Hannibal and king Antiochus – a story from Macrobius

Praetextatus: Hannibal of Carthage made this very cheeky jest, when he was living in exile at the court of king Antiochus.  This is what he said.

Antiochus was holding a review, on some open ground, to display the huge forces which he had mustered for war against the Roman people, and the troops were marching past, gleaming with accoutrements of silver and gold. Chariots, too, fitted with scythes were brought on to the field, elephants with towers on their backs, and cavalry with glittering reins, housings, neck chains, and trappings.

Glorying in the sight of his large and well-equipped army, the king then turned to Hannibal and said: “Do you think that all these will be enough for the Romans?” 

The Carthaginian, smiling at the king’s prettily-equipped, but cowardly and unwarlike soldiers, replied: “Yes, I believe that the Romans will find them enough, although the Romans are pretty avaricious, you know.”

There could not have been a smoother or more biting remark. The king was asking about the numbers and quality of equipment of his army; but Hannibal responded as if [the men and equipment of the army] was just loot [waiting to be collected and sold by the Romans]. 

The story is found in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, book 2, chapter 2 (Latin here thanks to Bill Thayer); and, apparently, in Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 5.5.


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