If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that I am prey to flights of orthogonality from time to time. This is one of those times.
While driving today, I was listening to Mike Duncan's excellent podcast series 'The History of Rome'. I have read more than my fair share of ancient history, however Mike mentioned a portion from Appian's Foreign Wars that I had somehow missed in my readings that was just priceless. I have to share it.
Hannibal Barca, the 'elephants-over-the-Alps-general' and motive force behind the second Punic war between Carthage and Rome, evidently left the employ of the Carthaginians years after his defeat at Zama at the hands of Publius Cornelius Scipio and found himself in the employ of Antiochus of Syria. Antiochus was agitating to go to war with parts of Greece (an unoffical-Roman province at the time) and the Romans sent a delegation to Antiochus to dissuade him from his designs.
Evidently, one of the Romans sent was no less than Scipio, Hannibal's old adversary. The two, being not formally at war and in delicate negotiations regarding Antiochus going Northwards, actually had time to socialize a little. During one of their socializations.....
To this Scipio assented since he also yielded the first place to Alexander. Then he asked Hannibal whom he placed next, and he replied, "Pyrrhus of Epirus," because he considered boldness the first qualification of a general; "for it would not be possible," he said, "to find two kings more enterprising than these."
Scipio was rather nettled by this, but nevertheless he asked Hannibal to whom he would give the third place, expecting that at least the third would be assigned to him; but Hannibal replied, "To myself; for when I was a young man I conquered Spain and crossed the Alps with an army, the first after Hercules. I invaded Italy and struck terror into all of you, laid waste 400 of your towns, and often put your city in extreme peril, all this time receiving neither money nor reinforcements from Carthage."
As Scipio saw that he was likely to prolong his self-laudation he said, laughing, "Where would you place yourself, Hannibal, if you had not been defeated by me?" Hannibal, now perceiving his jealousy, replied, "In that case I should have put myself before Alexander." Thus Hannibal continued his self-laudation, but flattered Scipio in a delicate manner by suggesting that he had conquered one who was the superior of Alexander." - (Appian, The Foreign Wars)
It was said that the gentlemen actually were quite cordial and gentlemanly towards one another in their post-Punic days, reminiscient 2000 years later in similar gracious conversations between Gens. Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee in the last twitches of the United States Civil War.
Unfortunately, it seems this cordiality with Scipio underminded Antiochus' trust in Hannibal, and Hannibal later left for Bithynia. I wrote a blogpost two years ago about the rather amusing mischief he entered into there that led to his ultimate demise.
Sorry if this is completely non-linear, but both of these generals and gentlemen were such dominant forces in world history, and this anecdote so unknown (to me anyway) yet so dignified, I had to share it.