Sunday 22 September 2013

The Second Roman War- Part 3

For many years the traders of the east had sailed to the far west searching for tin, silver, amber and other resources.  It was the Canaanites who had done it first.  Trade was established long ago between the merchants of the city of Mari and the kings of Tarshish in the far west.  King Hiram I of Tyre sent out ships from his port city to far off Tarshish in the west of the Mediterranean and Ophir in the east, beyond the Red Sea.  The Canaanites had ruled the seas for many years, traveling west to the great columned halls of the kings of Tarshish and the other tribes of Ishaphan, sitting on their golden thrones and flanked by images of lions and sphinxes.  Many tribes of the west, the Sea People, had long ago harassed Egypt, including the Shekelesh, Shardana, and Ekwesh.  In fact some of them had even fought in Pharaoh's armies as mercenaries against the Hittites and their Canaanite vassals at the city of Kadesh.  Other tribes were far less hostile, including the Tarshishites and Turdetani, who were friendly not only to Canaanites but to Greeks as well.  The most famous of their kings was King Argantoni of Tarshish.  A rich and hospitable king, he had welcomed the Greeks who were fleeing the Medes and the Persians when they conquered the east. 

King Argantoni of Tarshish
A very benevolent people, now turned largely hostile.  It was due to the heroic efforts of Abd-Melqart and Hasdrubaal that the local tribes had submitted as vassals to the Baraqim and to Qart-Hadasht.  Hannobaal's ship sailed into port again near the Ishaphani Qart-Hadasht founded by his sister's husband and former general, Hasdrubaal.  Up above the port loomed the great hill which contained the palace and the temple of Baal Hammon.  Taking command again over his troops, he spent two years leading wars against several other tribes south of the River Iberos.  His first campaign was against the Olcades, a native clan which had a lot of interaction with the Canaanites, the Greeks, and the Etruscans.  After this, he turned his attention beyond the mountains to the ferocious Celtiberian tribes.  They lived far away, and Hannobaal would need all of his skills to fight against them.  He defeated one of these tribes, called the Vaccaei, and stormed their strongholds.  Bringing with him the plunder and spoils of war, he was attacked by another Celtiberian tribe called the Carpetani.  With his superior tactics, Hannobaal won another swift victory before returning to Qart-Hadasht. 

But these recent victories did not go unheard of elsewhere.  They soon reached the ears of the Romans in Italy, who began to fear another attack by this new general.  They turned their attention to a city-state in Ishaphan to the south of the River Iberos called Saguntus, founded by Greeks from Zakunthos (hence the name).  It was considered to be a city under the protection of Herakles himself.  This was a direct breach of the treaty formed with Hasdrubaal promising not to have any dealings south of the Iberos River.  The city then began to attack the allies of Qart-Hadasht, including the tribes of Tarshish.  Hannobaal sought to punish the city for attacking his allies, and so moved his army to the city and laid siege to it.

The city of Saguntus
Hannobaal's siege of the city was difficult due to its heavy defenses, and he sustained several losses, but slowly began to gain the momentum.  The Saguntines turned to Rome for aid, but none came.  The Romans were busy putting down a revolt by the Illyrians.  Besides, the young Canaanite general was no real threat to them anyway.  After eight months of siege, the city was broken into.  Hannobaal offered to spare the inhabitants of the city if they all departed, unarmed, with two garments each.  When they declined the offer and began to sabotage the town's wealth and possessions, Hannobaal ordered that every adult in the city was to be put to the sword.  He took the city and supplied his troops with food and supplies.

Rome was furious.  They sent messengers to Qart-Hadasht at once.  Fabius, a Roman diplomat, entered the governors' palace and stood before the Adirim.  Before the assembly of the 70 elders, he denounced the general who had destroyed Saguntus.  Among the Adirim there were some who wanted to hand Hannobaal over to the Romans.  Chief among these was the nobleman Hanno, who was an old rival to Hannobaal's father Abd-Melqart, and had fought alongside him in two previous wars. 

Despite the opposition, most of the Adirim were firmly on Hannobaal's side.  They argued that Saguntus was rightly punished for attacking their allies.  Fabius held his toga in two hands, and told the Qart-Hadashtim that within the folds of his toga hung peace and war, and they would have to choose between them.  The Adirim retorted that Rome should decide.  Fabius allowed one of the folds to fall free, declaring war on Qart-Hadasht.

Hannobaal himself had returned to Qart-Hadasht and was waiting within his house when he was called to deal with a Roman diplomat in the Merkaz.  The Romans threatened him again, but he responded with a well-known proverb found among the proverbs and wisdom literature of the Canaanites: that it was their duty in Qart-Hadasht to come to the aid of an oppressed and needy people.  In this case, Hannobaal argued, he had simply defended the Tarshish people, who had been close friends of the Canaanite people for many generations. 

The Adirim gave Hannobaal some citizen soldiers from Qart-Hadasht, along with some Sacred Band of Baal Hammon infantry, and Sacred Band of Ashtart cavalry.  The Sacred Band were a quasi-religious order of warriors who drank little wine and served in the temples where they trained in martial arts as elite warriors for the armies.  Their duty was also to the gods, and various Canaanite city-states had Sacred Bands dedicated to Ashtart, Melqart, Tanit, Baal Hadad, or Baal Hammon.  Qart-Hadasht had two: an infantry Sacred Band for Baal Hammon, and a cavalry Sacred Band for the goddess Ashtart.

Sacred Band of Ashtart cavalry

Sacred Band of Baal Hammon infantry
None of the other Canaanite city-states in Phut stood with Qart-Hadasht like they had during the First Roman War.  Atiqa, Ippone, Adrumeto, and the rest sent no aid.  The Phutite vassals did though, with their kings sending along many soldiers.  The Numidians came under their own chieftains and swore loyalty to Hannobaal and his officers.  Boarding the ships, they departed for Ishaphan, where they gathered at the barracks of the Ishaphani Qart-Hadasht.  Hannobaal made offerings in the temples of the gods in that city, and then went on a religious pilgrimage to the city of Gadir.  Gadir was ancient, and its temple of Melqart was like the old one which was built by Hiram and stood in Tyre. 

The great temple
The temple was surrounded by a great courtyard and gardens, and great stelae of bronze set up in this area showed the mighty god in his full glory. The walls of the temple themselves reached down into the sea. Many bronze altars stood with burning incense for the deity in the courtyard, and this area was viewed as so sacred that people were even forbidden from spending the night within. Flanking the doorway stood two great pillars- one of them sheathed in gold, and the other in silver- and an inscription described their construction and the money spent on creating them. The doors themselves were decorated with images showing Melqart on his wanderings and travels- slaying dragons, killing Geriyon, fighting a lion and wearing its skin, preventing subterranean floods of gushing water, meeting the tribes of the world and establishing friendly relations with them, battling against the forces of evil which attacked the constellations of stars in the heavens.

Within the temple there were two freshwater springs which rose and fell with the tide of the sea, around them were built wells. An olive tree (said to have been planted by King Pumayyaton) grew inside the temple, and the girdle of Teukros (the cousin of Alaksandush and Ekoto) was a relic stored there. Inside the Holy of Holies stood three altars, two of bronze and one of stone, and before them burned an eternal flame. There were no images or cult statues of the god inside, and no animals or women were permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. The priests who attended the flame wore linen robes and flax headbands, and went barefoot. They shaved their heads and abstained from sex, being celibate. People seeking prophecies would look no further than to the temple's prophet, who spoke oracles said to rival those of Delphi. The people of Qart-Hadasht (which possessed no Melqart temple) would send offerings to the Melqart temples of Tyre and Gadir.

Hannobaal arrived in Gadir and made his way to the temple.  As a Melqart devotee, he was permitted access to the outer sanctuary by the priests.  There was a room where pilgrims would sleep in hope of receiving prophetic dreams from the god.  

Votive statues of Melqart given at his sanctuary
 That night, Hannobaal had a strange dream.  A ghostly youth appeared to him, and told Hannobaal to follow him and not look behind him.  He followed, but the urge became too great, and he turned around.  He saw a huge red dragon ravaging the countryside and causing great destruction.  When he asked the youth what it meant, he responded that he had been sent by Melqart to show Hannobaal the future.  What he had seen was the destruction he would wage upon his enemies.  The youth then told him that heaven had plans for him.

Hannobaal's dream
When Hannobaal awoke, he felt confident.  The gods had spoken to him, and he would gain great victories.  He returned to his soldiers in Qart-Hadasht with fierce determination, and with plans for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment