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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§6-10


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. His account of the Punic Wars, which deals with the wars in Africa, is fortunately among these better preserved parts.

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


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  [§6] [237] Not long afterwards the Carthaginians invaded Spain and were gradually subduing it, [226] when the Saguntines appealed to Rome and a boundary was fixed to the Carthaginian advance by agreement that they should not cross the river Ebro. The Carthaginians, under the lead of Hannibal, violated this treaty by crossing the stream, and having done so Hannibal marched against Italy, leaving the command in Spain in the hands of others [his brother Hasdrubal].

[211] The Roman generals in Spain, Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, two brothers, after having performed some brilliant exploits were both slain by the enemy. The generals who succeeded them fared badly [209] until Scipio, the son of the Publius Scipio who was killed in Spain, set sail thither, and making all believe that he was come by a divine mission and had divine counsel in all things, prevailed brilliantly, and achieving great glory by this success, gave over his command to those sent to succeed him, returned to Rome, and asked to be sent with an army to Africa so as to draw Hannibal out of Italy and to bring retribution upon the Carthaginians in their own country.

[§7] [205] Some of the leading men opposed this plan, saying that it was not best to send an army into Africa while Italy was wasted by such long wars and was subject to the ravages of Hannibal, and while Mago was enlisting Ligurian and Celtic mercenaries for a flank attack upon her. They ought not to attack another land, they said, until they had delivered their own country from its present perils. Others thought that the Carthaginians were emboldened to attack Italy because they were not molested at home, and that if war were brought to their own doors they would recall Hannibal. So it was decided to send Scipio into Africa, but they would not allow him to levy an army in Italy while Hannibal was ravaging it. If he could procure volunteers he might take them, and he might use the forces which were then in Sicily. They authorized him to fit out ten galleys and allowed him to take crews for them, and also to refit those in Sicily. They did not give him any money except what he could raise among his friends.[1] So indifferently at first did they undertake this war, which soon came to be the most great and glorious for them.

[§8] Scipio, who seemed to be divinely inspired from long ago against Carthage, having collected scarcely 7,000 soldiers, cavalry and infantry, sailed for Sicily, taking as a bodyguard 300 chosen youths whom he ordered to accompany him without arms. He then chose 300 wealthy Sicilians by conscription and ordered them to report on a certain day, provided with the best possible arms and horses. When they came he told them that they might furnish substitutes for the war if they preferred. As they all accepted this offer he brought forward his 300 unarmed youths and directed the others to supply them with arms and horses, and this they did willingly. So it came about that Scipio had in place of the Sicilians, 300 Italian youths admirably equipped at other people's expense, who at once thanked him for this favor and ever afterward rendered him excellent service.

[§9] When the Carthaginians learned these things they sent Hasdrubal, the son of Gesco, to hunt elephants, and they dispatched to Mago, who was enlisting Ligurian mercenaries, 6,000 foot, 800 horse, and seven elephants, and commanded him to attack Etruria with these and such other forces as he could collect, in order to draw Scipio from Africa. But Mago delayed because he could not join Hannibal at such a distance and because he was always of a hesitating disposition. Hasdrubal, on his return from the elephant hunt, levied 6,000 foot and 600 horse from both the Carthaginian and the African population, and bought 5,000 slaves as oarsmen for the ships. He also obtained 2,000 horse from the Numidians and hired mercenaries and exercised them all in camp at a distance of 35 kilometers from Carthage.

Coin of Massinissa, showing an unidentified man and a horse.
Coin of Massinissa, showing an unidentified man and a horse (©!!)

[§10] There were many chieftains in Numidia who had separate dominions. Syphax occupied the highest place among them and was held in greater honor than the others. There was also a certain Massinissa, son of the king of the Massylians, a powerful tribe. He had been brought up and educated at Carthage. He was a man of fine presence and good manners. Hasdrubal, the son of Gesco, who was second in rank to nobody in Carthage, betrothed his daughter [Sophoniba] to him although he was a Numidian, and after the betrothal took the young man with him to the war in Spain.

Syphax, who was also in love with the girl, was indignant at this and began to pillage the Carthaginian territory, and he proposed to Scipio (who made a journey from Spain to meet him) that they should make a joint attack on Carthage. The Carthaginians, learning this and knowing how great service Syphax could render them in the war against the Romans, gave the girl to him without the knowledge of Hasdrubal or Massinissa, since they were in Spain.

The latter, being greatly exasperated, made an alliance with Scipio in Spain, concealing it from Hasdrubal, as he supposed. Hasdrubal, although he was grieved at the outrage put upon the young man and his daughter, nevertheless thought that it would be an advantage to the country to make away with Massinissa. So when the latter returned from Spain to Africa at the death of his father, he sent a cavalry escort with him and told them to put him to death secretly in whatever way they could.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 3
Note 1:
Scipio, who had been consul in 205, was made proconsul and conducted the African war as privatus cum imperio.
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