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Polybius: the First Punic War


Map of ancient Sicily. Map design Jona Lendering. According to the Greek historian Polybius of Megalopolis (c.200-c.118), the First Punic War (264-241) between Carthage and Rome was "the longest and most severely contested war in history". And indeed, it lasted almost a quarter of a century and probably, a million people lost their lives. In the end, Rome had conquered the island of Sicily, and had become a Mediterranean superpower.

Polybius' World History was translated by W.R. Paton.

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Mamertine coin, showing the wargod and a bull.
Mamertine coin, showing the war god and a bull (©!!)

Book 1, chapter 8

The Mamertines (for this was the name adopted by the Campanians after their seizure of Messana) as long as they enjoyed the alliance of the Romans together with the Campanians who had occupied Rhegium, not only remained in secure possession of their own city and territory but caused no little trouble to the Carthaginians and Syracusans about the adjacent territories, levying tribute from many parts of Sicily. When, however, they were deprived of this support, the captors of Rhegium being now closely invested, they were at once in their turn driven to take refuge in their city by the Syracusans owing to the following causes. 

Not many years before the Syracusan army had quarreled with those in the city. They were then posted near Mergane and appointed two magistrates chosen from their own body, Artemidorus and Hiero, who was subsequently king of Syracuse. He was still quite young but because of his royal descent qualified to be a ruler and statesman of a kind. Having accepted the command, he gained admittance to the city through certain relatives, and after overpowering the opposite party, administered affairs with such mildness and magnanimity that the Syracusans, though by no means inclined to approve camp elections, on this occasion unanimously accepted him as their general. From his first measures it was evident at once to all capable of judging that his ambition was not limited to military command.

 
to book 1, chapter 9
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