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HANNIBAL AT THE GATES - THE HANNIBAL WAR

Unknown author, we only know, by his note, he committed a grammarian the text to make it more pleasing.

I – "…………… Twenty-four years had lasted the war (264 - 241 BC), which we mainly fought in Sicily and on the sea.
Well, we, who did not know the art of war on the sea, nevertheless on the sea challenged the Carthaginians.

Set up with the help of our allies a small fleet ,crossed the strait separating Italy from Sicily, we drove out the Carthaginian garrison from Messana (Messina) and occupied it.

Returned to the homeland, the Carthaginian commander, accused of cowardice, was crucified.

Shortly thereafter, we were attacked by the Carthaginians and their Syracusan allies, led by their king Gerone.


Gerone

We repelled and chased the enemies.

Gerone repaired to Syracuse, despised versus the Punics who had escaped thinking only of their own salvation and leaving him alone to face us, in turn abandoned them and passed by our side, becoming until his death a loyal and generous ally.

The Carthaginians, defeated on the ground, advanced along the sea, clenching us from the south and the north.

We were forced to accept the challenge, so in the fourth year of war, we launched a fleet of over one hundred ships.

The consuls that year (260) were the patrician Gneo Cornelio Scipione and Gaio Duilio, plebeian and “homo novus” (his family had never reached a charge that involved the exercise of the command).


Gaio Duilio

Gneo Cornelio, fleet commander, betrayed by inexperience, was captured by the Carthaginians in the battle of the Lipari Islands, deserving the name of “Asina” (=donkey).

I was embarked on the fleet of which had become commander Gaio Duilio, shrewed and sagacious man.

The consul realized that in a battle fought according to the rules we would have no hope. He therefore devised a stratagem so that the combat on the sea could be similar to that on the mainland.

To this purpose he provided all the ships of a kind of hoarse bridge named “corvo”(=raven), at the ends of which were clasped robust hooks.

So when off Milazzo the fast enemy ships came to the boarding of our heavy ships, suddenly we dropped the “corvi” and, thanks to the hooks, we immobilized the Carthaginians.


The “Corvi”

Then we passed over the corvi and the whole battle turned into an hand-to-hand struggle with the Carthaginians.
In the hand-to-hand struggle we are invincible.

Gaio Duilio captured thirty-one enemy ships, sank fourteen, captured seven thousand enemies, killed three thousand.
No victory was ever more welcome because, undefeated on the mainland, now we ruled as well over the sea.
To Gaio Duilio the Senate decreed the triumph.

I have passed over the sea half of the war, my body still has the scars of so many battles, but I came back victorious, while my two brothers, have disappeared in the storms, which three times swallowed our fleets in the Sicilian sea (there were missing over 750 ships). Almost all the families of Rome and of the allied cities paid tribute to the war, but at least the Italian soil had been immune."

II – In that short happy time of my youth (the subject is the author of the commentary), while I was listening to Claudio Taurilio, did not imagine that myself, a few years later, should have been in the Roman army for over thirty years, obeying formerly, later commanding.

Now in my old age I have been pushed to write this commentary to make the due tribute to the truth, in fact, in the mansions of the nobles you can read inscriptions that attribute to themselves merits they have never had and vice versa cast on others the discredit of their faults, or of their mistakes.

I participated in part of the episodes I'm going to tell, about the others I collected those testimonies I felt most faithful to the truth.

It is a common inclination to exaggerate the importance of the battles fought, so I followed the criterion, dictated by experience, to give priority to the number of prisoners since the deaths and wounded are usually counted in proportion, except in cases where anger, or hate has provoked massacres. The reason of this criterion is that the prisoners have value or to be redeemed, or to be sold as slaves, while the dead have no value.
Therefore the disposition to keep the enemies alive.

Returning to us to understand the conditions under which the Hannibal war broke out, it is necessary to remember what happened between the first and the second Punic war.

After the final defeat (241) that Gaio Lutazio Catulo (also a “homo novus”) inflicted on the Carthaginians off the Egadi Islands

Rome imposed to the enemy hard conditions, but not untenable for a city as rich as Carthage.

Yet were not the Romans to endanger the Carthaginians, the reason was very different and unforeseen.

In fact Amilcare, nicknamed Barca, that in their language means "lightning", when had, with extraordinary value, guided the enemy army in Sicily, promised the mercenaries a salary and a prize, which at the end of the war Carthage did not want to pay, apologizing for present difficulties.

Gaio Lutazio Catulo Amilcare

The mercenaries rebelled and for three years enraged a war of indefinable ferocity.
Carthage itself threatened to be destroyed.

Incredible to say, we intervened by sea, to save Carthage, guaranteeing the Carthaginians the necessary supplies.
Finally, the revolt was put down, but Carthage was more divided than ever between the Annone party (the party of landowners) and that of Amilcare Barca.

Annone argued that Carthage's interest was to consolidate and extend its territories in Africa and avoid for the future conflicts with Rome.


Annone

Amilcare, and here the enmity between the two men played a fundamental role, argued instead that Carthage could take control of at least a part of Spain and recover thanks to the riches of that land.

Such was the situation when (238) Sardinia rebelled against the Carthaginians and we, forcing the hand, took possession of the island. What for the continued rebellion of the Sardians would have engaged ourselves for long years (at least until 235).

In reality, the treaty of peace with Carthage was ambiguous, in fact it declared that Carthage had to surrender to Rome all the islands between Sicily and Italy.

Did Sardinia be among them or not?
Probably not.

In any case, given that the Carthaginians had lost control of the island, we found it unwise to leave Sardinia in the hands of rebels, who likely would have practiced piracy.

Since the Carthaginians, when the Sardinian uprising broke out, had armed to resume the island, they felt this our act as an outrageous abuse which, in the present state of their weakness, they were forced to undergo. So the gratitude we had deserved, for the help provided in the war against the mercenaries, vanished.
A bitter grudge bore that favored anti-Romans sentiments.

III –It was very fancied about the hate of Amilcare Barca against the Romans, but these are vain talks. Indeed if Amilcare had a deep resentment, this was aimed against his fellow countrymen, who unkemptly faced the Romans in the decisive naval battle of the Egadi isles, in the false conviction that we had given up fighting on the sea and for that unforgivable improvidence suffered the catastrophic defeat that forced Amilcare himself, as chief captain in Sicily, to sign the peace treaty. More than ever, he had to return home as a private citizen substituted by Asdrubale Gisgone in the command of the Carthaginian forces in Sicily.

Even worse, while cautiously Asdrubale Gisgone, sent back the mercenaries to Africa, each time in small contingents, the Carthaginians had the insane idea of gathering them all together in the same place and, more importantly, with their families, creating the conditions for their revolt and the so-called Libyan three-year war.


Asdrubale Gisgone

Not happy they tried to pay to the mercenaries only partially their salaries and promised prizes, blaming Amilcare for having promised exorbitant rewards. Then when the mercenaries resorted to violence, the Carthaginian senate began to surrender.

In these conditions Amilcare at home had no future, since the only viable option was to extend the Carthaginian territories to Africa, but this was Annone's policy, from whom he was shared by implacable contrasts. So when ( 237), with few of his fellows, he landed in Spain at Gades (Cadiz), not without difficulty, he chose the only possible way for a man of his ambitions.

At the same time he had to think that he went so much to west not attracting the attention of Rome. Even he did not try to provide himself with a fleet, which would be indispensable for going to fight against Rome, as Hannibal would late understand.
For all these reasons it is completely untenable to think that  Amilcare (in 237) went to Spain to make it the base from which to attack Rome (Hannibal began the war against Rome in 218).

Amilcare, among other things, left for Gades as a private citizen, without any mandate from the Carthaginian senate.

However, this valiant leader, struggling uninterruptedly for eight years, created in Spain what in reality became the kingdom of the Barca family.

He died in battle in 229, took his place his son-in-law Asdrubale named Maior and also the Fair to distinguish him from Asdrubale Barca, second son of Amilcare.

Both Amilcare and Asdrubale Maior just had the opportunity to send considerable supplies to Carthage and having put into operation the rich Spanish mines, even the silver needed to pay the annual tributes of war to Rome, thus reviving their party and at the same time making motherland more and more subject to their generosity.


Asdrubale Maior

IV – In this time other and more pressing dangers hung on Rome. The Cisalpine Gauls during the Punic war, remembering the recent bloody defeats, we had inflicted on them, had remained in peace.
Moreover, the war was fought in Sicily or on the Sicilian see, far from their territories. But by now two generations had passed since the time of the old defeats and the young Gauls wanted to combat.

Of the Cisalpini Gauls the most numerous and powerful people are the Insubrians, whose main city is Mediolanum, the Boi, who occupy the city of Bononia and the neighboring lands and the Senoni, whose territory moves to the Adriatic Sea and have as main center Sena (Senigallia).

To these people must be added fiercely adverse to the Insubrians, the Cenomans, whose lands extend from Brixia (Brescia) to the boundaries with the Venetians to whom the common origin binds us (according to myth Antenore, exiled by Troy as Aeneas, constituted The Venetian state).

As I said, we covenanted with the Venetians and the Cenomans, to stem the adversary Gauls.

Meanwhile (231) the tribune Gaio Flaminio Nepote, Homo Novus, in opposition to the Senate, proceeded to distribute to the small farmers, the Ager Publicus (public soil) , confiscated to the Senoni Gauls (around 290), so also said Ager Gallicus.


Gaio Flaminio Nepote

The Ager Publicus is owned by the Roman Republic and should be available to create colonies or small peasant estate, not at all is named “ Ager Publicus Populi Romani”.

But the insatiable greed of the nobles led them to give the administration to private people, who rent it to their liking.

The noble party then argued that Gauls' uprising had been caused by Flaminio's land distribution.

Ridiculous charge, as if the Gauls were friends of the nobles and preferred that the confiscated lands were by these administrated.

V –As the tribes of Cisalpina Gauls were preparing for the war, Rome faced the issue of piracy that afflicted the Adriatic Sea.

The Illiris (to-day Albany) are used to practice piracy and at that time, not being opposed, they became more and more daring to attack and plunder Italic cities and traders.

Rome could not endure that his allies were scot-free assaulted, and sent an embassy to Teuta, Queen of the Illyrians.


Teuta

Whether she was either badly advised or disregarded, to the complaints of our ambassadors replied arrogantly that she could not prevent her subjects from practicing piracy.
The youngest of our ambassadors then said, "We will teach you, queen, how enforce laws".

The ambassadors started, Teuta ordered that they be pursued.
Two of the Roman ambassadors were killed by Teuta's assassins.

The disdain in Rome was such, that the same day when the news of the assassination of the ambassadors was known the war was declared (230). The Roman army advanced on land and by sea (229), clutching the Illyrians in a vice.

Demetrius of Faro who commanded their fleet defected and passed to the Romans. As a reward for his betrayal, Demetrius was given command of large territories. Later, we should have regretted this incongruous decision.


Demetrius of Faro

At the moment the Illyrian war ended quickly with our satisfaction. Teuta had to accept all the conditions  we imposed upon her.

VI –But the Fate wanted us to be unable to live in peace. We had just ended the Illyrian war when the Cisalpini Gauls began to prepare the war against Rome.

First, the Insubrians addressed the Gesati, a population of Gauls, getting used to fight as mercenaries. They, coming from the upper valleys of the Rhone River, had occupied both the sides of the Alps.

Allured with rich gifts their kings, Concolitano and Anoresto, welcomed them to Mediolanum and after showing the fertile Po valley, declared that much higher riches were along the road to Rome and even more in the same City of Rome, which the only Senoni had occupied in the past for seven months.


Concolitano

The Insubrians, in agreement with the Boi, agreed with the Gesati the conditions for their participation in the war.

They anticipated some of the prizes required, while the remainder would have been sold to victory.

The Gesati committed to providing forty thousand warriors. Overall, we estimated that among Gesati, Insubrians, Boi, Senoni and other smaller tribes, Gauls could count as many as one hundred thousand infants and ten thousand knights.
The first to give the alarm were the Etruscans, terrorized by the fear of the devastation that such a mass of barbarians would have caused.
Immediately the Senate ordered the mobilization.

First was ordered the census of all men who could combat, among the Romans and the Allies (Latins, Etruscans, Campanians, Sannites, Iapigi, Messapi, Lucani, Marsi, Marrucini, Vestini), including the Cenomans and the Venetians. The Infants exceeded seven hundred thousand, the knights were about seventy thousand.

VII –The Gauls, crossed the Appennine (in 225), invaded the Etruria. At Fiesole they defeated a Roman garrison. Since the contingent of the Etruscans was part of the army of the consul Lucio Emilio Papo; the populace was given the order to leave the countryside and repair in the fortified cities.


Lucio Emilio Papo

It happened so that the barbarians without fighting made a big loot, made up of all kinds of animals.

Meanwhile, the other consul Gaio Atilio Regolo, who had gone to Sardinia to prevent disorder, was recalled in Italy.


Gaio Atilio Regolo

The Gauls were in the center of Etruria when Anoresto, who together with Concolitano commanded them, as the herds of captured animals made the advance of the army difficult, decided to return to Gallia Cisalpina where, he said, they would secure the booty, to return again and directly attack Rome.

We do not know which were his true intentions, while it is understandable that to return to Gallia Cisalpina, he chose to go along the comfortable road following the Tyrrhenian Sea, avoiding crossing the Apennines with all the herds that the barbarians dragged down.

Anoresto, followed by Lucio Emilio, guided the Gauls to Talamone, small port on the Tyrrhenian sea.

Because they had crossed the Etruria without encountering resistance, Anoresto went careless to the sea, and then was totally surprised when he knew that the consul Gaio Atilio Regolo, coming from Sardinia, had landed and occupied the best positions waiting for him at Talamone. The other consul was behind him.

Nevertheless Anoresto decided to give battle counting on the number and value of his warriors, even though he was forced to fight on two fronts.

The Barbarians occupied the whole plain that, surrounded by modest hills, stretches out to the sea, from which is separated by the hills on which lies Talamone.

The two consuls had advanced their legions to invite the enemy to the fight.

Anoresto commanded the line that opposed Atilio, Concolitano the other. Both of them simultaneously gave the order of attack.
The Gauls with tremendous clamour, beating their weapons on the shields, launched the cry of war.

The Gesati more than the other Gauls have imposing builds and imposing stature, they say that this is the fruit of the hunts with which they eats the animals that live in the mountains. Indeed, they accompany the meats by consuming incredible amount of “cervesia” (beer), drink that is obtained by fermenting the barley and adding honey.

All Gauls are very proud of their stateliness that in battle makes them very dangerous at first clash, when they are in full vigour of forces. Yet they are not resistant to fatigue, and if the battle goes on for a few hours, overwhelmed by fatigue, as soon as they can, they retire.

Consequently, the consuls had given orders to extend the fight for as long as possible.
To this end, at the first attack of the barbarians, the legionnaires had to step back tidily, leaving in the front row the velites, who throwing their javelins had to mess up the enemy lines causing their disorderly reaction.

So backward by step, thanks to the velites and the archers, the fight took place according to our will, until the “Triari” centurions (the veterans) assured the consuls that the enemy was visibly accusing the fatigue. Then the consuls ordered the counter-offensive.

Gaio Atilio Regolo, while valiantly fighting in the front line, perished.

Our knights, wishing to avenge his death, furiously attacked the barbarians, who did not resist our charge and fleeing fugitives opened the way for the legionaries advance.

There happened a great massacre. We took over ten thousand prisoners, innumerable were the dead and the injured.

Concolitano was captured, Anoresto fled on a hill with few of his followers, committed suicide.


Anoresto

VIII – While Rome was preparing to fight with the Gauls, our Massalioti allies (Marseillaise), worried about the expansion of Asdrubale Maior in Spain, demanded for our intervention, fearing that Asdrubale could ally with the Ligurians, pressing Massalia in a vice.

True or false these fears were concerned, the Romans agreed with Asdrubale and signed the covenant of the Ebro, according to which the Carthaginians pledged not to cross into the arms the river, which thus became the northern border of the Barca kingdom, who in this way controlled much of Spain, with full satisfaction of Asdrubale.

The Ebro covenant was based on the will of the contractors to maintain peaceful relations, so as to guarantee the safety of either the allied cities, both to the south or north of the Ebro.
Convinced the Romans the behavior of Asdrubale Maior who had extended Amilcare's possessions mainly thanks to his moderation, Asdrubale, as well as Amilcare, having fought in the Punic War, knew very well what an unshakable determination was capable Rome and certainly did not go to seeking new conflicts.

Thanks to their courage and ability, the Barca had managed to create their own kingdom, in which Asdrubale founded the magnificent city of Cartagena (New Carthage) and their kingdom exerted a very strong influence on Carthage itself.

Why would two men like these, wise and expert, had to risk all their achievements?

Publisher's Note:
Was Polibius the Greek historian, who in ancient times became the main source of the Punic wars, to mention that in a private interview (but if it was private, how could Polibius noticed it?), with Antioco King of Syria, Hannibal said that when he had nine years, his father Amilcare made him swear eternal hatred for the Romans.
The ancient historians used to embellish their narratives with these "poetic" inventions. Moreover, the story has been consolidated to this day, though, as our source reminded us, Amilcare's fierce resentment was directed at the adverse Carthaginian party
.

IX – IIn Cisalpine Gaul after Talamone's defeat, those of the Gesati who had escaped the massacre returned to their valleys, but the Taurines, the Insubrians and the Boi did not accept the defeat.

Elected Consul (224) Gaio Flaminio Nepote decided to resolve the Gallic question.
The patricians tried to hold him to Rome by any means, among other things, the augurs said that the sacred chickens refused food, announcing unfavorable omens.

But Flaminio let their augurs with their chickens and left for Gallia Cisalpina.
He finally defeated the barbarians, creating the province of Gallia Cisalpina. Afterwards the keep watch over the Po river and to maintain a firm control over the Gauls, he instituted the colonies of Placentia and Cremona.

Nominated censor (220) with Lucio Emilio Papo, Flaminio built the great road that connects Rome to Ariminum (hence a few years later, the Emilia street was traced from Ariminum to Placentia).

X – While in Spain, under the overwhelming command of Asdrubale Maior, things proceeded peacefully, so that none of the allies resorted to our mediation, Asdrubale was murdered under mysterious circumstances (221).

The Carthaginian legionaries replaced  him with Hannibal, the eldest son of Amilcare Barca, who was then twenty-five years old and had succeeded in conquering the troops with many benevolences.
The Senate of Carthage could only ratify the decision taken.

When the First Punic War ended (241) Hannibal was five years old, so unlike his father Amilcare and Asdrubale Maior, he had not experienced the power of Rome and that indomitable sacrifice capacity that made us invincible.

Therefore, no longer restrained his fatal ambition, he conceived the most daring design, to attack Rome.
Indeed, never one could see in the soul of the same man living so greater contrasts,
Maximum audacity in risk and as much caution, unmatched resistance to fatigue, unusual continence.
But to these great virtues corresponded no less great vices, fierce cruelty, total unreliability, constant lying, lack of any scruples.

His first acts, immediately made it clear that the years of the cautious command of Asdrubale Maior had forever gone down. Asdrubale had led towards the tribes of Hispanics a policy based more on alliances than on domination. Hannibal for his designs, wanted undisputed dominance.

In Spain, therefore, opened a war season, with only two alternatives or surrender or massacre.
All the territory south of the Ebro had to be under the full dominion of the Barca.

It was clear that the storm was approaching.

XI – In this time Demetrius of Faro, having married the first wife of the deceased King of Illyria, Agrone, had become the guardian of his young son Pinnes, while before Teuta, as Agrone's last wife, had rectified the state in the name of Pinnes.

After the defeat suffered in the first Illyrian war, Teuta had retreated into the interior of the state, losing all power.

Seeing the Romans engaged in Cisalpine Gaul and at the same time undermined by Hannibal, Demetrius, resolved to betrayal, allied with Antigono Dosone, who at that time ruled the reign of Macedonia on behalf of young Filippo V.


Antigono Dosone

Demetrius, therefore, trusting in the protection of the powerful Macedonian state, started again with piracy, attacking the coastal cities of the Adriatic Sea to which Rome had secured its protection.

But Demetrius had hurt his plans, for the Romans considered that if they had not reacted promptly, would encourage the Macedonians to act against Rome, hiding behind their Illyrian allies.
Because of Hannibal the time was running short, the Roman Senate decided to send against Demetrius (219) both the Consuls Lucio Emilio Paolo e Marco Livio Salinatore.

Lucio Emilio Paolo Marco Livio Salinatore

The war was short, the army of Demetrius was destroyed, all the territories he occupied were regained, Demetrio himself fled to Macedonia near Filippo V, who in the meantime had succeeded Antigono Dosone and at the court of the king of Macedonia ended the miserable life of a man who was devoted to treason.

 

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