Siege of Tunis (Mercenary War)

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Siege of Tunis
Part of Carthage's Mercenary War
Datec. October 238 BC
Location
Tunis, Carthage
Result Carthaginian defeat
Belligerents
Carthage Rebel mercenaries
Commanders and leaders
Hannibal Mathos
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Significant Unknown

The blockade of Tunis was conducted late in 238 BC by Carthaginian forces against the mercenaries who had mutinied against Carthage in the wake of the First Punic War.

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.

Contents

The Blockade

After Hamilcar's victory of the Battle of "The Saw" Hamilcar marched on the main rebel force at Tunis. Mathos, the main rebel leader had few favourable options and awaited Hamilcar's advance. [1] It is likely that Hamilcar initiated the blockade around October 238 BC. [2] To the East of Tunis is the sea while to the west there was a large salt marsh. This left the two approaches, to the north and south. Hamilcar encamped to the south while his subordinate, Hannibal (not to be confused with his son), blocked the approach from the north. [3]

Hamilcar Barca Carthaginian general

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.

The Battle of "The Saw" was a major event, mostly a protracted siege rather than a battle in the Mercenary War between Carthage and her former mercenary armies from the First Punic War. It takes its name from its location: a box-like canyon known as "The Saw" because of its shape.

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.

Hamilcar had become embittered towards the mercenaries due to their execution and torture of Carthaginian envoys earlier in the war. It is probable because of this and in the hope of demoralizing the mercenaries he crucified a number of mercenary leaders that he had captured at the Battle of the Saw. The crosses were raised outside Hannibal's camp, in full view of the rebels. [4]

Mathos' attack

Mathos observed that Hannibal was careless about keeping his camp on alert and made a surprise attack, overrunning the camp and capturing Hannibal. [5] Polybius puts the blame on Hannibal, [6] but Seibert is more ready to blame Hamilcar for not anticipating the attack. [7]

Notes

  1. Dexter Hoyos, Truceless War, p220
  2. Dexter Hoyos, Truceless War, p220
  3. Dexter Hoyos, Truceless War, p220-1
  4. Dexter Hoyos, Truceless War, p222
  5. Dexter Hoyos, Truceless War, p223
  6. Polybius 1.86.5
  7. J Seibert, 1993, Forschungen zu Hannibal

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