Mustering the troops, Hannibal brought forward certain young men from among the prisoners he had taken molesting his march in the difficult part of the Alpine pass. 4 He had purposely, with a view to the use he was going to make of them, ill-used them: they wore heavy fetters, they had suffered much from hunger, and their bodies were disfigured by the marks of blows. 5 Placing them in the middle of the meeting he exhibited some Gaulish suits of armour, such as their kings are wont to deck themselves with when about to engage in single combat. In addition to these he placed there some horses and had some rich military cloaks brought in. 6 He then asked the young men which of them were willing to do combat with each other, the prizes exhibited being destined for the victor, while the vanquished would be delivered by death from his present misery. 7 When all shouted out with one voice that they were willing to fight, he ordered them to draw lots, and the two on whom the lot fell to arm themselves and do combat. 8 The young men, the moment they heard this, lifted up their hands and prayed to the gods, each eager to be himself one of the chosen. 9 When the result was announced, those on whom the lot had fallen were overjoyed and the rest mournful and dejected, 10 and after the combat was over the remaining prisoners congratulated the fallen champion no less than the victor, as having been set free from many and grievous evils which they themselves were left alive to suffer. 11 The sentiment of most of the Carthaginians was identical; for looking on the misery of the other prisoners as they were led away alive, they pitied them on comparing their fate with that of the dead whom they all pronounced to be fortunate.
This episode is bizarre to me. Is it Polybius’ own creation or an actual event? Is Polybius trying give a rational moralizing explanation for gladiatorial combat, such as practiced by the Romans. Does he expect his Greek audience to find this barbaric?