An historical novel that interweaves historical and fictional characters. The action takes place immediately before and during the Mercenary Revolt against Carthage in the third century BC. This book, which Flaubert researched painstakingly, is largely an exercise in sensuous and violent exoticism. The Carthaginian costumes described therein even left traces on the fashions of the time. Nevertheless, in spite of its classic status in France, it is practically unknown today among English-speakers.
It was at Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar. The soldiers whom he had commanded in Sicily were having a great feast to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Eryx, and as the master was away, and they were numerous, they ate and drank with perfect freedom.
The captains, who wore bronze cothurni, had placed themselves in the central path, beneath a gold–fringed purple awning, which reached from the wall of the stables to the first terrace of the palace; the common soldiers were scattered beneath the trees, where numerous flat–roofed buildings might be seen, wine–presses, cellars, storehouses, bakeries, and arsenals, with a court for elephants, dens for wild beasts, and a prison for slaves.
Fig–trees surrounded the kitchens; a wood of sycamores stretched away to meet masses of verdure, where the pomegranate shone amid the white tufts of the cotton–plant; vines, grape–laden, grew up into the branches of the pines; a field of roses bloomed beneath the plane–trees; here and there lilies rocked upon the turf; the paths were strewn with black sand mingled with powdered coral, and in the centre the avenue of cypress formed, as it were, a double colonnade of green obelisks from one extremity to the other.