Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Dust of Old Carthage

There's a rhythm in daily ritual. It can be anything that gets you moving. Watering your plants in the morning, the feel of executing a perfect Windsor knot, polishing your antique brass elephant ornaments on the mantle.

Always wanted to be a renegade. I just love the word. So well-formed and visceral. I can just see some subtly-smiling man busting through a blockade, motorcycle pointed towards the horizon, sunny blonde holding on tight to his back, purpose made clear to him by the understanding that while the road is straight here, it always curves.

Hannibal mounted his elephants and crossed over straits, rivers, mountain ranges and trampled hordes of Roman soldiers to conquer almost the heart of Rome. He played the role of creeping besieger for 15 years, as he parked his boisterous elephants outside the gates.

Everyday, Hannibal dreamed of victory, stoking his troops and his ego. That's something I've done in some weary-houred fantasy: feeling beating heat browning my battle-scarred skin as I roll through Spanish fields, calmed to the core by the breeze through Cyprus trees. A seriousness to my stilled jaw muscles; not clenched, but free and alert. And every so often, I would indulge some fantasy like this, some far away time and place where I'm a little bit closer to some state of natural tautness, coated in the dust of old Carthage.

But, Hannibal never struck the tender center of Rome itself. Yet, even when eventually outmaneuvered and defeated, he was still a renegade, riding through enemy lands, lassoed up on an elephant, moving forward.

And when Carthage was defeated by counter-attack, legend has it that the Romans sowed salt into Carthaginian fields, as to starve them and remind them of their bitter loss to the might of Rome.

Every day, Hannibal would seethe vengeance--how to defeat his hated Italian enemies. He fled to the Selucids to help in their war against Rome, and when outnumbered, he went eastward further to other kingdoms, waging war his whole life against the clear and simple choice of Rome.

And every day, Hannibal was still on that war elephant. A badass in any age.

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