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Second Punic War
218 BCE - 201 BCE

Second Punic War

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The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of three wars fought between Carthage and Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For 17 years the two states struggled for supremacy, primarily in Italy and Iberia, but also on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and, towards the end of the war, in North Africa. After immense material and human losses on both sides the Carthaginians were defeated. Macedonia, Syracuse and several Numidian kingdoms were drawn into the fighting; and Iberian and Gallic forces fought on both sides. There were three main military theatres during the war: Italy, where Hannibal defeated the Roman legions repeatedly, with occasional subsidiary campaigns in Sicily, Sardinia and Greece; Iberia, where Hasdrubal, a younger brother of Hannibal, defended the Carthaginian colonial cities with mixed success before moving into Italy; and Africa, where the war was decided.






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CHAPTER   1

Prologue

237 BCE Jan 1 - 219 BCE

Spain



The First Punic War between Carthage and Rome ended in 241 BC after 23 years and with immense materiel and human losses on both sides in a Roman victory. In 237 BCE, Hamilcar Barca arrives in southern Spain to expand Carthage's interests there. He makes his base at Gades and founds Acra Leuce.In 221 BCE, Hannibal takes command of Carthage's armies in Spain. In 226 BC the Ebro Treaty was agreed with Rome, specifying the Ebro River as the northern boundary of the Carthaginian sphere of influence. At some time during the next six years Rome made a separate agreement with the city of Saguntum, which was situated well south of the Ebro. In 219 BC a Carthaginian army under Hannibal besieged Saguntum, and after eight months captured and sacked it. Rome complained to the Carthaginian government, sending an embassy to its senate with peremptory demands. When these were rejected Rome declared war in spring 218 BC.



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Siege of Saguntum
Siege of Saguntum | ©Angus McBride


CHAPTER   2

Siege of Saguntum

219 BCE May 1 - 219 BCE Dec

Saguntum, Spain



The siege of Saguntum was a battle which took place in 219 BC between the Carthaginians and the Saguntines at the town of Saguntum, near the modern town of Sagunto in the province of Valencia, Spain. The battle is mainly remembered today because it triggered one of the most important wars of antiquity, the Second Punic War.


After Hannibal was made supreme commander of Iberia (221 BC) at the age of 26, he spent two years refining his plans and completing his preparations to secure power in the Mediterranean. The Romans did nothing against him though they received ample warning of Hannibal's preparations. The Romans even went so far as turning their attention to the Illyrians who had begun to revolt. Because of this, the Romans did not react when news reached them that Hannibal was besieging Saguntum. The capture of Saguntum was essential to Hannibal's plan. The city was one of the most fortified in the area and it would have been a poor move to leave such a stronghold in the hands of the enemy. Hannibal was also looking for plunder to pay his mercenaries, who were mostly from Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Finally, the money could be spent on dealing with his political opponents in Carthage.


After the siege, Hannibal attempted to gain the support of the Carthaginian Senate. The Senate (controlled by a relatively pro-Roman faction led by Hanno the Great) often did not agree with Hannibal's aggressive means of warfare, and never gave complete and unconditional support to him, even when he was on the verge of absolute victory only five miles from Rome. In this episode, however, Hannibal was able to gain limited support which permitted him to move to New Carthage where he gathered his men and informed them of his ambitious intentions. Hannibal briefly undertook a religious pilgrimage before beginning his march toward the Pyrenees, the Alps, and Rome itself. The next phase of the war was marked by extraordinary Carthaginian victories at Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and the Battle of Cannae.



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Rome declares war on Carthage
Rome declares war on Carthage


CHAPTER   3

Rome declares war on Carthage

218 BCE Mar 1

Mediterranean Sea



Rome declared war in spring 218 BCE. The Second Punic War begins.


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Battle of Lilybaeum
Battle of Lilybaeum


CHAPTER   4

Battle of Lilybaeum

218 BCE Apr 1

Marsala, Free municipal consor



The Battle of Lilybaeum was the first clash between the navies of Carthage and Rome in 218 BC during the Second Punic War. The Carthaginians had sent 35 quinqueremes to raid Sicily, starting with Lilybaeum. The Romans, warned by Hiero of Syracuse of the coming raid, had time to intercept the Carthaginian contingent with a fleet of 20 quinqueremes and managed to capture several Carthaginian ships.


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Across the Alps, 218 BC | © HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   5

Hannibal's crossing of the Alps

218 BCE May 1 - 218 BCE Oct

Rhone-Alpes, France



Hannibal's crossing of the Alps in 218 BC was one of the major events of the Second Punic War, and one of the most celebrated achievements of any military force in ancient warfare. Hannibal managed to lead his Carthaginian army over the Alps and into Italy to take the war directly to the Roman Republic, bypassing Roman and allied land garrisons and Roman naval dominance.


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Capture of Malta


CHAPTER   6

Capture of Malta

218 BCE Jul 1

Malta



The capture of Malta was the successful invasion of the Carthaginian island of Malta (then known as Maleth, Melite or Melita) by forces of the Roman Republic led by Tiberius Sempronius Longus in the early stages of the Second Punic War in 218 BC.


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Battle of Rhone Crossing
Hannibal's army crossing the Rhône | ©Henri-Paul Motte


CHAPTER   7

Battle of Rhone Crossing

218 BCE Sep 1

Rhône



The Battle of the Rhône Crossing was a battle during the Second Punic War in September of 218 BC. Hannibal marched on the Italian Alps, and an army of Gallic Volcae attacked the Carthaginian army on the east bank of the Rhône. The Roman army camped near Massalia. The Volcae tried to prevent the Carthaginians from crossing the Alps and invading Italy.


Before they crossed the river, the Carthaginians sent a detachment to cross upriver, under Hanno, son of Bomilcar, and took up position behind the Gauls. Once the detachment was in place, Hannibal crossed the river with the main contingent of his army. As the Gauls massed to oppose Hannibal, Hanno attacked their rear and routed the Volcae army. This was Hannibal's first major battle (victory) outside of the Iberian Peninsula. It gave him an unopposed path to the Alps and into Italy.



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Battle of Cissa
Battle of Cissa


CHAPTER   8

Battle of Cissa

218 BCE Sep 1

Tarraco, Spain



A Roman army under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus defeated an outnumbered Carthaginian army under Hanno, thus gaining control of the territory north of the Ebro River that Hannibal had just subdued a few months prior in the summer of 218 BC. This was the first battle that the Romans had ever fought in Iberia. It allowed the Romans to establish a secure base among friendly Iberian tribes and due to the eventual success of the Scipio brothers in Spain, Hannibal looked for but never received reinforcements from Spain during the war,


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Battle of Ticinus | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   9

Battle of Ticinus

218 BCE Nov 1

Ticino, Italy



The Battle of Ticinus was a battle of the Second Punic War fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Romans under Publius Cornelius Scipio in late November 218 BC. The battle took place in the flat country on the right bank of the River Ticinus, to the west of modern Pavia in northern Italy. Hannibal led 6,000 Libyan and Iberian cavalry, while Scipio led 3,600 Roman, Italian and Gallic cavalry and a large but unknown number of light infantry javelinmen.


Hannibal had gathered a large army, marched out of Iberia, through Gaul and over the Alps into Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), where many of the local tribes were at war with Rome. The Romans were taken by surprise, but one of the consuls for the year, Scipio, led an army along the north bank of the Po with the intention of giving battle to Hannibal. The two commanding generals each led out strong forces to reconnoitre their opponents. Scipio mixed a large number of javelinmen with his main cavalry force, anticipating a large-scale skirmish. Hannibal put his close-order cavalry in the centre of his line, with his light Numidian cavalry on the wings. On sighting the Roman infantry the Carthaginian centre immediately charged and the javelinmen fled back through the ranks of their cavalry. A large cavalry melee ensued, with many cavalry dismounting to fight on foot and many of the Roman javelinmen reinforcing the fighting line. This continued indecisively until the Numidians swept round both ends of the line of battle, and attacked the still disorganised velites; the small Roman cavalry reserve, to which Scipio had attached himself; and the rear of the already engaged Roman cavalry, throwing them all into confusion and panic.


The Romans broke and fled, with heavy casualties. Scipio was wounded and only saved from death or capture by his 16-year-old son. That night Scipio broke camp and retreated over the Ticinus; the Carthaginians captured 600 of his rearguard the next day. After further manoeuvres Scipio established himself in a fortified camp to await reinforcements while Hannibal recruited among the local Gauls. 


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Battle of the Trebia | © HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   10

Battle of the Trebia

218 BCE Dec 22

Trebia, Italy



The Battle of the Trebia (or Trebbia) was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and a Roman army under Sempronius Longus on 22 or 23 December 218 BC. It took place on the flood plain of the west bank of the lower Trebia River, not far from the settlement of Placentia (modern Piacenza), and resulted in a heavy defeat for the Romans.


Publius Scipio was soundly beaten at the Battle of Ticinus and personally wounded. The Romans retreated to near Placentia, fortified their camp and awaited reinforcement. The Roman army in Sicily under Sempronius was redeployed to the north and joined with Scipio's force. After a day of heavy skirmishing in which the Romans gained the upper hand, Sempronius was eager for a battle.


Numidian cavalry lured Sempronius out of his camp and onto ground of Hannibal's choosing. Fresh Carthaginian cavalry routed the outnumbered Roman cavalry, and Carthaginian light infantry outflanked the Roman infantry. A previously hidden Carthaginian force attacked the Roman infantry in the rear. Most of the Roman units then collapsed and most Romans were killed or captured by the Carthaginians, but 10,000 under Sempronius maintained formation and fought their way out to the safety of Placentia. Recognising the Carthaginians as the dominant force in Cisalpine Gaul, Gallic recruits flocked to them and their army grew to 60,000. The following spring it moved south into Roman Italy and gained another victory at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. In 216 BC Hannibal moved to southern Italy and inflicted the disastrous defeat of the Battle of Cannae on the Romans, the last of what the modern historian Toni Ñaco del Hoyo describes as the three "great military calamities" suffered by the Romans in the first three years of the war.


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Battle of the Ebro | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   11

Battle of Ebro River

217 BCE Apr 1

Ebro, Spain



The Battle of Ebro River was a naval battle fought near the mouth of Ebro River in the spring of 217 BC between a Carthaginian fleet of approximately 40 quinqueremes, under the command of Himilco, and a Roman fleet of 55 ships, under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus. Hasdrubal Barca, the Carthaginian commander in Iberia, had launched a joint expedition to destroy the Roman base north of the Ebro River. The Carthaginian naval contingent was totally defeated after a surprise attack by the Roman ships, losing 29 ships and the control of seas around Iberia. The reputation of the Romans was further enhanced in Iberia after this victory, causing rebellion among some of the Iberian tribes under Carthaginian control.


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Battle of Geronium | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   12

Battle of Geronium

217 BCE Jun 1

Molise, Italy



The Battle of Geronium or Gerunium took place during the Second Punic War, where a large skirmish and battle took place in the summer and autumn of 217 BC respectively.


After winning the Battle of Ager Falernus, the army of Hannibal marched north then east towards Molise through Samnium. Hannibal was cautiously followed by the Roman army under the dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, keeping with the Fabian strategy. This policy was becoming unpopular in Rome, and Fabius was compelled to return to Rome to defend his actions under the guise of observing religious obligations.


Marcus Minucius Rufus, who was left in command managed to catch the Carthaginians off guard near their camp in Geronium and inflict severe losses on them in a large skirmish, while 5,000 Romans were killed. This action caused the Romans, disgruntled with Fabius, to elevate Minucius to the equal rank of the dictator. Minucius took command of half the army and camped separately from Fabius near Geronium. Hannibal, informed of this development, laid an elaborate trap, which drew out Minucius and his army in detail, and then attacked it from all sides. The timely arrival of Fabius with the other half of the army enabled Minucius to escape, but with a substantial number of Romans killed. After the battle, Minucius turned over his army to Fabius and resumed the duties of Master of Horse.


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Battle of Lake Trasimene | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   13

Battle of Lake Trasimene

217 BCE Jun 21

Lago Trasimeno, Province of Pe



After the Battle of Trebia, there was shock when news of the defeat reached Rome, but this calmed once Sempronius arrived, to preside over the consular elections in the usual manner. The consuls-elect recruited further legions, both Roman and from Rome's Latin allies; reinforced Sardinia and Sicily against the possibility of Carthaginian raids or invasion; placed garrisons at Tarentum and other places for similar reasons; built a fleet of 60 quinqueremes; and established supply depots at Ariminum and Arretium in preparation for marching north later in the year. Two armies – of four legions each, two Roman and two allied, but with stronger than usual cavalry contingents – were formed. One was stationed at Arretium and one on the Adriatic coast; they would be able to block Hannibal's possible advance into central Italy and be well positioned to move north to operate in Cisalpine Gaul.


The following spring the Romans positioned two armies, one on each side of the Apennines, but were surprised when the Carthaginians crossed the mountains by a difficult but unguarded route. The Carthaginians moved south into Etruria, plundering, razing the villages and killing all adult males encountered. Flaminius, in charge of the nearest Roman army, set off in pursuit. Hannibal arranged an ambush on the north shore of Lake Trasimene and trapped the Romans, killing or capturing all 25,000 of them. Several days later the Carthaginians wiped out the entire cavalry of the other Roman army, who were not yet aware of the disaster. This destruction of an entire army as a result of ambush by an entire other army is widely considered a unique occurrence. The Carthaginians continued their march through Etruria, then crossed to Umbria and marched south into Apulia, in the hope of winning over some of the ethnic Greek and Italic city-states of southern Italy.


News of the defeat caused a panic in Rome and led to the election of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus as dictator, but, impatient with his "Fabian strategy" of avoiding pitched conflict and relying instead on guerrilla tactics, the next year the Romans elected Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro as consuls. These more aggressive commanders engaged Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE, a third disaster for Rome that was followed by thirteen more years of war.



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Fabian strategy
Celtiberian Warriors | ©Angus McBride


CHAPTER   14

Fabian strategy

217 BCE Jul 1 - 216 BCE Aug 1

Italy



After the Battle of Lake Trasimene, the prisoners were badly treated if they were Romans; the Latin allies who were captured were well treated by the Carthaginians and many were freed and sent back to their cities, in the hope they would speak well of Carthaginian martial prowess and of their treatment. Hannibal hoped some of these allies could be persuaded to defect. The Carthaginians continued their march through Etruria, then Umbria, to the Adriatic coast, then turned south into Apulia, in the hope of winning over some of the ethnic Greek and Italic city states of southern Italy.


News of the defeat again caused a panic in Rome. Quintus Fabius Maximus was elected dictator by the Roman Assembly and adopted the "Fabian strategy" of avoiding pitched battles, relying instead on low-level harassment to wear the invader down, until Rome could rebuild its military strength. Hannibal was left largely free to ravage Apulia for the next year. Fabius was not popular among the soldiers, the Roman public or the Roman elite, since he avoided battle while Italy was being devastated by the enemy and his tactics would not lead to a quick end to the war.Hannibal marched through the richest and most fertile provinces of Italy, hoping the devastation would draw Fabius into battle, but Fabius refused.


The Roman populace derided Fabius as the Cunctator ("the Delayer") and at the elections of 216 BC elected new consuls: Gaius Terentius Varro, who advocated pursuing a more aggressive war strategy, and Lucius Aemilius Paullus, who advocated a strategy somewhere between Fabius's and that suggested by Varro. In the spring of 216 BC Hannibal seized the large supply depot at Cannae on the Apulian plain. The Roman Senate authorized the raising of double-sized armies by Varro and Paullus, a force of 86,000 men, the largest in Roman history up to that point.


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Battle of Ager Falernus | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   15

Battle of Ager Falernus

217 BCE Sep 1

Campania, Italy



The Battle of Ager Falernus was a skirmish during the Second Punic War between the armies of Rome and Carthage. After winning the Battle of Lake Trasimene in Italy in 217 BC, the army commanded by Hannibal marched south and reached Campania. The Carthaginians ultimately moved into the district of Falernum, a fertile river valley surrounded by mountains.


Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, who had been elected Roman dictator and commander of the Roman field forces after the disastrous defeat at Lake Trasimene, had dogged Hannibal and stuck to a strategy to fight only under favourable conditions. He now occupied all the river crossings and mountain passes leading out of the valley, thus blocking the Carthaginians inside.


After stripping the area of grain, cattle, and other supplies, Hannibal displayed brilliant tactics to provoke the Roman guard to leave one of the passes. Despite the protests of his staff officers, Fabius, who was camped near the pass with his main forces, refused to attack the Carthaginian army and it escaped the trap unscathed.


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Battle of Silva Litana | ©HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   16

Battle of Silva Litana

216 BCE Jan 1

Rimini, Province of Rimini, It



The Gallic Boii surprised and destroyed a Roman army of 25,000 men under the consul-elect Lucius Postumius Albinus and destroyed the Roman army, with only ten men surviving the ambush, a few prisoners were taken by the Gauls and Postumius was killed, his corpse was decapitated and his skull was covered with gold and used as a ceremonial cup by the Boii. News of this military disaster, reaching Rome probably after the election of consuls for 215 BC in Spring 215 BC or after the defeat at Cannae in the fall of 216 BC, triggered a renewed panic in Rome and forced the Romans to postpone military operations against the Gauls until the conclusion of the Second Punic War. Rome decided to focus on defeating Hannibal and sent only two legions to guard against any possible Gallic attack, however, the Boii and Insubres did not attack the Romans to exploit their victory. Cisalpine Gaul remained in relative peace until 207 BC, when Hasdrubal Barca arrived in Cisapline Gaul with his army from Spain. tribes, namely the Veneti, and the Cenomani, in 224 BC. The Romans next defeated Insubres at Accrrae, then in the Battle of Clastidium in 223 BC and their capital Mediolanum was taken in 222 BC, leading to their surrender.


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Capua allies with the Carthaginians


CHAPTER   17

Capua allies with the Carthaginians

216 BCE Jun 1

Capua, Province of Caserta, It



Several of the city states in southern Italy allied themselves with Hannibal, or were captured when pro-Carthaginian factions betrayed their defences. Two of the major Samnite tribes also joined the Carthaginian cause. By 214 BC the bulk of southern Italy had turned against Rome.


The greatest gain was the second largest city of Italy, Capua, when Hannibal's army marched into Campania in 216 BC. The inhabitants of Capua held limited Roman citizenship and the aristocracy was linked to the Romans via marriage and friendship, but the possibility of becoming the supreme city of Italy after the evident Roman disasters proved too strong a temptation. The treaty between them and Hannibal can be described as an agreement of friendship, since the Capuans had no obligations. When the port city of Locri defected to Carthage in the summer of 215 BC it was immediately used to reinforce the Carthaginian forces in Italy with soldiers, supplies and war elephants. It was the only time during the war Carthage reinforced Hannibal. A second force, under Hannibal's youngest brother Mago, was meant to land in Italy in 215 BC but was diverted to Iberia after a major Carthaginian defeat there.







Battle of Cannae | © HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   18

Battle of Cannae

216 BCE Aug 2

Cannae, Province of Barletta-A



Having recovered from their losses at Trebia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), the Romans decided to engage Hannibal at Cannae, with approximately 86,000 Roman and allied troops. They massed their heavy infantry in a deeper formation than usual, while Hannibal used the double envelopment tactic and surrounded his enemy, trapping the majority of the Roman army, who were then slaughtered. The loss of life on the Roman side meant it was one of the most lethal single days of fighting in history. Only about 15,000 Romans, most of whom were from the garrisons of the camps and had not taken part in the battle, escaped death. Following the defeat, Capua and several other Italian city-states defected from the Roman Republic to Carthage.


As news of this defeat reached Rome, the city was gripped in panic. Authorities resorted to extraordinary measures, which included consulting the Sibylline Books, dispatching a delegation led by Quintus Fabius Pictor to consult the Delphic oracle in Greece, and burying four people alive as a sacrifice to their gods.


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Battle of Hibera | © HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   19

Battle of Ibera

215 BCE Apr 1

Tortosa, Spain



Hasdrubal spent the rest of 217 BC and all of 216 BC subduing rebellious indigenous Iberian tribes, largely in the south. Under pressure from Carthage to reinforce Hannibal, and having been strongly reinforced, Hasdrubal marched north again in early 215 BC. Meanwhile, Scipio, who had also been reinforced, and joined by his brother Publius, had crossed the Ebro to besiege the Carthaginian-aligned town of Ibera. Hasdrubal approached and offered battle, which the Scipios accepted. Both armies were of similar sizes, about 25,000 men. When they clashed, the centre of Hasdrubal's army – which consisted of locally recruited Iberians – fled without fighting. The Roman legions pushed through the gap, turned to each side against the remaining Carthaginian infantry and enveloped them. Both sides are reported to have suffered heavy casualties; the Carthaginians' may have been very heavy. The Carthaginian camp was sacked, but Hasdrubal escaped with most of his cavalry.


The Scipio brothers continued with their policy of subjugating the Iberian tribes and raiding Carthaginian possessions. Hasdrubal lost the opportunity to reinforce Hannibal when he was at the peak of his success and an army that was ready to sail to Italy was diverted to Iberia. This effect on potential reinforcements for Hannibal has caused the historian Klaus Zimmermann to state "the Scipios' victory ... may well have been the decisive battle of the war".


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First Battle of Herdonia


CHAPTER   20

First Battle of Herdonia

214 BCE Jan 1

Ordona, Province of Foggia, It



The first Battle of Herdonia was fought in 212 BC during the Second Punic War between Hannibal's Carthaginian army and Roman forces led by Praetor Gnaeus Fulvius Flaccus, brother of the consul. The Roman army was destroyed, leaving Apulia free of Romans for the year.


In the span of a few weeks, Hannibal had killed 31,000 Roman and allied soldiers in two battles in Campania and Apulia. After the Herdonia battle, Hannibal marched south towards Tarentum, where the Romans were besieged in the citadel while the town had fallen to Carthaginian allies earlier in 212 BC. The Roman senate decided to raise four new legions to send to Apulia. The Roman consuls then marched nearer to Capua, intent on blockading the city totally.


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First Macedonian War


CHAPTER   21

First Macedonian War

214 BCE Jan 1 - 205 BCE

Macedonia



During 216 BC the Macedonian king, Philip V, pledged his support to Hannibal – thus initiating the First Macedonian War against Rome in 215 BC. The Romans were concerned that the Macedonians would attempt to cross the Strait of Otranto and land in Italy. They strongly reinforced their navy in the area and despatched a legion to stand guard, and the threat petered out. In 211 BC Rome contained the Macedonians by allying with the Aetolian League, an anti-Macedonian coalition of Greek city states. In 205 BC this war ended with a negotiated peace.


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Battle of Beneventum


CHAPTER   22

Battle of Beneventum

214 BCE Jan 1

Benevento, Province of Beneven



An important part of Hannibal's campaign in Italy was to attempt to fight the Romans by using local resources; raising recruits from among the local population. His subordinate Hanno was able to raise troops in Samnium in 214 BC. Roman legions under Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus defeated Hanno's Carthaginian forces in the battle of Beneventum, denying Hannibal reinforcements.


The ensuing onslaught led to the total destruction of Hanno's army and the capture of his camp; less than 2,000 of his men escaped with their lives, including Hanno. Gracchus, after the battle, proceeded into Lucania, in order to prevent Hanno from raising another army in this area and using it to reinforce Hannibal. Gracchus was eventually able to push Hanno into Bruttium as a result of his victory outside of Beneventum.


Being robbed of the prospect of badly needed reinforcements, Hannibal was forced to come to terms with the fact that he would be unable to conduct a successful campaign in Campania. Hannibal could win allies, but defending them against the Romans was a new and difficult problem, as the Romans could still field multiple armies, which in total greatly outnumbered his own forces.


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Battle of Nola, 216 BC | © HistoryMarche


CHAPTER   23

Battle of Nola

214 BCE Jan 1

Nola, Metropolitan City of Nap



The Third Battle of Nola was fought in 214 BC between Hannibal and a Roman army led by Marcus Claudius Marcellus. It was Hannibal's third attempt to take the town of Nola. Once again, Marcellus successfully prevented the town's capture.


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Syracuse rebels against Rome
Hiero II of Syracuse calls Archimedes to fortify the city by Sebastiano Ricci (1720s).


CHAPTER   24

Syracuse rebels against Rome

213 BCE Apr 1 - 212 BCE Jun

Syracuse, Province of Syracuse



In 215 BC, Hiero's grandson, Hieronymus, came to the throne on his grandfather's death and Syracuse fell under the influence of an anti-Roman faction, including two of his uncles, amongst the Syracusan elite.


Despite diplomatic attempts, war broke out between the Roman Republic and the Kingdom of Syracuse in 214 BC, while the Romans were still busy battling with Carthage at the height of the Second Punic War (218–201 BC).


A Roman force led by the proconsul Marcus Claudius Marcellus consequently laid siege to the port city by sea and land in 213 BC. The city of Syracuse, located on the eastern coast of Sicily was renowned for its significant fortifications, great walls that protected the city from attack. Among the Syracuse defenders was the mathematician and scientist Archimedes.


A large Carthaginian army led by Himilco was sent to relieve the city in 213 BC and several further Sicilian cities deserted the Romans. In the spring of 212 BC the Romans stormed Syracuse in a surprise night assault and captured several districts of the city. Meanwhile, the Carthaginian army was crippled by plague. After the Carthaginians failed to resupply the city, the rest of Syracuse fell in the autumn of 212 BC; Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier.


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Battle of the Silarus


CHAPTER   25

Battle of the Silarus

212 BCE Jan 1

Sele, Province of Salerno, Ita



The Battle of the Silarus was fought in 212 BC between Hannibal's army and a Roman force led by centurion Marcus Centenius Penula. The Carthaginians were victorious, destroying the entire Roman army and killing 15,000 Roman soldiers in the process.


After the battle, Hannibal did not pursue the army of Claudius. Instead, he marched east into Apulia, where a Roman army under Praetor Gnaeus Flavius Flaccus was operating against towns allied to Carthage. The Roman consular armies, free of Hannibal, united and resumed their harassment of Capua. Hanno the Elder remained in Bruttium.


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Siege of Capua


CHAPTER   26

Siege of Capua

211 BCE Jan 1

Capua, Province of Caserta, It



Hannibal had made Capua his winter quarter in 215 BC, and had conducted his campaigns against Nola and Casilinum from there. The Romans had attempted to march on Capua several times since its defection but were thwarted by the return of Hannibal's army rushing to its defence. 212 BC saw them investing the city for a siege, undeterred by the loss of some 16,000 men to Hannibal at the Battle of Herdonia. The siege continued into 211 BC, while Hannibal was busy in the south of Italia, the Romans employing innovative use of light-armed troops (velites) to ward off forays by the Capuan cavalry.


Hannibal attempted to relieve Capua by breaking through the Roman siege-lines; and when this failed, he tried to break the siege by marching on Rome itself, hoping that the threat would force the Roman army to break off the siege and march back to Rome to defend it. Once the Roman army was in the open, he would then turn to engage it in a pitched battle and defeat them once again, freeing Capua from the threat. However, Hannibal found the defences of Rome too formidable for an assault and as he had only planned this movement as a feint, he lacked both the supplies and equipment for a siege. The Roman besiegers of Capua, knowing this, ignored his march on Rome and refused to break off their siege, though Livy reports that a select relief force did march from Capua to Rome. His feint having failed, Hannibal was forced to retreat south and Capua unrelieved fell to the Romans shortly afterwards.



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CHAPTER   27

Carthage sends reinforcement to Sicily

211 BCE Jan 1

Sicily, Italy



Carthage sent more reinforcements to Sicily in 211 BC and went on the offensive. In 211 BC, Hannibal sent a force of Numidian cavalry to Sicily, which was led by the skilled Liby-Phoenician officer Mottones, who inflicted heavy losses on the Roman army through hit-and-run attacks. A fresh Roman army attacked the main Carthaginian stronghold on the island, Agrigentum, in 210 BC and the city was betrayed to the Romans by a discontented Carthaginian officer. The remaining Carthaginian-controlled towns then surrendered or were taken through force or treachery and the Sicilian grain supply to Rome and its armies was resumed.


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Romans lose in Iberia: Battle of the Upper Baetis


CHAPTER   28

Romans lose in Iberia: Battle of the Upper Baetis

211 BCE Jan 1

Guadalquivir, Spain



The Carthaginians suffered a wave of defections of local Celtiberian tribes to Rome. The Roman commanders captured Saguntum in 212 BC and in 211 BC hired 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries to reinforce their army. Observing that the three Carthaginian armies were deployed apart from each other, the Romans split their forces. This strategy resulted in the battle of Castulo and the battle of Ilorca, usually referred to jointly as the battle of the Upper Baetis. Both battles ended in complete defeat for the Romans, as Hasdrubal had bribed the Romans' mercenaries to desert.


The Roman fugitives fled north of the Ebro, where they eventually gathered a hodge-podge army of 8,000–9,000 soldiers. The Carthaginian commanders made no coordinated attempts to wipe out these survivors and then send help to Hannibal. In late 211 BC, Rome sent 13,100 troops under Claudius Nero to reinforce its forces in Iberia. Neither did Nero score any spectacular victories nor the Carthaginians launch any coordinated assault on the Romans in Iberia.


With the Carthaginian armies in Iberia failing to eliminate the Romans, Hannibal would not get any reinforcements from Iberia during the crucial year of 211 BC, when the Romans were besieging Capua.


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Second Battle of Herdonia


CHAPTER   29

Second Battle of Herdonia

210 BCE Jan 1

Ordona, Province of Foggia, It



The second battle of Herdonia took place in 210 BC during the Second Punic War. Hannibal, leader of the Carthaginians, who had invaded Italy eight years earlier, encircled and destroyed a Roman army which was operating against his allies in Apulia. The heavy defeat increased the war's burden on Rome and, piled on previous military disasters (such as Lake Trasimene, Cannae, and others), aggravated the relations with her exhausted Italian allies. For Hannibal the battle was a tactical success, but did not halt for long the Roman advance. Within the next three years the Romans reconquered most of the territories and cities lost at the beginning of the war and pushed the Carthaginian general to the southwestern end of the Apennine peninsula. The battle was the last Carthaginian victory of the war; all battles which followed were either inconclusive or Roman victories.


The victory did not bring strategic advantages to Hannibal. Judging that in the long run he could not retain Herdonia, the Carthaginian general decided to resettle its population in Metapontum and Thurii to the south and destroy the city itself. Before that he set an example to other eventual traitors by executing some of the distinguished citizens who had conspired to betray Herdonia to Centumalus. For the rest of the summer he was forced to fight off the second Roman army. The next battle with Marcellus at Numistro was inconclusive and Hannibal was unable to regain the positions lost at the beginning of the campaign.


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Scipio in Spain: Battle of Cartagena


CHAPTER   30

Scipio in Spain: Battle of Cartagena

210 BCE Jan 1

Cartagena, Spain



The Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus sailed to Spain (Iberia) in middle 210 BC, and spent the early part of the winter organizing his army (the total force in Spain was approximately 30,000 men) and planning his assault on New Carthage. With the arrival of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, the son of Publius Scipio, with another 10,000 troops in 210 BC, the Carthaginians would come to regret their earlier inaction when engaged in the Battle of Cartagena in 209 BC.


Opposing him were the three Carthaginian generals (Hasdrubal Barca, Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco), who were on bad terms with each other, geographically scattered (Hasdrubal Barca in central Spain, Mago near Gibraltar and Hasdrubal near the mouth of the Tagus river), and at least 10 days away from New Carthage. The Roman campaign was conducted in winter to capture new Carthage using the element of surprise. The Battle of Cartagena in 209 BC was a successful Roman assault.


With the fall of New Carthage, the Romans forced the Carthaginians to surrender the entire eastern coast of Spain, as well as capturing a large amount of military stores and the silver mines located nearby.


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Battle of Tarentum


CHAPTER   31

Battle of Tarentum

209 BCE Jan 1

Tarentum, Province of Taranto,



The Battle of Tarentum of 209 BC was a battle in the Second Punic War. The Romans, led by Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, recaptured the city of Tarentum that had betrayed them in the first Battle of Tarentum in 212 BC. This time the commander of the city, Carthalo, turned against the Carthaginians, and supported the Romans.


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Battle of Canusium


CHAPTER   32

Battle of Canusium

209 BCE Apr 1

Apulia, Italy



A larger Roman offensive, of which it was a part, aimed to subjugate and to punish cities and tribes that had abandoned the alliance with Rome after the Battle of Cannae, and to narrow the base of the Carthaginian leader, Hannibal, in southern Italy.


The battle of Canusium was an episode of the years-long contest between Hannibal and the Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus for control over that territory. As neither side gained a decisive victory and both suffered considerable losses (up to 14,000 killed overall), the outcome of this engagement was open to differing interpretations by both ancient and modern historians. While Marcellus took a heavy blow at Canusium, he nevertheless checked for some time the movements of the main Punic forces and thus contributed to the simultaneous Roman successes against Hannibal's allies in Magna Graecia and Lucania.


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Battle of Baecula


CHAPTER   33

Battle of Baecula

208 BCE Apr 1

Santo Tomé, Jaén, Spain



The Battle of Baecula was a major field battle in Iberia during the Second Punic War. Roman Republican and Iberian auxiliary forces under the command of Scipio Africanus routed the Carthaginian army of Hasdrubal Barca.


After the battle, Hasdrubal led his depleted army (mainly formed by Celtiberian mercenaries and Gallic warriors) over the western passes of the Pyrenees into Gaul, and subsequently into Italy in an attempt to join his brother Hannibal. Scipio's failure to stop Hasdrubal's march to Italy was criticized by the Roman Senate. Scipio did not exploit his victory at Baecula to drive out the Carthaginians from Iberia, instead choosing to withdraw to his base at Tarraco. He secured alliances with many of the Iberian tribes, who switched sides after the Roman successes at Carthago Nova and Baecula. Carthaginian reinforcements landed in Iberia in 207 BC, and would soon launch a final attempt to recover their losses at the Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC.


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Hasdrubal joins Hannibal in Italy
Hadrubal crosses the Alps


CHAPTER   34

Hasdrubal joins Hannibal in Italy

207 BCE Jan 1

Rhone-Alpes, France



After the Battle of Baecula, Hasdrubal withdrew the majority of his army in good order; most of his losses were among his Iberian allies. Scipio was not able to prevent Hasdrubal from leading his depleted army over the western passes of the Pyrenees into Gaul. In 207 BC, after recruiting heavily in Gaul, Hasdrubal crossed the Alps into Italy in an attempt to join his brother, Hannibal.


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Rome gains supremacy in Italy: Battle of the Metaurus


CHAPTER   35

Rome gains supremacy in Italy: Battle of the Metaurus

207 BCE Jun 23

Metauro, Province of Pesaro an



In the spring of 207 BC, Hasdrubal Barca marched across the Alps and invaded northern Italy with an army of 35,000 men. His aim was to join his forces with those of his brother, Hannibal, but Hannibal was unaware of his presence. The Roman armies were led by the consuls Marcus Livius, who was later nicknamed the Salinator, and Gaius Claudius Nero.


The Romans facing Hannibal in southern Italy tricked him into believing the whole Roman army was still in camp, while a large portion marched north and reinforced the Romans facing Hasdrubal. Claudius Nero had just fought Hannibal in Grumentum, some hundreds of kilometres south of the Metaurus river, and reached Marcus Livius by a forced march that went unnoticed by both Hannibal and Hasdrubal, so that the Carthaginians suddenly found themselves outnumbered. In the battle, the Romans used their numerical superiority to outflank the Carthaginian army and rout them, the Carthaginians losing 15,400 men killed or captured, including Hasdrubal.


The battle confirmed Roman supremacy over Italy. Without Hasdrubal's army to support him, Hannibal was compelled to evacuate pro-Carthaginian towns in much of southern Italy in the face of Roman pressure and withdraw to Bruttium, where he would remain for the next four years.


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Numidian prince Masinissa joins Rome


CHAPTER   36

Numidian prince Masinissa joins Rome

206 BCE Jan 1

Algeria



In 213 BC Syphax, a powerful Numidian king in North Africa, declared for Rome. In response Carthaginian troops were sent to North Africa from Spain. In 206 BC the Carthaginians ended this drain on their resources by dividing several Numidian kingdoms with Syphax. One of those disinherited was the Numidian prince Masinissa, who was thus driven into the arms of Rome.


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Rome takes Spain: Battle of Ilipa


CHAPTER   37

Rome takes Spain: Battle of Ilipa

206 BCE Apr 1

Seville, Spain



The Battle of Ilipa was an engagement considered by many as Scipio Africanus’s most brilliant victory in his military career during the Second Punic War in 206 BC.


Though it may not seem to be as original as Hannibal’s tactic at Cannae, Scipio's pre-battle maneuver and his reverse Cannae formation stands as the acme of his tactical ability, in which he forever broke the Carthaginian hold in Iberia, thus denying any further land invasion into Italy and cutting off a rich base for the Barca dynasty both in silver and manpower.


After the battle, Hasdrubal Gisco departed for Africa to visit the powerful Numidian king Syphax, in whose court he was met by Scipio, who was also courting the favor of the Numidians. Mago Barca fled to the Balearics, whence he would sail to Liguria and attempt an invasion of northern Italy.


After his final subjugation of Carthaginian Iberia and revenge upon the Iberian chieftains, whose betrayal had led to the death of his father and uncle, Scipio returned to Rome. He was elected consul in 205 BC with a near-unanimous nomination, and after receiving the Senate's consent, he would have the control of Sicily as proconsul, from where his invasion of the Carthaginian homeland would be realized.



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Roman invasion of Africa
Roman invasion of Africa | ©Peter Dennis


CHAPTER   38

Roman invasion of Africa

204 BCE Jan 1 - 201 BCE

Cirta, Algeria



In 205 BC Publius Scipio was given command of the legions in Sicily and allowed to enrol volunteers for his plan to end the war by an invasion of Africa. After landing in Africa in 204 BC, he was joined by Masinissa and a force of Numidian cavalry. Scipio twice gave battle and destroyed two large Carthaginian armies. After the second encounter Syphax was pursued and taken prisoner by Masinissa at the battle of Cirta; Masinissa then seized most of Syphax's kingdom with Roman help.


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Battle of Crotona


CHAPTER   39

Battle of Crotona

204 BCE Jan 1

Crotone, Italy



The battle or, more precisely, the battles of Croton in 204 and 203 BC were, as well as the raid in Cisalpine Gaul, the last larger scale engagements between the Romans and the Carthaginians in Italy during the Second Punic War. After Hannibal’s retreat to Bruttium due to the Metaurus debacle, the Romans continuously tried to block his forces from gaining access to the Ionian Sea and cut his eventual escape to Carthage by capturing Croton. The Carthaginian commander struggled to retain his hold on the last efficient port which had remained in his hands after years of fighting and was ultimately successful.


As Scipio had predicted, despite all Hannibal's efforts, the struggle between Rome and Carthage was decided out of Italy. The Roman general inflicted several heavy defeats on the Carthaginians in Africa and they appealed for help. Whilst Hannibal was still in Bruttium, his brother Mago was repulsed and mortally wounded in a battle in Northern Italy. The remainder of Mago's forces returned to Carthage and joined Hannibal to stand against Scipio at Zama.


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Battle of the Great Plains


CHAPTER   40

Battle of the Great Plains

203 BCE Jan 1

Oued Medjerda, Tunisia



The Battle of the Great Plains (Latin: Campi Magni) was a battle between a Roman army commanded by Scipio Africanus and a combined Carthaginian-Numidian army late in the Second Punic War. It was fought on the plains south of Bulla Regia around the upper Bagradas River (the classical name of the Medjerda).


Following the battle, the Carthaginians had little choice but to sue for peace with Rome. Scipio proposed modest terms for the Carthaginians in a peace treaty, but while the Carthaginians were still considering the treaty, they suddenly decided to recall Hannibal, who had an army of elite veterans loyal to his command, from Italy, for one more stand against Rome in an encounter that would became the Battle of Zama, which ended the Second Punic War and completed the legend of Scipio Africanus, who had become one of Rome's greatest generals.


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Battle of Cirta


CHAPTER   41

Battle of Cirta

203 BCE Jan 1

Cirta, Algeria



The Battle of Cirta was a battle during the Second Punic War between the forces of the Massyli King Massinissa and the Masaesyli King, Syphax.


On the orders of Roman general Scipio Africanus, his most able commander, Gaius Laelius and his ally king Masinissa, followed Syphax's retreat to the town of Cirta, wherein Syphax garnered fresh forces to meet the two generals in the open. He proceeded to organise them on the Roman model, hoping to copy the continuous success of Scipio on the battlefield; he had a force large enough to take on the Romans, but nearly all of his soldiers were raw recruits. The first encounter was between the two opposing cavalry units, and though the battle was initially hard-fought, when the Roman infantry line reinforced the intervals of their cavalry, Syphax's green troops broke and fled. Syphax, seeing his force crumbling, sought to inspire his men into regrouping by riding forward and exposing himself to danger. In this gallant attempt, he was unhorsed and made prisoner, and failed to rally his troops.


The Roman force pushed on to Cirta, and gained control of the town merely by showing the African leader in chains. Scipio's foothold in Africa was all but assured, and with the Carthaginian general Hannibal soon returning from Italy, the Battle of Zama would soon follow.


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Mago dies: Battle of Insubria


CHAPTER   42

Mago dies: Battle of Insubria

203 BCE Jan 1

Insubria, Varese, VA, Italy



In 205 BC, Mago landed in Genua in north-west Italy with the remnants of his Spanish army in an effort to keep the Romans busy to the North and thus hamper indirectly their plans to invade Carthage's hinterland in Africa (modern Tunisia). He was quite successful in reigniting the unrest among various peoples (Ligurians, Gauls, Etruscans) against the Roman dominance. It soon received Gallic and Ligurian reinforcements.


Mago marched his reinforced army towards the lands of Carthage's main Gallic allies in the Po Valley. Rome was forced to concentrate large forces against him which finally resulted in a battle fought in the land of the Insubres (Lombardy). Mago suffered defeat and had to retreat. The strategy to divert the enemy's forces failed as the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio laid waste to Africa and wiped out the Carthaginian armies that were sent to destroy the invader.


To counter Scipio, the Carthaginian government recalled Mago from Italy (along with his brother Hannibal, who had been in Bruttium until then). However, the remnants of the Carthaginian forces in Cisalpine Gaul continued to harass the Romans for several years after the end of the war.


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Battle of Zama | ©Epimetheus


CHAPTER   43

Battle of Zama

202 BCE Oct 19

Siliana, Tunisia



The Battle of Zama was fought in 202 BC near Zama, now in Tunisia, and marked the end of the Second Punic War. A Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio, with crucial support from Numidian leader Masinissa, defeated the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal. After defeating Carthaginian and Numidian armies at the battles of Utica and the Great Plains, Scipio imposed peace terms on the Carthaginians, who had no choice but to accept them. At the same time, the Carthaginians recalled Hannibal's army from Italy. Confident in Hannibal's forces, the Carthaginians broke the armistice with Rome. Scipio and Hannibal confronted each other near Zama Regia. Hannibal had 36,000 infantry to Scipio's 29,000. One third of Hannibal's army were citizen levies, and the Romans had 6,100 cavalry to Carthage's 4,000, as most of the Numidian cavalry that Hannibal had employed with great success in Italy had defected to the Romans. Hannibal also employed 80 war elephants. The elephants opened the battle by charging the main Roman army.



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CHAPTER   44

Epilogue

201 BCE Jan 1

Carthage, Tunisia



The peace treaty the Romans subsequently imposed on the Carthaginians stripped them of all of their overseas territories and some of their African ones. An indemnity of 10,000 silver talents was to be paid over 50 years. Hostages were taken. Carthage was forbidden to possess war elephants and its fleet was restricted to 10 warships. It was prohibited from waging war outside Africa, and in Africa only with Rome's express permission. Many senior Carthaginians wanted to reject it, but Hannibal spoke strongly in its favour and it was accepted in spring 201 BC. Henceforth it was clear Carthage was politically subordinate to Rome. Scipio was awarded a triumph and received the agnomen "Africanus".


Rome's African ally, King Masinissa of Numidia, exploited the prohibition on Carthage waging war to repeatedly raid and seize Carthaginian territory with impunity. In 149 BC, fifty years after the end of the Second Punic War, Carthage sent an army, under Hasdrubal, against Masinissa, the treaty notwithstanding. The Third Punic War would begin soon after.


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