Hannibal of Carthage

          As we have seen, after Cannae, the theater's of war outside of Italy had fared poorly for Carthage. Valuable time and resources were wasted as Hannibal was procuring his Italian federation against Rome.

          Hannibal had already been denied in his previous two attempts to take the city of Nola and in 214 B.C. he was again approached by a representative from the common populace from Nola offering their city. The noblemen from the city immediately sent word to Marcellus to come to their aid and he, once again, responded. He selected 6,500 of his best troops and marched, with lightening speed to Nola. Hannibal, meanwhile, was marching south towards Nola and had sent word for Hanno, son of Bolmicar, who was in Bruttium with a force of new recruits numbering 17,000 infantry and 1,200 Numidian cavalry, to march north and join forces with his main army. As Hanno marched north, Fabius ordered the Roman general, Gracchus, to move towards Hanno and prevent the two Carthage armies from uniting. The Roman army was comprised of 18,000 volunteer slaves, who were promised their freedom should they defeat Hanno as long as they brought a severed head of their fallen enemy to Gracchus.  

          It seems that Gracchus and Hanno met near the city of Beneventum, south of Nola. Gracchus was able to reinforce the Roman garrison in the city just as Hanno approached, thereby controlling all roads north, forcing Hanno to fight in order to join Hannibal. Hanno camped some three miles from the city and the next day, Gracchus moved out from Beneventum with the bulk of his 18,000 troops and camped within a mile of Hanno. The following day Gracchus drew up his battle lines and offered Hanno battle. Hanno did likewise and for several hours the battle was in doubt. The Roman army almost lost due to the fact that they were busy severing the heads of Hanno's fallen troops and the Carthage army was able to gain a reprieve and began driving the Roman army back towards the Roman camp. Gracchus sent word for his troops to end the severing of the heads and relayed the message that unless the Carthage camp was taken, no slave would gain their freedom. With desperation, the Romans made one last push forward and drove the Carthage army back into their camp. During the hysteria, a large group of Roman prisoners in the Carthage camp somehow became armed and turned upon their captors and effected the defeat of Hanno. Only Hanno and 2,000 escaped. Roman losses were around 4,000 dead.    

           The defeat of Hanno and the loss of badly needed new recruits to his army must have been a stinging blow to Hannibal, especially with the failure of Carthage to assist him fully. Hanno retired to southern Italy where he attempted to gain new recruits, however he was hindered when Grachus moved his army to the south of Italy as well.  Hannibal, meanwhile, engaged the Romans again at Nola and determined that victory here could not succeed after several skirmishes. He was compelled to remain in the area for the rest of the summer and early fall so as to ensure that Capua and Casilinum were able to harvest their fields and bring their crops into their respected cities, without any hindrance from the Romans.  During this time, the Romans defeated the armies of Phillip of Macedonia at Apollonia and after the victory burned his entire naval fleet,thus preventing his anticipated invasion of Italy. On Sicily the city of Syracuse returned to the Roman alliance for a short instance when Hieronymus, king of Syracuse, was assassinated. The new leaders offered the city to Rome, however, before Rome could enter with a garrison, the pro-Carthage movement reclaimed the city and Syracuse re-declared war on Rome. This set off a chain reaction among the few cities that remained loyal to Rome on Sicily as they joined Carthage. Rome would respond by sending Marcellus with two legions to quell the Carthage threat on the island. Carthage would respond by sending an army led by a general named Muttines to assist Syracuse and the other cities.

           Before winter set in, Hannibal would garrison Casilinum with 700 of his veterans and they were joined by 2000 men from Capua led by the Capuan Status Metius. Hannibal then marched south towards Tarentum where he hoped to gain the former Greek port-city. Hanno, meanwhile, had a measure of success at raising new recruits in southern Italy during the fall and was said to have defeated a portion of  Grachus'  army commanded by one of his lieutenants. The defeat of the Romans was said to have mirrored the victory that they had earlier won over Hanno.

          As Hannibal marched to Tarentum and left central Italy, the Romans became very active in the fall of 214 B.C. by re-taking numerous cities and towns in the center of Italy by storm or siege. The Samnite cities  were punished the most severe. During this time Rome lay siege to Casilinum with both consular armies. Fabius and his army operated from the right and Marcellus and his army from the left. The combined armies were able to but a stranglehold on the city that caused severe hardships. The Capuan and Carthaginian defenders held the Romans back but finally negotiated with Fabius and were given his word that they would have safe passage to Capua if they surrendered the city. They were compelled and marched out from the walls of Casilinum and began their march to Capua, however, Marcellus refused to honor their agreement that Fabius had made with them and ordered his army to slaughter them all.  Such un-honorable acts by the Romans were nothing new. The population of Casilinum was slaughtered and total casualties from the fall Roman offensives in central Italy exceeded 30,000 dead.  

          Rome would follow their success in central Italy by besieging Syracuse in Sicily in 214 B.C. The Carthage forces on the island were not strong enough to lift the siege and had to resort to fighting a defensive campaign from the mountains. During this time Rome also re-took many Sicilian cities who had joined Carthage. As the year came to an end Rome had weathered the storm that Hannibal had cast over them and they looked forward to continuing their campaigns against his subordinates the following spring.   The following year however, the two cities would not clash in any major battles. Instead, both sides focused upon strengthening their alliances and the primary focus by Rome continued to be the siege upon Syracuse.   During this year Hannibal focused upon swaying Tarentum to join his alliance and waited for help from Carthage that would never arrive.

          Hannibal had been in communication with a party of Tarentium citizens who were unhappy with Roman rule. A previous attempt had been made by the people of Tarentum to rid themselves of the Romans. However, it was thwarted by the precautions that the Roman commander Brundisium had taken. He took effectual means for the defence of the city and sent some of the possible malcontents to Rome to serve as hostages for the good behaviour of the rest of the population. These hostages were later caught trying to escape. What followed was an example of Roman cruelty. The hostages were scourged, then convicted by the quaestores parricidii and flung from the Tarpeian Rock. This act infuriated the people of Tarentum, who renewed their communications with Hannibal with an eye to freeing themselves.

          Marcus Livius, the governor of the city, was a good soldier but is said to be a man of indolent and luxurious habits. On the night appointed by Hannibal for the attack he was feasting with friends and retired to rest, heavy with food and wine. In the middle of the night he was awakened when the conspirators blew the alarm on some Roman trumpets and found Hannibal and 10,000 of his soldiers already within the city. Many of the Roman soldiers were asleep or drunk and were cut down by the Carthaginians as they stumbled out into the streets. Hannibal kept control of his troops to the extent that there was no general looting. Committed to respecting Tarentine freedom, Hannibal asked the Tarentines to mark houses where Tarentines lived. Only those houses not so marked and thus belonging to Romans were looted. Marcus Livius managed to bring his surviving troops to the citadel where they held off the Carthaginians for the duration of the war. However, the city was lost. All the Greek towns in Southern Italy with the exception of Rhegium were now under Hannibal's control.          

          The Romans, however, were able to recaptured Casilinum (214 B.C.) and executed the Capuan and Numidian defenders despite offering them free passage to Capua should they surrender. The populace was sold into slavery and the leaders were beheaded. The Romans had made the determination that the capture of Casilinum was crucial for attacking Capua. For the next two years they conducted annual raids during harvest time to prevent the Capuans from gathering provisions. 

          In 212 BC, the elected consuls, Appius Claudius and Quintus Flavius Flaccus resolved to besiege Capua which they hoped would prevent any other defections among the remaining allies that they had in Italy.  The Roman army of eight legions (four Roman and four allied) encamped near Capua in the spring of 212 BC. This had prompted the panick-stricken Capuans to appeal to Hannibal for aid. In response to their appeal, Hannibal sent Hanno and his army north from Bruttium to collect provisions for Capua in the event of a siege, and Hanno, after capturing a large amount of supplies for the Capuans, encamped near Beneventum. Hanno positioned his army upon a large hill, which he strongly fortified.  Word was then sent to the Capuans to come with all haste with carts and wagons for their supplies. The Capuan authorities, however,  were late in providing the carts for carrying provisions due to their inaction . The Romans under Fulvius Flaccus attacked Hanno's camp while most of his men were foraging, and captured it after initial setbacks. Hanno retired to Bruttium, leaving the Romans in command of the situation and of all the supplies that he had gathered for the Capuans. The Capuans then again sent an appeal for help to Hannibal,much to the disgust of the Carthaginian general.  

          In response, Hannibal sent 2,000 Numidian cavalry under Hanno and another trusted general named Bostar as reinforcements to Capua. The Romans called on Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus to join their armies around Capua with his force, but he was ambushed in Lucania, and with his death his army dispersed. The Numidians, along with the formidable Capuan Cavalry, raided the Roman camp, winning several skirmishes and causing casualties among the Romans. The Romans were waiting for Gracchus to reinforce them with additional cavalry and did not start any general action against Capua. However, before the expected reinforcements arrived, Hannibal and his army moved into Campania, and encamped on Mount Tifata on the eastern side of Capua. After three days he offered battle, and the Romans accepted the challenge. The battle was a long drawn affair with neither side gaining any decisive advantage, but again the Numidians gained considerable successes against the Roman cavalry. However, seeing horsemen approaching from the south, both armies broke off action and retired to their respective camps. The horsemen turned out to be the cavalry of Gracchus, under the command of Cornelius, a junior officer, coming to join the consular armies.



           Although the battle had not produced any decisive results, the Roman consuls decided to split their armies and withdraw from Campania altogether with the threat of Hannibal again near. Whether this was a result of casualties or deliberate strategy, Flavius Flaccus moved towards Cumae, while Appius Claudius moved into Lucania. Hannibal entered Capua, to the cheers of the populace, and then set off in pursuit of Claudius. Appius Claudis and part of his army managed to slip past Hannibal, but a Roman Army under M. Centenius Paenula was wiped out in the Battle of Silarus. Hannibal, having raised the siege of Capua, moved to attack Brundisium. The Roman consuls decided to besiege Capua again in the absence of Hannibal. Neither side gained any decisive strategic advantage from this battle

                               Battle of Herdonia (212 BC)


          Meanwhile, the citizens of Apulia were having a hard time of it against the Romans for supporting Hannibal. The Roman Preator,  Fulvius Flaccus, and his army of 18,000 strong had had a rather easy time in Apulia, plundering the land and punishing the Apulian's. The  Romans were unaware that Hannibal had left Capua and did not know of Hannibal's presence until he was within the immediate area of Herdonia. Fulvius is said to have become careless from his easy successes and his army was also weighted down with plunder. Fulvius accepted battle on Hannibal's offer at the behest of his extremely eager soldiers. Hannibal's army of around 25,000 men outnumbered the Romans, which numbered the before mentioned 18,000 men.

          Hannibal deployed his forces on the plain outside of his camp, while sending about 3,000 light infantry to his extreme left flank to effect a surprise attack from the woodlands and farms located in that direction. Hannibal also sent out 2,000 Numidians to take control of the roads in the rear of Fulvius' army, thus cutting off all possible escape routes. It is surprising that Flaccus did not detect the movement of the Carthaginians, which is a tribute to the skill of Hannibal's commanders or a glaring example of Roman negligence. Hannibal's army, which still slightly outnumbered the Romans after 5,000 soldiers had been detached from it, overwhelmed the Roman legions almost at once. Fulvius fled almost immediately with 200 troops as Hannibal's attacks came from in front, behind and on both sides. Roughly 2,000 Romans are said to have survived the battle. The losses of Hannibal were said to have been very minimal.


     As Rome was facing these set-backs in Italy, they would later be able to end the year of 212 B.C. with a huge victory in Sicily. For nearly two years the besieged city of Syracuse had held out against the Roman army led by Marcellus. Aided by the great mathematician and scientist Archimedes, who devised ingenious defensive devises which crippled the Roman army, the city had repulsed every attack that Rome had launched upon her walls. Archimedes engineered huge cranes which when placed upon the walls, would grab the Roman ships and lift them out of the water and then send them crashing to the sea. He also was said to have created huge mirrors which reflected the sun and was used to set the sails of the Roman fleets on fire. He also had burning oil placed into pots that were hurled from catapults onto ships and siege machines causing them to burn. With these inventions, along with Carthage support from the sea and interior forces which Carthage had operating from the mountains of Sicily, Roman success had been compromised. The Carthage army upon the island consisted of Carthage and Numidian forces. A Numidian named Muttines commanded  the Numidian horse, while a Carthaginian general from Greek descent named Ephycles commanded the Carthage forces. They made one effort at a direct assault upon the Romans who were besieging Syracuse, but were driven back with heavy losses. These men would spend the remainder of the siege with their army harrassing the Roman army but could not again engage upon a large-scale battle against the Romans to save the city.   The siege bogged down to a stalemate with the Romans unable to force their way into the city or keep their blockade tight enough to stop supplies from Carthage from reaching the defenders, and the cities defenders were also unable to force the Romans to withdraw. Moral within the Roman army was very low, while the defenders inside the walls were very confident that they would not falter.

           In early 212 B.C.,  the Romans received information that the city's inhabitants were to participate in an annual festival paying homage to their gods. With their success at holding the Romans at bay, the city had planned a huge celebration to honor their gods for assisting them against the Romans.  As the celebration entered the night, many of the sentries upon the walls left their posts to join in the celebration. A small party of Roman soldiers approached the city under the cover of night and managed to scale the walls to get into the outer city. Killing the few guards on duty, the Roman soldiers were then reinforced by more men and then stormed the relaxing Syracusians as they slumbered and opened the city gates to the rest of their forces.

          Marcus Claudius Marcellus had ordered that Archimedes, the well-known mathematician  and possibly equally well-known to Marcellus as the inventor of the mechanical devices that had so dominated the siege, should not be killed. Archimedes, who was now around 78 years of age, continued his studies after the breach by the Romans and while at home, his work was disturbed by a Roman soldier. Archimedes protested at this interruption of his work and coarsely told the soldier to leave. The soldier, not knowing who he was, killed Archimedes on the spot.

The Romans now controlled the outer city but the remainder of the population of Syracuse had quickly fallen back to the fortified inner citadel, offering continued resistance. The Romans now put siege to the citadel and were successful in cutting off supplies to this reduced area. Carthage attempts to bring aid to the city via her navy were unsuccessful. After a lengthy eight-month siege which brought great hardship onto the defenders through hunger, a Syracusan traitor finally opened the gates to the Romans. Frustrated and angered after the lengthy and costly siege, the Romans rampaged through the citadel and slaughtered many of the Syracusians where they stood and enslaved most of the rest. The city was then thoroughly looted and sacked.

          With the sack of Syracuse, Carthage hopes to regain Sicily were gone forever. She recalled her army upon the island to Africa and Sicily would now be a Roman province once again.  212 B.C. would end bearing fruit for Rome.

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