Plutarch on the Death of Hannibal

§20 Now, the native ambition of Titus, as long as it had sufficient material to gratify it in the wars which I have mentioned, met with praise, as, for instance, when he served a second time as military tribune after having been consul, though there was no necessity for it; but after he had ceased to hold office and was well on in years, he met rather with censure, because, although the portion of life which still remained to him did not admit of great activity, he was unable to restrain his passion for glory and his youthful ardour. For by some such fierce impulse, as it would seem, he was led to his treatment of Hannibal, which made him odious to most people. Hannibal had secretly fled from his native Carthage and spent some time at the court of Antiochus; but when Antiochus, after the battle in Phrygia, had gladly accepted terms of peace, Hannibal took to flight once more, and after many wanderings, finally settled down at the court of Prusias in Bithynia. No one at Rome was ignorant of this, but all ignored him on account of his weakness and old age, regarding him as a castaway of Fortune. Titus, however, who had been sent by the senate as ambassador to the court of Prusias on some other business, and saw that Hannibal was staying there, was incensed that he should be alive, and although Prusias made many fervent intercessions in behalf of a man who was a suppliant and a familiar friend, would not relent. There was an ancient oracle, as it would appear, concerning Hannibal's death, and it ran as follows:— "Libyssan earth shall cover the form of Hannibal." Hannibal thought this referred to Libya and a burial at Carthage, and believed that he would end his days there; but there is a sandy tract in Bithynia on the sea-shore, and on its border a large village called Libyssa. Near this village Hannibal was living. But he had always distrusted the weakness of Prusias and feared the Romans, and therefore even before this time his house had been provided with seven underground exits leading from his own chamber. These ran in different directions beneath the surface of the ground, but all had secret issues far away. Accordingly, when he now heard of the behest of Titus, he set out to make his escape by way of the underground passages, but encountered guards of the king, and therefore determined to take his own life. Some say that he wound his cloak about his neck and then ordered a servant to plant his knee in the small of his back, pull the rope towards him with all his might until it was twisted tight, and so to choke and kill him; some, too, say that he drank bull's blood in imitation of Themistocles and Midas; but Livy says that he had poison which he ordered to be mixed, and took the cup with these words: "Let us now put an end to the great anxiety of the Romans, who have thought it too long and hard a task to wait for the death of a hated old man. Nevertheless, Titus will not bear away an enviable victory, nor one worthy of his forefathers, who sent secret information to Pyrrhus, when he was at war with them and a victor over them, of the poisoning that was going to be attempted." §21 Such are the accounts of the death of Hannibal. When the story of it was brought to the senate, many of them thought the conduct of Titus odious, officious, and cruel; for he had killed Hannibal when he was like a bird permitted to live a tame and harmless life because too old to fly and without a tail, and there had been no necessity for his doing this, but he did it to win fame, that his name might be associated with the death of Hannibal.

Plutarch, Life of Flaminius 20–21 (translated by B. Perrin)