Sacred Band of Carthage

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The Sacred Band of Carthage is the name used by Greek historians to refer to an infantry unit of Carthaginian citizens that served in Carthaginian armies during the fourth century BC. The presence of Carthaginian citizens fighting as infantry in these armies is unusual as Carthaginian citizens usually only served as officers or cavalry in the Carthaginian armed forces; the bulk of Carthaginian armies were usually made up of mercenaries, infantry from allied communities (who might be Punic colonists), and subject levies.

Mercenary soldier who fights for hire

A mercenary is an individual who is hired to take part in a conflict but is not part of an army or other-governmental organisation. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms 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.

Punics people from Ancient Carthage

The Punics, also known as Carthaginians, were a people from Ancient Carthage who traced their origins to the Phoenicians. Punic is the English adjective, derived from the Latin adjective punicus to describe anything Carthaginian. Their language, Punic, was a dialect of Phoenician.


The "Sacred Band" consisted of a small heavy infantry unit of 2000-3000 men, who were "inferior to none among them as to birth, wealth, or reputation" and distinguished by "the splendour of their arms, and the slowness and order of their march".[ citation needed ] Trained from an early age to be tough phalanx spearmen, these men were from wealthy Carthaginian families, and as such were able to afford high quality armor and weapons. They fought as a traditional phalanx organized in the Hellenic style.

Ancient Carthage empire defined as the Phoenician city-state of Carthage and its sphere of influence, esp. during 7th to 3rd centuries BC

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.

At the Battle of the Krimissus in Sicily in 341 BC, the "Sacred Band" fought as a well-organized phalanx. [1] It was utterly destroyed. Two thousand citizen troops (perhaps a similar unit), are recorded as being in Sicily in 311 BC, the last time that citizens troops are recorded as being overseas. By 310 BC, the Sacred Band appears to have been reformed, only to be destroyed in the Battle of White Tunis against Agathocles.

Agathocles of Syracuse

Agathocles was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse and king of Sicily.

After its destruction in 310 BC, the "Sacred Band" disappears from historical record. When Carthaginian citizen infantry turn up in the historical sources during later wars, their numbers are significantly higher implying a levy of all available citizens due to crisis. Larger citizen forces turned out at the Battle of Bagradas during the First Punic War, the Mercenary War, and the Third Punic War, but the "Sacred Band" is not mentioned in any of the surviving accounts we have of these wars.

First Punic War first war between the Roman Republic and Carthage, fought between 264 and 241 BCE

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.

Mercenary War war

The Mercenary War, 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.

Third Punic War war between the Roman Republic and Carthage between 149 and 146 BCE

The Third Punic War was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between the former Phoenician colony of Carthage and the Roman Republic. The Punic Wars were named because of the Roman name for Carthaginians: Punici, or Poenici.

See also

Primary sources

Diodorus Siculus Greek historiographer

Diodorus Siculus or Diodorus of Sicily was a Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history Bibliotheca historica, much of which survives, between 60 and 30 BC. It is arranged in three parts. The first covers mythic history up to the destruction of Troy, arranged geographically, describing regions around the world from Egypt, India and Arabia to Greece and Europe. The second covers the Trojan War to the death of Alexander the Great. The third covers the period to about 60 BC. Bibliotheca, meaning 'library', acknowledges that he was drawing on the work of many other authors.

Further reading


  1. Head, Duncan "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars 359 BC to 146 BC" (1982), p140.

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