The Layman’s Historian

Episode 24 - Spartans and Elephants

June 17, 2018

With Carthage on the ropes after the Battle of Cape Ecnomus, the Romans landed on the Cape Bon Peninsula, a mere forty miles from Carthage, and began ravaging the rich countryside. Confident of victory, Regulus, the Roman consul in command, offered such harsh terms to the Carthaginians that they chose to continue fighting rather than submit to such a humiliating peace. All seemed lost until Xanthippus, a Spartan mercenary soldier who had recently arrived in Carthage, advised the Carthaginian generals of their mistakes and was subsequently promoted to drill the Carthaginian levies in Spartan fashion. Under his strict regime, the Carthaginian army was transformed overnight, and Xanthippus led them to battle against the Romans at Tunis. At the Battle of Tunis, the Carthaginians under Xanthippus inflicted a spectacular defeat on the Roman legionaries by using their new training, their superior cavalry, and their large corps of war elephants. Five hundred Romans, including Regulus, were captured, and only two thousand made their escape, leaving over twelve thousand Roman legionaries dead on the field. With their victory in Africa, Carthage was reinvigorated to fight another day. The First Punic War would continue.

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