After the battle of Zama, in 202 b.c. , the war was at an end, for the Carthaginians had no longer any army.
They had, indeed, no choice now, save to accept the terms Rome might offer, unless they were prepared to see Carthage itself besieged.
Since submission was inevitable, the Carthaginians resolved to yield with as good a grace as possible. So they decked one of their ships with olive branches, and sent ambassadors on board to sail toward Utica. They hoped that the ambassadors would thus meet Scipio, who was on his way to the town of Tunes.
But the Roman general haughtily refused to receive them until he reached his destination. Then his interview with the suppliants was brief, his answer to their petition for merciful terms, proud.
"You deserve nothing at our hand but condign punishment," he told them, "yet Rome has determined to treat you with magnanimity, on condition that you receive the terms offered to you."
The crestfallen ambassadors had no retort to such imperious words, for they knew that they were helpless to resist, however hard the terms might prove. But the conditions, although severe, yet at least still left Carthage a free nation.
To begin with, the Carthaginians were made to suffer for their rashness in breaking the truce.
The ships and provisions which they had taken must be restored. All captives and runaway slaves must be sent back. The elephants, without which the Carthaginians would feel uneasy on a battlefield, were all to be given up to the Romans, as well as the warships, save only twenty. But this was not all. The conquered people must promise to wage no war in foreign countries; and, more bitter still, they must not even fight in Africa itself without first asking Rome for permission to do so. Masinissa was to have all this land and property given back to him.
These, with a few other conditions, completed the demands of Rome.
Among the Carthaginians there were some bold, reckless spirits who would have refused to accept such terms. For these would cripple their commerce, and also leave them powerless to resent the encroachments which Masinissa would certainly make upon their frontier.
But Hannibal was present at the conference that was being held, and he told his rash countrymen that they should be grateful that the terms were not even more severe.
When one of the senators still urged that the Romans should be defied, Hannibal caught his robe and pulled him to his seat while he was speaking. His only apology for such conduct was to say: "I have been so long with my army that I have forgotten the habits of civil life."
Since no other way was possible, the terms were accepted, and Scipio, having finished his work in Africa, was now ready to return to Rome.
When he reached Italy his progress was as that of a king. In towns and villages he was hailed as the deliverer of Rome. Had he not forced Hannibal to leave Italy, and had he not even defeated the bold conqueror of Cannæ?
His progress was as that of a king.
His triumph was the most magnificent that had ever yet been seen. For several days, too, games were held in the city, and for these festivities Scipio himself supplied the money.
That his great victory might not be forgotten, Scipio was now given the name of the country which he had conquered, and he was henceforth known as Scipio Africanus.