|Carthage||Carthage's mercenary army of the First Punic War.|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Hanno the Great |
| Spendius † |
|Unknown||90,000–100,000. 20,000 mercenaries transported from Sicily and assaulted Tunis. A further mention of "about 70,000 Libyans" later in the war. Naravas' Numidians stated at "about 2,000".|
|Casualties and losses|
|Unknown||High. Some 50,000 were reported killed at the Battle of "The Saw" alone. Some defected to the Carthaginians.|
The Mercenary War (240 BC – 238 BC), also called the Libyan War and the Truceless War by Polybius, was an uprising of mercenary armies formerly employed by Carthage, backed by Libyan settlements revolting against Carthaginian control.
Polybius was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail. The work describes the rise of the Roman Republic to the status of dominance in the ancient Mediterranean world and includes his eyewitness account of the Sack of Carthage and Corinth in 146 BC, and Roman annexation of mainland Greece after Achaean War.
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.
Carthage was a Phoenician state that included, during the 7th–3rd centuries BC, its wider sphere of influence known as the Carthaginian Empire. The empire extended over much of the coast of Northwest Africa as well as encompassing substantial parts of coastal Iberia and the islands of the western Mediterranean Sea.
The war began as a dispute over the payment of money owed to the mercenaries between the mercenary armies who fought the First Punic War on Carthage's behalf, and a destitute Carthage, which had lost most of its wealth due to the indemnities imposed by Rome as part of the peace treaty. The dispute grew until the mercenaries seized Tunis by force of arms, and directly threatened Carthage, which then capitulated to the mercenaries' demands. The conflict would have ended there, had not two of the mercenary commanders, Spendius and Mathos, persuaded the Libyan conscripts in the army to accept their leadership, and then convinced them that Carthage would exact vengeance for their part in the revolt once the foreign mercenaries were paid and sent home. They also persuaded the combined mercenary armies to revolt against Carthage, and various Libyan towns and cities to back the revolt. What had been a hotly contested "labour dispute" exploded into a full-scale revolt.
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.
Heavily outmatched in terms of troops, money, and supplies, an unprepared Carthage fared poorly in the initial engagements of the war, especially under the generalship of Hanno the Great. Hamilcar Barca, general from the campaigns in Sicily and father of Hannibal Barca, was given supreme command, and eventually defeated the rebels in 237 BC.
Hanno the Great may refer to any of three different leaders of ancient Carthage, according to Gilbert Charles-Picard and Colette Picard: Hanno I the Great, Hanno II the Great, and Hanno III the Great. According to Warmington, there were three elders of Carthage called Hanno who were given the same nickname but he conjectures that it was a family nickname or a term not well understood by the ancient Greek or Roman writers. Warmington discusses only two of them but he does not use Roman numerals for them. Lancel mentions only one Hanno the Great, the Picards' "Hanno I". He references "Hanno II" but calls him simply "Hanno".
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.
In 241 BC the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage came to an end with Carthaginian defeat.As part of the terms of the treaty, Rome demanded that Carthage give up "all islands lying between Sicily and Italy", immediately pay Rome a sum of 1,000 talents of gold, and pay a further 2,000 talents over a period of 10 years. After meeting the Roman demands, a destitute Carthage now found itself in a quandary: it had employed numerous mercenaries in the First Punic War and now found it difficult to pay them. During the First Punic War the Carthaginians had recruited mercenaries from diverse sources, including Iberians, Celt-Iberians, Balearic Islanders, Ligurians, Celts and Greeks.
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.
This was a problem, as some 20,000 mercenaries, formerly under the command of Hamilcar Barca (who had resigned his command at the end of the First Punic War km south-west of Carthage, taking their families and baggage trains with them.), would shortly be returning from Lilybaeum (modern Marsala in Sicily) to Carthage. Concerned about the possibility of a large, disgruntled, mercenary force encamped near Carthage, Gesco (Gisco), the Carthaginian commandant responsible for transporting the mercenaries from Sicily, attempted to deploy the mercenaries throughout Carthaginian territory. It was his plan to bring the mercenary units back to the capital one at a time, for demobilization and payment. However, delays by the Carthaginian government, and a belief that the mercenaries could be convinced to settle for less than their agreed wages, resulted in the eventual gathering of most of the mercenary armies near Carthage. Wary of such a large foreign army near the capital, and alarmed by the disruptive effects they were having on the city, the Carthaginian government convinced the mercenaries to withdraw to the nearby city of Sicca Veneria (modern El Kef), 170
Marsala is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populated town in its province and the fifth in Sicily.
El Kef, also known as Le Kef, is a city in northwestern Tunisia. It serves as the capital of the Kef Governorate.
Once in Sicca Veneria, the mercenaries collaborated on a list of demands and "submitted that this was the sum they should demand from the Carthaginians".When Hanno the Great met with officers from the mercenary companies, he rejected their demands, claiming that Carthage could not possibly pay such an exorbitant sum due to her post-war indemnities to Rome.
The mercenaries were unhappy with the rejection of their demands, and were mistrustful of Hanno, much preferring to deal with the commanders they had served under in Sicily, such as Hamilcar, who had seen their worth and furthermore made promises to them. Unsurprisingly, due to the mistrust and difficulties in communication (the mercenaries were from many different nations, speaking many different languages), the negotiations quickly broke down. A force of mercenaries, about 20,000 strong, armed themselves and marched towards Carthage, seizing the town of Tunis some 21 km from Carthage.
Realizing their error in letting such a large foreign army gather in the first place, and also realizing that they had released the family and belongings of the mercenaries as well and thus had given up a bargaining position, the Carthaginian government had no choice but to capitulate to the mercenary demands.
Not willing to deal with Hanno again, and feeling insulted by Hamilcar for not having met with them in the first round of negotiations, the mercenaries agreed to negotiate with Gesco. Given their newly strengthened bargaining position, the mercenaries vastly inflated their original demands, even requiring the extension of the payments to the Libyans whom Carthage had conscripted (and who were not mercenaries) as well as other Numidians and to the escaped slaves and the like who had joined their ranks against Carthage. Once again Carthage had no choice but to agree.
Despite the more generous settlement, two mercenaries, Spendius and Mathos, organized a rebellion, based on speculation that after the foreigners left Africa, Carthage would be unwilling, or simply unable, to pay those remaining. In 240 BC Gesco and other officials were taken prisoner by the mercenary leadership and open warfare ensued.
The Libyan population, discontent with Carthaginian rule, supported the rebels. Carthage still had some mercenaries quartered in Tunis, and was also able to deploy the mercenaries still in Sicily and to hire fresh troops. Carthage initially organized an army consisting of mercenaries and citizens to which Hanno was given command.By the time Hanno moved onto the attack, the rebels had already blockaded Utica and Hippakra. Hanno engaged the rebels in the Battle of the Bagradas River which ended with a Carthaginian victory. Hamilcar then won a further victory with the aid of Navaras who had defected from the rebels.
As the war progressed, Hamilcar Barca was first given joint command with Hanno, and finally full command of Carthage's army. Even though he was vastly outnumbered and faced a hardened mercenary army which he himself had led against the Roman legions, Hamilcar displayed superior military leadership and clever use of psychology in the conflict. His talents eventually won over a portion of the mercenary armies to Carthage's side, and at the decisive Battle of "The Saw", Hamilcar destroyed the bulk of the rebel army, cunningly routeing them into a steep ravine and blockading them there until they starved to death. With the aid of a Carthaginian general Hannibal (not the famous Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca), and reinforcements under the command of Hanno the Great, the remnants of the mercenaries were finally put down.
The conduct of the war was barbaric even by the standards of the time. Polybius called it a "truceless war", without any concept of rules of warfare and exceeding all other conflicts in cruelty, ending only with the total annihilation of one of the opponents. The conflict escalated when the mercenary leadership tortured and killed its Carthaginian prisoners and in response the Carthaginians committed similar actions. At the instigation of the mercenary leader Autaritus, Gesco and 700 of his men had their arms and legs broken, their hands cut off, were castrated, and were thrown into a pit to die, according to Polybius. These atrocities were intended to prevent any possibility of a negotiated settlement, contributing to the "most impious war in history."
After the Battle of "The Saw" Spendius and Autaritus were captured and crucified. Mathos was finally captured as well, and executed at Carthage after various tortures inflicted on him by a mob.
Initially, a smaller mercenary revolt occurred on Sardinia, and the rebels took control of the island. When the conflict in Africa turned in favour of Carthage, the Sardinian rebels appealed to Rome for protection. However, it was in Rome's self-interest for Carthage to achieve stability and to recover economically so it could continue paying the indemnities imposed after the First Punic War. Rome rejected the appeal, and indirectly supported its former adversary by releasing Carthaginian prisoners and prohibiting trade with the mercenaries. Nevertheless, in 238 BC-237 BC, Rome annexed Sardinia and Corsica on the pretext that the Carthaginian navy had been preying on Roman shipping; this claim was probably a baseless excuse for expanding Roman influence in the Mediterranean Sea by seizing an island located in a strategic position. When Carthage prepared a force to pursue the remnants of the mercenaries there, Rome claimed that Carthage's military preparations were to be used against Rome, and declared war on Carthage. Weakened by both the First Punic War and the Mercenary War, Carthage immediately surrendered rather than enter into a conflict with Rome again, giving up all claims on Sardinia and Corsica, and agreed to pay a further indemnity of 1,200 talents.
The war had repercussions for Carthage, both internally, and internationally. Internally, the victory of Hamilcar Barca greatly enhanced the prestige and power of the Barcid family, whose most famous member, Hannibal, would lead Carthage in the Second Punic War. Internationally, Rome used the "invitation" of the mercenaries that had captured Sardinia to occupy the island. The seizure of Sardinia and the outrageous extra indemnity fuelled resentment in Carthage. The loss of Sardinia, along with the earlier loss of Sicily meant that Carthage's traditional source of wealth, its trade, was now severely compromised, forcing them to look for a new source of wealth. This led Hamilcar, together with his son-in-law Hasdrubal and his son Hannibal to establish a power base in Hispania, outside Rome's sphere of influence, which later became the source of wealth and manpower for Hannibal's initial campaigns in the Second Punic War.
Salammbô is a novel by Gustave Flaubert set before and during the revolt. It portrays Mathos' obsessive desire for the fictional Carthaginian Salammbô, the daughter of Hamilcar. A number of other works are based on Flaubert's novel.
In Manga Ad Astra Scipio to Hannibal, glimpse of this war was shown, and the aftermath of the deals between Hamilcar and the Roman Republic.
Finding historical sources for The Mercenary War suffers from the same problem as any history of Carthage: Few primary sources of Carthaginian history exist, except as fragments in translation quoted by Roman and Greek historians. The main extant account of the Mercenary War is that of Polybius, a Greek historian writing many years after the events portrayed here. While it is likely that he based much of his account on now-lost works of prior Greek and Roman historians, it is unlikely that they had an unbiased view of Carthage and its history.
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.
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and by the Romans the War Against Hannibal, was the second of three wars between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of Greek polities and Numidian and Iberian forces on both sides. It was one of the deadliest human conflicts of ancient times. Fought across the entire Western Mediterranean region for 17 years and regarded by ancient historians as the greatest war in history, it was waged with unparalleled resources, skill, and hatred. It saw hundreds of thousands killed, some of the most lethal battles in military history, the destruction of cities, and massacres and enslavements of civilian populations and prisoners of war by both sides.
This article concerns the period 249 BC – 240 BC.
This article concerns the period 239 BC – 230 BC.
Year 238 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Gracchus and Falto. The denomination 238 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.
Year 239 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Turrinus and Falto. The denomination 239 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.
Year 240 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Centho and Tuditanus. The denomination 240 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.
The Battle of the Aegates was fought off the Aegadian Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily on 10 March 241 BC. It was the final naval battle fought between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War. The better-trained Roman fleet defeated a hastily raised, undermanned and ill-trained Punic fleet, which was a decisive Roman victory as Carthage sued for peace, resulting in the Peace of Lutatius leading to Carthage surrendering Sicily and some adjoining islands to Rome.
Salammbô (1862) is a historical novel by Gustave Flaubert. It is set in Carthage during the 3rd century BCE, immediately before and during the Mercenary Revolt which took place shortly after the First Punic War. Flaubert's main source was Book I of Polybius's Histories. The novel jumpstarted a renewed interest in the history of pre-Imperial Rome's conflict with the North African Phoenician colony of Carthage.
The Battle of the Bagradas River or the Macar was fought between Carthaginian forces and part of the combined forces of Carthage's former mercenary armies during the Mercenary War which it used to conduct the First Punic War and those of rebelling Libyan cities. After the forces of Hanno the Great were defeated at Utica, and failed to engage the mercenaries afterwards despite favorable conditions, Carthage raised a new army under Hamilcar Barca in Carthage. Hamilcar managed to leave Carthage despite the rebel blockade of the city and cross the Bagradas River. Rebel armies from besieging Utica and the camp guarded the bridge on the Bagradas River. Hamilcar Barca, by brilliant maneuvering, defeated the combined rebel army. This was the first major Carthaginian victory of the war. A description of the battle forms one of the grandiose set-piece scenes of Gustave Flaubert's novel, Salammbo.
The Battle of Utica was the first major engagement in the Mercenary War between Carthaginian forces and part of the combined forces of the former mercenary armies previously deployed by Carthage to conduct the First Punic War and those of rebelling Libyan cities. The forces of Hanno the Great broke the siege of Utica. However, they failed to prepare any meaningful defense of the city once they liberated it or to maintain proper lookouts for enemy movement. As a result, the Carthaginian forces suffered heavy losses when the mercenary forces counter-attacked, captured the Carthaginian baggage and equipment and besieged the army of Hanno within Utica. Hanno managed to regain his freedom of maneuver later but failed to capitalize on opportunities to engage the rebel forces under favourable conditions. This prompted Carthage to mobilize another army under Hamilcar Barca.
Hasdrubal the Fair was a Carthaginian military leader and politician, governor in Iberia after Hamilcar Barca's death, and founder of Cartagena.
The military of Carthage was one of the largest military forces in the ancient world. Although Carthage's navy was always its main military force, the army acquired a key role in the spread of Carthaginian power over the native peoples of northern Africa and southern Iberian Peninsula from the 6th century BC and the 3rd century BC. Carthage's military also allowed it to expand into Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. This expansion transformed the military from a body of citizen-soldiers into a multinational force composed primarily of foreign mercenary units.
Naravas was a Berber and Numidian leader in the Mercenary War of the Carthaginian state. Naravas is the Greek form of Narbal or Naarbaal.
The battle following the defection of Numidian chieftain Naravas to Hamilcar Barca was fought between Carthaginian forces commanded by Hamilcar Barca and part of the combined forces of Carthage's former mercenary armies during the Mercenary War, which Carthage had formerly employed during the First Punic War, and those of rebelling Libyan cities supporting the mercenaries.
Mathos was a Berber. He served with distinction as an officer and military leader in the army of Carthage during the First Punic War in Sicily.
Under the leadership of the Barcid family, Ancient Carthage expanded its possessions in Spain from 237 to 218 BC after the end of the First Punic War in 241 BC and the Mercenary War in 238 BC.