Why and how did Macedon support Carthage in the Punic wars?

Why and how did Macedon support Carthage in the Punic wars?

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I understand that Rome accused the Kingdom of Macedon to have supported Carthage in the first and/or second Punic war, and that was the reason of the Macedonian wars. Is this true, or was it just a pretext?

If the accusation was true, what were the motivations behind such a support (by Macedon to Carthage) - was it the case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Also, what was the nature of the support?

During the Punic Wars, the Macedonians allied themselves with the Carthaginians with the expectation they would be the victors of the war and therefore be on good terms with them in the future. In order to cement this, the Macedonian-Carthaginian Treaty was signed in 215 BC as recorded by Livy.

On this contest, between the two most powerful people in the world, all kings and nations had fixed their attention. 2 Among them Philip, king of the Macedonians, regarded it with greater anxiety, in proportion as he was nearer to Italy, and because he was separated from it only by the Ionian Sea. [3] When he first heard that Hannibal had crossed the Alps, as he was rejoiced that a war had arisen between the Romans and the Carthaginians, so while their strength was yet undetermined, he felt doubtful which he should rather wish to [p. 876]be victorious. [4] But after the third battle had been fought, and the third victory had been on the side of the Carthaginians, he inclined to fortune, and sent ambassadors to Hannibal. Livy 23.33

With the alliance in place, the Romans would have to further stretch their forces and resources to the east so as to counteract any possible Macedonian offensive.

The Macedonians had numerous things to gain from the defeat of Rome:

  • It would curb Roman expansion efforts into Illyria which had been happening prior to the Punic wars and threatened the borders of Macedon

  • it would stop the Roman money coming into the independent Greek Poleis which had been used to foster opposition towards the Macedonian kings and weakened their military supremacy in Greece.

  • And furthermore, the treaty assured that once all of Italy was under Carthaginian rule, the Carthaginians would aid Macedon subdue her enemies in the east:

    That when Italy was completely subdued they should sail into Greece, and carry on war with such nations as the king pleased. That the cities on the continent and the islands which border on Macedonia, should belong to Philip, and his dominions.”

The carrying out of a Macedonian-Carthaginian alliance was heavily promoted by the court councilor Demetrius of Pharos who had been the last ruler of Illyria before the Romans defeated him in 229BC. Demetrius according to Polybius had much influence on the Macedonian king and urged him to invade Illyria to re-establish him since the Carthaginians had been defeated.

Demetrius has been recorded saying to Philip V:

For Greece is already entirely obedient to you, and will remain so: the Achaeans from genuine affection; the Aetolians from the terror which their disasters in the present war have inspired them. Italy, and your crossing into it, is the first step in the acquirement of universal empire, to which no one has a better claim than yourself. And now is the moment to act when the Romans have suffered a reverse. Polybius, 5.101

So it was Demetrius and Phillip's threat to Roman occupied Illyria and also to Italy itself which prompted the Romans to intervene militarily.

It was a "quid pro quo." In theory, Macedonia would aid Carthage on land against Rome, and after a successful war on Rome, Carthage would aid Macedonia with seapower against her "Greek" enemies.

Rome forestalled this by allying with Macedonia's Greek enemies in the First Macedonian War. Although the war was indecisive, Rome's allies tied up the Macedonian armies so that the Macedonians could neither reinforce Hannibal in Italy, nor attack Roman possessions elsewhere.

The resulting Roman "draw" against Macedonia made possible a "win" against Carthage.

Punic language

The Punic language, also called Canaanite [1] or Phoenicio-Punic, is an extinct variety of the Phoenician language, a Canaanite language of the Northwest Semitic branch of the Semitic languages. An offshoot of its parent Phoenician language of coastal West Asia (modern Lebanon and western Syria), it was spoken on the Mediterranean coast of Northwest Africa, Iberian peninsula and several Mediterranean islands such as Malta and Sicily by the Punic people/Phoenicians throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 6th century AD. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

"Punic" is considered to have separated from its "Phoenician" parent around the time that Carthage became the leading city in the area under Mago I, but scholarly attempts to delineate the dialects lack precision and generally disagree on the classification. [8]

Macedonian Wars

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Macedonian Wars, (3rd and 2nd centuries bc ), four conflicts between the ancient Roman Republic and the kingdom of Macedonia. They caused increasing involvement by Rome in Greek affairs and helped lead to Roman domination of the entire eastern Mediterranean area.

The First Macedonian War (215–205 bc ) occurred in the context of the Second Punic War, while Rome was preoccupied with fighting Carthage. The ambitious Macedonian king Philip V set out to attack Rome’s client states in neighbouring Illyria and confirmed his purpose in 215 by making an alliance with Hannibal of Carthage against Rome. The Romans fought the ensuing war ineffectively, and in 205 the Peace of Phoenice ended the conflict on terms favourable to Philip, allowing him to keep his conquests in Illyria.

Philip then began harrying Rhodes, Pergamum, and other Greek city-states of the Aegean. The Second Macedonian War (200–196) was launched by the Roman Senate against Philip after he refused to guarantee to make no hostile moves against these states. Philip’s forces were badly defeated by the Romans and their Greek allies in a battle at Cynoscephalae in 197. The terms of peace included the loss of most of his navy, payment of a large indemnity to Rome, and the loss of his territories outside of Macedonia. Rome subsequently established a benevolent protectorate over Greece.

Philip’s son and successor, Perseus (reigned 179–168), began to make alliances with various Greek city-states and thus aroused the displeasure of Rome. So began the Third Macedonian War (171–168), which ended in 168 when the Roman army of Lucius Aemilius Paullus utterly defeated Perseus’ forces at the Battle of Pydna. Perseus was taken back to Rome in chains, and Macedonia was broken up into four formally autonomous republics that were required to pay annual tribute to Rome. This arrangement produced a state of chronic disorder in Macedonia, however, and in 152 a pretended son of Perseus, Andriscus, tried to reestablish the Macedonian monarchy, thus provoking the Fourth Macedonian War (149–148). The Roman praetor Quintus Caecilius Metellus crushed the rebellion with relative ease, and in 146 Macedonia was made a Roman province. It was in fact the first province of the nascent Roman Empire.


The main source for almost every aspect of the Punic Wars [note 1] is the historian Polybius (c. 200 – c. 118 BC ), a Greek sent to Rome in 167 BC as a hostage. [3] His works include a now-largely lost manual on military tactics, [4] but he is now known for The Histories, written sometime after 146 BC. [5] [6] Polybius's work is considered broadly objective and largely neutral as between Carthaginian and Roman points of view. [7] [8] Polybius was an analytical historian and wherever possible personally interviewed participants, from both sides, in the events he wrote about. [9] [10] [11] He accompanied the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus during his campaign in North Africa which resulted in the Roman victory in the Third Punic War. [12]

The accuracy of Polybius's account has been much debated over the past 150 years, but the modern consensus is to accept it largely at face value, and the details of the war in modern sources are largely based on interpretations of Polybius's account. [3] [13] [14] The modern historian Andrew Curry sees Polybius as being "fairly reliable" [15] while Craige Champion describes him as "a remarkably well-informed, industrious, and insightful historian". [16]

Other, later, ancient histories of the war exist, although often in fragmentary or summary form. [17] Modern historians usually take into account the writings of various Roman annalists, some contemporary the Sicilian Greek Diodorus Siculus the later Roman historians, Livy (who relied heavily on Polybius [18] ), Plutarch, Appian (whose account of the Third Punic War is especially valuable [19] ) and Dio Cassius. [20] The classicist Adrian Goldsworthy states "Polybius' account is usually to be preferred when it differs with any of our other accounts". [note 2] [10] Other sources include coins, inscriptions, archaeological evidence and empirical evidence from reconstructions such as the trireme Olympias. [21]

The Roman Republic had been aggressively expanding in the southern Italian mainland for a century before the First Punic War. [22] It had conquered peninsular Italy south of the Arno River by 272 BC, when the Greek cities of southern Italy (Magna Graecia) submitted after the conclusion of the Pyrrhic War. [23] During this period of Roman expansion Carthage, with its capital in what is now Tunisia, had come to dominate southern Spain, much of the coastal regions of North Africa, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, and the western half of Sicily. [24]

Beginning in 480 BC, Carthage had fought a series of inconclusive wars against the Greek city states of Sicily, led by Syracuse. [25] By 264 BC Carthage was the dominant external power on the island, and Carthage and Rome were the preeminent powers in the western Mediterranean. [26] Relationships were good and the two states had several times declared their mutual friendship via formal alliances: in 509 BC, 348 BC and around 279 BC. There were strong commercial links. During the Pyrrhic War of 280–275 BC, against a king of Epirus who alternately fought Rome in Italy and Carthage on Sicily, Carthage provided materiel to the Romans and on at least one occasion used its navy to ferry a Roman force. [27] [28] According to the classicist Richard Miles, Rome's expansionary attitude after southern Italy came under its control combined with Carthage's proprietary approach to Sicily caused the two powers to stumble into war more by accident than design. [29] The immediate cause of the war was the issue of control of the independent Sicilian city state of Messana (modern Messina). [30] In 264 BC Carthage and Rome went to war, starting the First Punic War. [31]


Most male Roman citizens were eligible for military service and would serve as infantry, with a better-off minority providing a cavalry component. Traditionally, when at war the Romans would raise two legions, each of 4,200 infantry [note 3] and 300 cavalry. Approximately 1,200 of the infantry, poorer or younger men unable to afford the armour and equipment of a standard legionary, served as javelin-armed skirmishers, known as velites. They carried several javelins, which would be thrown from a distance, a short sword, and a 90-centimetre (3 ft) shield. [34] The balance were equipped as heavy infantry, with body armour, a large shield and short thrusting swords. They were divided into three ranks, of which the front rank also carried two javelins, while the second and third ranks had a thrusting spear instead. Both legionary sub-units and individual legionaries fought in relatively open order. It was the long-standing Roman procedure to elect two men each year, known as consuls, as senior magistrates, who at time of war would each lead an army. An army was usually formed by combining a Roman legion with a similarly sized and equipped legion provided by their Latin allies allied legions usually had a larger attached complement of cavalry than Roman ones. [35] [36]

Carthaginian citizens only served in their army if there was a direct threat to the city. [37] When they did they fought as well-armoured heavy infantry armed with long thrusting spears, although they were notoriously ill-trained and ill-disciplined. In most circumstances Carthage recruited foreigners to make up its army. Many were from North Africa which provided several types of fighters including: close-order infantry equipped with large shields, helmets, short swords and long thrusting spears javelin-armed light infantry skirmishers close-order shock cavalry carrying spears and light cavalry skirmishers who threw javelins from a distance and avoided close combat. [38] [39] Both Iberia and Gaul provided large numbers of experienced infantry – unarmoured troops who would charge ferociously, but had a reputation for breaking off if a combat was protracted [40] [41] – and unarmoured close-order cavalry [42] referred to by Livy as "steady", meaning that they were accustomed to sustained hand-to-hand combat rather than hit and run tactics. The close-order Libyan infantry and the citizen-militia would fight in a tightly packed formation known as a phalanx. [39] On occasion some of the infantry would wear captured Roman armour, especially among Hannibal's troops. [43] Slingers were frequently recruited from the Balearic Islands. [42] [44] The Carthaginians also employed war elephants North Africa had indigenous African forest elephants at the time. [note 4] [41] [46]

Garrison duty and land blockades were the most common operations. [47] [48] When armies were campaigning, surprise attacks, ambushes and stratagems were common. [39] [49] More formal battles were usually preceded by the two armies camping one to seven miles (2–12 km) apart for days or weeks sometimes forming up in battle order each day. If either commander felt at a disadvantage, they might march off without engaging. In such circumstances it was difficult to force a battle if the other commander was unwilling to fight. [50] [51] Forming up in battle order was a complicated and premeditated affair, which took several hours. Infantry were usually positioned in the centre of the battle line, with light infantry skirmishers to their front and cavalry on each flank. [52] Many battles were decided when one side's infantry force was attacked in the flank or rear and they were partially or wholly enveloped. [39] [53]


Quinqueremes, meaning "five-oarsmen", [54] provided the workhorses of the Roman and Carthaginian fleets throughout the Punic Wars. [55] So ubiquitous was the type that Polybius uses it as a shorthand for "warship" in general. [56] A quinquereme carried a crew of 300: 280 oarsmen and 20 deck crew and officers. [57] It would also normally carry a complement of 40 marines [58] if battle was thought to be imminent this would be increased to as many as 120. [59] [60] In 260 BC Romans set out to construct a fleet and used a shipwrecked Carthaginian quinquereme as a blueprint for their own. [61]

As novice shipwrights, the Romans built copies that were heavier than the Carthaginian vessels, and so slower and less manoeuvrable. [62] Getting the oarsmen to row as a unit, let alone to execute more complex battle manoeuvres, required long and arduous training. [63] At least half of the oarsmen would need to have had some experience if the ship was to be handled effectively. [64] As a result, the Romans were initially at a disadvantage against the more experienced Carthaginians. To counter this, the Romans introduced the corvus, a bridge 1.2 metres (4 feet) wide and 11 metres (36 feet) long, with a heavy spike on the underside, which was designed to pierce and anchor into an enemy ship's deck. [59] This allowed Roman legionaries acting as marines to board enemy ships and capture them, rather than employing the previously traditional tactic of ramming. [65]

All warships were equipped with rams, a triple set of 60-centimetre-wide (2 ft) bronze blades weighing up to 270 kilograms (600 lb) positioned at the waterline. In the century prior to the Punic Wars, boarding had become increasingly common and ramming had declined, as the larger and heavier vessels adopted in this period lacked the speed and manoeuvrability necessary to ram, while their sturdier construction reduced the ram's effect even in case of a successful attack. The Roman adaptation of the corvus was a continuation of this trend and compensated for their initial disadvantage in ship-manoeuvring skills. The added weight in the prow compromised both the ship's manoeuvrability and its seaworthiness, and in rough sea conditions the corvus became useless part way through the First Punic War the Romans ceased using it. [65] [66] [67]


Much of the First Punic War was fought on, or in the waters near, Sicily. [68] Away from the coasts its hilly and rugged terrain made manoeuvring large forces difficult and favoured the defence over the offence. Land operations were largely confined to raids, sieges and interdiction in 23 years of war on Sicily there were only two full-scale pitched battles. [69]

Sicily, 264–257 BC

The war began with the Romans gaining a foothold on Sicily at Messana (modern Messina). [70] The Romans then pressed Syracuse, the only significant independent power on the island, into allying with them [71] and laid siege to Carthage's main base at Akragas on the south coast. [72] A Carthaginian army of 50,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and 60 elephants attempted to lift the siege in 262 BC, but was heavily defeated at the Battle of Akragas. That night the Carthaginian garrison escaped and the Romans seized the city and its inhabitants, selling 25,000 of them into slavery. [73]

After this the land war on Sicily reached a stalemate as the Carthaginians focused on defending their well-fortified towns and cities these were mostly on the coast and so could be supplied and reinforced without the Romans being able to use their superior army to interfere. [74] [75] The focus of the war shifted to the sea, where the Romans had little experience on the few occasions they had previously felt the need for a naval presence they had usually relied on small squadrons provided by their Latin or Greek allies. [72] [76] [77] The Romans built a navy to challenge Carthage's, [78] and using the corvus inflicted a major defeat at the Battle of Mylae in 260 BC. [79] [80] [81] A Carthaginian base on Corsica was seized, but an attack on Sardinia was repulsed the base on Corsica the Romans had seized was then lost. [82] In 258 BC a Roman fleet heavily defeated a smaller Carthaginian fleet at the Battle of Sulci off the western coast of Sardinia. [80]

Africa, 256–255 BC

Taking advantage of their naval victories the Romans launched an invasion of North Africa in 256 BC, [83] which the Carthaginians intercepted at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus off the south coast of Sicily. The Carthaginians were again beaten [84] this was possibly the largest naval battle in history by the number of combatants involved. [85] [86] [87] The invasion initially went well and in 255 BC the Carthaginians sued for peace the proposed terms were so harsh they fought on. [88] At the Battle of Tunis in spring 255 BC a combined force of infantry, cavalry and war elephants under the command of the Spartan mercenary Xanthippus crushed the Romans. [89] The Romans sent a fleet to evacuate their survivors and the Carthaginians opposed it at the Battle of Cape Hermaeum (modern Cape Bon) the Carthaginians were again heavily defeated. [90] The Roman fleet, in turn, was devastated by a storm while returning to Italy, losing most of its ships and more than 100,000 men. [91] [92] [93]

Sicily, 255–241 BC

The war continued, with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage. [94] The Carthaginians attacked and recaptured Akragas in 255 BC, but not believing they could hold the city, they razed and abandoned it. [95] [96] The Romans rapidly rebuilt their fleet, adding 220 new ships, and captured Panormus (modern Palermo) in 254 BC. [97] The next year they lost another 150 ships to a storm. [98] On Sicily the Romans avoided battle in 252 and 251 BC, according to Polybius because they feared the war elephants which the Carthaginians had shipped to the island. [99] [100] In 250 BC the Carthaginians advanced on Panormus, but in a battle outside the walls the Romans drove off the Carthaginian elephants with javelin fire. The elephants routed through the Carthaginian infantry, who were then charged by the Roman infantry to complete their defeat. [100] [101]

Slowly the Romans had occupied most of Sicily in 250 BC they besieged the last two Carthaginian strongholds – Lilybaeum and Drepana in the extreme west. [102] Repeated attempts to storm Lilybaeum's strong walls failed, as did attempts to block access to its harbour, and the Romans settled down to a siege which was to last nine years. [103] [104] They launched a surprise attack on the Carthaginian fleet, but were defeated at the Battle of Drepana Carthage's greatest naval victory of the war. [105] Carthage turned to the maritime offensive, inflicting another heavy naval defeat at the Battle of Phintias and all but swept the Romans from the sea. [106] It was to be seven years before Rome again attempted to field a substantial fleet, while Carthage put most of its ships into reserve to save money and free up manpower. [107] [108]

Roman victory, 243–241 BC

After more than 20 years of war, both states were financially and demographically exhausted. [109] Evidence of Carthage's financial situation includes their request for a 2,000 talent loan [note 5] [note 6] from Ptolemaic Egypt, which was refused. [112] Rome was also close to bankruptcy and the number of adult male citizens, who provided the manpower for the navy and the legions, had declined by 17 per cent since the start of the war. [113] Goldsworthy describes Roman manpower losses as "appalling". [114]

The Romans rebuilt their fleet again in 243 BC [115] after the Senate approached Rome's wealthiest citizens for loans to finance the construction of one ship each, repayable from the reparations to be imposed on Carthage once the war was won. [115] This new fleet effectively blockaded the Carthaginian garrisons. [111] Carthage assembled a fleet which attempted to relieve them, but it was destroyed at the Battle of the Aegates Islands in 241 BC, [116] [117] forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to negotiate for peace. [111] [118]

The Treaty of Lutatius was agreed. By its terms Carthage paid 3,200 talents of silver [note 7] in reparations and Sicily was annexed as a Roman province. [116] Henceforth Rome considered itself the leading military power in the western Mediterranean, and increasingly the Mediterranean region as a whole. The immense effort of repeatedly building large fleets of galleys during the war laid the foundation for Rome's maritime dominance for 600 years. [119]

Mercenary War

The Mercenary, or Truceless, War began in 241 BC as a dispute over the payment of wages owed to 20,000 foreign soldiers who had fought for Carthage on Sicily during the First Punic War. This erupted into full-scale mutiny under the leadership of Spendius and Matho and 70,000 Africans from Carthage's oppressed dependant territories flocked to join the mutineers, bringing supplies and finance. [120] [121] War-weary Carthage fared poorly in the initial engagements, especially under the generalship of Hanno. [122] [123] Hamilcar Barca, a veteran of the campaigns in Sicily, was given joint command of the army in 240 BC, and supreme command in 239 BC. [123] He campaigned successfully, initially demonstrating leniency in an attempt to woo the rebels over. [124] To prevent this, in 240 BC Spendius tortured 700 Carthaginian prisoners to death, and henceforth the war was pursued with great brutality. [125] [126]

By early 237 BC, after numerous setbacks, the rebels were defeated and their cities brought back under Carthaginian rule. [127] An expedition was prepared to reoccupy Sardinia, where mutinous soldiers had slaughtered all Carthaginians. The Roman Senate stated they considered the preparation of this force an act of war, and demanded Carthage cede Sardinia and Corsica, and pay an additional 1,200-talent indemnity. [note 8] [128] [129] Weakened by 30 years of war, Carthage agreed rather than again enter into conflict with Rome. [130] Polybius considered this "contrary to all justice" [128] and modern historians have variously described the Romans' behaviour as "unprovoked aggression and treaty-breaking", [128] "shamelessly opportunistic" [131] and an "unscrupulous act". [132] These events fuelled resentment of Rome in Carthage, which was not reconciled to Rome's perception of its situation. This breach of the recently signed treaty is considered by modern historians to be the single greatest cause of war with Carthage breaking out again in 218 BC in the Second Punic War. [133] [134] [135]

Carthaginian expansion in Iberia

With the suppression of the rebellion, Hamilcar understood that Carthage needed to strengthen its economic and military base if it were to again confront Rome. [137] After the First Punic War, Carthaginian possessions in Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal) were limited to a handful of prosperous coastal cities in the south. [138] Hamilcar took the army which he had led to victory in the Mercenary War to Iberia in 237 BC and carved out a quasi-monarchial, autonomous state in its south east. [139] This gave Carthage the silver mines, agricultural wealth, manpower, military facilities such as shipyards and territorial depth to stand up to future Roman demands with confidence. [140] [141] Hamilcar ruled as a viceroy and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, in the early 220s BC and then his son, Hannibal, in 221 BC. [142] In 226 BC the Ebro Treaty was agreed with Rome, specifying the Ebro River as the northern boundary of the Carthaginian sphere of influence. [143] At some time during the next six years Rome made a separate treaty with the city of Saguntum, which was situated well south of the Ebro. [144]

In 219 BC a Carthaginian army under Hannibal besieged, captured and sacked Saguntum [133] [145] and in spring 218 BC Rome declared war on Carthage. [146] There were three main military theatres in the war: Italy, where Hannibal defeated the Roman legions repeatedly, with occasional subsidiary campaigns in Sicily, Sardinia and Greece Iberia, where Hasdrubal, a younger brother of Hannibal, defended the Carthaginian colonial cities with mixed success until moving into Italy and Africa, where the war was decided. [147]


Hannibal crosses the Alps, 218–217 BC

In 218 BC there was some naval skirmishing in the waters around Sicily. The Romans beat off a Carthaginian attack [148] [149] and captured the island of Malta. [150] In Cisalpine Gaul (modern northern Italy), the major Gallic tribes attacked the Roman colonies there, causing the Romans to flee to their previously-established colony of Mutina (modern Modena), where they were besieged. A Roman relief army broke through the siege, but was then ambushed and besieged itself. [151] An army had previously been created by the Romans to campaign in Iberia, but the Roman Senate detached one Roman and one allied legion from it to send to north Italy. Raising fresh troops to replace these delayed the army's departure for Iberia until September. [152]

Meanwhile, Hannibal assembled a Carthaginian army in New Carthage (modern Cartagena) and led it northwards along the Iberian coast in May or June. It entered Gaul and took an inland route, to avoid the Roman allies to the south. [153] At the Battle of Rhone Crossing, Hannibal defeated a force of local Allobroges which sought to bar his way. [154] A Roman fleet carrying the Iberian-bound army landed at Rome's ally Massalia (modern Marseille) at the mouth of the Rhone, [155] but Hannibal evaded the Romans and they continued to Iberia. [156] [157] The Carthaginians reached the foot of the Alps by late autumn [153] and crossed them, surmounting the difficulties of climate, terrain [153] and the guerrilla tactics of the native tribes. Hannibal arrived with 20,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and an unknown number of elephants – the survivors of the 37 with which he left Iberia [71] [158] – in what is now Piedmont, northern Italy. The Romans were still in their winter quarters. His surprise entry into the Italian peninsula led to the cancellation of Rome's planned campaign for the year: an invasion of Africa. [159]

Roman defeats, 218–217 BC

Hannibal captured the chief city of the hostile Taurini (in the area of modern Turin) and his army routed the cavalry and light infantry of the Romans at the Battle of Ticinus in late November. [160] As a result, most of the Gallic tribes declared for the Carthaginian cause, and Hannibal's army grew to more than 40,000 men. [161] A large Roman army was lured into combat by Hannibal at the Battle of the Trebia, encircled and destroyed. [162] Only 10,000 Romans out of 42,000 were able to cut their way to safety. Gauls now joined Hannibal's army in large numbers, bringing it up to 60,000 men. [161] The Romans stationed an army at Arretium and one on the Adriatic coast to block Hannibal's advance into central Italy. [163]

In early spring 217 BC, the Carthaginians crossed the Apennines unopposed, taking a difficult but unguarded route. [164] Hannibal attempted without success to draw the main Roman army under Gaius Flaminius into a pitched battle by devastating the area they had been sent to protect. [165] Hannibal then cut off the Roman army from Rome, which provoked Flaminius into a hasty pursuit without proper reconnaissance. [166] Hannibal set an ambush [166] and in the Battle of Lake Trasimene completely defeated the Roman army, killing 15,000 Romans, [167] including Flaminius, [166] and taking 15,000 prisoner. A cavalry force of 4,000 from the other Roman army were also engaged and wiped out. [167] The prisoners were badly treated if they were Romans, but released if they were from one of Rome's Latin allies. [168] Hannibal hoped some of these allies could be persuaded to defect, and marched south in the hope of winning over Roman allies among the ethnic Greek and Italic city states. [163] [169]

The Romans, panicked by these heavy defeats, appointed Quintus Fabius Maximus as dictator. [170] Fabius introduced the Fabian strategy of avoiding open battle with his opponent, but constantly skirmishing with small detachments of the enemy. This was not popular among the soldiers, the Roman public or the Roman elite, since he avoided battle while Italy was being devastated by the enemy. [163] Hannibal marched through the richest and most fertile provinces of Italy, hoping the devastation would draw Fabius into battle, but Fabius refused. [171]

Cannae, 216 BC

At the elections of 216 BC Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus were elected as consuls both were more aggressive-minded than Fabius. [172] The Roman Senate authorised the raising of a force of 86,000 men, the largest in Roman history to that point. [172] Paullus and Varro marched southward to confront Hannibal, who accepted battle on the open plain near Cannae. In the Battle of Cannae the Roman legions forced their way through Hannibal's deliberately weak centre, but Libyan heavy infantry on the wings swung around their advance, menacing their flanks. [173] Hasdrubal led Carthaginian cavalry on the left wing and routed the Roman cavalry opposite, then swept around the rear of the Romans to attack the cavalry on the other wing. He then charged into the legions from behind. [173] As a result, the Roman infantry was surrounded with no means of escape. [173] At least 67,500 Romans were killed or captured. [173]

Within a few weeks of Cannae a Roman army of 25,000 was ambushed by Boii Gauls at the Battle of Silva Litana and annihilated. [174]

Roman allies defect, 216–205 BC

Little has survived of Polybius's account of Hannibal's army in Italy after Cannae. Livy gives a fuller record, but according to Goldsworthy "his reliability is often suspect", especially with regard to his descriptions of battles [note 9] nevertheless his is the best surviving source for this part of the war. [176] [177] Several of the city states in southern Italy allied themselves with Hannibal, or were captured when pro-Carthaginian factions betrayed their defences. These included the large city of Capua and the major port city of Tarentum (modern Taranto). Two of the major Samnite tribes also joined the Carthaginian cause. By 214 BC the bulk of southern Italy had turned against Rome. [178] [179]

However, the majority of Rome's allies remained loyal, including many in southern Italy. [180] All except the smallest towns were too well fortified for Hannibal to take by assault, and blockade could be a long-drawn-out affair, or if the target was a port, impossible. [181] Carthage's new allies felt little sense of community with Carthage, or even with each other. [180] The new allies increased the number of fixed points which Hannibal's army was expected to defend from Roman retribution, but provided relatively few fresh troops to assist him in doing so. [182] Such Italian forces as were raised resisted operating away from their home cities and performed badly when they did. [183]

When the port city of Locri defected to Carthage in the summer of 215 BC it was immediately used to reinforce the Carthaginian forces in Italy with soldiers, supplies and war elephants. [184] It was the only time during the war that Carthage reinforced Hannibal. [185] A second force, under Hannibal's youngest brother Mago, was meant to land in Italy in 215 BC but was diverted to Iberia after the Carthaginian defeat in Iberia at the Battle of Dertosa. [184] [186]

Meanwhile, the Romans took drastic steps to raise new legions: enrolling slaves, criminals and those who did not meet the usual property qualification. [183] By early 215 BC they were fielding at least 12 legions by 214 BC, 18 and by 213 BC, 22. By 212 BC the full complement of the legions deployed would have been in excess of 100,000 men, plus, as always, a similar number of allied troops. The majority were deployed in southern Italy in field armies of approximately 20,000 men each. This was insufficient to challenge Hannibal's army in open battle, but sufficient to force him to concentrate his forces and to hamper his movements. [187]

For 11 years after Cannae the war surged around southern Italy as cities went over to the Carthaginians or were taken by subterfuge, and the Romans recaptured them by siege or by suborning pro-Roman factions. [188] Hannibal repeatedly defeated Roman armies, but wherever his main army was not active the Romans threatened Carthaginian-supporting towns or sought battle with Carthaginian or Carthaginian-allied detachments frequently with success. [189] By 207 BC Hannibal had been confined to the extreme south of Italy and many of the cities and territories which had joined the Carthaginian cause had returned to their Roman allegiance. [190]

First Macedonian War, 214–205 BC

During 216 BC the Macedonian king, Philip V, pledged his support to Hannibal [191] – thus initiating the First Macedonian War against Rome in 215 BC. In 211 BC, Rome contained the threat of Macedonia by allying with the Aetolian League, an anti-Macedonian coalition of Greek city states. In 205 BC this war ended with a negotiated peace. [192]

Sardinia, 213 BC

A rebellion in support of the Carthaginians broke out on Sardinia in 213 BC, but it was quickly put down by the Romans. [193]

Sicily, 213–210 BC

Sicily remained firmly in Roman hands, blocking the ready seaborne reinforcement and resupply of Hannibal from Carthage. Hiero II, the old tyrant of Syracuse of forty-five-years standing and a staunch Roman ally, died in 215 BC and his successor Hieronymus was discontented with his situation. Hannibal negotiated a treaty whereby Syracuse came over to Carthage, at the price of making the whole of Sicily a Syracusan possession. The Syracusan army proved no match for the Romans, and by spring 213 BC Syracuse was besieged. [194] [195] The siege was marked by the ingenuity of Archimedes in inventing war machines to counteract the traditional siege warfare methods of the Romans. [196]

A large Carthaginian army led by Himilco was sent to relieve the city in 213 BC. [193] [197] It captured several Roman-garrisoned towns on Sicily many Roman garrisons were either expelled or massacred by Carthaginian partisans. [197] In the spring of 212 BC the Romans stormed Syracuse in a surprise night assault and captured several districts of the city. [197] Meanwhile, the Carthaginian army was crippled by plague. [197] After the Carthaginians failed to resupply the city, Syracuse fell in the autumn of 212 BC Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier. [197]

Carthage sent more reinforcements to Sicily in 211 BC and went on the offensive. A fresh Roman army attacked the main Carthaginian stronghold on the island, Agrigentum, in 210 BC and the city was betrayed to the Romans by a discontented Carthaginian officer. The remaining Carthaginian-controlled towns then surrendered or were taken through force or treachery [198] [199] and the Sicilian grain supply to Rome and its armies was resumed. [200]

Hasdrubal invades Italy, 207 BC

In the spring of 207 BC, Hasdrubal Barca marched across the Alps and invaded Italy with an army of 30,000 men. His aim was to join his forces with those of Hannibal, but Hannibal was unaware of his presence. The Romans facing Hannibal in southern Italy tricked him into believing the whole Roman army was still in camp, while a large portion marched north and reinforced the Romans facing Hasdrubal. The combined Roman force attacked Hasdrubal at the Battle of the Metaurus and destroyed his army, killing Hasdrubal. This battle confirmed Roman dominance in Italy. [201]

Mago invades Italy, 205–203 BC

In 205 BC, Mago landed in Genua in north-west Italy with the remnants of his Spanish army (see § Iberia below). It soon received Gallic and Ligurian reinforcements. Mago's arrival in the north of the Italian peninsula was followed by Hannibal's inconclusive Battle of Crotona in 204 BC in the far south of the peninsula. Mago marched his reinforced army towards the lands of Carthage's main Gallic allies in the Po Valley, but was checked by a large Roman army and defeated at the Battle of Insubria in 203 BC. [202]

Hannibal is recalled, 203 BC

After Publius Cornelius Scipio invaded the Carthaginian homeland in 204 BC, defeating the Carthaginians in two major battles and winning the allegiance of the Numidian kingdoms of North Africa, Hannibal and the remnants of his army were recalled. [203] They sailed from Croton [204] and landed at Carthage with 15,000–20,000 experienced veterans. [205] Mago was also recalled he died of wounds on the voyage and some of his ships were intercepted by the Romans, [205] but 12,000 of his troops reached Carthage. [206]


Iberia 218–215 BC

The Roman fleet continued on from Massala in the autumn of 218 BC, landing the army it was transporting in north-east Iberia, where it won support among the local tribes. [156] A rushed Carthaginian attack in late 218 BC was beaten off at the Battle of Cissa. [156] [207] In 217 BC 40 Carthaginian and Iberian warships were beaten by 55 Roman and Massalian vessels at the Battle of Ebro River, with 29 Carthaginian ships lost. The Romans' lodgement between the Ebro and Pyrenees blocked the route from Iberia to Italy and prevented the despatch of reinforcements from Iberia to Hannibal. [207] The Carthaginian commander in Iberia, Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal, marched into this area in 215 BC, offered battle and was defeated at Dertosa, although both sides suffered heavy casualties. [208]

Iberia, 214–209 BC

The Carthaginians suffered a wave of defections of local Celtiberian tribes to Rome. [156] The Roman commanders captured Saguntum in 212 BC [208] and in 211 BC hired 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries to reinforce their army. [208] Observing that the three Carthaginian armies were deployed apart from each other, the Romans split their forces. [208] This strategy resulted in the Battle of Castulo and the Battle of Ilorca, usually combined as the Battle of the Upper Baetis. [156] [208] Both battles ended in complete defeat for the Romans, as Hasdrubal had bribed the Romans' mercenaries to desert. [156] [208] The Romans retreated to their coastal stronghold north of the Ebro, from which the Carthaginians again failed to expel them. [156] [208] Claudius Nero brought over reinforcements in 210 BC and stabilised the situation. [208]

In 210 BC Publius Cornelius Scipio, [note 10] arrived in Iberia with further Roman reinforcements. [212] In a carefully planned assault in 209 BC, he captured the lightly-defended centre of Carthaginian power in Iberia, Cartago Nova, [212] [213] seizing a vast booty of gold, silver and siege artillery. [212] [214] He released the captured population and liberated the Iberian hostages held there by the Carthaginians to ensure the loyalty of their tribes, [212] [214] although many of them were subsequently to fight against the Romans. [212]

Iberia, 208–207 BC

In the spring of 208 BC, Hasdrubal moved to engage Scipio at the Battle of Baecula. [212] The Carthaginians were defeated, but Hasdrubal was able to withdraw the majority of his army in good order. Most of his losses were among his Iberian allies. Scipio was not able to prevent Hasdrubal from leading his depleted army over the western passes of the Pyrenees into Gaul. In 207 BC, after recruiting heavily in Gaul, Hasdrubal crossed the Alps into Italy in an attempt to join his brother, Hannibal. [212] [215] [216]

Roman victory in Iberia, 206–205 BC

In 206 BC, at the Battle of Ilipa, Scipio with 48,000 men, half Italian and half Iberian, defeated a Carthaginian army of 54,500 men and 32 elephants. This sealed the fate of the Carthaginians in Iberia. [212] [216] It was followed by the Roman capture of Gades after the city rebelled against Carthaginian rule. [217]

Later the same year a mutiny broke out among Roman troops, which initially attracted support from Iberian leaders, disappointed that Roman forces had remained in the peninsula after the expulsion of the Carthaginians, but it was effectively put down by Scipio. In 205 BC a last attempt was made by Mago to recapture New Carthage when the Roman occupiers were shaken by another mutiny and an Iberian uprising, but he was repulsed. Mago left Iberia for northern Italy with his remaining forces. [214] In 203 BC Carthage succeeded in recruiting at least 4,000 mercenaries from Iberia, despite Rome's nominal control. [218]


In 213 BC Syphax, a powerful Numidian king in North Africa, [208] declared for Rome. In response, Roman advisers were sent to train his soldiers [208] and he waged war against the Carthaginian ally Gala. [208] In 206 BC the Carthaginians ended this drain on their resources by dividing several Numidian kingdoms with him. One of those disinherited was the Numidian prince Masinissa, who was thus driven into the arms of Rome. [219]

Scipio's invasion of Africa, 204–201 BC

In 205 BC Publius Scipio was given command of the legions in Sicily and allowed to enrol volunteers for his plan to end the war by an invasion of Africa. [220] After landing in Africa in 204 BC, he was joined by Masinissa and a force of Numidian cavalry. [221] Scipio gave battle to and destroyed two large Carthaginian armies. [203] After the second of these Syphax was pursued and taken prisoner by Masinissa at the Battle of Cirta Masinissa then seized most of Syphax's kingdom with Roman help. [222]

Rome and Carthage entered into peace negotiations, and Carthage recalled Hannibal from Italy. [223] The Roman Senate ratified a draft treaty, but due to mistrust and a surge in confidence when Hannibal arrived from Italy Carthage repudiated it. [224] Hannibal was placed in command of another army, formed from his veterans from Italy and newly raised troops from Africa, but with few cavalry. [225] The decisive Battle of Zama followed in October 202 BC. [226] Unlike most battles of the Second Punic War, the Romans had superiority in cavalry and the Carthaginians in infantry. [225] Hannibal attempted to use 80 elephants to break into the Roman infantry formation, but the Romans countered them effectively and they routed back through the Carthaginian ranks. [227] The Roman and allied Numidian cavalry drove the Carthaginian cavalry from the field. The two sides' infantry fought inconclusively until the Roman cavalry returned and attacked his rear. The Carthaginian formation collapsed Hannibal was one of the few to escape the field. [226]

The peace treaty imposed on the Carthaginians stripped them of all of their overseas territories, and some of their African ones. An indemnity of 10,000 silver talents [note 11] was to be paid over 50 years. Hostages were taken. Carthage was forbidden to possess war elephants and its fleet was restricted to 10 warships. It was prohibited from waging war outside Africa, and in Africa only with Rome's express permission. Many senior Carthaginians wanted to reject it, but Hannibal spoke strongly in its favour and it was accepted in spring 201 BC. [228] Henceforth it was clear that Carthage was politically subordinate to Rome. [229] Scipio was awarded a triumph and received the agnomen "Africanus". [230]

At the end of the war, Masinissa emerged as by far the most powerful ruler among the Numidians. [231] Over the following 48 years he repeatedly took advantage of Carthage's inability to protect its possessions. Whenever Carthage petitioned Rome for redress, or permission to take military action, Rome backed its ally, Masinissa, and refused. [232] Masinissa's seizures of and raids into Carthaginian territory became increasingly flagrant. In 151 BC Carthage raised a large army, the treaty notwithstanding, and counterattacked the Numidians. The campaign ended in disaster for the Carthaginians and their army surrendered. [233] Carthage had paid off its indemnity and was prospering economically, but was no military threat to Rome. [234] [235] Elements in the Roman Senate had long wished to destroy Carthage, and with the breach of the treaty as a casus belli, war was declared in 149 BC. [233]

In 149 BC a Roman army of approximately 50,000 men, jointly commanded by both consuls, landed near Utica, 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Carthage. [236] Rome demanded that if war were to be avoided, the Carthaginians must hand over all of their armaments. Vast amounts of materiel were delivered, including 200,000 sets of armour, 2,000 catapults and a large number of warships. [237] This done, the Romans demanded the Carthaginians burn their city and relocate at least 16 kilometres (10 mi) from the sea the Carthaginians broke off negotiations and set to recreating their armoury. [238]

Siege of Carthage

As well as manning the walls of Carthage, the Carthaginians formed a field army under Hasdrubal, which was based 25 kilometres (16 mi) to the south. [240] [241] The Roman army moved to lay siege to Carthage, but its walls were so strong and its citizen-militia so determined it was unable to make any impact, while the Carthaginians struck back effectively. Their army raided the Roman lines of communication, [241] and in 148 BC Carthaginian fire ships destroyed many Roman vessels. The main Roman camp was in a swamp, which caused an outbreak of disease during the summer. [242] The Romans moved their camp, and their ships, further away – so they were now more blockading than closely besieging the city. [243] The war dragged on into 147 BC. [241]

In early 147 BC Scipio Aemilianus, an adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus who had distinguished himself during the previous two years' fighting, was elected consul and took control of the war. [233] [244] The Carthaginians continued to resist vigorously: they constructed warships and during the summer twice gave battle to the Roman fleet, losing both times. [244] The Romans launched an assault on the walls after confused fighting they broke into the city, but lost in the dark, withdrew. Hasdrubal and his army retreated into the city to reinforce the garrison. [245] Hasdrubal had Roman prisoners tortured to death on the walls, in view of the Roman army. He was reinforcing the will to resist in the Carthaginian citizens from this point there could be no possibility of negotiations. Some members of the city council denounced his actions and Hasdrubal had them too put to death and took control of the city. [244] [246] With no Carthaginian army in the field those cities which had remained loyal went over to the Romans or were captured. [247]

Scipio moved back to a close blockade of the city, and built a mole which cut off supply from the sea. [248] In the spring of 146 BC the Roman army managed to secure a foothold on the fortifications near the harbour. [249] [250] When the main assault began it quickly captured the city's main square, where the legions camped overnight. [251] The next morning the Romans systematically worked their way through the residential part of the city, killing everyone they encountered and firing the buildings behind them. [249] At times the Romans progressed from rooftop to rooftop, to prevent missiles being hurled down on them. [251] It took six days to clear the city of resistance, and on the last day Scipio agreed to accept prisoners. The last holdouts, including Roman deserters in Carthaginian service, fought on from the Temple of Eshmoun and burnt it down around themselves when all hope was gone. [252] There were 50,000 Carthaginian prisoners, a small proportion of the pre-war population, who were sold into slavery. [253] There is a tradition that Roman forces then sowed the city with salt, but this has been shown to have been a 19th-century invention. [254] [255]

The remaining Carthaginian territories were annexed by Rome and reconstituted to become the Roman province of Africa with Utica as its capital. [256] The province became a major source of grain and other foodstuffs. [257] Numerous large Punic cities, such as those in Mauretania, were taken over by the Romans, [258] although they were permitted to retain their Punic system of government. [259] A century later, the site of Carthage was rebuilt as a Roman city by Julius Caesar, and would become one of the main cities of Roman Africa by the time of the Empire. [260] [261] Rome still exists as the capital of Italy [262] the ruins of Carthage lie 24 kilometres (15 mi) east of Tunis on the North African coast. [263] [264]

First Punic War (264–241 bce )

The proximate cause of the first outbreak was a crisis in the city of Messana (Messina), commanding the straits between Italy and Sicily. The Mamertini, a band of Campanian mercenaries, had forcibly established themselves within the town and were being hard pressed in 264 by Hieron II of Syracuse. The Mamertini appealed to both Rome and Carthage, and the Carthaginians, arriving first, occupied Messana and effected a reconciliation with Hieron. The Roman commander, nevertheless, persisted in throwing troops into the city, and, by seizing the Carthaginian admiral during a parley, induced him to withdraw. This aggression provoked war with Carthage and Syracuse.

Operations began with a joint attack upon Messana, which the Romans easily repelled. In 263 the Romans advanced with a considerable force into Hieron’s territory and induced him to seek peace and alliance with them. They besieged and captured the Carthaginian base at Agrigentum in 262 but made little impression upon the Carthaginian fortresses in the west of the island and upon the towns of the interior.

In 260 the Romans built their first large fleet of standard battleships. At Mylae (Milazzo), off the north Sicilian coast, their admiral Gaius Duilius defeated a Carthaginian squadron of superior maneuvering capacity by grappling and boarding. This left Rome free to land a force on Corsica (259) and expel the Carthaginians but did not suffice to loosen their grasp on Sicily. A large Roman fleet sailed out in 256, repelled the entire Carthaginian fleet off Cape Ecnomus (near modern Licata) and established a fortified camp on African soil at Clypea (Kélibia in Tunisia). The Carthaginians, whose citizen levy was utterly disorganized, could neither keep the field against the invaders nor prevent their subjects from revolting. After one campaign they were ready to sue for peace, but the terms which the Roman commander Marcus Atilius Regulus offered were intolerably harsh. Accordingly they equipped a new army in which, by the advice of a Greek captain of mercenaries named Xanthippus, cavalry and elephants formed the strongest arm. In 255, under Xanthippus’ command, they offered battle to Regulus, who had taken up position with an inadequate force near Tunis, outmaneuvered him, and destroyed the bulk of his army. A second Roman fleet, which subsequently reached Africa after defeating the full Carthaginian fleet off Cape Hermaeum (Sharīk Peninsula), withdrew all the remaining troops.

The Romans now directed their efforts once more against Sicily. In 254 they captured the important fortress of Panormus (Palermo), but when Carthage threw reinforcements into the island the war again came to a standstill. In 251 or 250 the Roman general Lucius Caecilius Metellus at last brought about a pitched battle near Panormus in which the enemy’s force was effectively crippled. This victory was followed by an investment of the chief Punic base at Lilybaeum (Marsala), together with Drepanum (Trapani), by land and sea. The besiegers met with a gallant resistance and in 249 were compelled to withdraw by the loss of their fleet in a surprise attack upon Drepanum, in which the admiral Publius Claudius Pulcher was repulsed with a loss of 93 ships. While this was the Romans’ only naval defeat in the war, their fleet had suffered a series of grievous losses by storm, and now it was so reduced that the attack upon Sicily had to be suspended. At the same time, the Carthaginians, who felt no less severely the financial strain of the prolonged struggle, reduced their forces and made no attempt to deliver a counterattack. The only noteworthy feature of the ensuing campaigns is the skillful guerrilla war waged by a new Carthaginian commander, Hamilcar Barca, from his strong positions on Mt. Ercte (247–244) and Mt. Eryx (modern Erice) (244–242) in western Sicily, by which he effectually screened Lilybaeum from any attempt on it by the Roman land army.

In 242 Rome resumed operations at sea. By a magnificent effort on the part of private citizens a fleet of 200 warships was equipped and sent out to renew the blockade of Lilybaeum. The Carthaginians hastily collected a relief force, but in a battle fought off the Aegates Insulae (Egadi Islands), west of Drepana, their fleet was caught at a disadvantage and mostly sunk or captured (March 10, 241). This victory, by giving the Romans undisputed command of the sea, rendered certain the ultimate fall of the Punic strongholds in Sicily. The Carthaginians accordingly opened negotiations and consented to a peace by which they ceded Sicily and the Lipari (Eolie) Islands to Rome and paid an indemnity of 3,200 talents.


Having left Spain for Italy to wage war against Rome, thus causing the Second Punic War, Hannibal garnered victory after victory in a series of lightning battles against the legions of the burgeoning Italic power.

With the help of his brothers Hasdrubal and Mago, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair, as well as other Carthaginian commanders, Hannibal managed to keep the Iberian front battling, which forced the Romans to redirect manpower away from the Italic front. The alliance with Philip V was an attempt to open another front in the east, which would have further stretched Roman resources and soldiers.

Roman power had been steadily spreading on the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea. The Illyrians, once ruled by queen Teuta, had been subjugated under the pretext that they were involved in piracy on the Dalmatian and Albanian coasts against merchants from Rome. [1] By Philip's time, virtually every city and port on the eastern Adriatic coast was under Roman influence or protectorate.

The Romans had also provided their support to many Greek coastal cities and islands (like Apollonia and Corfu) members of the Aetolian League, which fought against Macedon and the rest of Greece in search of independence. The Seleucid kings of Syria and Attalus I of Pergamon were stirring trouble on the eastern borders of Macedon. Philip V, therefore, needed a powerful ally to halt Rome's expansion towards the Balkans and mitigate the danger on Macedon's western border. Hannibal seemed the perfect candidate.

Livy, the Roman historian of the 1st century, narrates in Ab Urbe condita ("Since the founding of Rome"), Liber XXIII, 33-39, how Philip, having observed Hannibal's victories, sent a delegation in the summer of 215 BC to meet him on the Italic peninsula to secure an alliance. [2] [3] [4]

The Greek ambassadors, avoiding the most obvious points of disembarkation from Greece, Brindisi and Taranto, landed near Capo Colonna, in Calabria, by the temple of Juno Lacinia. From there, they moved towards Capua, where Hannibal had set up headquarters, hoping not to be intercepted by Roman legions.

Unable to avoid detection, the delegation was escorted to the praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus for questioning. The Athenian commander Xenophanes, leader of the expedition, improvised by declaring that the delegation had been sent by king Philip to secure an agreement of amicitiam societatemque (friendship and alliance) with the Roman people.

The praetor welcomed the delegation and sent it on its way to Rome, providing an escort and key tactical information on where the Carthaginians were camped. Armed with this knowledge, the Macedonians reached Hannibal's camp with little effort completing their assigned mission. [5]

The text of the treaty, recorded by historian Polybius, can be found in the boxes below.

Ὅρκος, ὃν ἔθετο Ἀννίβας ὁ στρατηγός, Μάγωνος, Μύρκανος, Βαρμόκαρος, καὶ πάντες γερουσιασταὶ Καρχηδονίων οἱ μετ' αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες Καρχηδόνιοι στρατευόμενοι μετ' αὐτοῦ πρὸς Ξενοφάνη Κλεομάχου Ἀθηναῖον πρεσβευτήν, ὃν ἀπέστειλε πρὸς ἡμᾶς Φίλιππος ὁ βασιλεὺς Δημητρίου ὑπὲρ αὑτοῦ καὶ Μακεδόνων καὶ τῶν συμμάχων[.]

Ἐναντίον Διὸς καὶ Ἥρας καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος, ἐναντίον δαίμονος Καρχηδονίων καὶ Ἡρακλέους καὶ Ἰολάου, ἐναντίον Ἄρεως, Τρίτωνος, Ποσειδῶνος, ἐναντίον θεῶν τῶν συστρατευομένων καὶ Ἡλίου καὶ Σελήνης καὶ Γῆς, ἐναντίον ποταμῶν καὶ λιμένων καὶ ὑδάτων, ἐναντίον πάντων θεῶν ὅσοι κατέχουσι Καρχηδόνα, ἐναντίον θεῶν πάντων ὅσοι Μακεδονίαν καὶ τὴν ἄλλην Ἑλλάδα κατέχουσιν, ἐναντίον θεῶν πάντων τῶν κατὰ στρατείαν, ὅσοι τινὲς ἐφεστήκασιν ἐπὶ τοῦδε τοῦ ὅρκου.

Ἀννίβας ὁ στρατηγὸς εἶπε καὶ πάντες Καρχηδονίων γερουσιασταὶ οἱ μετ' αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες Καρχηδόνιοι οἱ στρατευόμενοι μετ' αὐτοῦ, ὃ ἂν δοκῇ ὑμῖν καὶ ἡμῖν, τὸν ὅρκον τοῦτον θέσθαι περὶ φιλίας καὶ εὐνοίας καλῆς, φίλους καὶ οἰκείους καὶ ἀδελφούς,

  • ἐφ' ᾧτ' εἶναι σῳζομένους ὑπὸ βασιλέως Φιλίππου καὶ Μακεδόνων καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων Ἑλλήνων, ὅσοι εἰσὶν αὐτῶν σύμμαχοι, κυρίους Καρχηδονίους καὶ Ἀννίβαν τὸν στρατηγὸν καὶ τοὺς μετ' αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς Καρχηδονίων ὑπάρχους, ὅσοι τοῖς αὐτοῖς νόμοις χρῶνται, καὶ Ἰτυκαίους, καὶ ὅσαι πόλεις καὶ ἔθνη Καρχηδονίων ὑπήκοα, καὶ τοὺς στρατιώτας καὶ τοὺς συμμάχους, καὶ πάσας πόλεις καὶ ἔθνη, πρὸς ἅ ἐστιν ἡμῖν ἥ τε φιλία τῶν ἐν Ἰταλίᾳ καὶ Κελτίᾳ καὶ ἐν τῇ Λιγυστίνῃ, καὶ πρὸς οὕστινας ἡμῖν ἂν γένηται φιλία καὶ συμμαχία ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ χώρᾳ.
  • ἔσται δὲ καὶ Φίλιππος ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ Μακεδόνες καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Ἑλλήνων οἱ σύμμαχοι, σῳζόμενοι καὶ φυλαττόμενοι ὑπὸ Καρχηδονίων τῶν συστρατευομένων καὶ ὑπὸ Ἰτυκαίων καὶ ὑπὸ πασῶν πόλεων καὶ ἐθνῶν ὅσα ἐστὶ Καρχηδονίοις ὑπήκοα, καὶ συμμάχων καὶ στρατιωτῶν, καὶ ὑπὸ πάντων ἐθνῶν καὶ πόλεων ὅσα ἐστὶν ἐν Ἰταλίᾳ καὶ Κελτίᾳ καὶ Λιγυστίνῃ, καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων, ὅσοι ἂν γένωνται σύμμαχοι ἐν τοῖς κατ' Ἰταλίαν τόποις τούτοις.
  • οὐκ ἐπιβουλεύσομεν ἀλλήλοις οὐδὲ λόχῳ χρησόμεθα ἐπ' ἀλλήλοις, μετὰ πάσης δὲ προθυμίας καὶ εὐνοίας ἄνευ δόλου καὶ ἐπιβουλῆς ἐσόμεθα πολέμιοι τοῖς πρὸς Καρχηδονίους πολεμοῦσι χωρὶς βασιλέων καὶ πόλεων καὶ λιμένων, πρὸς οὓς ἡμῖν εἰσιν ὅρκοι καὶ φιλίαι.
  • ἐσόμεθα δὲ καὶ ἡμεῖς πολέμιοι τοῖς πολεμοῦσι πρὸς βασιλέα Φίλιππον χωρὶς βασιλέων καὶ πόλεων καὶ ἐθνῶν, πρὸς οὓς ἡμῖν εἰσιν ὅρκοι καὶ φιλίαι.
  • ἔσεσθε δὲ καὶ ἡμῖν σύμμαχοι πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον, ὅς ἐστιν ἡμῖν πρὸς Ῥωμαίους, ἕως ἂν ἡμῖν καὶ ὑμῖν οἱ θεοὶ διδῶσι τὴν εὐημερίαν. βοηθήσετε δὲ ἡμῖν, ὡς ἂν χρεία ᾖ καὶ ὡς ἂν συμφωνήσωμεν.
  • ποιησάντων δὲ τῶν θεῶν εὐημερίαν ἡμῖν κατὰ τὸν πόλεμον τὴν πρὸς Ῥωμαίους καὶ τοὺς συμμάχους αὐτῶν, ἂν ἀξιῶσι Ῥωμαῖοι συντίθεσθαι περὶ φιλίας, συνθησόμεθα, ὥστ' εἶναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὴν αὐτὴν φιλίαν,ἐφ' ᾧτε μὴ ἐξεῖναι αὐτοῖς ἄρασθαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς μηδέποτε πόλεμον, μηδ' εἶναι Ῥωμαίους κυρίους Κερκυραίων μηδ' Ἀπολλωνιατῶν καὶ Ἐπιδαμνίων μηδὲ Φάρου μηδὲ Διμάλης καὶ Παρθίνων μηδ' Ἀτιντανίας. ἀποδώσουσι δὲ καὶ Δημητρίῳ τῷ Φαρίῳ τοὺς οἰκείους πάντας, οἵ εἰσιν ἐν τῷ κοινῷ τῶν Ῥωμαίων.
  • ἐὰν δὲ αἴρωνται Ῥωμαῖοι πρὸς ὑμᾶς πόλεμον ἢ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, βοηθήσομεν ἀλλήλοις εἰς τὸν πόλεμον, καθὼς ἂν ἑκατέροις ᾖ χρεία.
  • ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἐάν τινες ἄλλοι χωρὶς βασιλέων καὶ πόλεων καὶ ἐθνῶν, πρὸς ἃ ἡμῖν εἰσιν ὅρκοι καὶ φιλίαι.
  • ἐὰν δὲ δοκῇ ἡμῖν ἀφελεῖν ἢ προσθεῖναι πρὸς τόνδε τὸν ὅρκον, ἀφελοῦμεν ἢ προσθήσομεν ὡς ἂν ἡμῖν δοκῇ ἀμφοτέροις.

[Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cod. Urb. folio 96 exc. ant. p. 193.]

This is a sworn treaty made between Hannibal, Mago, Barmocarus, and such members of the Carthaginian Gerousia as were present, and all Carthaginians serving in his army, on the one part and Xenophanes, son of Cleomachus of Athens, sent to us by King Philip, as his ambassador, on behalf of himself, the Macedonians, and their allies, on the other part.

The oath is taken in the presence of Zeus, Here, and Apollo: of the god of the Carthaginians, Hercules, and Iolaus: of Ares, Triton, Poseidon: of the gods that accompany the army, and of the sun, moon, and earth: of rivers, harbours, waters: of all the gods who rule Carthage: of all the gods who rule Macedonia and the rest of Greece: of all the gods of war that are witnesses to this oath.

Hannibal, general, and all the Carthaginian senators with him, and all Carthaginians serving in his army, subject to our mutual consent, proposes to make this sworn treaty of friendship and honourable good-will. Let us be friends, close allies, and brethren, on the conditions herein following:

  • Let the Carthaginians, as supreme, Hannibal their chief general and those serving with him, all members of the Carthaginian dominion living under the same laws, as well as the people of Utica, and the cities and tribes subject to Carthage, and their soldiers and allies, and all cities and tribes in Italy, Celt-land, and Liguria, with whom we have a compact of friendship, and with whomsoever in this country we may hereafter form such compact, be supported by King Philip and the Macedonians, and all other Greeks in alliance with them.
  • On their parts also King Philip and the Macedonians, and such other Greeks as are his allies, shall be supported and protected by the Carthaginians now in this army, and by the people of Utica, and by all cities and tribes subject to Carthage, both soldiers and allies, and by all allied cities and tribes in Italy, Celt-land, and Liguria, and by all others in Italy as shall hereafter become allies of the Carthaginians.
  • We will not make plots against, nor lie in ambush for, each other but in all sincerity and good-will, without reserve or secret design, will be enemies to the enemies of the Carthaginians, saving and excepting those kings, cities, and ports with which we have sworn agreements and friendships.
  • And we, too, will be enemies to the enemies of King Philip, saving and excepting those kings, cities, and tribes, with which we have sworn agreements and friendships.
  • You shall be friends to us in the war in which we now are engaged against the Romans, till such time as the gods give us and you the victory: and you shall assist us in all ways that be needful, and in whatsoever way we may mutually determine.
  • And when the gods have given us victory in our war with the Romans and their allies, if Hannibal shall deem it right to make terms with the Romans, these terms shall include the same friendship with you, made on these conditions: first, the Romans not to be allowed to make war on you second, not to have power over Corcyra, Apollonia, Epidamnum, Pharos, Dimale, Parthini, nor Atitania (3) to restore to Demetrius of Pharos all those of his friends now in the dominion of Rome.
  • If the Romans ever make war on you or on us we will aid each other in such war, according to the need of either.
  • So also if any other nation whatever does so, always excepting kings, cities, and tribes, with whom we have sworn agreements and friendships.
  • If we decide to take away from, or add to this sworn treaty, we will so take away, or add thereto, only as we both agree.

Once the treaty was completed, the delegation and Carthaginians officers Mago, Gisgo and Bostar, undertook the return journey to Macedonia to obtain Philip's signature. [6] Their ship was, however, intercepted by Roman warships led by Valerius Flaccus, who did not believe Xenophanes' story and ordered a search of the vessel and its occupants. The discovery of Punic apparel and of the treaty itself prompted Flaccus to send the delegation as prisoners to Rome on five ships, so as to keep them separate and limit the risk of escape. After a brief stop in Cumae for further interrogation by consul Tiberius Sempronius Graccus, the delegation faced the Senate and was incarcerated. Only one member of the delegation managed to escape and return to Macedon, where he was unable to fully recollect the exact terms of the treaty to king Philip. Therefore, Philip was forced to send a second delegation to meet Hannibal and draft the agreement anew. [7]

In response to the threat presented by the Macedonian-Carthaginian alliance, the Senate decreed that twenty-five ships be added to the contingent already under Flaccus' command and sent to Apulia, where they were expected to monitor Philip's movements. [8]

In reality, because summer had elapsed by the time the second delegation reached Hannibal and concluded the treaty, its terms were never executed (military operations were usually suspended in winter). Furthermore, the discovery of the alliance by the Roman senate nullified the element of surprise, which greatly diminished the treaty's value in the context of the Second Punic War. [9] [10] Nevertheless, the discovery of the treaty led to debates in the Roman Senate about how to handle Macedonia and, eventually led to the outbreak of the First Macedonian War (214-205 BC). This conflict was centred largely in Illyria (modern-day Albania) but included Greece due to Rome's allies there simultaneously waging war against Macedonia. [11] [12] [13]

Why and how did Macedon support Carthage in the Punic wars? - History

Queen Dido (aka Elissa, from Elisha, or Alashiya, her Phoenician name) was a legendary Queen of Tyre in Phoenicia who was forced to flee the city with a loyal band of followers. Sailing west across the Mediterranean she founded the city of Carthage c. 813 BCE and later fell in love with the Trojan hero and founder of the Roman people Aeneas. The tale of Dido is most famously recounted in Virgil's Aeneid but she appeared in the works of many other ancient writers both before and after.

Dido & Pygmalion

The earliest surviving mention of the founding myth of Carthage appears in the work of Timaeus of Taormina, a Greek historian (c. 350-260 BCE) whose original texts do not survive but which are referred to by later authors. Timaeus was the first to present the foundation of Carthage as occurring in either 814 or 813 BCE. An additional source on the historical Elissa is Josephus, the 1st century CE historian, who quotes Menandros of Ephesus' list of 10th-9th century BCE Tyrian kings, which includes mention of an Elissa, sister of Pygmalion (Pumayyaton), who founded Carthage in the seventh year of that king's reign.


The most famous version of the Dido story, though, is found in Virgil's Aeneid. The 1st-century BCE Roman writer describes Dido as a daughter of Belus, the King of the Tyre in Phoenicia. We are told that her Phoenician name was Elissa but the Libyans gave her the new name Dido, meaning 'wanderer'. Virgil recounts that Dido's brother, Pygmalion, cheated his sister out of her inheritance and then, in order to keep the throne of Tyre, killed Dido's husband Sychaeus. In another version, Dido married Acherbas (Zakarbaal), her uncle and priest of Melqart (or Baal) who was similarly executed by Pygmalion to acquire his wealth. Dido then fled the city with a loyal following (which included the military commanders Bitias and Barcas) and a hoard of the king's gold to sail west and a new life.


Foundation of Carthage

Dido's first stopping point was Kition on Cyprus, where she picked up a priest of Astarte after promising him that he and his descendants could be the High Priest at their new colony. A group of 80 young women, prostituted there in the name of Astarte, were taken along too, and the whole group sailed for North Africa where they founded their new city. Initially, the colonists were helped by the nearby Phoenician colony of Utica, and the local Libyan people (led by King Hiarbas) were willing to trade with them and offered to rent a piece of suitable land. The condition was that they could only have the area of land covered by an ox-hide. The resourceful Dido had the hide cut into very fine strips and with these encircled a hill which, in time, became the city's citadel and known as Byrsa Hill after the Greek word for ox-hide.

The name of this new settlement was Qart-hadasht (New Town or Capital), and its location on a strategically advantageous position on a large peninsula of the North African coast was selected to offer a useful stopping point for Phoenician maritime traders who sailed from one end of the Mediterranean to the other.

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Archaeological finds of Greek pottery and the remains of housing dating to the mid-8th century BCE suggest already the presence of a large settlement and so confirm at least the possibility of the traditional founding date. Phoenician cities had already founded colonies around the Mediterranean, and so Carthage was by no means the first, but in a relatively short time, it would become the most important, go on to found its own colonies and even eclipse Phoenicia as the most powerful trading centre of the time. Carthage's prosperity was based not only on its location on trade routes but it also benefitted from an excellent harbour and control of fertile agricultural land. In honour of their founder Carthage minted coins from the 5th century BCE, and some have identified the female head with Phrygian cap seen on many of them as representing Dido. Some Roman writers suggest that Dido was deified, but there is no archaeological evidence from the Carthaginians themselves that this was so.

Dido & Aeneas

Roman writers, perhaps starting with the 3rd century BCE poet Naevius in his Bellum Poenicum, have Dido meet the Trojan hero Aeneas, who would found his own great city: Rome. In the myth of Rome's founding father, Aeneas came to Italy after the destruction of Troy at the end of Trojan War. This was four centuries prior to the founding of Carthage, so it is, therefore, chronologically impossible the two did meet if indeed they ever existed anyway. Virgil then follows with his own take on the myth in his Aeneid in what has become the classic version of the story. He informs us that Aeneas is blown off course in a storm but is directed by Venus to land at Carthage. Dido had been resisting a long line of suitors ever since her husband was murdered back in Carthage, but when she was struck by Cupid's arrow at the command of Venus, she fell in love with the hero. Once, separated from their entourage in a storm, the two make love in a cave. Unfortunately, the romance is short-lived for Mercury, sent by Jupiter, then prompts Aeneas to leave his love and continue the voyage which will fulfil his destiny as Rome's founder. When the Trojan resists Dido's calls to stay and sails away, it is then that the queen throws herself on a funeral pyre, but not before she pronounces a terrible curse on the Trojans, thus explaining the inevitability of the brutal Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome:


Let there be no love between our peoples and no treaties. Arise from my dead bones, O my unknown avenger, and harry the race of Dardanus with fire and sword wherever they may settle, now and in the future, whenever our strength allows it. I pray that we may stand opposed, shore against shore, sea against sea and sword against sword. Let there be war between the nations and between their sons for ever. (Bk. IV: 622-9)

According to another tradition, earlier than Virgil, Dido was forced to marry the Libyan king Hiarbas. To avoid this arrangement Dido built a large fire as if she were about to make an offering but then threw herself into the flames. It is also interesting to note that in Virgil's version Dido is given a sympathetic portrayal and this perhaps reflects the Augustan age when Carthage, no longer the hated enemy of previous centuries, was being rehabilitated into the Roman Empire.

Second Punic War

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Second Punic War, also called Second Carthaginian War, second (218–201 bce ) in a series of wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian (Punic) empire that resulted in Roman hegemony over the western Mediterranean.

In the years after the First Punic War, Rome wrested Corsica and Sardinia from Carthage and forced Carthaginians to pay an even greater indemnity than the payment exacted immediately following the war. Eventually, however, under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca, his son Hannibal, and his son-in-law Hasdrubal, Carthage acquired a new base in Spain, whence they could renew the war against Rome.

In 219 Hannibal captured Saguntum (Sagunto) on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Rome demanded his withdrawal, but Carthage refused to recall him, and Rome declared war. Because Rome controlled the sea, Hannibal led his army overland through Spain and Gaul and across the Alps, arriving in the plain of the Po River valley in 218 bce with 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Roman troops tried to bar his advance but were outmatched, and Hannibal’s hold over northern Italy was established. In 217 Hannibal, reinforced by Gallic tribesmen, marched south. Rather than attack Rome directly, he marched on Capua, the second largest town in Italy, hoping to incite the populace to rebel. He won several battles but still refrained from attacking the city of Rome, even after annihilating a huge Roman army at Cannae in 216. The defeat galvanized Roman resistance. A brilliant defensive strategy conducted by Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator harried the Carthaginians without offering battle. Thus, the two armies remained deadlocked on the Italian peninsula until 211 bce , when Rome recaptured the city of Capua.

In 207 Hasdrubal, following Hannibal’s route across the Alps, reached northern Italy with another large army supported by legions of Ligurians and Gauls. Hasdrubal marched down the peninsula to join Hannibal for an assault on Rome. Rome, exhausted by war, nevertheless raised and dispatched an army to check Hasdrubal. Gaius Nero, commander of the southern Roman army, slipped away north also and defeated Hasdrubal on the banks of the Metauros River. Hannibal maintained his position in southern Italy until 203, when he was ordered to return to Africa. Italy was free of enemy troops for the first time in 15 years. During the long mainland campaign, fighting had continued as well on Sardinia and Sicily, which had become Rome’s chief sources of food. Aided by internal upheaval in Syracuse, Carthage reestablished its presence on the island in 215 and maintained it until 210. Meanwhile, in Spain, Roman forces maintained pressure on Carthaginian strongholds. The Roman general Publius Scipio won a decisive battle at Ilipa in 206 and forced the Carthaginians out of Spain.

After his Spanish victory Scipio determined to invade the Carthaginian homeland. He sailed for Africa in 204 and established a beachhead. The Carthaginian council offered terms of surrender but reneged at the last minute, pinning its hopes on one last battle. The massed Carthaginian army, led by Hannibal, was defeated at Zama. The Carthaginians accepted Scipio’s terms for peace: Carthage was forced to pay an indemnity and surrender its navy, and Spain and the Mediterranean islands were ceded to Rome.

Second Macedonian Wars : 200 to 196 B.C.

The first Macedonian war occurred when Philip V of Macedon allied himself with Hannibal during the second Punic War. The alliance did not amount to much, strategically, but resulted in a few skirmishes on the shore of the Adriatic between Roman forces and Macedonians. It was not until several years after the Second Punic War was brought to a close, that Rome launched a punitive expedition to Macedonia, in order to prevent Philip V from making further alliances unfriendly to Rome.

The Consul in charge of the campaign to Rome was Flamininus, who fortunately for the Greeks, was a great admirer of Greek culture and tried to convince many of the Greek city states to join in an alliance with Rome against Macedonia. In this he was largely successful, and the battle of Cynoscephalae, fought in 197 BC was a decisive win for the Romans. At this point the Romans imposed severe restrictions on Philip V's foreign policy, and "freed" the Greek cities who had made alliances with them, from Macedonian control.

DateBattle Summary
198 BC Battle of Avus ( Second ) Romans victory
Fought B.C. 198, between 20,000 Macedonians under Philip, and two Roman legions under T. Quinctius Flamininus. A force of 4,000 legionaries penetrated to the rear of Philip's camp, and when Flamininus attacked in front, they fell upon the Macedonian rear, and completely routed them, with a loss of 2,000.
197 BC Battle of Cynoscephalae ( Third ) Romans victory
Fought B.C. 197, between the Romans, 26,000 strong, under Flamininus, and the Macedonians, in about equal force under Philip. The Roman vanguard, coming unexpectedly upon the enemy, was repulsed, but Flamininus bringing up the legionaries, the battle became more equal. On the right Philip, with half his phalanx, drove back the Romans, but his left wing was utterly routed, and the victorious Roman right then turned and attacked the Macedonian right in flank and rear, and won a complete victory. The Macedonians lost 13,000 killed and wounded The Roman losses were small.

Commander Short Biography
Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.
King of Macedon during the Second Punic War, and First and Second Macedonian Wars


After the defeat at Zama, Carthage was stripped of its military power, but Rome's thirst for vengeance would not be satisfied until its rival had been utterly destroyed. The most prominent advocate of renewed military action was the Roman orator, Cato the Elder, who ended every speech with the statement: "Carthage must be destroyed!" In 149 BCE the Romans sent an army to besiege the city, accusing the Carthaginians of breaking their treaty with Rome. The siege went badly until the arrival of Scipio Aemilianus, adoptive grandson of Scipio Africanus. The city was first blockaded to near-starvation and then, in 146 BCE, taken by assault. The Carthaginians fought desperately, a final core of resisters burning themselves to death in a temple. All surviving Carthaginians were marched off into slavery. The Romans then razed the city, leaving not a single building standing.

Watch the video: Τι λενε οι Σκοπιανοι για το ονομα Μακεδονία


  1. JoJonos

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  2. Aviva

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  3. Tazahn

    Wonderful, very useful thing

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