Sunday 1 September 2013

The First Roman War- Part 1

What follows is an account of the First Roman War, as told by Ben-el the scribe:

Long ago, Agathokles of Syracuse had hired a group of Italian mercenaries known as the Mamertines ('the sons of Mars').  These men were ferocious, and long after Agathokles' wars were over, the Mamertines continued to dwell on the island of Shekelesh (Shekelesh being the island inhabited by that tribe of the Sea People with the same name).  They ravaged the countryside of the island, and then attacked Syracuse, but were defeated.  Bitter in defeat, the Mamertines sent diplomats offering alliances to two major powers at the time who might help them defeat Syracuse: Qart-Hadasht and Rome.  Qart-Hadasht agreed first, but only on the condition that the Mamertines were to accept a garrison of soldiers in their city Messene.  The Mamertines rightly recognized this as an attempt of imperialism by the Qart-Hadashtim.  Urgently they sent word to the Romans, asking them to drive out the Qart-Hadashtim from Messene.  The Romans agreed, lest the Qart-Hadashtim take control of the whole of Shekelesh and pose a possibly threat to them.  Appius Claudius Caudex was sent out with a group of soldiers, who conquered Syracuse and made the people of Syracuse allies of the Romans.  They then continued onward to the garrison of Qart-Hadashtim in Messene.

The Qart-Hadashtim had sent a man called Hanno with a group of citizen soldiers of high-ranking birth (in Qart-Hadasht, only those men from noble families could join the army) to hold the citadel at Messene.  When Hanno saw the Romans approaching Messene, he left the citadel and went out to meet them.  He tried to make negotiations with the aggressor, but the Romans imprisoned him and forced him to withdraw the garrison from Messene.  Hanno did so, and the garrison was expulsed.  He was then sent back to Qart-Hadasht.  The Romans continued to make covenants and treaties with the tribes of Shekelesh, gaining control over much of the island and a lot of military access.  As for Hanno, when he arrived back in his home city, the Addirim ordered him to make a stand before them in the governing palace at the Merkaz of Qart-Hadasht.

Hanno was ordered to stand trial before the Tribunal of the Hundred and Four, an elect group of governors responsible for military matters and trying generals.  He was accused of cowardice, found guilty, and sentenced to death by crucifixion (the punishment for failed generals).  The Addirim then met by the barracks in the citadel of the Bozrah hill, and decided what to do about the threat upon their allies and colonies in Shekelesh.  Shekelesh was home to many Canaanite city-states, some of them colonies which Qart-Hadasht herself had planted there, and others were planted by the cities of Tyre and Sidon (the most prominent of these colonies being Lilibu on the western coast).  Finally, they agreed to send out an army, which would include their citizen infantry and some citizen cavalry, along with some war-elephants.  These elephants were from the regions around Phut and in the great forests to the south, as well as in lands like Cush (from where they were sent as gifts by the Egyptians).  Their trainers were Indians, and skilled with the training of elephants.  These troops were assembled and then loaded onto ships, before being sent from Qart-Hadasht's great military port to the city of Lilibu in Shekelesh.  The general responsible for commanding this army was Adonibaal son of Ger-sakkun. 

The city of Lilibu, in Shekelesh
Adonibaal's first major move upon arriving in Shekelesh was to march his army towards the Greek city of Agraginta, and to establish a garrison there.  He ordered the citizens to move into the city and wait behind the city walls, and stayed within the city, refusing to leave.  When the Romans saw this they began laughing, because they thought him to be a coward.  But when the Romans were gathering crops in the fields, Adonibaal came upon them with a large force, killing many of them.  He pursued them back to their camp, but the Romans held it, and the Qart-Hadashtim were forced to fall back to Agraginta with heavy losses.  By now, the Romans realized that they had severely underestimated their enemy.  Qart-Hadasht was not, as they had wrongly judged, a city of 'effeminate, cruel, and cowardly' Canaanite barbarians.  They marched towards Agraginta and placed their troops around the city near the temple of the god Asklepios on the western side.  After three months, food supplies within Agraginta began running low.  Adonibaal was panicked.  He sent word back to Qart-Hadasht, asking for assistance and immediate action.  The Addirim agreed to send a force consisting of many men and some more elephants (the city walls in their full capacity could hold 300 elephants), along with some Numidian cavalry.  The Numidians were not Canaanites, being a tribe of Phutites to the areas west of Egypt, but were a powerful ally and were very friendly to the Canaanite people.  Their great tribes were wanderers and foragers, having slowly been pushed further south into the deserts by the Canaanites in the past, and as such were powerful horsemen armed with javelins, who could fall back swiftly from an enemy when they were done harassing them.

Numidian cavalry (Hayyal Romah Rahuv Masili)
The general responsible for leading these troops was Adonibaal's own son, Hanno.  After making offerings to Yam for a safe journey overseas, the soldiers arrived at the city of Lilibu.  From there, they made offerings to the goddess Anat, and continued their march until they neared Agraginta.  Hanno sent his men ahead to the Roman camp (which was empty, the Romans having surrounded Agraginta) and cut of their supplies.  He then directed his Numidians to charge at the Roman cavalry and harass them with javelins, and then fall back towards the infantry.  This they did, and the Roman cavalry began to pursue them, running head first into the infantry of the Qart-Hadashtim and being destroyed.  Meanwhile in Agraginta, things began to get desperate.  The people were beginning to starve, and Adonibaal realized that he had to act now.  He sent a smoke signal up to Hanno, who saw it and prepared his troops to enter battle immediately.  Unfortunately, this battle proved to be a huge loss for Hanno, and his army was utterly beaten.  Meanwhile, Adonibaal and his men had filled the Roman ditches around Agraginta with straw and fled the city, abandoning it to the enemy.  The Romans captured Agraginta and sold 25, 000 inhabitants into slavery.  However, this proved to be a bad move, because the surrounding Greek cities became hostile towards the Romans and refused to make friends with them.

Up until this point, the Canaanites had ruled the seas of the Mediterranean, with Qart-Hadasht being the head of their cities (it was the second largest city in the western world at this time, after Alexandria, the capital of Egypt and the Ptolemaic Empire).  This would soon change, however.  A trireme from Qart-Hadasht was patrolling the waters when it became caught in a storm and drifted close to the Italian coast.  Roman vessels captured the ship, and brought it ashore.

A Canaanite trireme (tlat-mashot)
From this, the Romans learned how to create their own triremes and large war-ships.  Canaanite craftsmen and carpenters typically mass-produced these great ships in their military ports, and now the Romans learned how to copy their design.  The Romans quickly built a fleet ready to sail, consisting of 100 quinqueremes and 20 triremes in all.  Each ship was fitted with a corvus, or ram. 

Word arrived in Rome that the garrison of Lipara in the Sea of the Tereshites to the north of Shekelesh was willing to form a covenant with them and abandon their alliance with Qart-Hadasht.  The Romans were gladdened when they heard this, and eagerly sent on their consul, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, with the new fleet of ships to Lipara.  They arrived at Lipara to find the port empty, and so moved their ships there, only to fall victim to a surprise attack by the ships of Adonibaal son of Ger-sakkun (the same one who had fled Agraginta, now commanding a fleet of his own) and the admiral Bodeshmun.  The 20 ships of Bodeshmun blocked the port, and Scipio could not flee.  Realizing that he had no option of escape, the Roman consul was captured, along with his ships, by Bodeshmun (and when he returned to Rome later, he would be mocked by being called a 'donkey' by the Romans).  He lost 17 ships in all to the powerful navy of the Qart-Hadashtim. 

Meanwhile, the remaining Roman ships under the command of Gaius Dulius came up against Adonibaal's ships off the coast of Mylae.  Adonibaal prepared his powerful navy for assault, not used to seeing a Roman navy so powerful.  Unlike the army of Qart-Hadasht, the navy was not reserved for nobles only.  Commoners and those from the lower ranks of society (including those of mixed Phutite-Canaanite ancestry owing to having Canaanite fathers and Phutite mothers) were allowed to join, and so those seeking a military career might progress upward through the navy and eventually into the army.  Unlike the Greeks and Romans though, the Canaanites did not typically use slaves as rowers on their galleys.  The Canaanite navies were powerful, far more powerful and skilled than their land armies.  The mariners were armed as hoplites, and could board enemy ships to bring swift and deadly destruction upon their enemies.  All in the Mediterranean feared and respected them.

Coin from mainland northern Canaan, in the area around Sidon, Tyre, and Arvad, showing Canaanite mariners in the war-galley, while a giant hippocampus swims beneath them
Canaanite mariner (mallach)
Adonibaal sent his great navy to engage the Romans, ramming and smashing their ships and causing destruction.  The Romans though used their own rams to batter back the Qart-Hadashtim.  The flagship was captured, and in all the Romans captured 50 ships from Adonibaal's fleet.  Adonibaal himself turned and fled, while the Romans landed in Shekelesh.

On Shekelesh the Romans went westward from Agraginta to Macella, which was under siege by Qart-Hadashtim, and relieved it from its attackers.  But in the north, the Qart-Hadashtim under Abd-Melqart defeated the Romans at Thermae.  And Abd-Melqart seized Enna, and Camarina, and continued to Syracuse, so that he might make the men of Syracuse form a covenant with him.  In the next year, the Romans retook Enna and Camarina, and also took Mytistraton, but could not take Panormus, though they went against it. 

Qart-Hadasht again set Adonibaal son of Ger-sakkun as a general, and sent him out to Shardana.  In Shardana he came against the forces of Gaius Sulpicius Paterculus, and was defeated, and returned to Qart-Hadasht.  When he arrived back in his home city, the Addirim called him to stand before the Tribunal of the Hundred and Four in the governing palace at the Merkaz of the city.  Because he had failed to defeat the Romans so many times, and had caused so many losses, the governors sentenced him to death by crucifixion.  

Now the Addirim met on the Bozrah hill, in the great ziggurat-like temple of Eshmun, to discuss matters related to the war and the well-being of the city.  As is normal in times of war, the Qart-Hadashtim turned towards other Canaanite city-states to help them.  Canaanites formed coalitions and alliances consisting of several Canaanite city-states to go up against their enemies.  It had been that way since long ago, when King Durusha of Kadesh led a Canaanite coalition against the Egyptians at Megiddo; or when King Jabin of Hazor led a Canaanite coalition against the troublesome Israelites, another Canaanite tribal group which was threatening trade caravans going into Hazor.  North-west of the city of Qart-Hadasht was a road leading through the surrounding countryside and outlying villages to another great Canaanite city-state called Atiqa.  Atiqa was the first of the colonies that Tyre had planted in the west, and in fact had helped Queen Elishat in building Qart-Hadasht.  One of Qart-Hadasht's great city gates was known as the Atiqa Gate, because from it went the road to Atiqa.  Atiqa agreed to join with Qart-Hadasht in an alliance, and would send soldiers to aid them when they were needed.  The city-state of Ippone also agreed to join with them in the war.  Other Canaanite kings and judges agreed to join with Qart-Hadasht in their war against the Romans.  The Addirim were pleased.  They could no longer accept that the war was merely going to be fought over Shekelesh, and now feared the possibility of a Roman attack upon their own city.  There was one city-state which also seemed to consider this possibility: the city of Adrumeto.  Adrumeto did not join with Qart-Hadasht, and in fact allied itself with the Romans, despite being a Canaanite city.  No doubt this was because they too, feared an attack, and knew that the Romans were not known for their mercy.  The Addirim though, were satisfied.  They had all the soldiers and allies they needed, and had plenty of food supplies from the harvest in case of a siege.  Their city was well-defended with its great city walls and its great terror-weapons, captured long ago by the Tyrians from the Babylonians and sent to their colony to reproduce.  On that day they went down from the Bozrah hill and citadel, and into the temple of Baal Hammon, the creator of heaven and earth, which faced the port and the sea.  They raised their hands to heaven and offered sacrifices for the protection of their city, and at the sound of harps and lyres became comforted in the belief that they had divine protection.  Their soldiers would not fail them, and they need not fear the enemy.

A temple, such as the one to Baal Hammon, from a free-to-play game

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