Monday 2 September 2013

First Roman War- Part 4

The army which Abd-Melqart fielded was much smaller than the ones he knew he would be facing when he arrived on Shekelesh.  On top of that, many local tribes had sent warriors which had been hired as mercenaries by the Qart-Hadashtim.  Abd-Melqart would need to prove himself to be a skilled commander in order to control them all.  He continued his journey by sea to Shekelesh that summer, having recently been elected general by the Addirim.  Using the stars, the lights in the firmament above created by El to be used as signs for navigation, he moved his ships closer to the island and the port of Lilibu.  Yam had long ago taught the art of sailing to mortals in his holy city of Be'erot, where to this day his house still stood.  Below in the wine-dark seas, his sons would be swimming in their underwater kingdom.  Uttering his prayers of thanks, Abd-Melqart landed in Shekelesh and moved his armies away.  Some mercenaries though were unruly, and so Abd-Melqart punished them by sending them back, or by drowning them in the sea, or else having his bodyguards kill them at night.  He continued to discipline his army and win their respect.

The Romans had divided their forces.  Some remained with Caelius Matellus near Lilibu, while others were besieging Drepanan under Numerius Fabius Buteo.  Abd-Melqart sought to drain their resources by constantly raiding their lands.  He didn't capture any cities, but did keep draining the Romans while holding off their attacks with tactics similar to those used by Alexander and Pyrrhus before him.  One night, he transported his forced by sea to Eryx, and captured the city, destroying the Roman garrison with his forces.  In doing so, he began to offer support to the inhabitants of Drepanan, and managed to help deliver them from the Romans.

Hoplite soldiers from among the elite of the allied Canaanite cities.  These formed a very small part of Abd-Melqart's army, along with his mercenaries.  On their shields were symbols of the horse and palm tree (symbols of Qart-Hadasht as a military power and of the mother goddess, respectively)
Then, disaster struck.  A commander named Bodashtart carried out a raid against Abd-Melqart's orders.  This resulted in many casualties.  Abd-Melqart knew that proper burial was a requirement for his men to reach the underworld, or else they would continue to linger on earth without rest as wandering ghosts.  He sent a messenger to Fundanius requesting that he may call a truce to bury the dead with proper funerary rites.  Fundanius denied the request and laughed, saying, "You should instead request a truce to save your living".
After this, Abd-Melqart crushed the Romans in battle, and Fundanius sent a messenger to Abd-Melqart asking for a truce to bury his dead.  Abd-Melqart responded, "My quarrel is with the living alone.  The dead have settled their dues".  And he granted the request.

As a result of Abd-Melqart's heroic victories with a much smaller force, the Romans grew to fear him.  To make matters worse, they had not managed to captured Lilibu.  But not all of Abd-Melqart's army was loyal to him, and at one point he had to foil a plot by 1000 Celtic mercenaries to betray the camp of the Qart-Hadashtim to the Romans.  In response to this act of treachery, Abd-Melqart promised his soldiers and all of his mercenaries even more money for their efforts.

At last the Romans decided to make one final push against the Qart-Hadashtim.  Borrowing money from wealthy citizens, they built a new fleet of 200 warships.  These sailed under Gaius Lutatius Catulus to the city of Lilibu, where Abd-Melqart was residing with his soldiers.  They blocked off the port.  In Qart-Hadasht the Addirim assembled in the Bozrah hill citadel to assemble a fleet to liberate Lilibu and Abd-Melqart.  This fleet was placed under the command of the nobleman Hanno, the same one who was proud of his royal blood and who had previously ordered all ships to be withdrawn from Shekelesh.  In early spring, Hanno sailed out to the islands in the Sea of the Tereshites and waited for the winds to carry his fleet forward to Lilibu.  Meanwhile, Catulus had decided to abandon Lilibu and head to engage Hanno's fleet out at sea.  The winds were now in support of Hanno, and carried him and his 250 ships forward.  Catulus himself, due to injuries, was unable to actually be present in the battle, and so left his ships under the command of Falto.  The Romans quickly gained the upper hand in the battle, ramming Hanno's ships and sinking them.  Over half of his ships were sunk or captured.  The rest were saved only by a strong gust of wind which allowed them to make their escape.  Catulus continued his assault on Lilibu and captured the city.  This meant that Abd-Melqart's forced were now too scattered all across Shekelesh to attack again.  To celebrate his victory, Catulus built a temple to the goddess Juturna in Campus Martius.

The Addirim now had no other option but to acknowledge defeat.  They sent word to Abd-Melqart telling him to sign a treaty with the Romans.  Abd-Melqart was worried about being made into a scapegoat if the treaty was too harsh, and so sent an officer called Ger-sakkun in his stead.  The terms of the treaty were harsh and humiliating, but Qart-Hadasht had no other option but to sign it.  The terms demanded that Qart-Hadasht was to hand over Shekelesh to the Romans, that all Roman prisoners be released while Canaanite prisoners had to be ransomed, that Qart-Hadasht was to refrain from attacking Syracuse and her allies, that neither side was to recruit soldiers in one another's territory, that Qart-Hadasht was to pay an annual heavy tribute to the Romans.

After 23 years of fighting, the Romans were victorious.  This war had been the most destructive ever witnessed to date, surpassing even the conquests of Alexander and of the empires of the east.

No comments:

Post a Comment