The Successful Man, Who Is He?
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Hannibal's Oath of Hate.
A large army lay encamped before the gates of Carthage. Its commander was Hamilcar, the hero of the six years' war in Sicily. Left without support by the loss of Hanno's fleet at Aegusa, and humiliated by the exacting peace of Lilybeum, he had gone home to Carthage, burning with hate towards Rome and biding his time for a future settlement with his hated foes. With the loss of Sicily weighing upon his rankling spirit, he conceived the idea of setting up a strong kingdom in Spain that should be independent of the home government and a menace to the rising power across the Mediterranean.
In 235 B. C., all was in readiness to start upon this enterprise. On the night before his departure, the general offered a solemn sacrifice to propitiate his country's gods. He had poured the libation upon the victim ; the faggots were lighted, and all was duly offered. On a sudden he directed his officers and the ministers of the sacrifice to withdraw and summoned his little son to him. The great general asked the boy kindly if he would like to accompany him to the war. The child caught at the offer with eagerness and, in boyish enthusiasm, begged his father to take him to the battlefields of Spain. Hamilcar took the Iad by the hand and led him to the sacred altar. There he )ade him swear an oath of eternal enmity against Rome and the Romans. The boy, only nine years of age, with the blood of warriors leaping in his veins, placed his hand upon the smoking sacrifice and took that direful oath, which in its execution, brought such evil consequences upon the foes of Carthage. The brave lad went forth, devoted to his country's gods, the appointed destroyer of their enemies ; and the thought of his high calling dwelt ever on his mind, directing the enthusiasm of youth and mingling with it the forecast, the great purposes and the unswerving resolution of manhood.
He followed the army to Spain, and was the companion of his father's counsels for nine years, until his death. For eight years longer, he followed the fortunes of Hasdrubal and, at the age of twenty-six, was raised by the acclamations of the soldiers to his great father's place. With an abiding sense of his high des tiny, he prepared at once to fulfill the oath of his boyhood. He aroused the resentment of Rome by the capture of Saguntum. In a few weeks he conquered Northern Spain and encamped his army at the foot of the Pyrenees. Followed by a force of 60,000 men, he determined to invade Italy and carry desolation to the gates of Rome. Leading his army through the Pyrenees, he reached the Rhone and crossed it before Scipio could dispute his way. He passed over the Alps in face of the greatest perils that ever beset the path of a great leader. From snow-clad mountains he marched into the valley of the Po and that tempest which for seventeen years beat upon Italy arose before the tread of an invading army. From North and South, from East and West, the hurricane of Hannibal's hate broke upon the land of his foes, until Rome lay panting and breathless, exhausted by the storm. With masterly tactics he crushed a consular army at Trebia. In the following year, the flower of Roman manhood marched out to meet the Carthagenian and fell before his avenging sword at Trasimene. A third army was annihilated in the disaster at Cannae. For fourteen years longer the mighty Hannibal marched through Italy, burning her towns, plundering her fields and wasting her treasures. At last when every resource was exhausted, when his veteran army was scattered and lost in the vicissitudes of war, when he had been deserted for years by the government at home, the great leader stood at bay in Northern Italy. Summoned home to the defense of an ungrateful country, he left Italy in bitter rage to meet defeat in his own land on the plains of Zama.
Thus to penetrate from the Ebro to the Po, with chains of giant mountains to oppose his way; to pass through countries partly barbarous and for the most part hostile, without roads or accurate knowledge of his route ; to go into an unknown wilderness without certain provision for clothing and feeding his army ; to have crushed his foes in their own land ; to have led so great a career of invasion for so long ; and to have accomplished all with triumphant success fully justifies the homage which is still paid to the genius of Hannibal.
The final defeat of the great Carthagenian proves nothing against his brilliant and distinguished success. The fact that he marched to Waterloo on the plains of Zama was due to circumstances which even his mighty spirit could not control—circumstances deeply seated in the character and institutions of the two belligerent people. The second Punic War was a deadly struggle between the individual greatness and splendid genius of Hannibal on the one side, and the patriotism and devotion of Rome to her national institutions on the other. In such a contest the individual always goes to the wall before the superior strength of a de-voted and patriotic people. With a grateful pride and national patriotism at home, Hannibal might have been to Rome what Scipio Africanus was to Carthage ; but, without these, the great spirit of Hannibal was humbled and his fairly-won conquest lost to his ungrateful land. His success lay in a most splendid achievement in the face of the most perilous difficulties. To that success the world gives its praise and homage even to this day, and wise men have long regarded Hannibal as the greatest military genius of antiquity.
There is a sense in which the life of the successful man is like that of Hannibal ; it is a struggle with perilous difficulty. All great deeds are accomplished in the face of opposition. If a man would possess a fortune, it must be accumulated by labor and thrift. If he would reach high attainment in learning or art, it must be acquired by long and patient application. World-wide esteem and honor come to their possessor by the slow process of living an honored life. All distinguished achievement of whatever kind must be sought and " agonized for" and it is often necessary for us to march over the frozen mountains, through blinding storms and' trackless ways to our success in the sunny valleys beyond. Thus the life of the great Carthagenian general may be an inspiration to all who like him will have a purpose in life and follow it to the end.