Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/666

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650
PUNIC WARS


boarding tactics. This victory left Rome free to land a force on Corsica and expel the Carthaginians (259), but did not suffice to loosen their grasp on Sicily.

After two more years of desultory warfare the Romans decided to carry the war into the enemy's home territory. A large armament sailed out in 256, repelled a vigorous attack by the entire Carthaginian fleet off Cape Ecnomus (near Agrigentum) and established a fortified camp on African soil at Clypea. The Carthaginians, whose citizen levy was utterly disorganized, could neither keep the field against the invaders nor prevent their subjects from revolting. A single campaign compelled them to sue for peace, but the terms which the Roman commander Atilius Regulus offered were intolerably harsh. Accordingly they equipped a new army in which, by the advice of a Greek captain of mercenaries named Xanthippus, cavalry and elephants formed the strongest arm. In 2 5 5, under Xanthippus's command, they offered battle to Regulus, who had taken up position with an inadequate force near Tunes, outmanoeuvred him and destroyed the bulk of his army. A second Roman armament, which subsequently reached Africa after defeating the full Carthaginian fleet off Cape Hermaeum, did not venture to reopen the campaign, but withdrew all the remaining troops. The Romans now directed their efforts once more against Sicily. In 254 they carried the important fortress of Panormus (Palermo) by an attack from the sea; but when Carthage threw reinforcements into the island the war again came to a standstill. In 2 SI at last the Roman general L. Metellus brought about a pitched battle near Panormusin which the enemy's force was effectively crippled. This victory was followed by an investment of the chief Punic base at Lilybaeum by land and sea. The besiegers met with a gallant resistance, and in 249 were compelled to withdraw by the loss of their fleet in a surprise attack upon the neighbouring harbour of Drepanum (Trapani), in which the admiral Claudius Pulcher was repulsed with a loss of Q3 ships. Meanwhile other losses in storms on the high seas so reduced the Roman fleet that the attack upon Sicily had to be suspended. At the same time the Carthaginians, who felt no less severely the financial strain of the prolonged struggle and had a war in Africa on their hands, reduced their armaments and made no attempt to deliver a counter-attack. The only noteworthy feature of the ensuing campaigns is the skilful guerilla war waged by a new Carthaginian commander, Hamilcar Barca, from his strong positions' on Mt Ercte (247-244) and Mt Eryx (244-242) in Western Sicily, by which he effectually screened Lilybaeum from the Roman land army. In 242 Rome resumed operations on sea. By a magnificent edort on the part of private citizens a fleet of 200 warships was equipped and sent out to renew the blockade of Lilybaeum. The Carthaginians hastily collected a relief force, but in a battle fought off the Aegates or Aegusae islands (west of Drepana) their fleet was caught at a disadvantage and mostly sunk or captured (March ro, 241). This victory, by giving the Romans undisputed command of the sea, rendered certain the ultimate fall of the Punic strongholds in Sicily. The Carthaginians accordingly opened negotiations and consented to a peace by which they ceded Sicily and the Lipari Islands to Rome and paid an indemnity of 3200 talents (about £800,000).

The Interval between the First and Second Wars (241—218 B.C.). — The loss of naval supremacy not only deprived Carthage of her predominance in the western Mediterranean, but exposed her oversea empire to disintegration under renewed attacks by Rome. The temper of the Roman people was soon made manifest during a conflict which broke out between the Carthaginians and their discontented mercenaries. Italian traders were allowed to traffic in munitions of war with the rnutineers, and a gross breach of the treaty was perpetrated when a Roman force was sent to occupy Sardinia, whose insurgent garrison had offered to surrender the island (2 39). To the remonstrances of Carthage the Romans replied with a direct declaration of war, and only withheld their attack upon the formal cession of Sardinia and Corsica. and the payment of a further indemnity. From this episode it became clear that Rome intended to use her victory to the utmost. To avoid complete humiliation Carthage had no resource but to humiliate her adversary. The recent complications of foreign and internal strife had indeed so weakened the Punic power that the prospect of renewing the war under favourable circumstances seemed remote enough. But the scheme of preparing for a fresh conflict found a worthy champion in Hamilcar Barca, who sought to compensate for the loss of Sicily by acquiring a dominion in Spain where Carthage might gain new wealth and form a fresh base of operations against Rome. Invested with an unrestricted foreign command, he spent the rest of his life in founding a Spanish empire (2 36-228). His work was continued by his son-in-law Hasdrubal and his son Hannibal, who was placed at the head of the army in 220. These conquests aroused the suspicions of Rome, which in a treaty with Hasdrubal confined the Carthaginians to the south of the Ebro, and also guaranteed the independence of Saguntum, a town on the east coast which pretended to a Greek origin. In 219 Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum and carried the town in spite of a stubborn defence. It has always been a debate able point whether his attack contravened the new treaty. The Romans certainly took this view and sent to Carthage to demand Hannibal's surrender. But his defiant policy was too popular to be disavowed; the Carthaginian council upheld Hannibal's action, and drew upon itself an immediate declaration of war.

Second Punto War (218—201 B.C.): a. The "Hannibalic" Wan-It seemed as though the superiority of the Romans at sea must enable them to choose the field of battle. They decided to embark one army for Spain and another for Sicily and Africa. But before their preparations were complete Hannibal began that series of operations by which he dictated the course of the war for the greater part of its duration. Realizing that so long as Rome commanded the resources of an undivided Italian Confederacy no foreign attack could beat her down beyond recovery, he conceived the plan of cutting off her supply of strength at the source by carrying the war into Italy and causing a disruption of the League. His chances of ever reaching Italy seemed small, for the sea was guarded by the Roman fleets and the land route was long and arduous. But the very boldness of his enterprise contributed to its success; after a six months march through Spain and Gaul and over the Alps, which the Romans were nowhere in time to oppose, Hannibal arrived in the plain of the Po with 20,000 foot and 6000 horse, the pick of his African and Spanish levies (autumn 218: for details see Hannibal).

His further advance was here disputed by some Roman troops which had been recalled from the Spanish expedition. But the superiority of the Carthaginian cavalry and the spread of insurrection among the Gaulish inhabitants forced the defenders to fallback upon the Apennines. At the end of the year the Roman army was reinforced by the division from Sicily and led out to battle on the banks of the Trebia. Hannibal, by superior tactics, repelled the assailants with heavy loss, and thus made his position in north Italy secure.

In 217 the campaign opened in Etruria, into which the invading army, largely reinforced by Gauls, penetrated by an unguarded pass. A rash pursuit by the Roman field force led to its being entrapped on the shore of Lake T rasimene and destroyed with a loss of 40,000 men. This catastrophe left Rome completely uncovered; but Hannibal, having resolved not to atta'ck the apital before he could collect a more overwhelming force, directed his march towards the south of Italy, where he hoped to stir up the peoples who had formerly been Rome's most stubborn enemies. The natives, however, were everywhere slow to join the Carthaginians, and a new Roman army under the dictator-Q. Fabius Maximus (" Cunctator "), which, without ever daring to close with Hannibal, persistently dogged his steps on his forays through Apulia and Campania, prevented his acquiring a permanent base of operations.

The eventful campaign of 216 was begun by a new aggressive move on the part of Rome. An exceptionally strong field army, estimated at 85,000 men, was sent forth in order to crush the Carthaginians in open battle. On a level plain near Cannae in