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

Appian's History of Rome: The Sicilian Wars 

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 what he calls the Sicilian Wars is known from Byzantine excerpts, and is unfortunately not among the best preserved parts. It contains little information that we do not already know from other sources (Polybius' account of the First Punic War is to be preferred).

Because the text has to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's History of the Sicilian Wars are numbered in the same way; here, the separate units are counted strictly chronologically. The translation was made by Horace White; additions in green by Jona Lendering.

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Map of ancient Sicily. Map design Jona Lendering.

Fragments from Appian's Sicilian Wars

A diplomatic initiative during the First Punic War

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: 1] [252 BCE] Both Romans and Carthaginians were destitute of money; and the Romans could no longer build ships, being exhausted by taxes, yet they levied foot soldiers and sent them to Africa and Sicily from year to year, while the Carthaginians sent an embassy to Ptolemy [II Philadelphus], the son of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, king of Egypt, seeking to borrow 2000 talents. He was on terms of friendship with both Romans and Carthaginians, and he sought to bring about peace between them. As he was not able to accomplish this, he said: "It behooves one to assist friends against enemies, but not against friends."

Carthaginian war coinage: the Carthaginian goddess Tanit and the Greek mythological creature Pegasus.
Carthaginian war coinage: the Carthaginian goddess Tanit and the Greek mythological creature Pegasus (!!)

The end of the First Punic War

[2] [241 BCE] When the Carthaginians had met with two disasters on land at the same time, and two at sea where they had considered themselves much the superior, and were already short of money, ships, and men, they sought an armistice from [proconsul Gaius] Lutatius [Catulus] and having obtained it sent an embassy to Rome to negotiate a treaty on certain limited conditions.

With their own embassy they sent [Marcus] Atilius Regulus, the [former] consul, who was their prisoner, to urge his countrymen to agree to the terms. When he came into the senate chamber, clad as a prisoner in Punic garments, and the Carthaginian ambassadors had retired, he exposed to the Senate the desperate state of Carthaginian affairs, and advised that either the war should be prosecuted vigorously, or that more satisfactory conditions of peace should be insisted on.[1] For this reason, after he had returned voluntarily to Carthage, the Carthaginians put him to death by enclosing him in a standing posture in a box the planks of which were stuck full of iron spikes so that he could not possibly lie down. Nevertheless peace was made on conditions more satisfactory to the Romans.

Relief of the tomb of Lucius Cartilius Poplicola, Ostia Antica (Photo Jona Lendering.
Relief of the tomb of Lucius Cartilius Poplicola, Ostia Antica (**

[3] The conditions were these: All Roman prisoners and deserters held by the Carthaginians were to be delivered up; Sicily and the small neighboring islands to be surrendered to the Romans; the Carthaginians not to initiate any war against Syracuse or its ruler, Hiero, nor to recruit mercenaries in any part of Italy; the Carthaginians to pay the Romans a war indemnity of 2000 Euboean talents in twenty years, in yearly installments payable at Rome. (The Euboean talent is equal to 7000 Alexandrine drachmas.)

So ended the first war between the Romans and the Carthaginians for the possession of Sicily, having lasted twenty-four years, in which the Romans lost 700 ships and the Carthaginians 500. In this way the chief part of Sicily (all of it that had been held by the Carthaginians) passed into the possession of the Romans. The latter levied tribute on the Sicilians, and apportioned certain naval charges among their towns, and sent a praetor each year to govern them. On the other hand Hiero, the ruler of Syracuse, who had cooperated with them in this war, was declared to be their friend and ally.

The Mercenary War

[4] [240] When this war was ended the Gallic mercenaries demanded of the Carthaginians the pay still due to them for their service in Sicily, together with the presents that Hamilcar [Barca] had promised to give them. The African soldiers, although they were Carthaginian subjects, demanded the same things, on account of their service in Sicily, and this they did the more arrogantly as they saw that the Carthaginians were weakened and humbled; they were angry also on account of the killing of 3,000 of their own number whom the Carthaginians had crucified for deserting to the Romans.

When the Carthaginians refused the demands of both Gauls and Africans, they joined together and seized the city of Tunis, and also Utica, the largest city in Africa after Carthage. Starting thence they detached the rest of Africa, and brought over to their side some Numidians, and received into their ranks a vast number of fugitive slaves, and pillaged the Carthaginian possessions in every direction.

Being pressed by enemies on all sides the Carthaginians appealed to the Romans for aid against the Africans. The Romans did not send them a military force, but allowed them to draw supplies from Italy and Sicily, and to recruit mercenaries in Italy for this war only. They also sent deputies to Africa to arrange peace if they could, but they returned without accomplishing anything. The Carthaginians prosecuted the war vigorously.

Incidents during the Second Punic War

[From the Peiresc manuscript: 5] [214] Hippocrates and Epicydes, two brothers, were generals of the Syracusans. They had been for a long time incensed against the Romans, and when they could not stir up their fellow-countrymen to war, they went over to the Leontines, who had some differences with the Syracusans. They accused their own countrymen of renewing a separate league with the Romans, although Hiero had made one to include the whole of Sicily. The Leontines were much stirred up by this. The Syracusans made proclamation that if anybody would bring them the head of Hippocrates or of Epicydes, they would give him its weight in gold. But the Leontines chose Hippocrates as their general.

[6] The Sicilians, who had been for a long time embittered against the Roman general [Marcus Claudius] Marcellus, on account of his severity, were still more excited against him because he had gained entrance to Syracuse by treachery. For this reason they joined themselves to Hippocrates, and took an oath together that none of them would make peace without the others, and sent him supplies and an army of 20,000 foot and 5,000 horse. 

[7] Marcellus was in such bad odor that nobody would trust him except under oath, for which reason, when the Tauromenians gave themselves up to him, he made an agreement and confirmed it with an oath, that he would not station any guard in their city nor require the inhabitants to serve as soldiers.

King Mithridates VI of Pontus as Heracles. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Mithridates VI as Heracles (Louvre)

The conquest of Crete

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies:8] [74 BCE] The island of Crete seemed to be favorably disposed  towards Mithridates, king of Pontus, from the beginning, and it was said that they furnished him mercenaries when he was at war with the Romans. It is believed also that they recommended to the favor of Mithridates the pirates who then infested the sea, and openly assisted them when they were pursued by Marcus Antonius.

When Antonius sent legates to them on this subject, they made light of the matter and gave him a disdainful answer. Antonius forthwith made war against them, and although he did not accomplish much, he gained the title of Creticus for his work. (He was the father of the Marc Antony who, at a later period, fought against Octavius Caesar at Actium.)

When the Romans declared war against the Cretans, on account of these things, the latter sent an embassy to Rome to treat for peace. The Romans ordered them to surrender Lasthenes, the author of the war against Antonius, and to deliver up all their pirate ships and all the Roman prisoners in their hands, together with 300 hostages, and to pay 4,000 talents of silver.

Bust of Pompey the Great. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Pompey the Great (Louvre)

[9] As the Cretans would not accept these conditions, [proconsul Quintus Caecilius] Metellus was chosen as the general against them. He gained a victory over Lasthenes at Cydonia. The latter fled to Cnossus, and Panares delivered over Cydonia to Metellus on condition of his own safety. While Metellus was besieging Cnossus, Lasthenes set fire to his own house there, which was full of money, and fled from the place.

Then the Cretans sent word to Pompey the Great, who was conducting the war against the pirates, and against Mithridates, that if he would come they would surrender themselves to him. As he was then busy with other things, he commanded Metellus to withdraw from the island, as it was not seemly to continue a war against those who offered to give themselves up, and he said that he would come to receive the surrender of the island later. Metellus paid no attention to this order, but pushed on the war until the island was subdued, making the same terms with Lasthenes as he had made with Panares.

[10] [69 BCE] Metellus was awarded a triumph and the title of Creticus with more justice than Antonius, for he actually subjugated the island.

The Bona Dea Scandal

[From the Peiresc manuscript:11] [62 BCE]  The patrician Clodius, surnamed Pulcher, which means "handsome", was in love with Caesar's wife. He arrayed himself in woman's clothes from head to foot, being still without a beard, and gained admission to Caesar's house as a woman in the night, at a time when the mysteries were celebrated, to which only women were admitted. Having lost his guide, and being detected by others by the sound of his voice, he was hustled out.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Book 6: the Spanish wars

Note 1:
Appian describes the last phase of the negotiations,  in 242. Regulus' speech belongs to another diplomatic initiative, ten years earlier.

 home   :    index    :    ancient Rome    :     Sicily