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Gesco


Map of Motya and the siege of Lilybaeum during the First Punic War. Design Jona Lendering.
The siege of Lilybaeum
Gesco (†240): Carthaginian general and politician.

Gesco is known as the man who defended Lilybaeum (Marsala in western Sicily) against the Romans during the final stages of the First Punic War (264-241). He kept this town a Carthaginian bulwark to the very end of the war, and he was therefore considered to be one of Carthage's war heroes.

In March 241, however, the Roman proconsul Gaius Lutatius Catulus defeated the Carthaginian fleet of Hanno at the Aegatean islands, to the west of Lilybaeum and Drepana, another Carthaginian fortress on Sicily. This defeat meant the end of the war, because now, the two towns could no longer be supplied. The CarthaginianSenate did not want to commit itself to the surrender and asked a Carthaginian general, Hamilcar Barca to negotiate a peace treaty, but he left this "honor" to Gesco.

In spite of the fact that the Senate and Hamilcar had thrown the dead cat to him, Gesco negotiated a very fair deal: Sicily was to be Roman, Carthage was not to attack Syracuse (a Roman ally) and had to return all POWs, and it had to pay twenty installments of 110 talents. Unfortunately, the People's Assembly at Rome did not accept, and the terms were tightened: Carthage lost some additional islands, 1000 talents had to be paid at once, and for the next ten years, Carthage would have to pay 220 talents. This was the end of the war.

The Carthaginian troops now returned to their homeland. Many of them had not received their pay for months, and they revolted. It was a motley crew of Greeks, Spanish, Balearic Islanders, Gauls, and Libyans that now they marched on Tunis. Again, the Senate refused to take responsibility for negotiations; and again, Gesco was chosen. He went to the rebels to do the dirty work, but they tortured him to death.

Gesco left one son, Hasdrubal.

© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 16 March 2008
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