Mercenary War - Course of The War

Course of The War

Despite the more generous settlement, two mercenaries, Spendius and Mathos, organized a rebellion, based on speculation that after the foreigners left Africa, Carthage would be unwilling, or simply unable, to pay those remaining. In 240 BC Gesco and other officials were taken prisoner by the mercenary leadership and open warfare ensued.

The Libyan population, discontent with Carthaginian rule, supported the rebels. Carthage still had some mercenaries quartered in Tunis, and was also able to deploy the mercenaries still in Sicily and to hire fresh troops. Carthage initially organized an army consisting of mercenaries and citizens to which Hanno was given command. By the time Hanno moved onto the attack, the rebels had already blockaded Utica and Hippakra. Hanno engaged the rebels in the Battle of the Bagradas River which ended with a Carthaginian victory. Hamilcar then won a further victory with the aid of Navaras who had defected from the rebels.

As the war progressed, Hamilcar Barca was first given joint command with Hanno, and finally full command of Carthage's army. Even though he was vastly outnumbered and faced a hardened mercenary army which he himself had led against the Roman legions, Hamilcar displayed superior military leadership and clever use of psychology in the conflict. His talents eventually won over a portion of the mercenary armies to Carthage's side, and at the decisive Battle of "The Saw", Hamilcar destroyed the bulk of the rebel army, cunningly routing them into a steep ravine and blockading them there until they starved to death. With the aid of a Carthaginian general Hannibal (not the famous Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca), and reinforcements under the command of Hanno the Great, the remnants of the mercenaries were finally put down.

The conduct of the war was barbaric even by the standards of the time. Polybius called it a "truceless war", without any concept of rules of warfare and exceeding all other conflicts in cruelty, ending only with the total annihilation of one of the opponents.The conflict escalated when the mercenary leadership tortured and killed its Carthaginian prisoners and in response the Carthaginians committed similar actions. Gesco and 700 of his men had their arms and legs broken, their hands cut off, were castrated, and were thrown into a pit to die, according to Polybius. These atrocities were intended to prevent any possibility of a negotiated settlement, contributing to the "most impious war in history."

After the Battle of "The Saw" Spendius was captured and crucified. Matho was finally captured as well, and executed at Carthage after various tortures inflicted on him by a mob.

Read more about this topic:  Mercenary War

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