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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§71-75


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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  [§71] [150] They were to fight the following day. [Publius Cornelius] Scipio the Younger, who afterwards captured Carthage, and who was then serving [Lucius Licinius] Lucullus in the war against the Celtiberians, was on his way to Massinissa's camp, having been sent thither to procure elephants.

Massinissa, as he was preparing his own person for battle, sent a body of horse to meet him, and charged some of his sons to receive him when he should arrive. At daylight he put his army in order of battle in person, for although he was eighty-eight years old he was still a vigorous horseman and rode bareback, as is the Numidian custom, both when fighting and when performing the duties of a general.

(Indeed, the Numidians are the most robust of all the African peoples and of the long-lived they live the longest. The reason probably is that their winter is not cold enough to do them much harm and their summer not so extremely hot as that of Ethiopia and of India; for which reason also this country produces the most powerful wild beasts, and the men are always performing labor in the open air. They use very little wine and their food is simple and frugal.)

When Massinissa, upon his charger, drew up his army Hasdrubal drew up his in opposition. It was very large, since many recruits had flocked in from the country. Scipio witnessed this battle from a height, as one views a spectacle in a theater. He often said afterwards that he had witnessed various contests, but never enjoyed any other so much, for here only had he seen at his ease 110,000 join battle. He added with an air of solemnity that only two had had such a spectacle before him: Jupiter from Mount Ida, and Neptune from Samothrace, in the Trojan War.

[§72] The battle continued from morning till night, many falling on both sides, and it seemed that Massinissa had the advantage. As he was returning from the field Scipio presented himself, and Massinissa greeted him with the greatest attention, having been a friend of his grandfather. When the Carthaginians learned of Scipio's arrival they besought him to make terms for them with Massinissa. He brought them to a conference, and the Carthaginians made proposals that they would surrender to Massinissa the territory belonging to the town of Emporium and give him 200 talents of silver now and 800 talents later. When he asked for the deserters they would not give them up. So they separated without coming to an agreement.

Then Scipio returned to Spain with his elephants. Massinissa drew a line of circumvallation around the hill where the enemy were encamped and prevented them from bringing in any food. Nor could any be found in the neighborhood, for it was with the greatest difficulty that he could procure a scant supply for himself from a long distance. Now Hasdrubal thought that he should be able to break through the enemy's line with his army, which was still strong and unharmed. Having more supplies than Massinissa, he thought it would be a good plan to provoke him to battle and he delayed because he had just learned that envoys were on their way from Rome to settle the difficulty. By and by they came. They had been instructed if Massinissa were beaten to put an end to the strife, but if he were successful, to spur him on. And they carried out their orders.

[§73] In the meantime hunger wasted Hasdrubal and the Carthaginians and, being much debilitated, they were no longer able to assault the enemy. First they ate their pack animals, and after them their horses, and they boiled their leather straps for food. They also fell sick of various diseases due to lack of food, want of exercise, and the season, for they were enclosed in one place and in a contracted camp - a great multitude of men exposed to the heat of an African summer. When the supply of wood for cooking failed they burned their shields. They could not carry out the bodies of the dead because Massinissa kept strict guard; nor could they burn them for want of fuel. So there was a terrible pestilence among them in consequence of living in the stench of putrefying corpses.

The greater part of the army was already wasted away. The rest, seeing no hope of escape, agreed to give up the deserters to Massinissa and to pay him 5,000 talents of silver in fifty years, and to take back those who had been banished, although this was contrary to their oath. They were to pass out through their enemies, one by one, through a single gate, and with nothing but a short tunic for each. Gulussa, full of wrath at the assault made upon him not long before, either with the connivance of his father or upon his own motion, made a charge upon them with a body of Numidian cavalry as they were going out. As they had neither arms to resist nor strength to fly, many were slain. So, out of 58,000 men composing the army only a few returned safe to Carthage, among them Hasdrubal, the general, and others of the nobility.

[§74] Such was the war between Massinissa and the Carthaginians.

[149] The third and last Punic war of the Romans in Africa followed it. The Carthaginians having suffered this calamity at the hands of Massinissa, and the city being much weakened by it, they began to be apprehensive of the king himself, who was still near them with a large army, and also of the Romans, who were always harboring ill-will toward them and would make the affairs of Massinissa an excuse for it.

They were not wrong in either particular. The Romans, when they learned the foregoing facts, straightway began to collect an army throughout all Italy, not telling what it was intended for, but in order, they said, to have it ready for emergencies. The Carthaginians, thinking to put an end to the excuse, condemned Hasdrubal, who had conducted the campaign against Massinissa, and Carthalo, the boëtharch, and any others who were concerned in the matter, to death, putting the whole blame of the war upon them.

They sent ambassadors to Rome to complain of Massinissa, and at the same time to accuse their own citizens of taking up arms against him too hastily and rashly, and of furnishing an occasion for an imputation of hostility on the part of their city. When one of the senators asked the ambassadors why they did not condemn their officers at the beginning of the war instead of waiting till they were beaten, and why they did not send their embassy before, instead of postponing it till now, they could not give any answer.

The Senate, which had previously resolved upon war and was only seeking some petty excuse, answered that the defense offered by the Carthaginians was not satisfactory. The latter, much disturbed, asked again, if they had done wrong, how they could atone for it. The answer was given in a word: "You must make it right with the Roman people." When they inquired among themselves what would make it right, some thought that the Romans would like to have something added to the pecuniary fine imposed by Scipio; others, that the disputed territory should be given up to Massinissa. Being at a loss what to do they sent another embassy to Rome, and asked to know exactly what they should do to make it right. The Romans replied that the Carthaginians knew perfectly well what was necessary, and having given this answer dismissed them.

[§75] While they were stricken with fear and perplexity on this account, the city of Utica (the largest in Africa after Carthage itself, having a harbor with good anchorage and well adapted for landing an army, at a distance of 11½ kilometer from Carthage and well situated as a base of operations against it), observing the plight the Carthaginians were in, and recalling their ancient animosity toward them, sent an embassy to Rome at this critical moment offering to give themselves up to the Romans.

The Senate, which had been previously eager and prepared for war, having gained the accession of a city so strong and so conveniently placed, now disclosed its purpose. Assembling in the Capitol (where they were accustomed to deliberate on the subject of war), the senators voted to declare war against Carthage.

They immediately dispatched the consuls in command of the forces, Manius Manlius having charge of the foot soldiers and Lucius Marcius Censorinus of the fleet, and they gave them secret orders not to desist from the war until Carthage was razed to the ground. After offering sacrifice they sailed for Sicily, intending to cross over thence to Utica. They were conveyed in 50 quinqueremes and 100 hemiolii, besides many open boats and transports. The army consisted of 80,000 infantry and about 4,000 cavalry, all the very best. There was a general rush of citizens and allies to join this splendid expedition, and absolute confidence in the result, and many were eager to have their names on the enrolment.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 16
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