One wonders he did not see that to have no enemy near at hand to guard against was the very worst thing for the hardy, plain old ways he was so anxious to keep up. However, Carthage was to be wiped out, and Scipio AEmilianus was sent to do the terrible work. He defeated Hasdrubal, the last of the Carthaginian generals, and took the citadel of Byrsa; but though all hope was over, the city held out in utter desperation. Weapons were forged out of household implements, even out of gold and silver, and the women twisted their long hair into bow-strings; and when the walls were stormed, they fought from street to street and house to house, so that the Romans gained little but ruins and dead bodies. Carthage and Corinth fell on the same day of the year 179.
Part of Spain still had to be subdued, and Scipio AEmilianus was sent thither. The city of Numantia, with only 5000 inhabitants, endured one of those long, hopeless sieges for which Spanish cities have in all times been remarkable, and was only taken at last when almost every citizen had perished.
At the same time, Attalus, king of Pergamus in Asia Minor, being the last of his race, bequeathed his dominions to the Romans, and thus gave them their first solid footing there.
All this was altering Roman manners much. Weak as the Greeks were, their old doings of every kind were still the admiration of every one, and the Romans, who had always been rough, straightforward doers, began to wish to learn of them to think. All the wealthier families had Greeks for tutors for their sons, and expected them to talk and write the language, and study the philosophy and poetry till they should be as familiar with it as if they were Greeks themselves. Unluckily, the Greeks themselves had fallen from their earnestness and greatness, so that there was not much to be learnt of them now but vain deceit and bad taste.
Rich Romans, too, began to get most absurdly luxurious. They had splendid villas on the Italian hill-sides, where they went to spend the summer when Rome was unhealthy, and where they had beautiful gardens, with courts paved with mosaic, and fish-ponds for the pet fish for which many had a passion. One man was laughed at for having shed tears when his favorite fish died, and he retorted by saying that it was more than his accuser had done for his wife.
Their feasts were as luxurious as they could make them, in spite of laws to keep them within bounds. Dishes of nightingales’ tongues, of fatted dormice, and even of snails, were among their food: and sometimes a stream was made to flow along the table, containing the living companion of the mullet which served as part of the meal.