at the sight of these preparations. They wished t_ight at once. The weights which they put into the catapults were s_xtravagantly heavy that the beams broke, and the attack was delayed.
At last on the thirteenth day of the month of Schabar,—at sunrise,—a grea_low was heard at the gate of Khamon.
Seventy-five soldiers were pulling at ropes arranged at the base of a giganti_eam which was suspended horizontally by chains hanging from a framework, an_hich terminated in a ram's head of pure brass. It had been swathed in ox- hides; it was bound at intervals with iron bracelets; it was thrice as thic_s a man's body, one hundred and twenty cubits long, and under the crowd o_aked arms pushing it forward and drawing it back, it moved to and fro with _egular oscillation.
The other rams before the other gates began to be in motion. Men might be see_ounting from step to step in the hollow wheels of the tympanums. The pulley_nd caps grated, the rope curtains were lowered, and showers of stones an_howers of arrows poured forth simultaneously; all the scattered slingers ra_p. Some approached the rampart hiding pots of resin under their shields; the_hey would hurl these with all their might. This hail of bullets, darts, an_lames passed above the first ranks in the form of a curve which fell behin_he walls. But long cranes, used for masting vessels, were reared on th_ummit of the ramparts; and from them there descended some of those enormou_incers which terminated in two semicircles toothed on the inside. They bi_he rams. The soldiers clung to the beam and drew it back. The Carthaginian_auled in order to pull it up; and the action was prolonged until the evening.
When the Mercenaries resumed their task on the following day, the tops of th_alls were completely carpeted with bales of cotton, sails, and cushions; th_attlements were stopped up with mats; and a line of forks and blades, fixe_pon sticks, might be distinguished among the cranes on the rampart. A furiou_esistance immediately began.
Trunks of trees fastened to cables fell and rose alternately and battered th_ams; cramps hurled by the ballistas tore away the roofs of the huts; an_treams of flints and pebbles poured from the platforms of the towers.
At last the rams broke the gates of Khamon and Tagaste. But the Carthaginian_ad piled up such an abundance of materials on the inside that the leaves di_ot open. They remained standing.
Then they drove augers against the walls; these were applied to the joints o_he blocks, so as to detach the latter. The engines were better managed, th_en serving them were divided into squads, and they were worked from mornin_ill evening without interruption and with the monotonous precision of _eaver's loom.
Spendius returned to them untiringly. It was he who stretched the skeins o_he ballistas. In order that the twin tensions might completely correspond, the ropes as they were tightened were struck on the right and left alternatel_ntil both sides gave out an equal sound. Spendius would mount upon th_imbers. He would strike the ropes softly with the extremity of his foot, an_train his ears like a musician tuning a lyre. Then when the beam of th_atapult rose, when the pillar of the ballista trembled with the shock of th_pring, when the stones were shooting in rays, and the darts pouring i_treams, he would incline his whole body and fling his arms into the air a_hough to follow them.
The soldiers admired his skill and executed his commands. In the gaiety o_heir work they gave utterance to jests on the names of the machines. Thus th_lyers for seizing the rams were called "wolves," and the galleries wer_overed with "vines"; they were lambs, or they were going to gather th_rapes; and as they loaded their pieces they would say to the onagers: "Come, pick well!" and to the scorpions: "Pierce them to the heart!" These jokes, which were ever the same, kept up their courage.
Nevertheless the machines did not demolish the rampart. It was formed of tw_alls and was completely filled with earth. The upper portions were beate_own, but each time the besieged raised them again. Matho ordered th_onstruction of wooden towers which should be as high as the towers of stone.
They cast turf, stakes, pebbles and chariots with their wheels into the trenc_o as to fill it up the more quickly; but before this was accomplished th_mmense throng of the Barbarians undulated over the plain with a singl_ovement and came beating against the foot of the walls like an overflowin_ea.
They moved forward the rope ladders, straight ladders, and sambucas, th_atter consisting of two poles from which a series of bamboos terminating in _oveable bridge were lowered by means of tackling. They formed numerou_traight lines resting against the wall, and the Mercenaries mounted them i_iles, holding their weapons in their hands. Not a Carthaginian showe_imself; already two thirds of the rampart had been covered. Then th_attlements opened, vomiting flames and smoke like dragon jaws; the san_cattered and entered the joints of their armour; the petroleum fastened o_heir garments; the liquid lead hopped on their helmets and made holes i_heir flesh; a rain of sparks splashed against their faces, and eyeless orbit_eemed to weep tears as big as almonds. There were men all yellow with oil, with their hair in flames. They began to run and set fire to the rest. The_ere extinguished in mantles steeped in blood, which were thrown from _istance over their faces. Some who had no wounds remained motionless, stiffe_han stakes, their mouths open and their arms outspread.
The assault was renewed for several days in succession, the Mercenaries hopin_o triumph by extraordinary energy and audacity.
Sometimes a man raised on the shoulders of another would drive a pin betwee_he stones, and then making use of it as a step to reach further, would plac_ second and a third; and, protected by the edge of the battlements, whic_tood out from the wall, they would gradually raise themselves in this way; but on reaching a certain height they always fell back again. The great trenc_as full to overflowing; the wounded were massed pell-mell with the dead an_ying beneath the footsteps of the living. Calcined trunks formed black spot_mid opened entrails, scattered brains, and pools of blood; and arms and leg_rojecting half way out of a heap, would stand straight up like props in _urning vineyard.
The ladders proving insufficient the tollenos were brought int_equisition,—instruments consisting of a long beam set transversely upo_nother, and bearing at its extremity a quadrangular basket which would hol_hirty foot-soldiers with their weapons.
Matho wished to ascend in the first that was ready. Spendius stopped him.
Some men bent over a capstan; the great beam rose, became horizontal, reare_tself almost vertically, and being overweighted at the end, bent like a hug_eed. The soldiers, who were crowded together, were hidden up to their chins; only their helmet-plumes could be seen. At last when it was twenty cubits hig_n the air it turned several times to the right and to the left, and then wa_epressed; and like a giant arm holding a cohort of pigmies in its hand, i_aid the basketful of men upon the edge of the wall. They leaped into th_rowd and never returned.
All the other tollenos were speedily made ready. But a hundred times as man_ould have been needed for the capture of the town. They were utilised in _urderous fashion: Ethiopian archers were placed in the baskets; then, th_ables having been fastened, they remained suspended and shot poisoned arrows.
The fifty tollenos commanding the battlements thus surrounded Carthage lik_onstrous vultures; and the Negroes laughed to see the guards on the rampar_ying in grievous convulsions.
Hamilcar sent hoplites to these posts, and every morning made them drink th_uice of certain herbs which protected them against the poison.
One evening when it was dark he embarked the best of his soldiers on lighter_nd planks, and turning to the right of the harbour, disembarked on th_aenia. Then he advanced to the first lines of the Barbarians, and taking the_n flank, made a great slaughter. Men hanging to ropes would descend at nigh_rom the top of the wall with torches in their hands, burn the works of th_ercenaries, and then mount up again.
Matho was exasperated; every obstacle strengthened his wrath, which led hi_nto terrible extravagances. He mentally summoned Salammbo to an interview; then he waited. She did not come; this seemed to him like a fresh piece o_reachery,—and henceforth he execrated her. If he had seen her corpse he woul_erhaps have gone away. He doubled the outposts, he planted forks at the foo_f the rampart, he drove caltrops into the ground, and he commanded th_ibyans to bring him a whole forest that he might set it on fire and bur_arthage like a den of foxes.
Spendius went on obstinately with the siege. He sought to invent terribl_achines such as had never before been constructed.
The other Barbarians, encamped at a distance on the isthmus, were amazed a_hese delays; they murmured, and they were let loose.
Then they rushed with their cutlasses and javelins, and beat against the gate_ith them. But the nakedness of their bodies facilitating the infliction o_ounds, the Carthaginians massacred them freely; and the Mercenaries rejoice_t it, no doubt through jealousy about the plunder. Hence there resulte_uarrels and combats between them. Then, the country having been ravaged, provisions were soon scarce. They grew disheartened. Numerous hordes wen_way, but the crowd was so great that the loss was not apparent.
The best of them tried to dig mines, but the earth, being badly supported, fell in. They began again in other places, but Hamilcar always guessed th_irection that they were taking by holding his ear against a bronze shield. H_ored counter-mines beneath the path along which the wooden towers were t_ove, and when they were pushed forward they sank into the holes.
At last all recognised that the town was impregnable, unless a long terrac_as raised to the same height as the walls, so as to enable them to fight o_he same level. The top of it should be paved so that the machines might b_olled along. Then Carthage would find it quite impossible to resist.
The town was beginning to suffer from thirst. The water which was worth tw_esitahs the bath at the opening of the siege was now sold for a shekel o_ilver; the stores of meat and corn were also becoming exhausted; there was _read of famine, and some even began to speak of useless mouths, whic_errified every one.
From the square of Khamon to the temple of Melkarth the streets were cumbere_ith corpses; and, as it was the end of the summer, the combatants wer_nnoyed by great black flies. Old men carried off the wounded, and the devou_ontinued the fictitious funerals for their relatives and friends who had die_ar away during the war. Waxen statues with clothes and hair were displaye_cross the gates. They melted in the heat of the tapers burning beside them; the paint flowed down upon their shoulders, and tears streamed over the face_f the living, as they chanted mournful songs beside them. The crowd meanwhil_an to and fro; armed bands passed; captains shouted orders, while the shoc_f the rams beating against the rampart was constantly heard.
The temperature became so heavy that the bodies swelled and would no longe_it into the coffins. They were burned in the centre of the courts. But th_ires, being too much confined, kindled the neighbouring walls, and lon_lames suddenly burst from the houses like blood spurting from an artery. Thu_oloch was in possession of Carthage; he clasped the ramparts, he rolle_hrough the streets, he devoured the very corpses.
Men wearing cloaks made of collected rags in token of despair, statione_hemselves at the corners of the cross-ways. They declaimed against th_ncients and against Hamilcar, predicted complete ruin to the people, an_nvited them to universal destruction and license. The most dangerous were th_enbane-drinkers; in their crisis they believed themselves wild beasts, an_eaped upon the passers-by to rend them. Mobs formed around them, and th_efence of Carthage was forgotten. The Suffet devised the payment of others t_upport his policy.
In order to retain the genius of the gods within the town their images ha_een covered with chains. Black veils were placed upon the Pataec gods, an_air-cloths around the altars; and attempts were made to excite the pride an_ealousy of the Baals by singing in their ears: "Thou art about to suffe_hyself to be vanquished! Are the others perchance more strong? Show thyself!
aid us! that the peoples may not say: 'Where are now their gods?'"
The colleges of the pontiffs were agitated by unceasing anxiety. Those o_abbetna were especially afraid—the restoration of the zaimph having been o_o avail. They kept themselves shut up in the third enclosure which was a_mpregnable as a fortress. Only one among them, the high priest Schahabarim, ventured to go out.
He used to visit Salammbo. But he would either remain perfectly silent, gazin_t her with fixed eyeballs, or else would be lavish of words, and th_eproaches that he uttered were harder than ever.
With inconceivable inconsistency he could not forgive the young girl fo_arrying out his commands; Schahabarim had guessed all, and this hauntin_hought revived the jealousies of his impotence. He accused her of being th_ause of the war. Matho, according to him, was besieging Carthage to recove_he zaimph; and he poured out imprecations and sarcasms upon this Barbaria_ho pretended to the possession of holy things. Yet it was not this that th_riest wished to say.
But just now Salammbo felt no terror of him. The anguish which she use_ormerly to suffer had left her. A strange peacefulness possessed her. He_aze was less wandering, and shone with limpid fire.
Meanwhile the python had become ill again; and as Salammbo, on the contrary, appeared to be recovering, old Taanach rejoiced in the conviction that by it_ecline it was taking away the languor of her mistress.
One morning she found it coiled up behind the bed of ox-hides, colder tha_arble, and with its head hidden by a heap of worms. Her cries brough_alammbo to the spot. She turned it over for a while with the tip of he_andal, and the slave was amazed at her insensibility.
Hamilcar's daughter no longer prolonged her fasts with so much fervour. Sh_assed whole days on the top of her terrace, leaning her elbows against th_alustrade, and amusing herself by looking out before her. The summits of th_alls at the end of the town cut uneven zigzags upon the sky, and the lance_f the sentries formed what was like a border of corn-ears throughout thei_ength. Further away she could see the manoeuvres of the Barbarians betwee_he towers; on days when the siege was interrupted she could even distinguis_heir occupations. They mended their weapons, greased their hair, and washe_heir bloodstained arms in the sea; the tents were closed; the beasts o_urden were feeding; and in the distance the scythes of the chariots, whic_ere all ranged in a semicircle, looked like a silver scimitar lying at th_ase of the mountains. Schahabarim's talk recurred to her memory. She wa_aiting for Narr' Havas, her betrothed. In spite of her hatred she would hav_iked to see Matho again. Of all the Carthaginians she was perhaps the onl_ne who would have spoken to him without fear.
Her father often came into her room. He would sit down panting on th_ushions, and gaze at her with an almost tender look, as if he found some res_rom her fatigues in the sight of her. He sometimes questioned her about he_ourney to the camp of the Mercenaries. He even asked her whether any one ha_rged her to it; and with a shake of the head she answered, No,—so proud wa_alammbo of having saved the zaimph.
But the Suffet always came back to Matho under pretence of making militar_nquiries. He could not understand how the hours which she had spent in th_ent had been employed. Salammbo, in fact, said nothing about Gisco; for a_ords had an effective power in themselves, curses, if reported to any one, might be turned against him; and she was silent about her wish to assassinate, lest she should be blamed for not having yielded to it. She said that th_chalischim appeared furious, that he had shouted a great deal, and that h_ad then fallen asleep. Salammbo told no more, through shame perhaps, or els_ecause she was led by her extreme ingenuousness to attach but littl_mportance to the soldier's kisses. Moreover, it all floated through her hea_n a melancholy and misty fashion, like the recollection of a depressin_ream; and she would not have known in what way or in what words to expres_t.
One evening when they were thus face to face with each other, Taanach came i_ooking quite scared. An old man with a child was yonder in the courts, an_ished to see the Suffet.
Hamilcar turned pale, and then quickly replied:
"Let him come up!"
Iddibal entered without prostrating himself. He held a young boy, covered wit_ goat's-hair cloak, by the hand, and at once raised the hood which screene_is face.
"Here he is, Master! Take him!"
The Suffet and the slave went into a corner of the room.
The child remained in the centre standing upright, and with a gaze o_ttention rather than of astonishment he surveyed the ceiling, the furniture, the pearl necklaces trailing on the purple draperies, and the majestic maide_ho was bending over towards him.
He was perhaps ten years old, and was not taller than a Roman sword. His curl_air shaded his swelling forehead. His eyeballs looked as if they were seekin_or space. The nostrils of his delicate nose were broad and palpitating, an_pon his whole person was displayed the indefinable splendour of those who ar_estined to great enterprises. When he had cast aside his extremely heav_loak, he remained clad in a lynx skin, which was fastened about his waist, and he rested his little naked feet, which were all white with dust, resolutely upon the pavement. But he no doubt divined that important matter_ere under discussion, for he stood motionless, with one hand behind his back, his chin lowered, and a finger in his mouth.
At last Hamilcar attracted Salammbo with a sign and said to her in a lo_oice:
"You will keep him with you, you understand! No one, even though belonging t_he house, must know of his existence!"
Then, behind the door, he again asked Iddibal whether he was quite sure tha_hey had not been noticed.
"No!" said the slave, "the streets were empty."
As the war filled all the provinces he had feared for his master's son. Then, not knowing where to hide him, he had come along the coasts in a sloop, an_or three days Iddibal had been tacking about in the gulf and watching th_amparts. At last, that evening, as the environs of Khamon seemed to b_eserted, he had passed briskly through the channel and landed near th_rsenal, the entrance to the harbour being free.
But soon the Barbarians posted an immense raft in front of it in order t_revent the Carthaginians from coming out. They were again rearing the woode_owers, and the terrace was rising at the same time.
Outside communications were cut off and an intolerable famine set in.
The besieged killed all the dogs, all the mules, all the asses, and then th_ifteen elephants which the Suffet had brought back. The lions of the templ_f Moloch had become ferocious, and the hierodules no longer durst approac_hem. They were fed at first with the wounded Barbarians; then they wer_hrown corpses that were still warm; they refused them, and they all died.
People wandered in the twilight along the old enclosures, and gathered gras_nd flowers among the stones to boil them in wine, wine being cheaper tha_ater. Others crept as far as the enemy's outposts, and entered the tents t_teal food, and the stupefied Barbarians sometimes allowed them to return. A_ast a day arrived when the Ancients resolved to slaughter the horses o_schmoun privately. They were holy animals whose manes were plaited by th_ontiffs with gold ribbons, and whose existence denoted the motion of th_un—the idea of fire in its most exalted form. Their flesh was cut into equa_ortions and buried behind the altar. Then every evening the Ancients, alleging some act of devotion, would go up to the temple and regale themselve_n secret, and each would take away a piece beneath his tunic for hi_hildren. In the deserted quarters remote from the walls, the inhabitants, whose misery was not so great, had barricaded themselves through fear of th_est.
The stones from the catapults, and the demolitions commanded for purposes o_efence, had accumulated heaps of ruins in the middle of the streets. At th_uietest times masses of people would suddenly rush along with shouts; an_rom the top of the Acropolis the conflagrations were like purple rag_cattered upon the terraces and twisted by the wind.
The three great catapults did not stop in spite of all these works. Thei_avages were extraordinary: thus a man's head rebounded from the pediment o_he Syssitia; a woman who was being confined in the street of Kinisdo wa_rushed by a block of marble, and her child was carried with the bed as far a_he crossways of Cinasyn, where the coverlet was found.
The most annoying were the bullets of the slingers. They fell upon the roofs, and in the gardens, and in the middle of the courts, while people were a_able before a slender meal with their hearts big with sighs. These crue_rojectiles bore engraved letters which stamped themselves upon the flesh;—an_nsults might be read on corpses such as "pig," "jackal," "vermin," an_ometimes jests: "Catch it!" or "I have well deserved it!"
The portion of the rampart which extended from the corner of the harbours t_he height of the cisterns was broken down. Then the people of Malqua foun_hemselves caught between the old enclosure of Byrsa behind, and th_arbarians in front. But there was enough to be done in thickening the wal_nd making it as high as possible without troubling about them; they wer_bandoned; all perished; and although they were generally hated, Hamilcar cam_o be greatly abhorred.
On the morrow he opened the pits in which he kept stores of corn, and hi_tewards gave it to the people. For three days they gorged themselves.
Their thirst, however, only became the more intolerable, and they coul_onstantly see before them the long cascade formed by the clear falling wate_f the aqueduct. A thin vapour, with a rainbow beside it, went up from it_ase, beneath the rays of the sun, and a little stream curving through th_lain fell into the gulf.
Hamilcar did not give way. He was reckoning upon an event, upon somethin_ecisive and extraordinary.
His own slaves tore off the silver plates from the temple of Melkarth; fou_ong boats were drawn out of the harbour, they were brought by means o_apstans to the foot of the Mappalian quarter, the wall facing the shore wa_ored, and they set out for the Gauls to buy Mercenaries there at no matte_hat price. Nevertheless, Hamilcar was distressed at his inability t_ommunicate with the king of the Numidians, for he knew that he was behind th_arbarians, and ready to fall upon them. But Narr' Havas, being too weak, wa_ot going to make any venture alone; and the Suffet had the rampart raise_welve palms higher, all the material in the arsenals piled up in th_cropolis, and the machines repaired once more.
Sinews taken from bulls' necks, or else stags' hamstrings, were commonl_mployed for the twists of the catapults. However, neither stags nor bull_ere in existence in Carthage. Hamilcar asked the Ancients for the hair o_heir wives; all sacrificed it, but the quantity was not sufficient. In th_uildings of the Syssitia there were twelve hundred marriageable slave_estined for prostitution in Greece and Italy, and their hair, having bee_endered elastic by the use of unguents, was wonderfully well adapted fo_ngines of war. But the subsequent loss would be too great. Accordingly it wa_ecided that a choice should be made of the finest heads of hair among th_ives of the plebeians. Careless of their country's needs, they shrieked i_espair when the servants of the Hundred came with scissors to lay hands upo_hem.
The Barbarians were animated with increased fury. They could be seen in th_istance taking fat from the dead to grease their machines, while other_ulled out the nails and stitched them end to end to make cuirasses. The_evised a plan of putting into the catapults vessels filled with serpent_hich had been brought by the Negroes; the clay pots broke on the flag-stones, the serpents ran about, seemed to multiply, and, so numerous were they, t_ssue naturally from the walls. Then the Barbarians, not satisfied with thei_nvention, improved upon it; they hurled all kinds of filth, human excrements, pieces of carrion, corpses. The plague reappeared. The teeth of th_arthaginians fell out of their mouths, and their gums were discoloured lik_hose of camels after too long a journey.
The machines were set up on the terrace, although the latter did not as ye_each everywhere to the height of the rampart. Before the twenty-three tower_n the fortification stood twenty-three others of wood. All the tollenos wer_ounted again, and in the centre, a little further back, appeared th_ormidable helepolis of Demetrius Poliorcetes, which Spendius had at las_econstructed. Of pyramidical shape, like the pharos of Alexandria, it was on_undred and thirty cubits high and twenty-three wide, with nine stories, diminishing as they approached the summit, and protected by scales of brass; they were pierced with numerous doors and were filled with soldiers, and o_he upper platform there stood a catapult flanked by two ballistas.
Then Hamilcar planted crosses for those who should speak of surrender, an_ven the women were brigaded. The people lay in the streets and waited full o_istress.
Then one morning before sunrise (it was the seventh day of the month o_yssan) they heard a great shout uttered by all the Barbarians simultaneously; the leaden-tubed trumpets pealed, and the great Paphlagonian horns bellowe_ike bulls. All rose and ran to the rampart.
A forest of lances, pikes, and swords bristled at its base. It leaped agains_he wall, the ladders grappled them; and Barbarians' heads appeared in th_ntervals of the battlements.
Beams supported by long files of men were battering at the gates; and, i_rder to demolish the wall at places where the terrace was wanting, th_ercenaries came up in serried cohorts, the first line crawling, the secon_ending their hams, and the others rising in succession to the last who stoo_pright; while elsewhere, in order to climb up, the tallest advanced in fron_nd the lowest in the rear, and all rested their shields upon their helmet_ith their left arms, joining them together at the edges so tightly that the_ight have been taken for an assemblage of large tortoises. The projectile_lid over these oblique masses.
The Carthaginians threw down mill-stones, pestles, vats, casks, beds, everything that could serve as a weight and could knock down. Some watched a_he embrasures with fisherman's nets, and when the Barbarian arrived he foun_imself caught in the meshes, and struggled like a fish. They demolished thei_wn battlements; portions of wall fell down raising a great dust; and as th_atapults on the terrace were shooting over against one another, the stone_ould strike together and shiver into a thousand pieces, making a copiou_hower upon the combatants.
Soon the two crowds formed but one great chain of human bodies; it overflowe_nto the intervals in the terrace, and, somewhat looser at the tw_xtremities, swayed perpetually without advancing. They clasped one another, lying flat on the ground like wrestlers. They crushed one another. The wome_eaned over the battlements and shrieked. They were dragged away by thei_eils, and the whiteness of their suddenly uncovered sides shone in the arm_f the Negroes as the latter buried their daggers in them. Some corpses di_ot fall, being too much pressed by the crowd, and, supported by the shoulder_f their companions, advanced for some minutes quite upright and with starin_yes. Some who had both temples pierced by a javelin swayed their heads abou_ike bears. Mouths, opened to shout, remained gaping; severed hands fle_hrough the air. Mighty blows were dealt, which were long talked of by th_urvivors.
Meanwhile arrows darted from the towers of wood and stone. The tollenos move_heir long yards rapidly; and as the Barbarians had sacked the old cemetery o_he aborigines beneath the Catacombs, they hurled the tombstones against th_arthaginians. Sometimes the cables broke under the weight of too heav_askets, and masses of men, all with uplifted arms, would fall from the sky.
Up to the middle of the day the veterans had attacked the Taenia fiercely i_rder to penetrate into the harbour and destroy the fleet. Hamilcar had a fir_f damp straw lit upon the roofing of Khamon, and as the smoke blinded the_hey fell back to left, and came to swell the horrible rout which was pressin_orward in Malqua. Some syntagmata composed of sturdy men, chosen expressl_or the purpose, had broken in three gates. They were checked by loft_arriers made of planks studded with nails, but a fourth yielded easily; the_ashed over it at a run and rolled into a pit in which there were hidde_nares. At the south-west gate Autaritus and his men broke down the rampart, the fissure in which had been stopped up with bricks. The ground behind rose, and they climbed it nimbly. But on the top they found a second wall compose_f stones and long beams lying quite flat and alternating like the squares o_ chess-board. It was a Gaulish fashion, and had been adapted by the Suffet t_he requirements of the situation; the Gauls imagined themselves before a tow_n their own country. Their attack was weak, and they were repulsed.
All the roundway, from the street of Khamon as far as the Green Market, no_elonged to the Barbarians, and the Samnites were finishing off the dying wit_lows of stakes; or else with one foot on the wall were gazing down at th_moking ruins beneath them, and the battle which was beginning again in th_istance.
The slingers, who were distributed through the rear, were still shooting. Bu_he springs of the Acarnanian slings had broken from use, and many wer_hrowing stones with the hand like shepherds; the rest hurled leaden bullet_ith the handle of a whip. Zarxas, his shoulders covered with his long blac_air, went about everywhere, and led on the Barbarians. Two pouches hung a_is hips; he thrust his left hand into them continually, while his right ar_hirled round like a chariot-wheel.
Matho had at first refrained from fighting, the better to command th_arbarians all at once. He had been seen along the gulf with the Mercenaries, near the lagoon with the Numidians, and on the shores of the lake among th_egroes, and from the back part of the plain he urged forward masses o_oldiers who came ceaselessly against the ramparts. By degrees he had draw_ear; the smell of blood, the sight of carnage, and the tumult of clarions ha_t last made his heart leap. Then he had gone back into his tent, and throwin_ff his cuirass had taken his lion's skin as being more convenient for battle.
The snout fitted upon his head, bordering his face with a circle of fangs; th_wo fore-paws were crossed upon his breast, and the claws of the hinder one_ell beneath his knees.
He had kept on his strong waist-belt, wherein gleamed a two-edged axe, an_ith his great sword in both hands he had dashed impetuously through th_reach. Like a pruner cutting willow-branches and trying to strike off as muc_s possible so as to make the more money, he marched along mowing down th_arthaginians around him. Those who tried to seize him in flank he knocke_own with blows of the pommel; when they attacked him in front he ran the_hrough; if they fled he clove them. Two men leaped together upon his back; h_ounded backwards against a gate and crushed them. His sword fell and rose. I_hivered on the angle of a wall. Then he took his heavy axe, and front an_ear he ripped up the Carthaginians like a flock of sheep. They scattered mor_nd more, and he was quite alone when he reached the second enclosure at th_oot of the Acropolis. The materials which had been flung from the summi_umbered the steps and were heaped up higher than the wall. Matho turned bac_mid the ruins to summons his companions.
He perceived their crests scattered over the multitude; they were sinking an_heir wearers were about to perish; he dashed towards them; then the vas_reath of red plumes closed in, and they soon rejoined him and surrounded him.
But an enormous crowd was discharging from the side streets. He was caught b_he hips, lifted up and carried away outside the ramparts to a spot where th_errace was high.
Matho shouted a command and all the shields sank upon the helmets; he leape_pon them in order to catch hold somewhere so as to re-enter Carthage; and, flourishing his terrible axe, ran over the shields, which resembled waves o_ronze, like a marine god, with brandished trident, over his billows.
However, a man in a white robe was walking along the edge of the rampart, impassible, and indifferent to the death which surrounded him. Sometimes h_ould spread out his right hand above his eyes in order to find out some one.
Matho happened to pass beneath him. Suddenly his eyeballs flamed, his livi_ace contracted; and raising both his lean arms he shouted out abuse at him.
Matho did not hear it; but he felt so furious and cruel a look entering hi_eart that he uttered a roar. He hurled his long axe at him; some people thre_hemselves upon Schahabarim; and Matho seeing him no more fell back exhausted.
A terrible creaking drew near, mingled with the rhythm of hoarse voice_inging together.
It was the great helepolis surrounded by a crowd of soldiers. They wer_ragging it with both hands, hauling it with ropes, and pushing it with thei_houlders,—for the slope rising from the plain to the terrace, althoug_xtremely gentle, was found impracticable for machines of such prodigiou_eight. However, it had eight wheels banded with iron, and it had bee_dvancing slowly in this way since the morning, like a mountain raised upo_nother. Then there appeared an immense ram issuing from its base. The door_long the three fronts which faced the town fell down, and cuirassed soldier_ppeared in the interior like pillars of iron. Some might be seen climbing an_escending the two staircases which crossed the stories. Some were waiting t_art out as soon as the cramps of the doors touched the walls; in the middl_f the upper platform the skeins of the ballistas were turning, and the grea_eam of the catapult was being lowered.
Hamilcar was at that moment standing upright on the roof of Melkarth. He ha_alculated that it would come directly towards him, against what was the mos_nvulnerable place in the wall, which was for that very reason denuded o_entries. His slaves had for a long time been bringing leathern bottles alon_he roundway, where they had raised with clay two transverse partition_orming a sort of basin. The water was flowing insensibly along the terrace, and strange to say, it seemed to cause Hamilcar no anxiety.
But when the helepolis was thirty paces off, he commanded planks to be place_ver the streets between the houses from the cisterns to the rampart; and _ile of people passed from hand to hand helmets and amphoras, which wer_mptied continually. The Carthaginians, however, grew indignant at this wast_f water. The ram was demolishing the wall, when suddenly a fountain spran_orth from the disjointed stones. Then the lofty brazen mass, nine storie_igh, which contained and engaged more than three thousand soldiers, began t_ock gently like a ship. In fact, the water, which had penetrated the terrace, had broken up the path before it; its wheels stuck in the mire; the head o_pendius, with distended cheeks blowing an ivory cornet, appeared betwee_eathern curtains on the first story. The great machine, as thoug_onvulsively upheaved, advanced perhaps ten paces; but the ground softene_ore and more, the mire reached to the axles, and the helepolis stopped, leaning over frightfully to one side. The catapult rolled to the edge of th_latform, and carried away by the weight of its beam, fell, shattering th_ower stories beneath it. The soldiers who were standing on the doors slippe_nto the abyss, or else held on to the extremities of the long beams, and b_heir weight increased the inclination of the helepolis, which was going t_ieces with creakings in all its joints.
The other Barbarians rushed up to help them, massing themselves into a compac_rowd. The Carthaginians descended from the rampart, and, assailing them i_he rear, killed them at leisure. But the chariots furnished with sickle_astened up, and galloped round the outskirts of the multitude. The latte_scended the wall again; night came on; and the Barbarians gradually retired.
Nothing could now be seen on the plain but a sort of perfectly black, swarmin_ass, which extended from the bluish gulf to the purely white lagoon; and th_ake, which had received streams of blood, stretched further away like a grea_urple pool.
The terrace was now so laden with corpses that it looked as though it had bee_onstructed of human bodies. In the centre stood the helepolis covered wit_rmour; and from time to time huge fragments broke off from it, like stone_rom a crumbling pyramid. Broad tracks made by the streams of lead might b_istinguished on the walls. A broken-down wooden tower burned here and there, and the houses showed dimly like the stages of a ruined ampitheatre. Heav_umes of smoke were rising, and rolling with them sparks which were lost i_he dark sky.
The Carthaginians, however, who were consumed by thirst, had rushed to th_isterns. They broke open the doors. A miry swamp stretched at the bottom.
What was to be done now? Moreover, the Barbarians were countless, and whe_heir fatigue was over they would begin again.
The people deliberated all night in groups at the corners of the streets. Som_aid that they ought to send away the women, the sick, and the old men; other_roposed to abandon the town, and found a colony far away. But vessels wer_acking, and when the sun appeared no decision had been made.
There was no fighting that day, all being too much exhausted. The sleeper_ooked like corpses.
Then the Carthaginians, reflecting upon the cause of their disasters, remembered that they had not dispatched to Phoenicia the annual offering du_o Tyrian Melkarth, and a great terror came upon them. The gods were indignan_ith the Republic, and were, no doubt, about to prosecute their vengeance.
They were considered as cruel masters, who were appeased with supplication_nd allowed themselves to be bribed with presents. All were feeble i_omparison with Moloch the Devourer. The existence, the very flesh of men, belonged to him; and hence in order to preserve it, the Carthaginians used t_ffer up a portion of it to him, which calmed his fury. Children were burne_n the forehead, or on the nape of the neck, with woollen wicks; and as thi_ode of satisfying Baal brought in much money to the priests, they failed no_o recommend it as being easier and more pleasant.
This time, however, the Republic itself was at stake. But as every profit mus_e purchased by some loss, and as every transaction was regulated according t_he needs of the weaker and the demands of the stronger, there was no pai_reat enough for the god, since he delighted in such as was of the mos_orrible description, and all were now at his mercy. He must accordingly b_ully gratified. Precedents showed that in this way the scourge would be mad_o disappear. Moreover, it was believed that an immolation by fire woul_urify Carthage. The ferocity of the people was predisposed towards it. Th_hoice, too, must fall exclusively upon the families of the great.
The Ancients assembled. The sitting was a long one. Hanno had come to it. A_e was now unable to sit he remained lying down near the door, half hidde_mong the fringes of the lofty tapestry; and when the pontiff of Moloch aske_hem whether they would consent to surrender their children, his voic_uddenly broke forth from the shadow like the roaring of a genius in th_epths of a cavern. He regretted, he said, that he had none of his own bloo_o give; and he gazed at Hamilcar, who faced him at the other end of the hall.
The Suffet was so much disconcerted by this look that it made him lower hi_yes. All successively bent their heads in approval; and in accordance wit_he rites he had to reply to the high priest: "Yes; be it so." Then th_ncients decreed the sacrifice in traditional circumlocution,—because ther_re things more troublesome to say than to perform.
The decision was almost immediately known in Carthage, and lamentation_esounded. The cries of women might everywhere be heard; their husband_onsoled them, or railed at them with remonstrances.
But three hours afterwards extraordinary tidings were spread abroad: th_uffet had discovered springs at the foot of the cliff. There was a rush t_he place. Water might be seen in holes dug in the sand, and some were alread_ying flat on the ground and drinking.
Hamilcar did not himself know whether it was by the determination of the god_r through the vague recollection of a revelation which his father had onc_ade to him; but on leaving the Ancients he had gone down to the shore and ha_egun to dig the gravel with his slaves.
He gave clothing, boots, and wine. He gave all the rest of the corn that h_as keeping by him. He even let the crowd enter his palace, and he opene_itchens, stores, and all the rooms,—Salammbo's alone excepted. He announce_hat six thousand Gaulish Mercenaries were coming, and that the king o_acedonia was sending soldiers.
But on the second day the springs diminished, and on the evening of the thir_hey were completely dried up. Then the decree of the Ancients passe_verywhere from lip to lip, and the priests of Moloch began their task.
Men in black robes presented themselves in the houses. In many instances th_wners had deserted them under pretence of some business, or of some daint_hat they were going to buy; and the servants of Moloch came and took th_hildren away. Others themselves surrendered them stupidly. Then they wer_rought to the temple of Tanith, where the priestesses were charged with thei_musement and support until the solemn day.
They visited Hamilcar suddenly and found him in his gardens.
"Barca! we come for that that you know of—your son!" They added that som_eople had met him one evening during the previous moon in the centre of th_appalian district being led by an old man.
He was as though suffocated at first. But speedily understanding that an_enial would be in vain, Hamilcar bowed; and he brought them into th_ommercial house. Some slaves who had run up at a sign kept watch all roun_bout it.
He entered Salammbo's room in a state of distraction. He seized Hannibal wit_ne hand, snatched up the cord of a trailing garment with the other, tied hi_eet and hands with it, thrust the end into his mouth to form a gag, and hi_im under the bed of the ox-hides by letting an ample drapery fall to th_round.
Afterwards he walked about from right to left, raised his arms, wheeled round, bit his lips. Then he stood still with staring eyelids, and panted as thoug_e were about to die.
But he clapped his hands three times. Giddenem appeared.
"Listen!" he said, "go and take from among the slaves a male child from eigh_o nine years of age, with black hair and swelling forehead! Bring him here!
Giddenem soon entered again, bringing forward a young boy.
He was a miserable child, at once lean and bloated; his skin looked greyish, like the infected rag hanging to his sides; his head was sunk between hi_houlders, and with the back of his hand he was rubbing his eyes, which wer_illed with flies.
How could he ever be confounded with Hannibal! and there was no time to choos_nother. Hamilcar looked at Giddenem; he felt inclined to strangle him.
"Begone!" he cried; and the master of the slaves fled.
The misfortune which he had so long dreaded was therefore come, and wit_xtravagant efforts he strove to discover whether there was not some mode, some means to escape it.
Abdalonim suddenly spoke from behind the door. The Suffet was being asked for.
The servants of Moloch were growing impatient.
Hamilcar repressed a cry as though a red hot iron had burnt him; and he bega_new to pace the room like one distraught. Then he sank down beside th_alustrade, and, with his elbows on his knees, pressed his forehead into hi_hut fists.
The porphyry basin still contained a little clear water for Salammbo'_blutions. In spite of his repugnance and all his pride, the Suffet dipped th_hild into it, and, like a slave merchant, began to wash him and rub him wit_trigils and red earth. Then he took two purple squares from the receptacle_ound the wall, placed one on his breast and the other on his back, and joine_hem together on the collar bones with two diamond clasps. He poured perfum_pon his head, passed an electrum necklace around his neck, and put on hi_andals with heels of pearl,—sandals belonging to his own daughter! But h_tamped with shame and vexation; Salammbo, who busied herself in helping him, was as pale as he. The child, dazzled by such splendour, smiled and, growin_old even, was beginning to clap his hands and jump, when Hamilcar took hi_way.
He held him firmly by the arm as though he were afraid of losing him, and th_hild, who was hurt, wept a little as he ran beside him.
When on a level with the ergastulum, under a palm tree, a voice was raised, _ournful and supplicant voice. It murmured: "Master! oh! master!"
Hamilcar turned and beside him perceived a man of abject appearance, one o_he wretches who led a haphazard existence in the household.
"What do you want?" said the Suffet.
The slave, who trembled horribly, stammered:
"I am his father!"
Hamilcar walked on; the other followed him with stooping loins, bent hams, an_ead thrust forward. His face was convulsed with unspeakable anguish, and h_as choking with suppressed sobs, so eager was he at once to question him, an_o cry: "Mercy!"
At last he ventured to touch him lightly with one finger on the elbow.
"Are you going to—?" He had not the strength to finish, and Hamilcar stoppe_uite amazed at such grief.
He had never thought—so immense was the abyss separating them from eac_ther—that there could be anything in common between them. It even appeared t_im a sort of outrage, an encroachment upon his own privileges. He replie_ith a look colder and heavier than an executioner's axe; the slave swoone_nd fell in the dust at his feet. Hamilcar strode across him.
The three black-robed men were waiting in the great hall, and standing agains_he stone disc. Immediately he tore his garments, and rolled upon the pavemen_ttering piercing cries.
"Ah! poor little Hannibal! Oh! my son! my consolation! my hope! my life! Kil_e also! take me away! Woe! Woe!" He ploughed his face with his nails, tor_ut his hair, and shrieked like the women who lament at funerals. "Take hi_way then! my suffering is too great! begone! kill me like him!" The servant_f Moloch were astonished that the great Hamilcar was so weak-spirited. The_ere almost moved by it.
A noise of naked feet became audible, with a broken throat-rattling like th_reathing of a wild beast speeding along, and a man, pale, terrible, and wit_utspread arms appeared on the threshold of the third gallery, between th_vory pots; he exclaimed:
Hamilcar threw himself with a bound upon the slave, and covering the man'_outh with his hand exclaimed still more loudly:
"It is the old man who reared him! he calls him 'my child!' it will make hi_ad! enough! enough!" And hustling away the three priests and their victim h_ent out with them and with a great kick shut the door behind him.
Hamilcar strained his ears for some minutes in constant fear of seeing the_eturn. He then thought of getting rid of the slave in order to be quite sur_hat he would see nothing; but the peril had not wholly disappeared, and, i_he gods were provoked at the man's death, it might be turned against his son.
Then, changing his intention, he sent him by Taanach the best from hi_itchens—a quarter of a goat, beans, and preserved pomegranates. The slave, who had eaten nothing for a long time, rushed upon them; his tears fell int_he dishes.
Hamilcar at last returned to Salammbo, and unfastened Hannibal's cords. Th_hild in exasperation bit his hand until the blood came. He repelled him wit_ caress.
To make him remain quiet Salammbo tried to frighten him with Lamia, a Cyrenia_gress.
"But where is she?" he asked.
He was told that brigands were coming to put him into prison. "Let them come,"
he rejoined, "and I will kill them!"
Then Hamilcar told him the frightful truth. But he fell into a passion wit_is father, contending that he was quite able to annihilate the whole people, since he was the master of Carthage.
At last, exhausted by his exertions and anger, he fell into a wild sleep. H_poke in his dreams, his back leaning against a scarlet cushion; his head wa_hrown back somewhat, and his little arm, outstretched from his body, la_uite straight in an attitude of command.
When the night had grown dark Hamilcar lifted him up gently, and, without _orch, went down the galley staircase. As he passed through the mercantil_ouse he took up a basket of grapes and a flagon of pure water; the chil_woke before the statue of Aletes in the vault of gems, and he smiled—like th_ther—on his father's arm at the brilliant lights which surrounded him.
Hamilcar felt quite sure that his son could not be taken from him. It was a_mpenetrable spot communicating with the beach by a subterranean passage whic_e alone knew, and casting his eyes around he inhaled a great draught of air.
Then he set him down upon a stool beside some golden shields. No one a_resent could see him; he had no further need for watching; and he relieve_is feelings. Like a mother finding her first-born that was lost, he thre_imself upon his son; he clasped him to his breast, he laughed and wept at th_ame time, he called him by the fondest names and covered him with kisses; little Hannibal was frightened by this terrible tenderness and was silent now.
Hamilcar returned with silent steps, feeling the walls around him, and cam_nto the great hall where the moonlight entered through one of the aperture_n the dome; in the centre the slave lay sleeping after his repast, stretche_t full length upon the marble pavement. He looked at him and was moved with _ort of pity. With the tip of his cothurn he pushed forward a carpet beneat_is head. Then he raised his eyes and gazed at Tanith, whose slender crescen_as shining in the sky, and felt himself stronger than the Baals and full o_ontempt for them.
The arrangements for the sacrifice were already begun.
Part of a wall in the temple of Moloch was thrown down in order to draw ou_he brazen god without touching the ashes of the altar. Then as soon as th_un appeared the hierodules pushed it towards the square of Khamon.
It moved backwards sliding upon cylinders; its shoulders overlapped the walls.
No sooner did the Carthaginians perceive it in the distance than they speedil_ook to flight, for the Baal could be looked upon with impunity only whe_xercising his wrath.
A smell of aromatics spread through the streets. All the temples had just bee_pened simultaneously, and from them there came forth tabernacles borne upo_hariots, or upon litters carried by the pontiffs. Great plumes swayed at th_orners of them, and rays were emitted from their slender pinnacles whic_erminated in balls of crystal, gold, silver or copper.
These were the Chanaanitish Baalim, offshoots of the supreme Baal, who wer_eturning to their first cause to humble themselves before his might an_nnihilate themselves in his splendour.
Melkarth's pavilion, which was of fine purple, sheltered a petroleum flare; o_hamon's, which was of hyacinth colour, there rose an ivory phallus bordere_ith a circle of gems; between Eschmoun's curtains, which were as blue as th_ther, a sleeping python formed a circle with his tail, and the Pataec gods, held in the arms of their priests, looked like great infants in swaddlin_lothes with their heels touching the ground.
Then came all the inferior forms of the Divinity: Baal-Samin, god of celestia_pace; Baal-Peor, god of the sacred mountains; Baal-Zeboub, god of corruption, with those of the neighbouring countries and congenerous races: the Iarbal o_ibya, the Adramelech of Chaldaea, the Kijun of the Syrians; Derceto, with he_irgin's face, crept on her fins, and the corpse of Tammouz was drawn along i_he midst of a catafalque among torches and heads of hair. In order to subdu_he kings of the firmament to the Sun, and prevent their particular influence_rom disturbing his, diversely coloured metal stars were brandished at the en_f long poles; and all were there, from the dark Neblo, the genius of Mercury, to the hideous Rahab, which is the constellation of the Crocodile. Th_bbadirs, stones which had fallen from the moon, were whirling in slings o_ilver thread; little loaves, representing the female form, were born o_askets by the priests of Ceres; others brought their fetishes and amulets; forgotten idols reappeared, while the mystic symbols had been taken from th_ery ships as though Carthage wished to concentrate herself wholly upon _ingle thought of death and desolation.
Before each tabernacle a man balanced a large vase of smoking incense on hi_ead. Clouds hovered here and there, and the hangings, pendants, an_mbroideries of the sacred pavilions might be distinguished amid the thic_apours. These advanced slowly owing to their enormous weight. Sometimes th_xles became fast in the streets; then the pious took advantage of th_pportunity to touch the Baalim with their garments, which they preserve_fterwards as holy things.
The brazen statue continued to advance towards the square of Khamon. The rich, carrying sceptres with emerald balls, set out from the bottom of Megara; th_ncients, with diadems on their heads, had assembled in Kinisdo, and master_f the finances, governors of provinces, sailors, and the numerous hord_mployed at funerals, all with the insignia of their magistracies or th_nstruments of their calling, were making their way towards the tabernacle_hich were descending from the Acropolis between the colleges of the pontiffs.
Out of deference to Moloch they had adorned themselves with the most splendi_ewels. Diamonds sparkled on their black garments; but their rings were to_arge and fell from their wasted hands,—nor could there have been anything s_ournful as this silent crowd where earrings tapped against pale faces, an_old tiaras clasped brows contracted with stern despair.
At last the Baal arrived exactly in the centre of the square. His pontiff_rranged an enclosure with trellis-work to keep off the multitude, an_emained around him at his feet.
The priests of Khamon, in tawny woollen robes, formed a line before thei_emple beneath the columns of the portico; those of Eschmoun, in linen mantle_ith necklaces of koukouphas' heads and pointed tiaras, posted themselves o_he steps of the Acropolis; the priests of Melkarth, in violet tunics, too_he western side; the priests of the Abbadirs, clasped with bands of Phrygia_tuffs, placed themselves on the east, while towards the south, with th_ecromancers all covered with tattooings, and the shriekers in patched cloaks, were ranged the curates of the Pataec gods, and the Yidonim, who put the bon_f a dead man into their mouths to learn the future. The priests of Ceres, wh_ere dressed in blue robes, had prudently stopped in the street of Satheb, an_n low tones were chanting a thesmophorion in the Megarian dialect.
From time to time files of men arrived, completely naked, their arm_utstretched, and all holding one another by the shoulders. From the depths o_heir breasts they drew forth a hoarse and cavernous intonation; their eyes, which were fastened upon the colossus, shone through the dust, and they swaye_heir bodies simultaneously, and at equal distances, as though they were al_ffected by a single movement. They were so frenzied that to restore order th_ierodules compelled them, with blows of the stick, to lie flat upon th_round, with their faces resting against the brass trellis-work.
Then it was that a man in a white robe advanced from the back of the square.
He penetrated the crowd slowly, and people recognised a priest of Tanith—th_igh-priest Schahabarim. Hootings were raised, for the tyranny of the mal_rinciple prevailed that day in all consciences, and the goddess was actuall_o completely forgotten that the absence of her pontiffs had not been noticed.
But the amazement was increased when he was seen to open one of the doors o_he trellis-work intended for those who intended to offer up victims. It wa_n outrage to their god, thought the priests of Moloch, that he had jus_ommitted, and they sought with eager gestures to repel him. Fed on the mea_f the holocausts, clad in purple like kings, and wearing triple-storie_rowns, they despised the pale eunuch, weakened with his macerations, an_ngry laughter shook their black beards, which were displayed on their breast_n the sun.
Schahabarim walked on, giving no reply, and, traversing the whole enclosur_ith deliberation, reached the legs of the colossus; then, spreading out bot_rms, he touched it on both sides, which was a solemn form of adoration. For _ong time Rabbet had been torturing him, and in despair, or perhaps for lac_f a god that completely satisfied his ideas, he had at last decided for thi_ne.
The crowd, terrified by this act of apostasy, uttered a lengthened murmur. I_as felt that the last tie which bound their souls to a merciful divinity wa_reaking.
But owing to his mutilation, Schahabarim could take no part in the cult of th_aal. The men in the red cloaks shut him out from the enclosure; then, when h_as outside, he went round all the colleges in succession, and the priest, henceforth without a god, disappeared into the crowd. It scattered at hi_pproach.
Meanwhile a fire of aloes, cedar, and laurel was burning between the legs o_he colossus. The tips of its long wings dipped into the flame; the unguent_ith which it had been rubbed flowed like sweat over its brazen limbs. Aroun_he circular flagstone on which its feet rested, the children, wrapped i_lack veils, formed a motionless circle; and its extravagantly long arm_eached down their palms to them as though to seize the crown that they forme_nd carry it to the sky.
The rich, the Ancients, the women, the whole multitude, thronged behind th_riests and on the terraces of the houses. The large painted stars revolved n_onger; the tabernacles were set upon the ground; and the fumes from th_ensers ascended perpendicularly, spreading their bluish branches through th_zure like gigantic trees.
Many fainted; others became inert and petrified in their ecstasy. Infinit_nguish weighed upon the breasts of the beholders. The last shouts died ou_ne by one,—and the people of Carthage stood breathless, and absorbed in th_onging of their terror.
At last the high priest of Moloch passed his left hand beneath the children'_eils, plucked a lock of hair from their foreheads, and threw it upon th_lames. Then the men in the red cloaks chanted the sacred hymn:
"Homage to thee, Sun! king of the two zones, self-generating Creator, Fathe_nd Mother, Father and Son, God and Goddess, Goddess and God!" And thei_oices were lost in the outburst of instruments sounding simultaneously t_rown the cries of the victims. The eight-stringed scheminiths, the kinnor_hich had ten strings, and the nebals which had twelve, grated, whistled, an_hundered. Enormous leathern bags, bristling with pipes, made a shril_lashing noise; the tabourines, beaten with all the players' might, resounde_ith heavy, rapid blows; and, in spite of the fury of the clarions, th_alsalim snapped like grasshoppers' wings.
The hierodules, with a long hook, opened the seven-storied compartments on th_ody of the Baal. They put meal into the highest, two turtle-doves into th_econd, an ape into the third, a ram into the fourth, a sheep into the fifth, and as no ox was to be had for the sixth, a tawny hide taken from th_anctuary was thrown into it. The seventh compartment yawned empty still.
Before undertaking anything it was well to make trial of the arms of the god.
Slender chainlets stretched from his fingers up to his shoulders and fel_ehind, where men by pulling them made the two hands rise to a level with th_lbows, and come close together against the belly; they were moved severa_imes in succession with little abrupt jerks. Then the instruments were still.
The fire roared.
The pontiffs of Moloch walked about on the great flagstone scanning th_ultitude.
An individual sacrifice was necessary, a perfectly voluntary oblation, whic_as considered as carrying the others along with it. But no one had appeare_p to the present, and the seven passages leading from the barriers to th_olossus were completely empty. Then the priests, to encourage the people, drew bodkins from their girdles and gashed their faces. The Devotees, who wer_tretched on the ground outside, were brought within the enclosure. A bundl_f horrible irons was thrown to them, and each chose his own torture. The_rove in spits between their breasts; they split their cheeks; they put crown_f thorns upon their heads; then they twined their arms together, an_urrounded the children in another large circle which widened and contracte_n turns. They reached to the balustrade, they threw themselves back again, and then began once more, attracting the crowd to them by the dizziness o_heir motion with its accompanying blood and shrieks.
By degrees people came into the end of the passages; they flung into th_lames pearls, gold vases, cups, torches, all their wealth; the offering_ecame constantly more numerous and more splendid. At last a man who tottered, a man pale and hideous with terror, thrust forward a child; then a littl_lack mass was seen between the hands of the colossus, and sank into the dar_pening. The priests bent over the edge of the great flagstone,—and a new son_urst forth celebrating the joys of death and of new birth into eternity.
The children ascended slowly, and as the smoke formed lofty eddies as i_scaped, they seemed at a distance to disappear in a cloud. Not one stirred.
Their wrists and ankles were tied, and the dark drapery prevented them fro_eeing anything and from being recognised.
Hamilcar, in a red cloak, like the priests of Moloch, was beside the Baal, standing upright in front of the great toe of its right foot. When th_ourteenth child was brought every one could see him make a great gesture o_orror. But he soon resumed his former attitude, folded his arms, and looke_pon the ground. The high pontiff stood on the other side of the statue a_otionless as he. His head, laden with an Assyrian mitre, was bent, and he wa_atching the gold plate on his breast; it was covered with fatidical stones, and the flame mirrored in it formed irisated lights. He grew pale an_ismayed. Hamilcar bent his brow; and they were both so near the funeral-pil_hat the hems of their cloaks brushed it as they rose from time to time.
The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every tim_hat a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread out their hand_pon him to burden him with the crimes of the people, vociferating: "They ar_ot men but oxen!" and the multitude round about repeated: "Oxen! oxen!" Th_evout exclaimed: "Lord! eat!" and the priests of Proserpine, complyin_hrough terror with the needs of Carthage, muttered the Eleusinian formula:
"Pour out rain! bring forth!"
The victims, when scarcely at the edge of the opening, disappeared like a dro_f water on a red-hot plate, and white smoke rose amid the great scarle_olour.
Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished fo_ore. In order to furnish him with a larger supply, the victims were piled u_n his hands with a big chain above them which kept them in their place. Som_evout persons had at the beginning wished to count them, to see whether thei_umber corresponded with the days of the solar year; but others were brought, and it was impossible to distinguish them in the giddy motion of the horribl_rms. This lasted for a long, indefinite time until the evening. Then th_artitions inside assumed a darker glow, and burning flesh could be seen. Som_ven believed that they could descry hair, limbs, and whole bodies.
Night fell; clouds accumulated above the Baal. The funeral-pile, which wa_lameless now, formed a pyramid of coals up to his knees; completely red lik_ giant covered with blood, he looked, with his head thrown back, as though h_ere staggering beneath the weight of his intoxication.
In proportion as the priests made haste, the frenzy of the people increased; as the number of the victims was diminishing, some cried out to spare them, others that still more were needful. The walls, with their burden of people, seemed to be giving way beneath the howlings of terror and mysti_oluptuousness. Then the faithful came into the passages, dragging thei_hildren, who clung to them; and they beat them in order to make them let go, and handed them over to the men in red. The instrument-players sometime_topped through exhaustion; then the cries of the mothers might be heard, an_he frizzling of the fat as it fell upon the coals. The henbane-drinker_rawled on all fours around the colossus, roaring like tigers; the Yidoni_aticinated, the Devotees sang with their cloven lips; the trellis-work ha_een broken through, all wished for a share in the sacrifice;—and fathers, whose children had died previously, cast their effigies, their playthings, their preserved bones into the fire. Some who had knives rushed upon the rest.
They slaughtered one another. The hierodules took the fallen ashes at the edg_f the flagstone in bronze fans, and cast them into the air that the sacrific_ight be scattered over the town and even to the region of the stars.
The loud noise and great light had attracted the Barbarians to the foot of th_alls; they clung to the wreck of the helepolis to have a better view, an_azed open-mouthed in horror.