logo for the-romans.eu

Ancient texts

Livius: (27.34-50)
(28.9, 38, 40-51)
(29.4,10,11,15,16,37) Polybius: (11.1-3, 31-33)

2nd Punic war
Italy 208-204 bc

 

retreat to previous page to next page
    War in Africa

Livius's talent for drama

As a result of the Licinian law there had to be elected one patrician and one plebeian as a consul. This year (207) this gave problems. One patrician, G. Claudius Nero, seemed to be a good consul It proved very difficult to find a good plebeian to complete the couple and the senate meant M. Livius (Salinator) would be a good candidate, even if these two men were not really on speaking terms. M. Livius appeared in a squalid dress, his hair and beard allowed to grow, and exhibiting in his countenance and attire the deep impression of the disgrace he had sustained (Livius 27.34) All this because, in his opinion, he had been unjust condemned after his victory over the Illyrians in 219 bc. But now he was proposed consul to the people and elected. All fully against his will but he obeyed and his star would rise (and fall) again. Another problem was the two men were also personal enemies. The senate made the two men reconcile. Livius was sent north with an army to await Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal, who by now would have reached the Alps with his army.

A new impulse in the Punic war: Hasdrubal passes the Alps

Hasdrubal who had cleverly waited for the spring before he crossed the Alps, made his move without any difficulty. The peoples he had to pass knew by now what the Punic war was about and he was not their enemy. It seem he even expanded his army with recruits of theirs. But sadly, for him, he had not the tactical genius of his brother and instead of hurrying his army to join his brother he waisted time by attacking and besieging Placentia. This delay gave Livius time to move his army in place.

 

Claudius Nero's revenge on Hasdrubal

Consul G. Claudius Nero was sent to South Italy to check Hannibal's moves. He dogged Hannibal's trail and attacked him at every not too risky opportunity. One day his men captured a messenger from Hasdrubal to Hannibal. When the message had been translated he knew Hasdrubal proposed his brother to join the armies in Umbria and to fight together in this war. In that same night Claudius Nero, who had not forgotten how Hasdrubal had humiliated him, left with a force of 6000 men to join Livius's army. He sneaked out to prevent Hannibal of following him. After some stretched marches and a lot of help from the cities he passed, he arrived at his colleague, who he had made known his coming. in the middle of the night. The next day Hasdrubal's army was beaten and Hasdrubal himself killed in the Battle of the Metaurus. A few days later Hasdrubal's head was thrown into Hannibal's camp. The senate granted both consuls a triumph, but since their combined operations and the fact Nero's troops had to remain in South Italy to check Hannibal, they also combined their triumph. This seemed to conclude the reconciliation of the two men; seemed.....
Romans attack barbarians

Romans attack barbarians
Museo Nazionale Romana

  Publius Cornelius Scipio

P. Cornelius Scipio
Museo Archeologico Napoli

P. Cornelius Scipio returns to Rome

After having beaten the Carthaginians in Spain and driven out all Carthaginians from the peninsula, P. Cornelius Scipio returned victorious to Rome. Because he had not been invested with any official magistracy, he was not granted a triumph. At the end of 206 bc he was elected consul, still very young. Because his colleague P. Licinius Crassus was also Pontifex Maximus and therefor not allowed to leave Italy, Sicily was assigned to Cornelius Scipio. He declared his wished to move the war to Africa and mount an invasion to Carthago. Senator Q. Fabius Maximus very much opposed this, because in his opinion, the Punic war had first to be ended in Italy; Hannibal had to be driven out of Italy first.

Cornelius Scipio wishes to move the Punic war to Africa

This caused very much discussion in the senate. In the end Cornelius Scipio declared he would comply with the senates decision and not evoke a plebiscite as was his right as a consul. He was not allowed to hold a levy and not granted any funds, but if he could find volunteers other other means that would cost the state of Rome no money, he was allowed to do so. 7000 volunteers joined him and many cities contributed materials for his fleet to be build. Within 7 weeks he had his fleet of 30 ships built and prepared and he left with his volunteers and ships for Sicily.

Mago arrives in Italy; next Carthaginian failure in the Punic war

In the same year 205 bc Mago, Hannibal's youngest brother, arrived at the North Italian shores with a fleet of 30 war ships and many cargo ships. With him arrived ca. 12000 foot and 2000 horse. Like his brother Hannibal in vain, he hoped for support from the Ligurian peoples. Like his brother hasrubal in vain, he failed to make a connection to Hannibal's army. Apart from these mistakes his army was seriously weakened by epidemic. Luckily for him the opposing Roman army suffered the same disease. Had this army arrived 10 years earlier, it would have made a dramatic difference. Now it was again too little and too late.

  Cybele

Cybele, Magna mater. Mother goddess
Altes Museum Berlin

The goddess Cybele is needed in Rome

Now the Roman people became hope for the victory in the Punic war and the Roman gods seemed not enough. Somehow (or was it really written in the sibylline books?) the idea of bringing a new goddess to Rome became popular and a mission was sent to King Attalus in Pergamum. After they visited the oracle in Delphi the arrived in Pergamum. King Attalus helped them to be handed a sacred stone that would contain the mother of all gods (Cybele). In 204 they would return in Rome, where the stone was welcomed by P. Cornelius Scipio,(son of Gnaeus (so a nephew of the Publius in Sicily) chosen by the senate as the best man in Roma like the oracle of Delphi had prescribed.

Punishments and rewards in the 2nd Punic war

The senate had not forgotten the 6 Latin cities, that by now had failed to attribute their soldiers for 6 years. The senate concluded they had to be forced to deliver the double amount of men they had ever contributed in one year. They also demanded an additional tax. The senators didn't forget to serve their own interests either. As they had payed a lot of the war effort out of their own pockets, they now arranged the payback of that money.

Quarreling censors

For some reason or another the two consuls in the year 207bc were both elected this year (204) as censor. They were supposed to have been reconciled in 207 but both proved this wasn't the case. Marcus Livius created a new tax on salt. It was said this was a revenge for his earlier conviction. For this he got the nickname Salinator (=salt maker). Both the censors made the other sell his horse and placed the other (very childish) in the lowest tax class. An attempt to impeach these failing censors by Gn. Baebius, a peoples tribune, failed, because the senate wouldn't allow the censorship to be at the mercy of the people.

retreat to previous page to next page
    War in Africa

footer for Romans  page