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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§46-50


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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  [§46] [202] Hannibal in his flight seeing a mass of Numidian horse collected together, ran up and besought them not to desert him. Having secured their promise, he led them against the pursuers, hoping still to turn the tide of battle.

The first whom he encountered were the Massylians, and now a single combat between Massinissa and Hannibal took place. Rushing fiercely upon each other, Massinissa drove his spear into Hannibal's shield, and Hannibal wounded his antagonist's horse. Massinissa, being thrown, sprang towards Hannibal on foot, and struck and killed a horseman who was advancing towards him in front of the others. At the same time he received in his shield - made of elephant's hide - several darts, one of which he pulled out and hurled at Hannibal; but, as it happened, it struck another horseman who was near and killed him. While he was pulling out another, he was wounded in the arm, and withdrew from the fight for a brief space.

When [proconsul Publius Cornelius] Scipio learned this, he feared for Massinissa and hastened to his relief, but he found that the latter had bound up his wound and returned to the fight on a fresh horse. Thus the battle continued doubtful and very severe, the soldiers on either side having the utmost reverence for their commanders, until Hannibal, discovering a body of Spanish and Celtic troops on a hill near by, dashed over to them to bring them into the fight. Those who were still engaged, not knowing the cause of his going, thought that he had fled. Accordingly, they abandoned the fight of their own accord and broke into disorderly rout, not following after Hannibal, but helter-skelter. This band having been dispersed, the Romans thought that the fight was over and pursued them in a disorderly way, not perceiving Hannibal's purpose.

[§47] Presently Hannibal returned accompanied by the Spanish and Celtic troops from the hill. Scipio hastened to recall the Romans from the pursuit, and formed a new line of battle much stronger than those who were coming against him, by which means he overcame them without difficulty.

When this last effort had failed, Hannibal despaired utterly, and fled in plain sight. Many horsemen pursued him, and among others Massinissa, although suffering from his wound, pressed him hard, striving eagerly to take him prisoner and deliver him to Scipio. But night came to his rescue and under cover of darkness, with twenty horsemen who had alone been able to keep pace with him, he took refuge in a town named Thon.

Here he found many Bruttian and Spanish horsemen who had fled after the defeat. Fearing the Spaniards because they were fickle barbarians, and apprehending that the Bruttians, as they were Scipio's countrymen, might deliver him up in order to secure pardon for their transgression against Italy, he fled secretly with one horseman in whom he had full confidence. Having accomplished about 540 kilometers in two nights and days, he arrived at the seaport of Hadrumetum, where a part of his army had been left to guard his supplies. Here he began to collect forces from the adjacent country and from those who had escaped from the recent engagement, and to prepare arms and engines of war.

[§48] Now Scipio, having gained this splendid victory, girded himself as for a sacrifice and burned the less valuable spoils of the enemy, as is the custom of the Roman generals. He sent to Rome ten talents of gold, 2,500 talents of silver, a quantity of carved ivory, and many distinguished captives in ships, and [Gaius] Laelius to carry news of the victory. The remainder of the spoils he sold, and divided the proceeds among the troops. He also made presents for distinguished valor, and crowned Massinissa again. He also sent out expeditions and gathered in more cities.

Such was the result of the engagement between Hannibal and Scipio, who here met in combat for the first time. The Roman loss was 2,500 men, that of Massinissa rather more. That of the enemy was 25,000 killed, and 8,500 taken prisoners. Three hundred Spaniards deserted to Scipio, and 800 Numidians to Massinissa.

[§49] Before the news reached either Carthage or Rome, the former sent word to Mago, who was collecting Gallic mercenaries, to invade Italy if possible, and if not, to set sail with his forces for Africa. These letters being intercepted and brought to Rome, another army, together with horses, ships, and money, was dispatched to Scipio. The latter had already sent Octavius by the land route to Carthage, and was going thither himself with his fleet.

When the Carthaginians learned of Hannibal's defeat they sent ambassadors to Scipio on a small fast-sailing ship, of whom the principal ones were Hanno the Great and Hasdrubal Eriphus, who bore a herald's staff aloft on the prow and stretched out their hands toward Scipio in the manner of suppliants. He directed them to come to the camp, and when they had arrived he attended to their business in high state. They threw themselves on the ground weeping, and when the attendants had lifted them up and bade them say what they wished, Hasdrubal Eriphus spoke as follows:

[§50] "For myself, Romans, and for Hanno here, and for all sensible Carthaginians, let me say that we are guiltless of the wrongs which you lay at our door. For when the same men, driven by hunger, did violence to your legates, we rescued them and sent them back to you. You ought not to condemn all the people of Carthage who so recently sought peace, and when it was granted eagerly took the oath to support it.

But cities are easily swayed to their hurt, because the masses are always controlled by what is pleasing to their ears. We have had experience of these things, having been unable either to persuade or to restrain the multitude by reason of those who slandered us at home and who have prevented us from making ourselves understood by you. Romans, do not judge us by the standard of your own discipline and good counsel. If any one esteems it a crime to have yielded to the persuasions of these rabble-rousers, consider the hunger and the necessity that was upon us by reason of suffering.

For it could not have been a deliberate intention on the part of our people, first to ask for peace, and give such a large sum of money to obtain it, and deliver up all their galleys except a few, and surrender the bulk of their territory, swear to these things, and send an embassy to Rome with the ratifications, and then wantonly to violate the agreement before our embassy had returned. Surely some god misled them and the tempest that drove your supplies into Carthage; and besides the tempest, hunger carried us away, for people who are in want of everything do not form the best judgments respecting other people's property. It would not be reasonable to punish with severity a multitude of men so disorganized and unfortunate.

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