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The Mamertines (Latin : Mamertini, "sons of Mars", Greek : Μαμερτῖνοι) were mercenaries of Italian origin who had been hired from their home in Campania by Agathocles (361 – 289 BC), Tyrant of Syracuse and self-proclaimed King of Sicily. After Syracuse lost the Third Sicilian War, the city of Messana was ceded to Carthage in 307 BC. When Agathocles died in 289 BC he left many of his mercenaries idle and unemployed in Sicily. Most of them returned home but some, liking the climate and the prospect of adventure on a foreign island, remained. They played a major role in the lead up to the First Punic War.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is an individual who takes part in military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any other official military. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms of payment rather than for political interests. In the last century, mercenaries have increasingly come to be seen as less entitled to protections by rules of war than non-mercenaries. Indeed, the Geneva Conventions declare that mercenaries are not recognized as legitimate combatants and do not have to be granted the same legal protections as captured soldiers of a regular army. In practice, whether or not a person is a mercenary may be a matter of degree, as financial and political interests may overlap, as was often the case among Italian condottieri.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.
In 280 BC, the Syracusans appealed to King Pyrrhus of Epirus for help against the Mamertines.
Pyrrhus Ι was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house, and later he became king of Epirus. He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. Several of his victorious battles caused him unacceptably heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives.
Epirus was an ancient Greek state, located in the geographical region of Epirus in the western Balkans. The homeland of the ancient Epirotes was bordered by the Aetolian League to the south, Thessaly and Macedonia to the east, and Illyrian tribes to the north. For a brief period, the Epirote king Pyrrhus managed to make Epirus the most powerful state in the Greek world, and his armies marched against Rome during an unsuccessful campaign in Italy.
The then-small band of desperados came across the walled Greek settlement of Messana (now Messina). Messana was built on a strategic location on the north-eastern tip of Sicily on the strait between Sicily and Italy. Together with the fort Rhegium on the toe of Italy, it was the crossing point between Italy and Sicily. Being a peaceful people, the inhabitants allowed the travelling mercenaries into their homes. After a time, the mercenaries became restless and plotted to capture the town. One night, the mercenaries betrayed their hosts and killed most of the population, who were unprepared. In this way, they claimed Messana for themselves. The surviving Messanians were thrown out and the property and women divided. After their victory, the mercenaries named themselves the Mamertines after the Oscan war-god Mamers.
Messina is the capital of the Italian Metropolitan City of Messina. It is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, and the 13th largest city in Italy, with a population of more than 238,000 inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the Metropolitan City. It is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina, opposite Villa San Giovanni on the mainland, and has close ties with Reggio Calabria. According to Eurostat the FUA of the metropolitan area of Messina has, in 2014, 277,584 inhabitants.
The Osci, were an Italic people of Campania and Latium adiectum during Roman times. They spoke the Oscan language, also spoken by the Samnites of Southern Italy. Although the language of the Samnites was called Oscan, the Samnites were never referred to as Osci, nor were the Osci called Samnites.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him, and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.
The Mamertines held the town of Messana for over 20 years. They changed it from being a bustling town of farmers and traders to a raiding base. The Mamertines became pirates on land and sea. Taking advantage of the peacefulness of the Sicilians, they looted the nearby settlements and captured unwary trade ships on the strait, carrying their plunder back to their base. They captured prisoners and demanded tribute. During this period, they struck coins on which their name were printed and placed images of their gods and goddesses. Their exploits made them rich and powerful. They began travelling further inland, even as far as Gela and demanded tribute.
Gela, is a city and comune in the Autonomous Region of Sicily, the largest for area and population in the island's southern coast. It is part of the Caltanissetta province, being the only comune in Italy with a population and area that exceeds those of the province's capital. Founded by Greek colonists from Rhodes and Crete in 689 BC, Gela was the most influential polis in Sicily between the 7th and 6th centuries and the place where Aeschylus lived and died in 456 BC. In 1943 Gela was the first Italian beach reached by allies during the Invasion of Sicily from the allies.
The Mamertine presence did not go unchallenged forever. In around 270 BC, the Mamertine exploits came to the attention of Syracuse, by word of the refugees from the settlements. Hiero II, a tyrant of Syracuse, began to gather an army of citizens with which to rid the land of the destroyers of the peace and rescue his Greek kinsmen. Hiero met with the Mamertines when they were nearing Syracuse. Marching out his troops, he first sent his unruly mercenaries forward and allowed them to be butchered by the Mamertines. The faithless part of his army disposed of, Hiero marched his citizen soldiers back to the city where he drilled them to a better fighting condition. Leading his confident army north, he found the Mamertines again at the Longanus River on the plain of Mylae where he easily defeated them, and proclaimed himself king.The Mamertines were not accustomed to large pitched battles and had become reckless after beating Hiero's mercenaries. In the battle, Hiero captured the Mamertine leaders and the remnants fled back to the safety of Messana. Hiero had restricted the Mamertine activity and placed them in a dire situation.
Hiero II was the Greek Sicilian Tyrant of Syracuse from 270 to 215 BC, and the illegitimate son of a Syracusan noble, Hierocles, who claimed descent from Gelon. He was a former general of Pyrrhus of Epirus and an important figure of the First Punic War.
When Hiero returned to besiege their base (Messana) in 265 BC the Mamertines called for help from a nearby fleet from Carthage, which occupied the harbor of Messana. Seeing this, the Syracuse forces retired, not wishing to confront Carthaginian forces. Uncomfortable under the Carthaginian "protection," the Mamertines now appealed to Rome to be allowed into the protection of the Roman people. At first, the Romans did not wish to come to the aid of soldiers who had unjustly stolen a city from its rightful possessors. However, unwilling to see Carthaginian power spread further over Sicily and get too close to Italy, Rome responded by entering into an alliance with the Mamertines. In response, Syracuse allied itself with Carthage, imploring their protection. With Rome and Carthage brought into conflict, the Syracuse/Mamertine conflict escalated into the First Punic War.
Carthage was the center or capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now the Tunis Governorate in Tunisia.
The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic, the two great powers of the Western Mediterranean. For 23 years, in the longest continuous conflict and greatest naval war of antiquity, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa.
Once the scale of the conflict had escalated beyond them, the Mamertines were lost to the historical record and their fate is lost, swallowed up in the larger events of the Punic wars. After the First Punic War, however, their name was not quite forgotten in the ancient world since "Mamertine wine" from the vineyards of north-eastern tip of Sicily was still known and enjoyed in the 1st century. It was the favourite of Julius Caesar and it was he who made it popular after serving it at a feast to celebrate his third consulship.
Even centuries after the Mamertine occupation, the inhabitants of Messana were still called Mamertines.
In his novel Salammbô , Gustave Flaubert writes of the Greeks singing the 'old song of the Mamertines': "With my lance and sword I plough and reap; I am master of the house! The disarmed man falls at my feet and calls me Lord and Great King."
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC. At the time, they were some of the largest wars that had ever taken place. The term Punic comes from the Latin word Punicus, meaning "Carthaginian", with reference to the Carthaginians' Phoenician ancestry.
Year 264 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Caudex and Flaccus. The denomination 264 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.
This article concerns the period 269 BC – 260 BC.
Hamilcar was a common Carthaginian masculine given name. The name was particularly common among the ruling families of ancient Carthage.
The Battle of Agrigentum was the first pitched battle of the First Punic War and the first large-scale military confrontation between Carthage and the Roman Republic. The battle was fought after a long siege which started in 262 BC and resulted both in a Roman victory and the beginning of Roman control of Sicily.
Appius Claudius Caudex was a patrician member of the Claudii. He was the younger brother of Appius Claudius Caecus through his father Gaius Claudius Crassus, and served as consul in 264 BC.
The Battle of the Crimissus was fought in 339 BC between a large Carthaginian army commanded by Asdrubal and Hamilcar and an army from Syracuse led by Timoleon. Timoleon attacked the Carthaginian army by surprise near the Crimissus river in western Sicily and won a great victory. When he defeated another much smaller force of Carthaginians shortly afterwards, Carthage sued for peace. The peace allowed the Greek cities on Sicily to recover and began a period of stability. However, another war between Syracuse and Carthage erupted after Timoleon's death, not long after Agathocles seized power in 317 BC.
Sicilia was the first province acquired by the Roman Republic. The western part of the island was brought under Roman control in 241 BC at the conclusion of the First Punic War with Carthage. A praetor was regularly assigned to the island from c.227 BC. The Kingdom of Syracuse under Hieron II remained an independent ally of Rome until its defeat in 212 BC during the Second Punic War. Thereafter the province included the whole of the island of Sicily, the island of Malta, and the smaller island groups.
The Siege of Syracuse in 397 BC was the first of four unsuccessful sieges Carthaginian forces would undertake against Syracuse from 397 to 278 BC. In retaliation to the Siege of Motya by Dionysius of Syracuse, Himilco of the Magonid family of Carthage led a substantial force to Sicily. After retaking Motya and founding Lilybaeum, Himilco sacked Messana, then laid siege of Syracuse in the autumn of 397 BC after the Greek navy was crushed at Catana.
The Sicilian Wars, or Greco-Punic Wars, were a series of conflicts fought between Ancient Carthage and the Greek city-states led by Syracuse, Sicily, over control of Sicily and the western Mediterranean between 580–265 BC.
Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC on the coast of Northwest Africa, in what is now Tunisia. It developed into a significant trading empire throughout the Mediterranean, and was seen as home to a wealthy and brilliant civilization. After a long conflict with the emerging civilization of Ancient Rome, known as the Punic Wars, during which advantage shifted from one side to the other and Hannibal conducted a campaign in Italy after first crossing the Alps, Rome finally destroyed Carthage in 146 B.C. A Roman Carthage was established on the ruins of the first.
The Battle of Messene took place in 397 BC in Sicily. Carthage, in retaliation for the attack on Motya by Dionysius, had sent an army under Himilco, to Sicily to regain lost territory. Himilco sailed to Panormus, and from there again sailed and marched along the northern coast of Sicily to Cape Pelorum, 12 miles (19 km) north of Messene. While the Messenian army marched out to offer battle, Himilco sent 200 ships filled with soldiers to the city itself, which was stormed and the citizens were forced to disperse to forts in the countryside. Himilco later sacked and leveled the city, which was again rebuilt after the war.
The Battle of Messana in 264 BC was the first military clash between the Roman Republic and Carthage. It marked the start of the First Punic War. In that period, and after the recent successes in southern Italy, Sicily became of increasing strategic importance to Rome.
Hanno was a Carthaginian general prominent in the events leading to the start of the First Punic War.
The Battle of Abacaenum took place between the Carthaginian forces under Mago and the Greek army under Dionysius in 393 BC near the Sicilian town on Abacaenum in north-eastern Sicily. Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, had been expanding his influence over Sicels' territories in Sicily. After Dionysius' unsuccessful siege in 394 BC of Tauromenium, a Carthaginian ally, Mago decided to attack Messana. However, the Carthaginian army was defeated by the Greeks near the town of Abacaenum and had to retire to the Carthaginian territories in Western Sicily. Dionysius did not attack the Carthaginians but continued to expand his influence in eastern Sicily.
The Battle of Chrysas was a battle fought in 392 BC in the course of the Sicilian Wars, between the Carthaginian army under Mago and a Greek army under Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse, who was aided by Agyris, tyrant of the Sicel city of Agyrium. Mago had been defeated by Dionysius at Abacaenum in 393, which had not damaged the Carthaginian position in Sicily. Reinforced by Carthage in 392, Mago moved to attack the Sicles allied with Syracuse in central Sicily. After the Carthaginians reached and encamped near the river Chrysas, the Sicels harassed the Carthaginian supply lines causing a supply shortage, while the Greek soldiers rebelled and deserted Dionysius when he refused to fight a pitched battle. Both Mago and Dionysius agreed to a peace treaty, which allowed the Carthaginians to formally occupy the area west of the River Halycus, while Dionysius was given lordship over the Sicel lands. The peace would last until 383, when Dionysius attacked the Carthaginians again.
The Siege of Tauromenium was laid down by Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, in the winter of 394 BC, in the course of the Sicilian Wars against Carthage. After defeating the Carthaginians at the Battle of Syracuse in 397 BC, Dionysius had been expanding his territory and political influence by conquering Sicel lands and planting Greek colonies in northeastern Sicily. Tauromenium was a Sicel city allied to Carthage and in a position to threaten both Syracuse and Messina. Dionysius laid siege to the city in the winter of 394 BC, but had to lift the siege after his night assault was defeated. Carthage responded to this attack on their allies by renewing the war, which was ended by a peace treaty in 392 BC that granted Dionysius overlordship of the Sicels, while Carthage retained all territory west of the Halykos and Himera rivers in Sicily.
The Siege of Syracuse in 278 BC was the last attempt of Carthage to conquer the city of Syracuse. Syracuse was weakened by a civil war between Thoenon and Sostratus. The Carthaginians used this opportunity to attack and besiege Syracuse both by land and sea. Thoenon and Sostratus then appealed to king Pyrrhus of Epirus to come to the aid of Syracuse. When Pyrrhus arrived, the Carthaginian army and navy retreated without a fight.