The Layman’s Historian
Episode 26 - Hamilcar Barca and the End of Carthaginian Sicily

Episode 26 - Hamilcar Barca and the End of Carthaginian Sicily

July 28, 2018

With both Rome and Carthage exhausted by the constant strain of war, the Carthaginians dispatched the young Hamilcar Barca to take over a much-depleted command in Sicily. While Hanno the Great insisted on demobilizing the Carthaginian war fleet to save money and opened up new fronts against the Numidians in the African interior, Hamilcar led his meager army deep into enemy territory to conduct a guerrilla campaign against the Romans. Hamilcar would face a succession of Roman commanders, all of whom failed to dislodge him from the mountain strongholds he held in central Sicily. However, the war would be decided without him. The Romans managed to muster a final fleet thanks to private donations from her patriotic citizens, and in 241 BC, this new navy under the Consul Lutatius smashed a hastily raised Carthaginian fleet. Cut off from his homeland, Hamilcar was forced to enter into negotiations for peace. Carthage received stern terms which included an enormous war indemnity of 3,200 talents. With the ratification of the treaty, Hamilcar Barca and the last of the Carthaginian troops descended from the mountains and sailed home. Carthaginian Sicily was no more.

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Episode 25 - Gridlock

Episode 25 - Gridlock

June 30, 2018

Following the Battle of Tunis, the Carthaginians felt supremely confident in their newly revamped land forces and rebuilt navy. That confidence did not last, however. The Roman relief fleet sent to retrieve the survivors of Regulus' failed expedition trounced Carthage's war fleet once again, right before it was also destroyed in a cataclysmic storm. The next eight years saw the fortunes of each side vacillate back and forth with the Romans winning the Battle of Panormus by effectively countering the Carthaginian war elephants while the Carthaginian Admiral Adherbal managed to score Carthage's only significant naval victory of the war. Gridlock ensued, but the tedium of military stalemate would soon be relieved by a lightning bolt of a commander who would single-handedly seek to turn the war in Carthage's favor and save Carthaginian Sicily. Oh, and this episode also covers a dragon, so there's that.   

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Episode 24 - Spartans and Elephants

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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Episode 23 - Clash of the Titans

Episode 23 - Clash of the Titans

June 2, 2018

Bolstered by their early successes with their new battle fleet, the Romans determined to gamble everything for a decisive "killing blow" in order to bring Carthage to her knees. Equipping a massive armada, the Romans sailed to invade North Africa itself in an attempt to defeat Carthage on her home soil. However, a newly revamped Carthaginian fleet lay in wait to intercept the Romans near Ecnomus in southern Sicily. The resulting clash would go down as perhaps the largest naval battle of all time.

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Episode 22 - Rome takes to the Sea

Episode 22 - Rome takes to the Sea

May 20, 2018

With the fall of Acragas, the Romans realized that they now had an opportunity to wrest control of the whole of Sicily away from Carthage. In order to do so, however, they would have to challenge Carthage on her own element – the sea. Using a captured Carthaginian quinquereme as their template, the Romans initiated a startling shipbuilding initiative complete with training their crews to row on land while waiting for the ships to be constructed. Once upon the water, the Romans brought their own ingenuity to bear on the coming confrontation in the form of the corvus, a boarding bridge which turned a naval battle about maneuver into a land battle on floating platforms. With their new device, the Romans scored a decisive victory off the coast of Sicily near the city of Mylae, defeating the vaunted Carthaginian fleet in a head-to-head contest. Despite this, the war still threatened gridlock. A new plan was needed, a plan to strike Carthage on her home soil…

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Episode 21 - At Acragas

Episode 21 - At Acragas

May 5, 2018

Having drifted into the First Punic War, Rome and Carthage both marshaled their forces and shipped them to Sicily. The Carthaginians sought to establish the city of Acragas as their base of operations due to its strategic location in southern Sicily and proximity to Roman-controlled territory. Similarly, the Romans besieged Acragas to cut off the Carthaginians from this vital port. Under Hanno, a Carthaginian relief army complete with sixty elephants met the Roman legions in a full-scale battle which resulted in a costly Roman victory. As the Carthaginians retreated westward, the Roman Senate realized that Rome now had the opportunity to wrest Sicily from Carthage forever. Before she could do that, however, Rome would have to challenge Carthage on her own element: the Mediterranean Sea.

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Episode 20 - So It Begins

Episode 20 - So It Begins

April 7, 2018

The day has arrived. After Pyrrhus's retreat from Italy in 275 BC, Carthage and Rome found themselves to be new neighbors with only a two mile stretch of water in the Strait of Messina separating them from each other. Although it is debatable whether the First Punic War was inevitable, its causes were rooted in many things, including the Romans’ belief that they stood alongside the Greeks against the barbarian world and its inhabitants such as Carthage as well as political rivalry and fear. Sparked by a local quarrel between Syracuse and the Mamertines, a group of rogue mercenaries who had seized control of the city of Messana, the First Punic War escalated from a regional skirmish into a full-scale conflict which would become one of the longest and costliest wars of Antiquity.

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Episode 19 - Pyrrhus of Epirus: Part II

Episode 19 - Pyrrhus of Epirus: Part II

March 25, 2018

In Part II of our overview of the career of Pyrrhus of Epirus, we pick up with Pyrrhus's campaigns in southern Italy. After whipping his Tarentine allies into shape, Pyrrhus defeated the Romans in two brutal battles, although both battles cost him so many of his own men that the term "Pyrrhic Victory" became proverbial. Following a brief stint in Sicily fighting against the Carthaginians, Pyrrhus returned to continue his wars in Greece. Despite the fact he failed in his efforts to carve out a new Greek empire in the West, his campaigns in Italy and Sicily set Rome and Carthage on a collision course that would result in the longest continuous war Antiquity would ever see.

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Episode 18 - Pyrrhus of Epirus: Part I

Episode 18 - Pyrrhus of Epirus: Part I

March 11, 2018

Resuming our narrative of the history of Carthage, we turn to one of the successor realms in the West. Pyrrhus, a second cousin of Alexander the Great, rose to become King of Epirus after a tumultuous and eventful childhood. After distinguishing himself by his skill as a military commander and his personal bravery, Pyrrhus invaded Italy in 280 BC at the invitation of the Greek city-state of Tarentum to support the western Greeks against the rising power of Rome. The resulting Pyrrhic War would be an epic clash between the dynamic Pyrrhus and the solid, relentless Romans, and the conflict would eventually draw Carthage's involvement due to its importance. In this episode, we cover the rise of Pyrrhus up until he sets foot in Italy. In Part II, we will cover the Pyrrhic War in detail and how Pyrrhus's actions set the stage for the Punic Wars to come.

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Episode 17 - The Senate and the People of Rome

Episode 17 - The Senate and the People of Rome

February 25, 2018

Completing our tour of the Mediterranean circa 300 BC, we finish with the history of the upstart city-state of Rome. Born into the harsh and competitive world of ancient Italy, Rome from the start was an aggressive, warlike, and proud civilization intent on not only surviving but thriving in the chaos which surrounded her. Her history is one of constant struggle, disaster, and triumph, but by 300 BC, through sheer grit and determination, Rome stood as the mistress of Italy, a formidable and relentless power in the Mediterranean.

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