Hannibal of Carthage

              Cold War of Attrition 

                           The tomb of Massinissa 

After the harsh terms of surrender were agreed to that ended the Second Punic War Carthage was allowed to remain free of her African possessions as stated before. Rome, however, would ensure that Carthage would be forced to break the treaty by engaging in a form of "cold war" with Carthage by using a "satellite" to engage hostilities with Carthage. In 154 B.C., 47 years after the second war had ended, Rome was faced with a serious uprising in Spain and was hard-pressed to secure their subject state. They called upon Massinissa for assistance and he responded by crossing into Spain with a large contingent of cavalry to aid his Roman allies. During the previous years, Massinissa had repeatedly raided Carthage territory and seized border cities that lay on the outskirts of the Carthage territories in Africa. Each time Carthage, powerless to act upon her own, would send delegations to Rome demanding that Massinissa be punished. Rome would then send an arbitrator to meet with representatives of both Carthage and Massinissa. The final outcome would always favor Massinissa as Rome would inform Carthage that they had insufficient proof that the attacks had occurred. Rome was therefore procuring another war as Carthage could only be humiliated for so long before she acted upon her own behalf. When Massinissa left for Spain, Carthage, aided by Numidians under the command of a grandson of Syphax, who hoped to avenge his death at the hands of the Romans, finally did decide to act. A force of mercenaries led by a general named Carthalo, of the Barca clan, left Carthage and with their Numidian allies attacked a group of Numidians led by one of Massinissa's sons who had captured a Carthage city. This Carthage aggression would fail and the survivors returned to Carthage. Massinissa would return from Spain and was compelled to teach the Carthaginians a lesson. He seized the fertile Great Plains and a subsequent 40-50 towns from Carthage. Carthage sent another delegation to Rome asking for assistance against Massinissa. Rome responded by sending a delegation to Carthage led by Roman named Cato. 

          Upon his arrival at Carthage, Cato immediately became aware of the immense wealth of Carthage and how great they had reversed their fortunes after the second war. One thing that he paid special attention to was the size of the figs that grew upon numerous trees throughout Carthage. He was also aware that Carthage had agreed to pay the entire war debt that she agreed to following the second war just 10 years after the war had ended. Rome had refused and the final installment was due the following year.  The meeting that Cato arranged to mediate between Carthage and Numidia was arranged and the outcome was heavily favored towards Numidia. Rome was intent to punish Carthage by their aggression and Carthage would not have this. Bolstered by Roman troubles in Spain, Carthage stiffened and refused to accept anything but a total evacuation of Massinissa from all of her territories. Cato, enraged, returned to Rome where favorable winds found him returning in just three days.   

          When Cato arrived at the Roman senate he dropped upon the table large figs that he had brought back from Carthage. The senators were amazed by the size of these and listened to what Cato would have to say. Cato referred to what he saw while he was in Carthage and professed his fear of what Carthage would soon present to Rome. Carthage, he stated, had become defiant, not only by their aggression against the Numidians, but by their refusal to accept Roman demands during the meeting. He told of untold riches possessed by Carthage and that the war payments that Carthage was about to finish paying them would further bolster their treasury.  The lands around Carthage, he stated, were of the most fertile that he had ever seen. The very population of the city had expanded beyond belief. He then reminded the senators to gaze once again at the figs upon the table. These were but from three days sail from Rome. A mercenary army funded by a wealthy Carthage would be just as far away. He then finished by saying "Carthago Delenda Est", Carthage must be destroyed.  The senate argued about what action to take and finally agreed that war would be once again made upon Carthage. They would,however, agree to await another provocation from Carthage as they needed time to prepare. Spain and Gaul were keeping them occupied and Massinissa would need at least a year to build his forces to assist them.

           It was but several months later that another Carthage delegation traveled to Rome to complain of another raid into their territory by Massinissa. Rome responded by sending another delegation to arbitrate between the two and what occurred stunned Carthage. Rome sided with Carthage and demanded Massinissa return some land and cities to Carthage. Rome did this to encourage the anti-Rome party in Carthage to stiffen their resolve and eventually give them the heart to act again towards Massinissa, hoping for another favorable act by Rome should they so enter upon such an aggression.  

          The anti-Rome party in Carthage, spurred by the populace, would then vote to expel the pro-Roman and Massinissa party from the city. These 40 senators were expelled and a law was enacted that stated that they were never to be allowed inside  Carthage again.  These men fled to Massinissa seeking refuge and urged him to declare war upon Carthage. Massinissa responded by sending a delegation to Carthage led by two of his sons, Gullusa and Micipsa, demanding that the expelled be reinstated in Carthage. The Carthaginian leader, Hannibal "the Samnite", refused to allow the delegation inside the city and demanded they leave. As the delegation returned, Hannibal ambushed the party and executed several members, terrifying Massinissa's two sons.  Massinissa responded by laying siege to the Carthage city of Oroscope, now long-forgotten under the sands of Africa. This transgression was what Cato and the city of Rome had longed for. They anxiously awaited the response of defeated Carthage.

          Carthage, upon hearing of the siege upon her city, and swelling with confidence and national pride, declared war upon Massinissa and declared an end to the harsh treaty with the Romans that they had tried so hard to follow for so many years and yet so despised.  Carthage responded by sending delegations to Macedonia, Egypt, Gaul, and Spain, hoping to procure an alliance against Rome should Rome act against them. The year was 150 B.C. and Carthage, with a victory over Massinissa, may yet return all of Numidia back into her empire as before. Carthage, to the roar of her populace, would open her gates and watch as an army, led by a general named Hasdrubal, some 26,000 strong, begin the march towards Oroscope. With-in the army was 1,000 men from the Carthage "Sacred Guard". Carthage noblemen given to the state by their families as children to be trained in the art of warfare their entire lives. This army was joined by another Carthage army that was operating in the countryside gaining new recruits, that brought the total to 49,000 strong.

          As Hasdrubal marched towards Oroscope he was encouraged by the defection of some 6,000 Numidian horsemen from Massinissa who joined his force. Several minor clashes also favored Hasdrubal against Massinissa and the Numidian abandoned his siege of Oroscope and retreated further west into the desert, closer to his base and leaving the following Hasdrubal further and further from his.  When Massinissa was convinced that he had drawn Hasdrubal far enough from want of supplies, he offered battle and Hasdrubal accepted. Not much is known about the battle except that it raged from morning until evening and was witnessed by a Roman general from Spain, hoping to secure elephants from Massinissa against the Spanish rebellion. The general, later called Scipio Africanus the Younger, was the grandson of the Scipio who had defeated Hannibal at Zama. The battle, as said, not much is known about, except that the Numidians that had defected to Carthage fought with strong resolve against their more numerous enemies. At the close of fighting that day, Massinissa welcomed his Roman guest and set about his request for elephants to be met. Hasdrubal, clearly not defeated, and clearly not of the same caliber as Hannibal, weakened in his resolve when he became aware that a Roman general was with Massinissa and asked for a three-way conference. During the meeting Hasdrubal agreed to concede the lands that Massinissa had previously taken from Carthage and also to pay Massinissa a huge war indemnity.  When Massinissa also demanded that the survivors of the 6,000 defectors also be returned to him, Hasdrubal surprisingly refused and returned to his army. Massinissa followed by surrounding the Carthage army and entrenched his forces. Hasdrubal and his army held out for several weeks and when their supplies of food and water were exhausted and all their animals had been slaughtered for food, he was compelled to agree to Massinissa's demands and handed over the deserters. He was then told his army could return to Carthage, in single file, without their weapons. Massinissa, however, would see to it that the Carthaginians were brutally massacred after they were rendered defenceless. Only Hasdrubal and several hundred made their way back to Carthage.  Their army of 55,000 strong was no more.  Also returning to Carthage were the banished senators who were restored to their previous positions by Massinissa.  The populace mourned heavily the 1,000 strong "Sacred Guard", of whom none returned.  

          The defeat of their army placed Carthage in a desperate position. At once it was agreed upon that Hasdrubal and the other primary individuals who had perpetrated the aggression towards Massinissa be given to Rome and the entire blame put upon them. Perhaps this would deflect Rome's wrath upon the city and spare them.  Hasdrubal, however, escaped from Carthage with the other condemned subjects and began recruiting troops in the African interior. A delegation was then sent to Rome to complain to Rome about Massinissa and the siege of Oroscope that he had perpetuated. As this delegation embarked from Carthage news was brought to the city by spies that Carthage had in Italy which stated that a general mobilization of Roman troops had already begun. When the delegation arrived in Rome and was brought before the senate they were told that Rome had already declared war upon Carthage for their transgression and that they should leave at once and return to their city with this news.  

          Carthage was now in a position which would draw envy from nobody. They were to stand alone in this struggle. No city or nation in their right mind would now enter upon an alliance with them. They were destined to go this struggle alone. They would not have a Hamilcar or Hannibal that would be the face of this war. It would be a war of faceless people, reluctant warriors, who would be pushed as far as they could possible be pushed until they finally stiffened and resolved to fight themselves. No mercenary force would fight this war for them. As you will soon read why, Carthage would enter upon this war with not only no allies as said before, but also with no army, weapons, and food and supplies. After Rome had agreed to reverse their decleration of war as long as Carthage abided by numerous demands, Carthage would instead declare war upon Rome. Never before in history, or after, has a nation, so greatly outnumbered and overmatched, ever declared war upon such an enemy. Rome, stunned by the Carthage defiance and declaration of war, expected to win easily. Carthage had always surrendered before when  the odds were against them. Why would this time be any different? Rome, however, would soon find out that Carthage would not go silently into the night without a final heroic fight.

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