Salammbo eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about Salammbo.

A large veil floated behind in the wind.

CHAPTER II

AT SICCA

Two days afterwards the Mercenaries left Carthage.

They had each received a piece of gold on the condition that they should go into camp at Sicca, and they had been told with all sorts of caresses: 

“You are the saviours of Carthage!  But you would starve it if you remained there; it would become insolvent.  Withdraw!  The Republic will be grateful to you later for all this condescension.  We are going to levy taxes immediately; your pay shall be in full, and galleys shall be equipped to take you back to your native lands.”

They did not know how to reply to all this talk.  These men, accustomed as they were to war, were wearied by residence in a town; there was difficulty in convincing them, and the people mounted the walls to see them go away.

They defiled through the street of Khamon, and the Cirta gate, pell-mell, archers with hoplites, captains with soldiers, Lusitanians with Greeks.  They marched with a bold step, rattling their heavy cothurni on the paving stones.  Their armour was dented by the catapult, and their faces blackened by the sunburn of battles.  Hoarse cries issued from their thick bears, their tattered coats of mail flapped upon the pommels of their swords, and through the holes in the brass might be seen their naked limbs, as frightful as engines of war.  Sarissae, axes, spears, felt caps and bronze helmets, all swung together with a single motion.  They filled the street thickly enough to have made the walls crack, and the long mass of armed soldiers overflowed between the lofty bitumen-smeared houses six storys high.  Behind their gratings of iron or reed the women, with veiled heads, silently watched the Barbarians pass.

The terraces, fortifications, and walls were hidden beneath the crowd of Carthaginians, who were dressed in garments of black.  The sailors’ tunics showed like drops of blood among the dark multitude, and nearly naked children, whose skin shone beneath their copper bracelets, gesticulated in the foliage of the columns, or amid the branches of a palm tree.  Some of the Ancients were posted on the platform of the towers, and people did not know why a personage with a long beard stood thus in a dreamy attitude here and there.  He appeared in the distance against the background of the sky, vague as a phantom and motionless as stone.

All, however, were oppressed with the same anxiety; it was feared that the Barbarians, seeing themselves so strong, might take a fancy to stay.  But they were leaving with so much good faith that the Carthaginians grew bold and mingled with the soldiers.  They overwhelmed them with protestations and embraces.  Some with exaggerated politeness and audacious hypocrisy even sought to induce them not to leave the city.  They threw perfumes, flowers, and pieces of silver to them.  They gave them amulets to avert sickness; but they had spit upon them three times to attract death, or had enclosed jackal’s hair within them to put cowardice into their hearts.  Aloud, they invoked Melkarth’s favour, and in a whisper, his curse.

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Project Gutenberg
Salammbo from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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