Italy the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Austria and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 and has a temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe. Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has been home to a myriad of peoples and cultures. In addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout modern-day Italy, the most famous of which being the Indo-European Italics who gave the peninsula its name, beginning from the classical era and Carthaginians founded colonies in insular Italy and Genoa, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively; the Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.
The Roman Republic conquered and assimilated its neighbours on the peninsula, in some cases through the establishment of federations, the Republic expanded and conquered parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural and religious centre of Western civilisation, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's technology, economy and literature flourished. Italy remained the metropole of the Roman Empire; the legacy of the Roman Empire endured its fall and can be observed in the global distribution of culture, governments and the Latin script. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured sociopolitical collapse and barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.
These independent statelets served as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East enjoying a greater degree of democracy than the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science and art. Italian culture flourished, producing famous scholars and polymaths such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Machiavelli. During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Italy's commercial and political power waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean. Centuries of infighting between the Italian city-states, such as the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, left the region fragmented, it was subsequently conquered and further divided by European powers such as France and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, rising Italian nationalism and calls for independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval. After centuries of foreign domination and political division, Italy was entirely unified in 1871, establishing the Kingdom of Italy as a great power. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Italy industrialised, namely in the north, acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. Participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and the Italian Civil War. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil became a developed country.
Today, Italy is considered to be one of the world's most culturally and economically advanced countries, with the sixth-largest worldwide national wealth. Its advanced economy ranks eighth-largest in the world and third in the Eurozone by nominal GDP. Italy owns the third-largest central bank gold reserve, it has a high level of human development, it stands among the top countries for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military and diplomatic affairs. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area and many more; as a reflection
The Aegadian Islands are a group of five small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily, near the cities of Trapani and Marsala, with a total area of 37.45 square kilometres. The Island of Favignana, the largest, lies 16 kilometres southwest of Trapani. There are two minor islands and Maraone, lying between Levanzo and Sicily. For administrative purposes the archipelago constitutes the comune of Favignana in the Province of Trapani; the overall population in 2017 was 4,292. Winter frost is unknown and rainfall is low; the main occupation of the islanders is fishing, the largest tuna fishery in Sicily is there. There is evidence of Neolithic and Paleolithic paintings in caves on Levanzo, to a lesser extent on Favignana; the islands were the scene of the Battle of the Aegates of 241 BC, in which the Carthaginian fleet was defeated by the Roman fleet led by Lutatius Catulus. After the end of Western Roman power in the first millennium AD, the islands, to the extent that they were governed at all, were part of territories of Goths, Saracens, before the Normans fortified Favignana in 1081.
The islands belonged to the Pallavicini-Rusconi family of Genoa until 1874, when the Florio family of Palermo bought them. Isolotto Formica Lighthouse Aegadian Islands at Curlie
The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, 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. Roman society under the Republic was a cultural mix of Latin and Greek elements, visible in the Roman Pantheon, its political organisation was influenced by the Greek city states of Magna Graecia, with collective and annual magistracies, overseen by a senate. The top magistrates were the two consuls, who had an extensive range of executive, judicial and religious powers. Whilst there were elections each year, the Republic was not a democracy, but an oligarchy, as a small number of large families monopolised the main magistracies. Roman institutions underwent considerable changes throughout the Republic to adapt to the difficulties it faced, such as the creation of promagistracies to rule its conquered provinces, or the composition of the senate.
Unlike the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, the Republic was in a state of quasi-perpetual war throughout its existence. Its first enemies were its Latin and Etruscan neighbours as well as the Gauls, who sacked the city in 387 BC; the Republic nonetheless demonstrated extreme resilience and always managed to overcome its losses, however catastrophic. After the Gallic Sack, Rome indeed conquered the whole Italian peninsula in a century, which turned the Republic into a major power in the Mediterranean; the Republic's greatest enemy was doubtless Carthage, against. The Punic general Hannibal famously invaded Italy by crossing the Alps and inflicted on Rome two devastating defeats at the Lake Trasimene and Cannae, but the Republic once again recovered and won the war thanks to Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. With Carthage defeated, Rome became the dominant power of the ancient Mediterranean world, it embarked in a long series of difficult conquests, after having notably defeated Philip V and Perseus of Macedon, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, the Lusitanian Viriathis, the Numidian Jugurtha, the great Pontic king Mithridates VI, the Gaul Vercingetorix, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
At home, the Republic experienced a long streak of social and political crises, which ended in several violent civil wars. At first, the Conflict of the Orders opposed the patricians, the closed oligarchic elite, to the far more numerous plebs, who achieved political equality in several steps during the 4th century BC; the vast conquests of the Republic disrupted its society, as the immense influx of slaves they brought enriched the aristocracy, but ruined the peasantry and urban workers. In order to solve this issue, several social reformers, known as the Populares, tried to pass agrarian laws, but the Gracchi brothers, Saturninus, or Clodius Pulcher were all murdered by their opponents, the Optimates, keepers of the traditional aristocratic order. Mass slavery caused three Servile Wars. In this context, the last decades of the Republic were marked by the rise of great generals, who exploited their military conquests and the factional situation in Rome to gain control of the political system.
Marius Sulla dominated in turn the Republic. These multiple tensions lead to a series of civil wars. Despite his victory and appointment as dictator for life, Caesar was murdered in 44 BC. Caesar's heir Octavian and lieutenant Mark Antony defeated Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, but turned against each other; the final defeat of Mark Antony and his ally Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, the Senate's grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian as Augustus in 27 BC – which made him the first Roman emperor – thus ended the Republic. Since the foundation of Rome, its rulers had been monarchs, elected for life by the patrician noblemen who made up the Roman Senate; the last Roman king was Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. In the traditional histories, Tarquin was expelled in 509 because his son Sextus Tarquinius had raped the noblewoman Lucretia, who afterwards took her own life. Lucretia's father, her husband Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, Tarquin's nephew Lucius Junius Brutus mustered support from the Senate and army, forced Tarquin into exile in Etruria.
The Senate agreed to abolish kingship. Most of the king's former functions were transferred to two consuls, who were elected to office for a term of one year; each consul had the capacity to act as a check on his colleague, if necessary through the same power of veto that the kings had held. If a consul abused his powers in office, he could be prosecuted. Brutus and Collatinus became Republican Rome's first consuls. Despite Collatinus' role in the creation of the Republic, he belonged to the same family as the former king, was forced to abdicate his office and leave Rome, he was replaced as co-consul by Publius Valerius Publicola. Most modern scholarship describes these events as the quasi-mythological detailing of an aristocratic coup within Tarquin's own family, not a popular revolution, they fit a narrative of a personal vengeance against a tyrant leading to his overthrow, common among Greek cities and theorised by Aristotle
First Punic War
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 on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, in North Africa; the war began in 264 BC with the Roman conquest of the Carthaginian-controlled city of Messina in Sicily, granting Rome a military foothold on the island. The Romans built up a navy to challenge Carthage, the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean, for control over the waters around Sicily. In naval battles and storms, 700 Roman and 500 Carthaginian quinqueremes were lost, along with hundreds of thousands of lives. Command of the sea was lost by both sides repeatedly. A Roman invasion of Carthaginian Africa was destroyed in battle at the Bagradas and the Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus was captured by the Carthaginians in 255. In 23 years, the Romans conquered Sicily and drove the Carthaginians to the west end of the island.
After both sides had been brought to a state of near exhaustion, the Romans mobilized their citizenry's private wealth and created a new fleet under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus. The Carthaginian fleet was destroyed at the Aegates Islands in 241, forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to give up. A peace treaty was signed in which Carthage was made to pay a heavy indemnity and Rome ejected Carthage from Sicily, annexing the island as a Roman province; the war was followed by a failed revolt against the Carthaginian Empire. The Romans exploited Carthage's weakness to seize the Carthaginian possessions of Sardinia and Corsica in violation of the peace treaty; the unresolved strategic competition between Rome and Carthage would lead to the eruption of the Second Punic War in 218 BC. The series of wars between Rome and Carthage took the name "Punic" from the Latin adjective for Carthaginian, Punicus; this refers to the Carthaginian heritage as Phoenician colonists. A Carthaginian name for the conflicts does not survive in any records.
Rome had emerged as the leading city-state in the Italian Peninsula, a wealthy, expansionist republic with a successful citizen army. Over the past one hundred years, Rome had come into conflict, defeated rivals on the Italian peninsula incorporated them into the Roman political world. First, the Latin League was forcibly dissolved during the Latin War the power of the Samnites was broken during the three prolonged Samnite wars, the Greek cities of Magna Graecia submitted to Roman power at the conclusion of the Pyrrhic War. By the beginning of the First Punic War, the Romans had secured the whole of the Italian peninsula, except Gallia Cisalpina in the Po Valley. Carthage was a republic that dominated the political and economic affairs of the western Mediterranean Sea on the North African coasts and islands, above all, due to its navy, it originated as a Phoenician colony near modern Tunis. Carthage had become a wealthy centre for trade networks extending from Gadir along the coasts of southern Iberia and North Africa, across the Balearic Islands, Corsica and the western half of Sicily, to the ports of the eastern Mediterranean, including Tyre, its mother city, on the shores of the Levant.
At the height of power, just before the First Punic War, Carthage was hostile to foreign ships in the western Mediterranean. North African peoples, such as the Berbers, in the area around Carthage were loosely associated with Carthage. In the midst of the First Punic War, some tribes rebelled against Carthage, opening a second front while the Carthaginians battled the Romans in Sicily. Greek colonists were a major presence in the western Mediterranean, following centuries of colonial settlement and conflicts with Rome over Magna Graecia and with Carthage over places such as Sicily; the rich, strategically influential, well-fortified Greek colony of Syracuse was politically independent of Rome and Carthage. Hostilities of the First Punic War began with developments involving the Romans and Greek colonists in Sicily and southern Italy. In 288 BC, the Mamertines, a group of Italian mercenaries hired by Agathocles of Syracuse, occupied the city of Messana in the north-eastern tip of Sicily, killing all the men and taking the women as their wives.
At the same time, a group of Roman troops made up of Campanian "citizens without the vote" revolted and seized control of Rhegium, lying across the Straits of Messina on the mainland of Italy. In 270 BC, the Romans regained control of Rhegium and punished the survivors of the revolt. In Sicily, the Mamertines ravaged the countryside and collided with the expanding regional empire of the independent city of Syracuse. Hiero II, tyrant of Syracuse, defeated the Mamertines near Mylae on the Longanus River. Following their defeat, the Mamertines appealed to both Carthage for assistance; the Carthaginians acted first, approached Hiero to take no further action and convinced the Mamertines to accept a Carthaginian garrison in Messana. Either unhappy with the prospect of a Carthaginian garrison or convinced that the recent alliance between Rome and Carthage against Pyrrhus reflected cordial relations between the two, the Mamertines, hoping for more reliable protection, petitioned Rome for an alliance.
However, the rivalry between Rome and Carthage had grown since the war with Pyrrhus and that alliance was no longer feasible. According to the historian Polybius, considerable debate took place in Rome on the questio
Syracuse is a historic city on the island of Sicily, the capital of the Italian province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, amphitheatres, as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes; this 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times, when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world. Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, next to the Gulf of Syracuse beside the Ionian Sea; the city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia, of which it was the most important city. Described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", it equaled Athens in size during the fifth century BC, it became part of the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire. Under Emperor Constans II, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire. After this Palermo overtook it as the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily.
The kingdom would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860. In the modern day, the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica. In the central area, the city itself has a population of around 125,000 people. Syracuse is mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles book at 28:12; the patron saint of the city is Saint Lucy. Syracuse and its surrounding area have been inhabited since ancient times, as shown by the findings in the villages of Stentinello, Plemmirio, Cozzo Pantano and Thapsos, which had a relationship with Mycenaean Greece. Syracuse was founded in 734 or 733 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth and Tenea, led by the oecist Archias. There are many attested variants of the name of the city including Συράκουσαι Syrakousai, Συράκοσαι Syrakosai and Συρακώ Syrakō. A possible origin of the city's name was given by Vibius Sequester citing first Stephanus Byzantius in that there was a Syracusian marsh called Syrako and secondly Marcian's Periegesis wherein Archias gave the city the name of a nearby marsh.
The settlement of Syracuse was a planned event, as a strong central leader, Arkhias the aristocrat, laid out how property would be divided up for the settlers, as well as plans for how the streets of the settlement should be arranged, how wide they should be. The nucleus of the ancient city was the small island of Ortygia; the settlers found the land fertile and the native tribes to be reasonably well-disposed to their presence. The city grew and prospered, for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city anywhere in the Mediterranean. Colonies were founded at Akrai, Akrillai and Kamarina; the descendants of the first colonists, called Gamoroi, held power until they were expelled by the Killichiroi, the lower class of the city. The former, returned to power in 485 BC, thanks to the help of Gelo, ruler of Gela. Gelo himself became the despot of the city, moved many inhabitants of Gela and Megara to Syracuse, building the new quarters of Tyche and Neapolis outside the walls, his program of new constructions included a new theatre, designed by Damocopos, which gave the city a flourishing cultural life: this in turn attracted personalities as Aeschylus, Ario of Methymna and Eumelos of Corinth.
The enlarged power of Syracuse made unavoidable the clash against the Carthaginians, who ruled western Sicily. In the Battle of Himera, who had allied with Theron of Agrigento, decisively defeated the African force led by Hamilcar. A temple dedicated to Athena, was erected in the city to commemorate the event. Syracuse grew during this time, its walls encircled 120 hectares in the fifth century, but as early as the 470's BC the inhabitants started building outside the walls. The complete population of its territory numbered 250,000 in 415 BC and the population size of the city itself was similar to Athens. Gelo was succeeded by his brother Hiero, who fought against the Etruscans at Cumae in 474 BC, his rule was eulogized by poets like Simonides of Ceos and Pindar, who visited his court. A democratic regime was introduced by Thrasybulos; the city continued to expand in Sicily, fighting against the rebellious Siculi, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, making expeditions up to Corsica and Elba. In the late 5th century BC, Syracuse found itself at war with Athens, which sought more resources to fight the Peloponnesian War.
The Syracusans enlisted the aid of a general from Sparta, Athens' foe in the war, to defeat the Athenians, destroy their ships, leave them to starve on the island. In 401 BC, Syracuse contributed a force of 300 hoplites and a general to Cyrus the Younger's Army of the Ten Thousand. In the early 4th century BC, the tyrant Dionysius the Elder was again at war against Carthage and, although losing Gela and Camarina, kept that power from capturing the whole of Sicily. After the end of the conflict Dionysius built a massive fortress on Ortygia and 22 km-long walls around all of Syracuse. Another period of expansion saw the destruction of
Battle of the Aegates
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 and ill-trained Punic fleet, 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. The Carthaginians had gained command of the sea after their victory in the Battle of Drepanum and the Battle of Phintias in 249 BC, but they held only two cities in Sicily: Lilybaeum and Drepanum; the Carthaginian state was led by the landed aristocracy at the time, they preferred to expand across northern Africa instead of pursuing an aggressive policy in Sicily. Hanno "The Great" has been in charge of operations in Africa since 248 BC and had conquered considerable territory by 241 BC; the Carthaginian leadership thought Rome had been defeated and invested little manpower in Sicily.
Carthage at this time was feeling the logistical strain of the prolonged conflict. In addition to maintaining a fleet and soldiers in Sicily, they were fighting the Libyans and Numidians in northern Africa; as a result, Hamilcar Barca was given a small army when he took command in Sicily in 248 BC, the Carthaginian fleet was withdrawn so that, by 242 BC, Carthage had no ships to speak of in Sicily. Carthage was feeling the financial strain of the war, which had led Carthage to request a 2000 talent loan from Egypt, refused. Rome had rebuilt her fleets after losing up to 600 ships in a storm in 255 BC and another 150 ships in 253 BC; the Drepana defeat and loss of the fleet so demoralized the Romans that they waited seven years before building another fleet. The absence of Roman ships caused Carthage, thinking the Romans would not venture into the sea again, to decommission her navy, sparing the financially strained state the expense of building and repairing ships, plus training and provisioning the crews.
The years preceding the battle were quiet. Hostilities between Roman and Carthaginian forces stalled, becoming concentrated in small-scale land operations in Sicily. Hamilcar's strategic goal was to maintain a stalemate, as he had neither the resources to win the war nor the authority to peacefully settle it. Hamilcar was in command of a mercenary army composed of multiple nationalities and his ability to lead this force demonstrated his skill as a field commander, he employed combined arms tactics, as Alexander and Pyrrhus had done, his strategy was similar to the one employed by Quintus Fabius Maximus in the Second Punic War against Hannibal, the eldest son of Hamilcar Barca, in Italy during 217 BC. Hamilcar’s landing at Heirkte drew the Romans away to defend that port city and resupply point and gave Drepana some breathing room. Subsequent naval raids along the Sicilian and Italian coasts did not lead to a permanent result. Guerrilla warfare kept the Roman legions pinned down and preserved Carthage's toehold in Sicily, although Roman forces which had bypassed Hamilcar forced him to recapture Mount Eryx from Rome, so he could better defend Drepana.
While Hamilcar’s activities kept the Carthaginian flag flying in Sicily and after 20 years of war both states were financially and demographically exhausted.. Realizing they could not defeat Hamilcar on land, without a fleet, blockade Drepana and Lilybaeum, Rome decided to build a new fleet. With the state coffers exhausted, the Senate approached Rome's wealthy citizens; these Roman citizens showed their patriotism by financing the construction of one ship apiece. The result was a fleet of 200 quinqueremes, built and crewed without government expense; the Romans had copied the design of a Carthaginian ship when first they decided to build a fleet in 260 BC. The Romans modelled the new fleet on the ship commanded by Hannibal the Rhodian, who had evaded the Roman blockading ships at Lilybaeum until his fast and manoeuvrable ship was captured; the new Roman fleet was completed in 242 BC and entrusted to the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, assisted by the praetor Quintus Valerius Falto. Romans had learned from past misfortunes at sea and their light, manoeuvrable ships were now more resistant to adverse weather conditions, with the corvus having been abandoned.
Catulus and Falto to drilled the crews in manoeuvrers and exercises before leaving Italy, creating a fleet with crews at the peak of their fighting ability. After arriving in Sicily with 200 Quinqueremes and 700 transports, Lutatius seized the harbour of Drepana and the anchorages off Lilybaeum uncontested, as there were no Carthaginian ships to counter the Roman fleet. Lutatius built siege works around Drepana, he blockaded Lilybaeum and Drepana, to cut their access to Carthage. The intent was to cut Hamilcar Barca's communication lines with Carthage. For the rest of the year Catulus waited for the Carthaginian response; the fleet and its crew trained and drilled while the siege was conducted to remain in peak condition. The senate granted him a proconsulship for 241 BC; the Carthaginians were unprepared for Rome's actions. The garrisons of Lilybaeum and Hamilcar’s army at Eryx held fast, but without supplies from Carthage they could not hold out indefinitely. Now that Rome had seized the initiative with a battle ready fleet blockading Carthaginian holdings in Sicily, without warships the unescorted Carthaginian supply ships would fall prey to the Romans.
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, father of Hannibal and Mago. He was father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair. Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC, during the latter stages of the First Punic War, he led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. Hamilcar retired to Carthage following the defeat of Carthage; when the Mercenary War burst out in 240 BC, Hamilcar was recalled to command and was instrumental in concluding that conflict successfully. Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian expedition to Spain in 237 BC, for eight years expanded the territory of Carthage in Spain before dying in battle in 228 BC, he may have been responsible for creating the strategy which his son Hannibal implemented in the Second Punic War to bring the Roman Republic close to defeat. Hamilcar is the latinization of Hamílkas, the hellenized form of the common Semitic Phoenician-Carthaginian masculine given name ḤMLK or ḤMLQRT, meaning "Melqart is Gracious".
The cognomen or epithet BRQ means "thunderbolt" or "shining". It is cognate with the Arabic name Barq, Maltese word Berqa and the Hebrew name Barak and equivalent to the Greek Keraunos, borne by many commanders contemporary with Hamilcar and his son Hannibal. Little is known about the origins or history of the Barca family prior to the Punic Wars. Quoting Tony Bath, "The Barca family, which came from Cyrene, was a powerful one but not at that time among the first families of Carthage".. Tony Bath omits references. Lance Serge states. Hamilcar was a young man of 28 when he received the Sicilian command in 247 BC. By this time he had three daughters, his son Hannibal was born during the same year; the Carthaginians had gained command of the sea after their victory in the Battle of Drepanum in 249 BC, but they only held two cities in Sicily: Lilybaeum and Drepanum by the time Hamilcar took up command. The Carthaginian state was led by the landed aristocracy at the time, they preferred to expand across northern Africa instead of pursuing an aggressive policy in Sicily.
Hanno "The Great" was in charge of operations in Africa since 248 BC and had conquered considerable territory by 241 BC. Carthage at this time was feeling the strain of the prolonged conflict. In addition to maintaining a fleet and soldiers in Sicily, they were fighting the Libyans and Numidians in northern Africa; as a result, Hamilcar was given a small army and the Carthaginian fleet was withdrawn so that, by 242 BC, Carthage had no ships to speak of in Sicily. The Carthaginian leadership thought Rome had been defeated and invested little manpower in Sicily. With a small force and no money to hire new troops, Hamilcar's strategic goal was to maintain a stalemate, as he had neither the resources to win the war nor the authority to peacefully settle it Hamilcar was in command of a mercenary army composed of multiple nationalities and his ability to lead this force demonstrates his skill as field commander, he employed combined arms tactics, like Alexander and Pyrrhus, his strategy was similar to the one employed by Quintus Fabius Maximus in the Second Punic War against Hannibal, the eldest son of Hamilcar Barca, in Italy during 217 BC.
The difference was that Fabius commanded a numerically superior army to his opponent, had no supply problems, had room to manoeuvre, while Hamilcar was static, had a far smaller army than the Romans and was dependent on seaborne supplies from Carthage. Hamilcar, upon taking command in the summer of 247 BC, punished the rebellious mercenaries by murdering some of them at night and drowning the rest at sea, dismissing many to different part of northern Africa. With a reduced army and fleet, Hamilcar commenced his operations. Romans had divided their forces, Consul L. Caelius Metellus was near Lilybaeum, while Numerius Fabius Buteo was besieging Drepanum at that time. Hamilcar fought an inconclusive battle at Drepanum, but there is cause to doubt this. Hamilcar next raided Locri in Bruttium and the area around Brindisi in 247 BC, on his return he seized a strong position on Mount Ercte, not only maintained himself against all attacks, but carried on with his seaborne raids ranging from Catana in Sicily to far as Cumae in central Italy.
He set about improving the spirit of the army, succeeded in creating a disciplined and versatile force. While Hamilcar won no large-scale battle or recaptured any cities lost to the Romans, he waged a relentless campaign against the enemy, caused a constant drain on Roman resources. However, if Hamilcar had hoped to recapture Panormus, he failed in his strategy. Roman forces led by the consuls Marcus Otacilius Crassus and Marcaus Fabius Licinus achieved little against Hamilcar in 246 BC, the consuls of 245 BC, Marcus Fabius Bueto and Atilius Bulbus, fared no better. In 244 BC, Hamilcar transferred his army at night by sea to a similar position on the slopes of Mt. Eryx, from which he was able to lend support to the besieged garrison in the neighbouring town of Drepanum. Hamilcar seized the town of Eryx, captured by the Romans in 249 BC, after destroying the Roman garrison, positioned his army between the Roman forces stationed at the summit and their camp at the base of the mountain. Hamilcar removed the population to Drepana.
Hamilcar continued his acti