Monday 2 September 2013

First Roman War- Part 3

In response to the recent victories of the Qart-Hadashtim, the Romans prepared a new fleet of 140 ships and vowed to take all of the Canaanite cities on Shekelesh one by one.  Two groups were to begin this attack, one of them attacking the port city of Lilibu, and the other landing on Phut itself and raiding the cities there.  The attack on Lilibu was a disaster, as the city's defenders fought hard to hold it from the Romans, who fell back as soon as they saw that victory belonged with the Canaanites.  The raid on Phut also ended in failure, with another storm at sea destroying the Roman ships.  In the north of Shekelesh they made more progress though.  A lot of cities there: Thermae, Panormus, Kephalodon, Ietas, and other cities which belonged to the native Shekelesh tribes of the Sea People and which were allies to the Qart-Hadashtim all fell to the Romans. 

Confident in their recent successes, the Romans again planned another march toward Lilibu, which contained a garrison under command of the general Himilkat.  On the way, they sacked and burned the Greek city of Herklea Minoa, a city said to have been built by Herakles when he defeated the local hero Eryx, but also named after King Minos who had arrived there.  The Romans continued onward to a city held by the Qart-Hadashtim called Drepanan, which had been founded by the island's native tribe called the Elymians.  Meanwhile, the consuls Publius Claudius Pulcher and Lucius Junius Paullus blocked the port of Lilibu with their fleet of ships.  They hoped to starve out the population of the city, forcing them to surrender.  But one brave commander named Hannobaal the son of Abd-Melqart entered the city secretly with food supplies, and brought out the cavalry horses before taking them back to Drepanan.  This he kept repeating several times over.  This was humiliating to the Romans.  They were trying to starve out the inhabitants, and yet they were still being fed by warriors going into the city!

A stela from Lilibu.  A priest (kohan) stands facing symbols associated with the mother goddess Tanit, the palm of his hand raised as a sign of blessing and goodwill.  A brazier stands between him and the goddess, indicating a temple setting.  Above them are three sacred betyls, and above that a crescent associated with Tanit as the Queen of Heaven.  It is all contained within a temple
Following this, a brave admiral, a Canaanite from Rodanim called Hannobaal, used a light and fast warship called the quadreme to sail into the shallows around the Roman fleet and speak with the citizens of Lilibu.  He was able to sail from Lilibu back to Qart-Hadasht, and deliver messages from the inhabitants of Lilibu to the Addirim and to the new general, Adherbaal. 

Pulcher, the senior Roman consul, decided to take action and sail to Drepanan, where the defiant Canaanites were using as their main base.  He sailed on a moonless night, but by morning had arrived at the port.  Adherbaal had arrived in Drepanan, and his scouts saw the approach of the Roman ships at dawn.  Adherbaal wasted no time in rushing out to meet him.  He ordered the city to evacuate, and then rushed out of the port and into the open sea with his fleet.  By the time Pulcher realized what was happening, it was too late.  He ordered his ships into battle formation, but they were almost all sunk by Adherbaal's fleet.  Pulcher himself managed to escape and return to Rome, where he was put on trial for sacrilege after throwing the sacred chickens overboard.  He was found guilty, and sentenced to exile from Rome.  The other half of the Roman fleet blocking the port of Lilibu was sunk, and the Romans appointed a military dictator to govern their forces in Shekelesh.  Things were beginning to grow desperate for them.

Triremes from Qart-Hadasht
The Romans had brought much destruction upon the people of Qart-Hadasht.  This was apparent to the 33 year old Abd-Melqart Baraq, a man of mixed Canaanite and Greek ancestry from the Greek city of Cyrene, which was in Phut and just to the west of Egypt.  It was an ancient city, inhabited by Greeks, whom long ago had been in contact with even the Babylonians at the height of their empire.  His family, the Baraqim, named for the great lightning-bolts of the thunder god Hadad, had left Cyrene and had traveled to Qart-Hadasht.  Being of a noble background, Abd-Melqart was well-received into the city.  But Hadad was also known as a sacker of cities, and a proud warrior tradition ran in the family which was named for his weapons.  At 33 years old, Abd-Melqart was still young, but already had three daughters.  That year, a son was born to him, whom he named Hannobaal.  A proud warrior, the Addirim summoned him to appear before them in the Bozrah hill citadel.  He was elected general, and sent to Shekelesh to deal with the Romans there.  The situation, the Addirim explained to him, was dire.  Qart-Hadasht now only controlled two cities in Shekelesh: Lilibu and Drepanan.  Most of their army was away fighting the revolting Numidians elsewhere in Phut.  To make matters worse, the Addirim were faced with internal conflict.  In the governing palace, one of their number had dared to challenge the rest of them.  It was the nobleman Hanno (the same Hanno who was descended from King Hanno IV and had previously fought against the Romans as a general in this war).  Hanno was opposed completely to continuing the war.  Was it his previous failure against the Romans which had motivated him to be like this?  Nobody knew.  What was certain was that he had ordered the fleet of ships commanded by Adherbaal to withdraw from Shekelesh.

It was only with a very small army and a few ships that Abd-Melqart Baraq set out for Shekelesh that year.


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