The year 146 B.C. was an annus mirabilis in the development of Roman dominion. Of course it had long been a foregone conclusion that Carthage and Corinth must fall before her, but the actual time of their overthrow was made all the more striking by the fact that both cities perished in the same year, and that both were visited by the same fate.
I have attempted in this story to group some picturesque inci-dents round the person of a young Greek who struggles in vain to resist the destiny of the conquering race. The reader will also find some suggestion of the thought which the Roman historian had in his mind when he wrote:
"Carthage, the rival of the Roman Empire, perished root and branch, sea and land everywhere lay open before us, when at last Fortune began to rage against us and throw everything into confusion."
The day when Rome rid herself of her rivals seemed to some of her more thoughtful sons to be the first of her corruption and decline.
April 22, 1897
** THE FATE OF THE MELCART:**
THE Melcart, the sacred ship of Carthage, was on its homeward voyage from Tyre, and had accomplished the greater part of its journey in safety; in fact, it was only a score or so of miles away from its destination.
It had carried the mission sent, year by year, to the famous shrine of the god whose name it bore, the great temple which the Greeks called by the title of the Tyrian Hercules. This was too solemn and important a function to be dropped on any pretext whatsoever. Never, even in the time of her deepest distress, had Carthage failed to pay this dutiful tribute to the patron deity of her mothercity; and, indeed, she had never been in sorer straits than now. Rome, in the early days her ally, then her rival, and now her oppressor, was resolved to destroy her, forcing her into war by demanding impossible terms of submission. Her old command of the sea had long since departed. It was only by ste-alth and subtlety that one of her ships could hope to traverse unharmed the five hundred leagues of sea that lay between her harbour and the old capital of Phoenicia. The Melcarthad hitherto been fortunate. She was a first-rate sailer, equally at home with the light breeze to which she could spread all her canvas and the gale which reduced her to a single sprit-sail.
She had a picked crew, with not a slave on the rowing benches, for there were always freeborn Carthaginians ready to pull an oar in the Melcart. Hanno, her captain, namesake and descendant of the great discoverer who had sailed as far down the African coast as Sierra Leone itself, was famous for his seamanship from the Pillars of Hercules to the harbours of Syria.