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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§111-115

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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Carthage. Map design Jona Lendering.
[§111] [148] The Carthaginians, finding themselves and the army of Hasdrubal intact, and that they had worsted [consul Lucius Calpurnius] Piso [Caesonius] in the fighting around Hippagreta, and their forces being augmented by 800 horse who had deserted from Gulussa, under Bithya, a Numidian chief; seeing also that Micipsa and Mastanabal, the sons of Massinissa, were always promising arms and money to the Romans, but always delaying and waiting to see what would happen, plucked up their spirits and roamed through Africa without fear, fortifying the country, and making abusive speeches in the town assemblies against the Romans.

In proof of their cowardice they pointed to the two victories at Nepheris and the more recent one at Hippagreta, and to Carthage itself, which the enemy had not been able to take although it was unarmed and poorly defended. They sent to Micipsa and Mastanabal and to the free Moors asking their aid, and showing them that they, as well as Carthage, were in danger of subjection to the Romans. They sent messengers to Macedonia to the supposed son of [the former Macedonian king]Perseus, who was at war with the Romans, exhorting him to carry on the war with vigor and promising that Carthage would furnish him money and ships.

Being now armed they considered nothing too small to be worth attention, and they gained in confidence, courage, and preparation from day to day. Hasdrubal, who commanded in the country and who had twice got the better of [former consul Manius] Manilius, was in high spirits also. Aspiring to the command in the city, which was held by another Hasdrubal, a nephew of Gulussa, he accused the latter of an intention to betray Carthage to Gulussa. This accusation being brought forward in the assembly, and the accused being at a loss to answer the unexpected charge, they fell upon him and beat him to death with the benches.

[§112] When the ill-success of Piso and the preparation of the Carthaginians were reported at Rome, the people were chagrined and anxious, as the war was growing larger and more irreconcilable, and coming nearer every day. There could be no expectation of peace since they had been the first to break faith. Remembering the exploits of [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus] while he was a military tribune not long before, and comparing them with the present blunders and recalling the letters written to them by friends and relatives from the army on that subject, there was presently an intense desire that he should be sent to Carthage as consul.

[December 148] The election was drawing near and Scipio was a candidate for the aedileship, for the laws did not permit him to hold the consulship as yet, on account of his youth; yet the people elected him consul. This was illegal, and when the consuls showed them the law they became importunate and urged all the more, exclaiming that by the laws handed down from [the legendary kings] Tullius and Romulus the people were the judges of the elections, and that, of the laws pertaining thereto, they could set aside or confirm whichever they pleased.

Finally one of the tribunes of the people declared that he would take from the consuls the power of holding an election unless they yielded to the people in this matter. Then the Senate allowed the tribunes to repeal this law, and after one year they reenacted it. (In like manner the Lacedaemonians, when they were obliged to relieve from disgrace those who had surrendered at Pylus, said, "Let the laws sleep today.")[1]

Thus Scipio, while seeking the aedileship, was chosen consul. When his colleague, [Gaius Livius] Drusus, proposed to him to cast lots to see which should have Africa as his province, one of the tribunes put the question of the command of that army to the people, and they chose Scipio. They also allowed him to take as many soldiers by conscription as had been lost in the war, and as many volunteers as he could enlist among the allies, and for this purpose to send to the allied kings and states letters written in the name of the Roman people, according to his own discretion. In this way he obtained assistance from them.

[§113] [Spring 147] Having made these arrangements, Scipio sailed first to Sicily and thence to Utica. Piso, in the meantime, had laid siege to a town in the interior. [The Roman fleet commander] Mancinus, observing a neglected part of the wall of Carthage, which was protected by continuous and almost impassable cliffs and had been neglected for that reason, made an attack there, thinking to scale the wall secretly by means of ladders. These being fixed, certain soldiers mounted boldly.

The Carthaginians, despising their small numbers, opened a gate adjacent to these rocks and made a sally against the enemy. The Romans repulsed and pursued them, and rushed into the city through the open gate. They raised a shout of victory, and Mancinus, transported with joy (for he was giddy and rash by nature), and the whole crowd with him, rushed from the ships, unarmed or half-armed, to aid their companions. As it was now about sunset they occupied a strong position adjacent to the wall and spent the night there. Being without food, Mancinus called upon Piso and the magistrates of Utica to assist him in his perilous position and to send him provisions in all haste, for he was in danger of being thrust out by the Carthaginians at daylight and dashed to pieces on the rocks.

[§114] Scipio arrived at Utica that same evening, and happening, about midnight, to meet those to whom Mancinus had written, he ordered the trumpet to sound for fighting immediately, and the heralds to call to the seashore those who had come with him from Italy, and also the young men of Utica, and he directed the older ones to bring provisions to the galleys. At the same time, he released some Carthaginian captives so that they might go and tell their friends that Scipio was coming upon them with his fleet. To Piso he sent horseman after horseman, urging him to move with all speed.

About the last watch he put to sea, giving orders to the soldiers that when they approached the city they should stand up on the decks in order to give an appearance of vast numbers to the enemy. At early dawn the Carthaginians attacked Mancinus from all sides and he formed a circle with his 500 armed men, within which he placed the unarmed ones, 3,000 in number. Suffering from wounds and being forced back to the wall, he was on the point of being pushed over the precipice when Scipio's fleet came in sight, driven at a tremendous rate of speed, with soldiers crowding the decks everywhere.

This was not a surprise to the Carthaginians, who had been advised of it by the returned prisoners, but to the Romans, who were ignorant of what had happened, Scipio brought unexpected relief. Gradually the Carthaginians drew back and Scipio received those who had been in peril into his ships.

Straightway he sent Mancinus to Rome (for his successor, Serranus, had come with Scipio to take command of the fleet), and he pitched his camp not far from Carthage. The Carthaginians advanced a kilometer from the walls and fortified a camp opposite him. Here they were joined by Hasdrubal, the commander of the forces in the country, and Bithya, the cavalry general, who had 6,000 foot-soldiers and 1,000 horse well trained and seasoned.

[§115] Scipio, finding the discipline of the army relaxed and the soldiers under Piso given up to idleness, avarice, and rapine, and a multitude of hucksters mingled with them, who followed the camp for the sake of booty, and accompanied the bolder ones when they made expeditions for plunder without permission (although in contemplation of law everybody was a deserter who went beyond the sound of the trumpet in time of war); seeing also that the commander was held to blame for all their failures and that the plunder they took was the cause of fresh quarrels and demoralization among them, for many of them fell out with their comrades on account of it and proceeded to blows, wounds, and even manslaughter - in view of all these things and believing that he should never master the enemy unless he first mastered his own men, he called them together and, mounting a high platform, he lashed them with these words:

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Punic wars   :   part 24
Note 1:
During the Peloponnesian War (431-404), many Spartans surrendered to the Athenians on the island of Sphacteria, opposite Pylos. Contrary to Spartan custom, they were permittered to return to Sparta.
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