Mago, Hannibal’s messenger, in Carthage (Magón, mensajero de Aníbal, en Cartago)
Hannibal had been away from Carthage too long for his victories to be known. Aware of this, after the victory of Cannae he sent his brother Mago to tell his deeds to the Carthaginian senate.
After the victory of Cannae, Hannibal sent his brother Mago to report his triumph to the Carthaginian senate, represented in the tapestry by nine characters showing surprise at the news and raising their hands in happiness. Mago, standing, reads solemnly a parchment from which a seal hangs, which is the official document of victory. To prove the truth in his words, he orders a chest from a camel to be unloaded. It is opened by a warrior before the senators, who are filled with wonder on seeing the rings taken from the Romans.
This event is told by Livy in Book III of his Third Decade: ‘He [Mago] then, in confirmation of this joyful intelligence, ordered the gold rings taken from the Romans to be poured down in the porch of the senate-house; and of these there was so great a heap, that, according to some writers, on being measured, they filled three pecks and a half; but the more general account, and likewise the more probable is, that they amounted to no more than one peck. He also explained to them, in order to show the greater extent of the slaughter, that none but those of equestrian rank, and of these only the principal, wore this ornament’.
Romans and Carthaginians
Cannae was an extraordinary victory, but it was not enough in the end. The Carthaginians were expelled from Italy and eventually defeated. Years later the hostilities were resumed and the Romans decided to put an end to the city once and for all, so in 146 BC Carthage was destroyed down to its foundations and the ground was sown with salt to eradicate any trace of life.
Christians and Muslims
In the 16th century, when these tapestries were made, there was a settlement next to the ruins of the Phoenician city (present day Tunis). It was not Carthaginian but Muslim, as irreconcilable enemies of the Christians as the Carthaginian of the Romans. The author of the cartoons took this into account, since he represents the senators capped with Muslim turbans. They were celebrating victory, but they would eventually lose the war and the city, as had been the case in 1535 when Charles V took first La Goletta and then Tunis. This feat was represented in the tapestry series known as the Conquest of Tunis, kept by National Heritage.
EXCIPIT APPLAVSV POPVLVS CATHAGINIENSIS / SEVO QVAS PREDAS AVSPICE MARTE TVLIT (The Carthaginian people receives with applaud the plunder won under the guidance of bellicose Mars).
Series The History of Hannibal
Fifth tapestry of those preserved
Models Anonymous master of the Netherlands
Manufacture Brussels’ workshops, c. 1570
Fabric Wool and silk, 6,5/7 warps per cm
Size 344 x 404 cm
Location Cathedral of Zamora
Origin In the cathedral since the 17th century
On display Cathedral Museum