Mercenary War - Chronology of The War

Chronology of The War

241 BC

  • The First Punic War ends with the signing of terms between Carthage and Rome
  • Hamilcar Barca resigns his Sicilian command.
  • A mercenary army of some 20,000 is transported from Sicily to Carthaginian territory, by Gesco.
  • Mercenaries gather near Carthage, and are persuaded to withdraw to Sicca Veneria.
  • The mercenaries submit a demand to Hanno the Great for payment of their contracts.
  • Hanno attempts, unsuccessfully, to convince the mercenaries to accept less payment due to Carthage's impoverished post-war conditions.
  • Negotiations break down. The mercenaries take up arms, march on Tunis, occupy it, and threaten Carthage directly.
  • Given their position, the mercenaries inflate their demands and demand payment for the non-mercenary Libyan conscripts in the army as well. The Carthaginian government capitulates to all demands.
  • Gesco negotiates successfully with the mercenaries at Tunis.

240 BC

  • Fearing personal legal penalties under the Romans and Carthaginians, Spendius and Mathos raise dissent among the Libyan conscripts, and are appointed generals.
  • The mercenaries capture Gesco, starting the Mercenary War.
  • The Mercenaries manage to convince the Libyan towns to join the revolt against Carthage. Libyan forces besiege the towns of Utica and Hippacritae, who refuse to defect to the mercenaries.
  • Hanno the Great is given command of the Carthaginian forces.
  • The mercenaries defeat the Carthaginian armies under Hanno the Great at the Battle of Utica.
  • The mercenaries capture Sardinia.
  • Carthage awards to Hamilcar Barca joint command with Hanno.
  • Hamilcar raises the siege of Utica.
  • Hamilcar's armies defeat the mercenaries at the Battle of the Bagradas River.
  • Numidian mercenary leader Naravas defects to Hamilcar.
  • With the Numidian reinforcements (about 2,000 men), Hamilcar engages the mercenaries again, and again defeats them.
  • Hamilcar pardons his captured prisoners, accepting into his army anyone who will fight for Carthage, and exiling any who will not.

239 BC

  • Concerned that Hamilcar's leniency will encourage others to defect, Mathos and Spendius order the mutilation and execution of "about seven hundred" Carthaginian prisoners, including Gesco. With the mercenaries jointly guilty of atrocities, defectors dare not face Carthaginian justice under Hamilcar.
  • Hamilcar is appointed sole commander of the Carthaginian armies.
  • Utica revolts, attempting to secede from Carthage.
  • Carthage is besieged by the mercenary armies.
  • Carthage appeals to Hiero II of Syracuse for aid against the mercenaries.
  • Carthage appeals to Rome for aid against the mercenaries.
  • The mercenaries reject the efforts of the Roman mediators.

238 BC

  • Hamilcar strikes at the supply lines of the mercenary army besieging Carthage, forcing them to withdraw from the siege.
  • Hamilcar fights a series of running engagements with the mercenary armies, keeping them off-balance.
  • Hamilcar manages to force the mercenary armies into a box canyon at the Battle of "The Saw". The mercenaries are besieged, and are forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.
  • The mercenary leadership including Spendius attempts to surrender and is imprisoned by Hamilcar. The mercenary army attempts to fight its way out of the siege, and is totally defeated. Hamilcar executes some 40,000 rebel mercenaries.
  • Hamilcar's armies, along with those of Hannibal, reduce the rebel Libyan cities.
  • Hamilcar and Hannibal besiege Mathos' army at Tunis, and crucify the captured mercenary leaders in sight of the mercenary battlements.
  • Mathos exploits a weakness in Hannibal's defences, and launches an attack against his army, capturing Hannibal, and several other high ranking Carthaginians. The mercenaries then remove the bodies of the crucified mercenary leaders and crucify the Carthaginians in their place.
  • Carthaginian reinforcements led by Hanno the Great join the war.
  • Mathos' forces defeated, and Mathos himself captured.
  • Libyan settlements surrender to Carthage, with the exception of Utica and Hippacritae.
  • Hamilcar's army besieges and reduces Utica, while Hanno's does the same with Hippacritae (or other way around. Sources are not clear which general reduced which city).
  • The Romans declare war on the Carthaginians, after a dispute over Sardinia, and Carthaginian military preparations against Sardinia.
  • Carthage surrenders to Rome once again, rather than enter into another war, giving up any claim to Sardinia and Corsica, and adding another 1,200 talents to its debt to Rome.

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