home   :    index    :    ancient Rome    :    Appian of Alexandria's Roman History

Appian's History of Rome: The Hannibalic War §§31-35


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. Although his account of the War against Hannibal contains not much information that can not be found in other sources (Polybius of Megalopolis and Livy), it is fortunately well-preserved and certainly accessible.

The translation was made by Horace White; footnotes and additions in green by Jona Lendering. 


Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
  [§31] [213] There is a city called Arpi in Daunia which is said to have been founded by Diomedes, the Argive. Here a certain Dasius, said to have been a descendant of Diomedes, a very fickle-minded person, quite unworthy of such descent, after the terrible defeat of the Romans at Cannae drew his people over to the Carthaginian side.

But now when Hannibal's power began to wane he rode secretly to Rome, and being introduced to the Senate, said that he could bring the city back to the Roman allegiance and thus atone for his error. The Romans very nearly killed him and drove him from the city forthwith. Then, being in equal fear of them and of Hannibal, he became a wanderer through the country. Hannibal burned his wife and children alive. Arpi was betrayed by a portion of the inhabitants to Fabius Maximus, who captured it by night, and having put to death all the Carthaginians he found there, he established a Roman garrison in the city.

[§32] [212] Tarentum, which was held by a Roman garrison, was betrayed by Cononeus in the following manner. Being in the habit of hunting and always bringing a present of game to [Marcus] Livius [Macatus], the prefect of the guard, he became very familiar with him. As war was raging in the country he said that it was necessary to hunt and bring back his game by night. For this reason the gates were opened to him by night.

He made an arrangement with Hannibal in pursuance of which he took a body of soldiers, some of whom he concealed in a thicket near the town; others he ordered to follow himself at no great distance, and still others to go with him, clad outwardly in hunting garments but girded with breastplates and swords underneath. He came by night, a wild boar being carried in front of them on poles. When the guards had opened the gates as usual, those who came with him slew the gate-men immediately. Those following behind made a sudden dash upon the other guards, those from the thicket were admitted, and the gates were opened to Hannibal. When the latter was once inside he speedily possessed himself of the remainder of the town, and having conciliated the Tarentines, he laid siege to the citadel, which was held by a Roman garrison. In this way was Tarentum betrayed by Cononeus.

[§33] The Romans who held the citadel were about 5,000 in number, and some of the Tarentines came to their aid. The prefect of the guard at Metapontum joined them with half of his force, bringing an abundance of missiles and engines with which they expected to drive Hannibal easily back from the walls. But Hannibal had a plentiful supply of these things also. Accordingly he brought up towers, catapults, and tortoises with which he shook some of the walls, pulled off the parapets with hooks attached to ropes, and laid bare the defenses. The garrison hurled stones down upon the engines and broke many of them, turned aside the hooks with slip-knots, and making frequent and sudden sallies always threw the besiegers into confusion and returned after killing many.

One day when they noticed that the wind was violent some of the Romans threw down firebrands, flax, and pitch upon the engines, while others darted out and put fire under them. Hannibal, despairing of his attempt, threw a wall around the city except on the sea side, where it was not possible to do so. Then turning the siege over to Hanno he advanced into Apulia.

[§34] The port of Tarentum looked toward the north and gave entrance through a narrow passage to those sailing in from the sea. The passage was now closed by bridges which were under the control of the Roman garrison, by which means they obtained provisions by sea and prevented the Tarentines from supplying themselves. For this reason the latter began to suffer from want, until Hannibal came back and suggested the making of another passage by excavating the public highway, which ran through the midst of the city from the harbor to the sea on the south. When this was done they had provisions in plenty, and with their triremes they worried the Roman garrison who had no ships, even coming close to the walls, especially in calm weather, and intercepting the supply ships coming to them. The Romans in turn began to suffer from want.

When the people of Thurii sent them some ships laden with grain by night, under a convoy of triremes, the Tarentines and the Carthaginians in league with them, getting wind of the affair, laid a trap for them and captured them all, including the grain and the men that brought it. The Thurians sent numerous messengers to negotiate for the release of the captives, and the Tarentines won the negotiators over to Hannibal, who thereupon released all the Thurian prisoners he held. These, when they came home, forced their relatives to open the gates to Hanno. Thus the Thurians, while endeavoring to help the Romans in Tarentum, unexpectedly fell into the power of the Carthaginians. The Roman garrison in Thurii escaped secretly by sea to Brundusium.

[§35] The Metapontines, whose prefect had taken half of his force to Tarentum, slew the remainder, who were few in number, and delivered themselves up to Hannibal. Heraclea, which lay midway between Metapontum and Tarentum, followed their example, being moved by fear rather than inclination. Thus Hannibal's affairs again began to wear a flourishing aspect.

[211] In the following year [1] some of the Lucanians revolted from Rome, and [Tiberius] Sempronius Gracchus, the proconsul, marched against them. A certain Lucanian named Flavus, of the party that had remained faithful to the Romans, who had been also a friend and guest of Gracchus but was now his betrayer, persuaded him to come to a certain place to have a conference with the Lucanian generals, saying that they had repented and wished to return to the Roman allegiance. Suspecting nothing, he went to the place with thirty horsemen, where he found himself surrounded by a large force of Numidians in ambush, with whom Flavus then joined himself.

When Gracchus discovered the treachery he leaped from his horse with his companions, and after performing many noble deeds of valor was slain with all the others, except three. These were the only ones captured by Hannibal, who had exerted himself to the utmost to take the Roman proconsul alive. Although he had basely entrapped him, nevertheless in admiration of his bravery in the final struggle he gave him a funeral and sent his bones to Rome. After this he passed the summer in Apulia and collected large supplies of corn.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Hannibalic war   :   part 8
Note 1:
Livy dates this event to 212.
 home  :    index    :    ancient Rome