The circumference of the inclosed space was fully twenty miles; the population contained within it amounted to over eight hundred thousand. On the north side near the sea, within the line of the outer fortifications, rose a low hill, and here on the face which sloped gently down to the sea was the great necropolis — the cemetery of Carthage, shaded by broad spreading trees, dotted with the gorgeous mausoleums of the wealthy and the innumerable tombs of the poorer families, and undermined by thousands of great sepulchral chambers, which still remain to testify to the vastness of the necropolis of Carthage, and to the pains which her people bestowed upon the burying places of their dead.
Beyond all, from the point at which the travellers viewed it, stretched the deep blue background of the Mediterranean, its line broken only in the foreground by the lofty citadel of Byrsa, and far out at sea by the faint outline of the Isle of Zinbre.
For some minutes the party sat immovable on their horses, then Hamilcar broke the silence:
“`Tis a glorious view,” he said; “the world does not contain a site better fitted for the seat of a mighty city. Nature seems to have marked it out. With the great rock fortress, the splendid bays and harbours, the facilities for commerce, the fertile country stretching away on either hand; give her but a government strong, capable, and honest, a people patriotic, brave, and devoted, and Carthage would long remain the mistress of the world.”
“Surely she may yet remain so,” Adherbal exclaimed.
“I fear not,” Hamilcar said gravely, shaking his head. “It seems to be the fate of all nations, that as they grow in wealth so they lose their manly virtues. With wealth comes corruption, indolence, a reluctance to make sacrifices, and a weakening of the feeling of patriotism. Power falls into the hands of the ignorant many. Instead of the destinies of the country being swayed by the wisest and best, a fickle multitude, swayed by interested demagogues, assumes the direction of affairs, and the result is inevitable — wasted powers, gross mismanagement, final ruin.”
So saying Hamilcar set his horse in motion and, followed silently by his companions, rode with a gloomy countenance after his little columns towards the capital.
Carthage was at that time divided between two factions, the one led by the relatives and friends of the great Hamilcar Barca and known as the Barcine party. The other was led by Hanno, surnamed the Rich. This man had been the rival of Hamilcar, and the victories and successes of the latter had been neutralized by the losses and defeats entailed upon the republic by the incapacity of the former. Hanno, however, had the support of the greater part of the senate, of the judges, and of the lower class, which he attached to himself by a lavish distribution of his vast wealth, or by the common tie of wholesale corruption.