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Ancient texts

Livius (24.4) ; (24.21)
Polybius (8.3-7) ; (8.37)

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First Macedonian war

2nd Punic war on Sicily

214-212 bc

Tyrant Hiero dies
A tyrant in the ancient days wasn't necessarily the same as a tyrannical ruler, but an absolute ruler (now a dictator). Hiero II of Syracuse was a tyrant in that sense. After his natural death he was succeeded by his 15 year old grandson Hieronymus. Not very powerful and ill advised he proved to be a tyrannical ruler and was soon murdered. What followed wasn't only a struggle for power, but also the choice between sides in the Punic war.

M. Claudius Marcellus storms Syracuse in vain
When the balance was tipped to Carthago, Syracuse became one of Rome's enemies. The consul of that year Marcellus immediately stormed the city. Propraetor Ap. Claudius Pulcher attacked by land and Marcellus by sea (60 war vessels). The city however was prepared. No one less than the famous scholar Archimedes had designed the defenses of the city.

      Island Nassos    
    Greek theatre    
      Greek theatre    
    Terrain around Syracuse    
      Terrain around Syracuse    
    defendable terrain    
      Well defendable terrain
around Syracuse    
    Archimedes's mirror
       Archimedes's mirror    
 Archimedes's defense    
      Archimedes's defense    
 Archimedes's death    
      Archimedes's death    
 Archimedes's grave    
      Archimedes's grave    

Click a picture to enlarge.
Click here for map of Syracuse

Archimedes for the defense
Archimedes was famous for many inventions. He thought up Archimedes's law and probably Archimedes's screw.
He was an important and respected man in ancient Syracuse. He had developed and tested throwing devices for rocks and other missiles. He had constructed them for long range as well as short range. He had loopholes made in the walls, so bowmen could hit the Roman deck soldiers while staying safe. His defenses proved to work well and the Romans were repelled.

Syracuse besieged
Soon Marcellus was convinced storming the city wouldn't bring him the victory. He decides to besiege the Syracuse and to lay a blockade before the harbour. In the time this would take, he took a part of his army and started to reconquer the defected cities. A certain Bomilcar, who was sent with a Carthaginian army proved not capable of preventing this. When the population of Henna (modern Enna) demanded the city-keys from the commander of the Roman garrison in that city, he had the whole population murdered in order to keep the city under Roman control.

Give me a place to stand and I'll lift the world


Archimedes lifting the world

Syracuse taken by Marcellus (212 bc)
After a siege of 2 years Marcellus was even contemplating of breaking up the siege and moving on to another city. Then he got important information. During certain negotiations a Roman was several times in the neighborhood of one of the walls an could make a very good estimate of it's height. This was considerable less than was estimated from afar. Then there was the festival of Diana (Polybius says Artemis, but he is a Greek) the Syracusans drunk themselves lame. During the night the Romans could climb up theirs scales undetected and occupy a part of the city. Bit by bit the Carthaginians backed of and Syracuse was surrendered to the Romans. Not long after that The whole of Sicily was again under Roman control. During the plunder Archimedes was one of the deadly victims.

Cornelius Scipio arrives in Sicily
in 205 bc P. Cornelius Scipio, now consul, arrived in his province with his new fleet and volunteers. With a brilliant trick he organized horses, equipment and training for 300 of his volunteers, all supplied by rich Sicilian families

Scipio interferes in the affairs of Locri
When the Romans were reconquering the city of Locri in Bruttium, P. Cornelius Scipio decide to help,though the city lay not in his designated territory. After he left the commanding officer in charge over Locri was Q. Pleminius. This was a cruel man, who had many Locrians tortured and executed. This caused an uprising and again Scipio went to Locri. He judged Pleminius was right and he reinstalled him as commander of the city. This would prove to be a mistake. After he left, Pleminius doubled his efforts in cruelty.

Scipio accused
Now the Locrians turned to the Roman senate. The senate not only restored the peace in Locri and punished Pleminius, but Q. Fabius Maximus grabbed his chance to try and block Scipio in Sicily. He accused him of not maintaining discipline and proposed him to be relieved of his command. The senate decided to investigate these rumors and sent a heavy commission to Sicily. When they arrived a Syracuse Scipio had them prepared a show and proved the rumors all wrong. With the blessing of the committee he carried on with his preparations and soon he pulled together his fleet and army in Lilibaeum. Livius reports 40 warships and 400 cargos hips. About the manpower he gives numbers between 10,000 and 30,000. the number of horses is equally uncertain: between 1600 and 3000. To me 10,000 seem a to small army for this big operation, but 80-100 men in one singlecargoship seems hardly possible and 20 horses in one cargo ships seems the maximum. The conclusion is as almost always the truth lies in the middle. Then he sailed to Africa and landed south east of Carthago.


P.Cornelius Scipio


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