Second Punic War
The Second Punic War 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 and hatred, it saw hundreds of thousands killed, some of the most lethal battles in military history, the destruction of cities, massacres and enslavements of civilian populations and prisoners of war by both sides. The war began with the Carthaginian general Hannibal's conquest of the pro-Roman Iberian city of Saguntum in 219 BC, prompting a Roman declaration of war on Carthage in the spring of 218. Hannibal surprised the Romans by marching his army overland from Iberia to cross the Alps and invade Roman Italy, followed by his reinforcement by Gallic allies and crushing victories over Roman armies at Trebia in 218 and on the shores of Lake Trasimene in 217.
Moving to southern Italy in 216, Hannibal at Cannae annihilated the largest army the Romans had assembled. After the death or imprisonment of 130,000 Roman troops in two years, 40% of Rome's Italian allies defected to Carthage, giving her control over most of southern Italy. Macedon and Syracuse joined the Carthaginian side after Cannae and the conflict spread to Greece and Sicily. From 215–210 the Carthaginian army and navy launched repeated amphibious assaults to capture Roman Sicily and Sardinia but were repulsed. Against Hannibal's skill on the battlefield, the Romans adopted the Fabian strategy – the avoidance of battle against Hannibal and defeating his allies and the other Carthaginian generals instead. Roman armies recaptured all of the great cities that had joined Carthage and defeated a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at Metaurus in 207. Southern Italy was devastated by the combatants, with hundreds of thousands of civilians killed or enslaved. In Iberia, which served as a major source of silver and manpower for the Carthaginian army, a Roman expeditionary force under Publius Cornelius Scipio captured Carthago Nova, Carthage's capital city in Iberia, in 209.
Scipio's destruction of a Carthaginian army at Ilipa in 206 permanently ended Carthaginian rule in Iberia. He invaded Carthaginian Africa in 204, inflicting two severe defeats on Carthage and her allies at Utica and the Great Plains that compelled the Carthaginian senate to recall Hannibal's army from Italy; the final engagement between Scipio and Hannibal took place at Zama in Africa in 202 and resulted in Hannibal's defeat and the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage, which ceased to be a great power and became a Roman client state until its final destruction by the Romans in 146 BC during the Third Punic War. The Second Punic War overthrew the established balance of power of the ancient world and Rome rose to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin for the next 600 years. Carthage's defeat in the First Punic War meant the loss of Carthaginian Sicily to Rome under the terms of the Roman-dictated 241 BC Treaty of Lutatius. Rome exploited Carthage's distraction during the Truceless War against rebellious mercenaries and Libyan subjects to break the peace treaty and annex Carthaginian Sardinia and Corsica to Rome in 238 BC.
Under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca and his family, Carthage defeated the rebels and began the Barcid conquest of Hispania from 237 BC onward. Control over Spain gave Carthage the silver mines, agricultural wealth, military facilities such as shipyards and territorial depth to stand up to future Roman demands with confidence; the Second Punic War was ignited by the dispute over the hegemony of Saguntum, a Hellenized Iberian coastal city with diplomatic contacts with Rome. After great tension within the city government, culminating in the assassination of the supporters of Carthage, Hannibal laid siege to the city of Saguntum in 219 BC; the city called for Roman aid. Following a prolonged siege of eight months and a bloody struggle, in which Hannibal himself was wounded, the Carthaginians took control of the city. Many of the Saguntians chose to commit suicide rather than face subjugation by the Carthaginians; the loss of Saguntum as a potential base of operations in Carthaginian Iberia was a serious setback to the main Roman strategic objective in Spain: the eviction of the Carthaginians from the peninsula.
The Roman Senate sent an embassy to the Carthaginian Senate that declared war on Carthage in early 218 BC over the attack on Rome's Saguntine ally. Before the war and Hasdrubal the Fair had made a treaty. Livy reports that it was agreed that the Iber should be the boundary between the two empires and that the liberty of the Saguntines should be preserved; the highest priority in Carthaginian strategy was to keep the war away from Carthage's agricultural heartland in Africa and protect the property of the wealthy Carthaginian landowners who controlled Carthaginian politics. Spanish mines and sources of manpower comprised the second pillar of the Carthaginian power base and their protection was essential to maintaining Carthage's status as an independent continental great power. Hannibal's invasion of Italy forced the Romans to abandon their intended invasion of Africa and de-prioritize the reinforcement of Roman armies in Spain. Most Roman troops during the war fought in Italy, which became the main theater of the war as a result of Hannibal's offensive.
Africa remained undisturbed by a Roman invasion army until 204 BC and the Roman military presence in Spain was confined to its northeastern corn
Siege of Capua (211 BC)
The Siege of Capua was fought in 211 BC, when the Romans besieged Capua. It is described by Polybius at 9.4-7, by Livy at 26.4-6. Capua had defected to Hannibal after the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Hannibal had made Capua his winter quarter in 215 BC and had conducted his campaigns against Nola and Casilinum from there; the Romans had attempted to march on Capua several times since its defection but were thwarted by the return of Hannibal's army rushing to its defence. By 211 BC, Hannibal was busy in the south of Italia and the Romans were ready to try again, banking on taking it before Hannibal's army could return to Capua. Hannibal feared that if he approached Capua, the Romans would withdraw, as they had done on other occasions, only to return to lay siege again once he had left, he thus tried to break the siege by marching on Rome itself, hoping that that threat would force the Roman army to break off the siege and march back to Rome to defend it. Once the Roman army was in the open, he would turn to engage it in a pitched battle and defeat them once again, freeing Capua from the threat.
However, Hannibal found the defences of Rome too formidable for an assault and as he had only planned this movement as a feint, he lacked both the supplies and equipment for a siege. The Roman besiegers of Capua, knowing this, ignored his march on Rome and refused to break off their siege, his feint having failed, Hannibal was forced to retreat south and Capua unrelieved fell to the Romans shortly afterwards. Polybius - The Rise of the Roman Empire, pp 387–394
In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed; the Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117. In its many centuries of existence, the Roman state evolved from a monarchy to a classical republic and to an autocratic semi-elective empire. Through conquest and assimilation, it dominated the North African coast and most of Western Europe, the Balkans and much of the Middle East.
It is grouped into classical antiquity together with ancient Greece, their similar cultures and societies are known as the Greco-Roman world. Ancient Roman civilisation has contributed to modern language, society, law, government, art, literature and engineering. Rome professionalised and expanded its military and created a system of government called res publica, the inspiration for modern republics such as the United States and France, it achieved impressive technological and architectural feats, such as the construction of an extensive system of aqueducts and roads, as well as the construction of large monuments and public facilities. The Punic Wars with Carthage were decisive in establishing Rome as a world power. In this series of wars Rome gained control of the strategic islands of Corsica and Sicily. By the end of the Republic, Rome had conquered the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond: its domain extended from the Atlantic to Arabia and from the mouth of the Rhine to North Africa.
The Roman Empire emerged with the dictatorship of Augustus Caesar. 721 years of Roman–Persian Wars started in 92 BC with their first war against Parthia. It would become the longest conflict in human history, have major lasting effects and consequences for both empires. Under Trajan, the Empire reached its territorial peak, it stretched from the entire Mediterranean Basin to the beaches of the North Sea in the north, to the shores of the Red and Caspian Seas in the East. Republican mores and traditions started to decline during the imperial period, with civil wars becoming a prelude common to the rise of a new emperor. Splinter states, such as the Palmyrene Empire, would temporarily divide the Empire during the crisis of the 3rd century. Plagued by internal instability and attacked by various migrating peoples, the western part of the empire broke up into independent "barbarian" kingdoms in the 5th century; this splintering is a landmark historians use to divide the ancient period of universal history from the pre-medieval "Dark Ages" of Europe.
The eastern part of the empire endured through the 5th century and remained a power throughout the "Dark Ages" and medieval times until its fall in 1453 AD. Although the citizens of the empire made no distinction, the empire is most referred to as the "Byzantine Empire" by modern historians during the Middle Ages to differentiate between the state of antiquity and the nation it grew into. According to the founding myth of Rome, the city was founded on 21 April 753 BC on the banks of the river Tiber in central Italy, by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who descended from the Trojan prince Aeneas, who were grandsons of the Latin King Numitor of Alba Longa. King Numitor was deposed by his brother, while Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, gave birth to the twins. Since Rhea Silvia had been raped and impregnated by Mars, the Roman god of war, the twins were considered half-divine; the new king, feared Romulus and Remus would take back the throne, so he ordered them to be drowned. A she-wolf saved and raised them, when they were old enough, they returned the throne of Alba Longa to Numitor.
The twins founded their own city, but Romulus killed Remus in a quarrel over the location of the Roman Kingdom, though some sources state the quarrel was about, going to rule or give his name to the city. Romulus became the source of the city's name. In order to attract people to the city, Rome became a sanctuary for the indigent and unwanted; this caused a problem, in that Rome was bereft of women. Romulus visited neighboring towns and tribes and attempted to secure marriage rights, but as Rome was so full of undesirables he was refused. Legend says that the Latins invited the Sabines to a festival and stole their unmarried maidens, leading to the integration of the Latins with the Sabines. Another legend, recorded by Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, says that Prince Aeneas led a group of Trojans on a sea voyage to found a new Troy, since the original was destroyed at the end of the Trojan War. After a long time in rough seas, they landed on the banks of the Tiber River. Not long after they landed, the men wanted to take to the sea again, but the women who were traveling with them did not want to leave.
One woman, named Roma, suggested that the women burn the ships out at sea to prevent their leaving
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage, under Hannibal and decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro, it is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history. Having recovered from their losses at Trebia and Lake Trasimene, the Romans decided to engage Hannibal at Cannae, with 86,000 Roman and allied troops, they massed their heavy infantry in a deeper formation than usual, while Hannibal used the double-envelopment tactic and surrounded his enemy, trapping the majority of the Roman army, who were slaughtered. The loss of life on the Roman side was one of the most lethal single day. Only about 15,000 Romans, most of whom were from the garrisons of the camps and had not taken part in the battle, escaped death. Following the defeat and several other Italian city-states defected from the Roman Republic to Carthage.
As news of this defeat reached Rome, the city was gripped in panic. Authorities resorted to extraordinary measures, which included consulting the Sibylline Oracles, dispatching a delegation led by Quintus Fabius Pictor to consult the Delphic oracle in Greece, burying four people alive as a sacrifice to their Gods. To raise two new legions, the authorities lowered the draft age and enlisted criminals and slaves. Despite the extreme loss of men and equipment, a second massive defeat that same year at Silva Litana, the Romans refused to surrender to Hannibal, his offer to ransom survivors was brusquely refused. With grim determination the Romans fought for 14 more years until they achieved victory at the Battle of Zama. Although for most of the following decades the battle was seen as a major Roman disaster, by modern times Cannae acquired a mythic quality, is used as an example of the perfect defeat of an enemy army, it was studied by German strategists prior to World War II, General Norman Schwartzkopf claimed to have drawn inspiration from Hannibal's success for his devastatingly effective land offensive in the First Gulf War.
Shortly after the start of the Second Punic War, Hannibal crossed into Italy by traversing the Pyrenees and the Alps during the summer and early autumn of 218 BC. He won major victories over the Romans at Trebia and at Lake Trasimene. After these losses, the Romans appointed Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus as dictator to deal with the threat. Fabius used attrition warfare against Hannibal, cutting off his supply lines and avoiding pitched battles; these tactics proved unpopular with the Romans who, as they recovered from the shock of Hannibal's victories, began to question the wisdom of the Fabian strategy, which had given the Carthaginian army a chance to regroup. The majority of Romans were eager to see a quick conclusion to the war, it was feared that, if Hannibal continued plundering Italy unopposed, Rome's allies might defect to the Carthaginian side for self-preservation. Therefore, when Fabius came to the end of his term, the Senate did not renew his dictatorial powers and command was given to consuls Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and Marcus Atilius Regulus.
In 216 BC, when elections resumed, Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus were elected as consuls, placed in command of a newly raised army of unprecedented size and directed to engage Hannibal. Polybius wrote: The Senate determined to bring eight legions into the field, which had never been done at Rome before, each legion consisting of five thousand men besides allies.... Most of their wars are decided with their quota of allies, but on this occasion, so great was the alarm and terror of what would happen, they resolved to bring not only four but eight legions into the field. Rome employed four legions each year, each consisting of 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 cavalry. Perceiving the Carthaginian army as a real threat, for the first time the Senate introduced eight legions, each consisting of 5,000 foot soldiers and 300 cavalry, with allied troops numbering the same amount of foot soldiers but 900 cavalry per legion—more than triple the legion numbers. Eight legions—some 40,000 Roman soldiers and an estimated 2,400 cavalry—formed the core of this massive new army.
Livy quotes one source stating the Romans added only 10,000 men to their usual army. While no definitive number of Roman troops exists, all sources agree that the Carthaginians faced a larger foe. Consuls were each assigned two of the four legions to command employing all four legions at once to the same assignment. However, the Senate feared a real threat and not only deployed all four legions to the field but all eight, including allies. Ordinarily, each of the two consuls would command his own portion of the army, but since the two armies were combined into one, Roman law required them to alternate their command on a daily basis; the traditional account puts Varro in command on the day of the battle, much of the blame for the defeat has been laid on his shoulders. However, his low origins seem to be exaggerated in the sources, Varro may have been made a scapegoat by the aristocratic establishment, he lacked the powerful descendants that Paullus had, descendants who were willing and able to protect his reputation—most notably, Paullus was the grandfather of Scipio Aemilianus, the patron of Polybius.
In the sp
Utica was an ancient Phoenician and Carthaginian city located near the outflow of the Medjerda River into the Mediterranean, between Carthage in the south and Hippo Diarrhytus in the north. It is traditionally considered to be the first colony to have been founded by the Phoenicians in North Africa. After Carthage's loss to Rome in the Punic Wars, Utica was an important Roman colony for seven centuries. Today, Utica no longer exists, its remains are located in Bizerte Governorate in Tunisia – not on the coast where it once lay, but further inland because deforestation and agriculture upriver led to massive erosion and the Medjerda River silted over its original mouth. Utica is an unusual latinization of ʿtg; these derived from Phoenician ˁAtiq, cognate with Hebrew ˁatiq. These all mean "Old Town" and contrast the settlement with the colony Carthage, whose own name meant "New Town"; the latinization is a little unusual in that the Latin U more transcribed the letter W in Punic names. Utica was founded as a port located on the trade route leading from Phoenicia to the Straits of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean, facilitating trade in commodities like tin.
The exact founding date of Utica is a matter of controversy. Several classical authors date its foundation to around 1100 BC; the archaeological evidence, suggests a foundation no earlier than the eighth century BC. The inland settlement used Rusucmona on Cape Farina to the northeast as its chief port, although continued silting has rendered the present-day settlement at Ghar el-Melh a small farming community. Although Carthage was founded about 40 km from Utica, records suggest "that until 540 BC Utica was still maintaining political and economic autonomy in relation to its powerful Carthaginian neighbor". By the fourth century BC, Utica came under Punic control, but continued to exist as a privileged ally of Carthage. Soon, commercial rivalry created problems between Utica; this relationship between Carthage and Utica began to disintegrate after the First Punic War, with the outbreak of rebellion among mercenaries who had not received compensation for their service to Carthage. Utica refused to participate in this rebellion, so that the Libyan forces led by Spendius and Matho laid siege to Utica and nearby Hippocritae.
The Carthaginian generals Hanno and Hamilcar came to Utica's defense, managing to raise the siege, but "the severest blow of all… was the defection of Hippacritae and Utica, the only two cities in Libya which had…bravely faced the present war…indeed they never had on any occasion given the least sign of hostility to Carthage." The forces of Carthage proved victorious, forcing Utica and Hippacritae to surrender after a short siege. Utica again defied Carthage in the Third Punic War, when it surrendered to Rome shortly before the breakout of war in 150 BC. After its victory, Rome rewarded Utica by granting it an expanse of territory stretching from Carthage to Hippo; as a result of the war, Rome created a new province of Africa, Utica became its capital, which meant that the governor's residence was there along with a small garrison. Over the following decades Utica attracted Roman citizens who settled there to do business. During the Roman Civil War between the supporters of Pompey and Caesar, the remaining Pompeians, including Cato the Younger, fled to Utica after being defeated at the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BC.
Caesar pursued them to Utica. Cato, the leader of the Pompeians, ensured the escape of his fellow senators and anyone else who desired to leave committed suicide, unwilling to accept the clemency of Caesar. Displaying their fondness for Cato, "the people of Utica...called Cato their saviour and benefactor... And this they continued to do when word was brought that Caesar was approaching, they decked his body in splendid fashion, gave it an illustrious escort, buried it near the sea, where a statue of him now stands, sword in hand". After his death, Cato was given the name of Uticensis, due to the place of his death as well as to his public glorification and burial by the citizens of Utica. Utica obtained the formal status of a municipium in 36 BC and its inhabitants became members of the Quirina tribe; the city was chosen by the Romans as the place where the governor of their new Africa Province was resident, but the silting of the port damaged the importance of Utica. During the reign of Augustus, the seat of provincial government was moved to a since rebuilt Carthage, although Utica did not lose its status as one of the foremost cities in the province.
When Hadrian was emperor, Utica requested to become a full Roman colony, but this request was not granted until Septimius Severus, a native of the Province of Africa, took the throne." Eclipsed by the preeminence of Carthage, Utica was faced with the progressive silting up of its port and consequent isolation in the midst of marshy lands. By converting its activity to further cultivation of its agricultural territory, it prolonged its life right up to the end of ancient times.... Utica had been endowed from the first century B. C. with the Roman buildings essential to comfortable urban life: forum, baths, circus, in addition to dwellings. Most of these structures were placed in the grid of an orthogonal plan which covered a large part of the city. -Marian Holland The city and all the area east of the "Fossatum Africae" was nearly romanised by the time of Septimius Severus. According to historian Theodore Mommsen, all the inhabitants of Utica spoke Latin and practised Christianity in the fourth and early
Battle of Zama
The Battle of Zama—fought in 202 BC near Zama —marked the end of the Second Punic War. A Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, with crucial support from Numidian leader Masinissa, defeated the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal. After defeating Carthaginian and Numidian armies at the battles of Utica and the Great Plains, Scipio imposed peace terms on the Carthaginians, who had no choice but to accept them. At the same time they recalled their general Hannibal's army from Italy. Confident in Hannibal's forces, the Carthaginians broke the armistice with Rome. Scipio and Hannibal confronted each other near Zama Regia. Hannibal had 36,000 infantry to Scipio's 29,000. One-third of Hannibal's army were citizen levies and the Romans had 6,100 cavalry to Carthage's 4,000, as most of the Numidian cavalry that Hannibal had employed with great success in Italy had defected to the Romans. Hannibal employed 80 war elephants; the elephants opened the battle by charging the main Roman army. Scipio's soldiers avoided the elephants by opening their ranks and drove them off with missiles.
The Roman and Numidian cavalry subsequently defeated the Carthaginian cavalry and chased them from the battlefield. Hannibal's first line of mercenaries attacked Scipio's infantry and were defeated; the second line of citizen levies and the mercenaries' remnants assaulted and inflicted heavy losses on the Roman first line. The Roman second line joined the struggle and pushed back the Carthaginian assault. Hannibal's third line of veterans, reinforced by the citizen levies and mercenaries, faced off against the Roman army, redeployed into a single line; the combat was fierce and evenly matched. Scipio's cavalry returned to the battle and attacked Hannibal's army in the rear and destroying it; the Carthaginians lost 20,000–25,000 killed and 8,500–20,000 captured. Scipio lost 4,000–5,000 men, 1,500–2,500 Romans and 2,500 Numidians, killed. Defeated on their home ground, the Carthaginian ruling elite sued for peace and accepted humiliating terms, ending the 17-year war. Crossing the Alps, Hannibal reached the Italian peninsula in 218 BC and won several major victories against the Roman armies.
The Romans failed to defeat him in the field and he remained in Italy, but following Scipio's decisive victory at the Battle of Ilipa in Spain in 206 BC, Iberia had been secured by the Romans. In 205 BC Scipio returned to Rome, where he was elected consul by unanimous vote. Scipio, now powerful enough, proposed to end the war by directly invading the Carthaginian homeland; the Senate opposed this ambitious design of Scipio, persuaded by Quintus Fabius Maximus that the enterprise was far too hazardous. Scipio and his supporters convinced the Senate to ratify the plan, Scipio was given the requisite authority to attempt the invasion. Scipio received no levy troops, he sailed to Sicily with a group of 7,000 heterogeneous volunteers, he was authorized to employ the regular forces stationed in Sicily, which consisted of the remnants of the 5th and 6th Legion, exiled to the island as a punishment for the humiliation they suffered at the Battle of Cannae. Scipio continued to reinforce his troops with local defectors.
He landed at Utica and defeated the Carthaginian army at the Battle of the Great Plains in 203 BC. The panicked Carthaginians felt that they had no alternative but to offer peace to Scipio and him, having the authority to do so, granted peace on generous terms. Under the treaty, Carthage could keep its African territory but would lose its overseas empire, by that time a fait-accompli. Masinissa was to be allowed to expand Numidia into parts of Africa. Carthage was to reduce its fleet and pay a war indemnity; the Roman Senate ratified the treaty. The Carthaginian senate recalled Hannibal, still in Italy when Scipio landed in Africa, in 203 BC. Meanwhile, the Carthaginians breached the armistice agreement by capturing a stranded Roman fleet in the Gulf of Tunis and stripping it of supplies; the Carthaginians no longer believed a treaty advantageous, rebuffed it under much Roman protest. Hannibal led an army composed of mercenaries, local citizens and veterans and Numidian cavalry from his Italian campaigns.
Scipio led a pre-Marian Roman army quincunx, along with a body of Numidian cavalry. The battle took place at Zama Regia, near Siliana 130 km southwest of Tunis. Hannibal was first to march and reach the plains of Zama Regia, which were suitable for cavalry maneuvering; this gave an edge in turn to Scipio, who relied on his Roman heavy cavalry and Numidian light cavalry. Hannibal deployed his troops facing northwest, while Scipio deployed his troops in front of the Carthaginian army facing southeast. Hannibal's army consisted of 36,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry and 80 war elephants, while Scipio had a total of 29,000 infantry and 6,100 cavalry. Putting his cavalry on the flanks, with the inexperienced Carthaginian cavalry on the right and the Numidians on the left, Hannibal aligned the rest of his troops in three straight lines behind his elephants; the first line consisted of mixed infantry of mercenaries from Gaul and the Balearic Islands. In his second line he placed the Carthaginian and Libyan citizen levies, while his veterans from Italy, including mercenaries from Gaul and Hispania, were placed in the third line.
Hannibal intentionally held back his third infantry line, in order to thwart Scipio's tendency to pin the Carthaginian center and envelop his opponent's lines, as he had done at the Battle of Ilipa. Livy states that Hannibal deployed 4,000 Macedonians in the second line, their presence is discounted as Roman propaganda, although T. Dorey suggests that there may be a grain of truth here if the Carthagin
Siege of Syracuse (213–212 BC)
The Siege of Syracuse by the Roman Republic took place in 213–212 BC, at the end of which the Magna Graecia Hellenistic city of Syracuse, located on the east coast of Sicily, fell. The Romans stormed the city after a protracted siege giving them control of the entire island of Sicily. During the siege, the city was protected by weapons developed by Archimedes. Archimedes, the great inventor and polymath, was slain at the conclusion of the siege by a Roman soldier, in contravention of the Roman proconsul Marcellus' instructions to spare his life. Sicily, wrested from Carthaginian control during the First Punic War, was the first province of the Roman Republic not directly part of Italy; the Kingdom of Syracuse was an allied independent region in the south east of the island and a close ally of Rome during the long reign of King Hiero II. In 215 BC, Hiero's grandson, came to the throne on his grandfather's death and Syracuse fell under the influence of an anti-Roman faction, including two of his uncles, amongst the Syracusan elite.
Despite the assassination of Hieronymus and the removal of the pro-Carthaginian leaders, Rome's threatening reaction to the danger of a Syracusian alliance with Carthage would force the new republican leaders of Syracuse to prepare for war. Despite diplomatic attempts, war broke out between the Roman Republic and the Kingdom of Syracuse in 214 BC, while the Romans were still busy battling with Carthage at the height of the Second Punic War. A Roman force led by the proconsul Marcus Claudius Marcellus laid siege to the port city by sea and land in 213 BC; the city of Syracuse, located on the eastern coast of Sicily was renowned for its significant fortifications, great walls that protected the city from attack. Among the Syracuse defenders was the scientist Archimedes; the city was fiercely defended for many months against all the measures the Romans could bring to bear. Realizing how difficult the siege would be, the Romans brought their own unique devices and inventions to aid their assault.
These included the sambuca, a floating siege tower with grappling hooks, as well as ship-mounted scaling ladders that were lowered with pulleys onto the city walls. Despite these novel inventions, Archimedes devised defensive devices to counter the Roman efforts including a huge crane operated hook – the Claw of Archimedes –, used to lift the enemy ships out of the sea before dropping them to their doom. Legend has it that he created a giant mirror, used to deflect the powerful Mediterranean sun onto the ships' sails, setting fire to them; these measures, along with the fire from ballistas and onagers mounted on the city walls, frustrated the Romans and forced them to attempt costly direct assaults. The siege bogged down to a stalemate with the Romans unable to force their way into the city or keep their blockade tight enough to stop supplies reaching the defenders, the Syracusians unable to force the Romans to withdraw; the Carthaginians realised the potential hindrance a continuing Syracusian defense could cause to the Roman war effort and attempted to relieve the city from the besiegers but were driven back.
Though they planned another attempt, they could not afford the necessary troops and ships with the ongoing war against the Romans in Hispania, the Syracusians were on their own. The successes of the Syracusians in repelling the Roman siege had made them overconfident. In 212 BC, the Romans received information that the city's inhabitants were to participate in the annual festival to their goddess Artemis. A small party of Roman soldiers approached the city under the cover of night and managed to scale the walls to get into the outer city and with reinforcements soon took control, but the main fortress remained firm. Marcus Claudius Marcellus had ordered that Archimedes, the well-known mathematician – and equally well-known to Marcellus as the inventor of the mechanical devices that had so dominated the siege – should not be killed. Archimedes, now around 78 years of age, continued his studies after the breach by the Romans and while at home, his work was disturbed by a Roman soldier. Archimedes coarsely told the soldier to leave.
The Romans now controlled the outer city but the remainder of the population of Syracuse had fallen back to the fortified inner citadel, offering continued resistance. The Romans now put siege to the citadel and were successful in cutting off supplies to this reduced area. After a lengthy eight-month siege which brought great hardship onto the defenders through hunger, with parleys in progress, an Iberian captain named Moeriscus, one of the three prefects of Achradina, decided to save his own life by letting the Romans in near the Fountains of Arethusa. On the agreed signal, during a diversionary attack, he opened the gate. After setting guards on the houses of the pro-Roman faction, Marcellus gave Syracuse to plunder. Frustrated and angered after the lengthy and costly siege, the Romans rampaged through the citadel and slaughtered many of the Syracusians where they stood and enslaved most of the rest; the city was thoroughly looted and sacked. The city of Syracuse was now under the influence of Rome again, which united the whole of Sicily as a Roman province.
The taking of Syracuse ensured that the Carthaginians could not get a foothold in Sicily, which could have led to them giving support to Hannibal's Italian campaign, this allowed the Romans to concentrate on waging the war in Spain and Italy. The island was used as a vital gathering point for the final victorious ca