giovedì 12 febbraio 2015

Hampsicora and Hostus: 215 BC, the battle

Fig. 1. From: Chiara Blasetti Fantauzzi, Salvatore De Vincenzo. 2013. Indagini archeologiche nell’antica Cornus (OR). Le campagne di scavo 2010 – 2011 . FOLD&R: 275. Historical Cornus has been identified at the top of Corchinas hill. The battle described by Titus Livius (64 or 59 b.C – 17 a.C.) and Silius Italicus (ca. 28-103 a.C.) (vide infra) took place at the Campu 'e Corra plateau, 215 b.C. during II Punic war. 

Titus Livius Patavinus, Ab urbe condita 23.32
[..]Mago, Hannibal's brother, was preparing to transport to Italy a force of 12,000 infantry, 1500 cavalry, and 20 elephants, escorted by a fleet of 60 warships. On the receipt of this news, however, some were in favour of Mago, with such a fleet and army as he had, going to Spain instead of Italy, but whilst they were deliberating there was a sudden gleam of hope that Sardinia might be recovered. They were told that "there was only a small Roman army there, the old praetor, A. Cornelius, who knew the province well, was leaving and a fresh one was expected; the Sardinians, too, were tired of their long subjection, and during the last twelve months the government had been harsh and rapacious and had crushed them with a heavy tax and an unfair exaction of corn. Nothing was wanting but a leader to head their revolt." This report was brought by some secret agents from their leaders, the prime mover in the matter being Hampsicora, the most influential and wealthy man amongst them at that time. Perturbed by the news from Spain, and at the same time elated by the Sardinian report, they sent Mago with his fleet and army to Spain and selected Hasdrubal to conduct the operations in Sardinia, assigning to him a force about as large as the one they had furnished to Mago. 
After they had transacted all the necessary business in Rome the consuls began to prepare for war. [..]

Ab urbe condita 23.40 The active operations in Sardinia which had been dropped owing to the serious illness of Q. Mucius were resumed under the direction of T. Manlius. He hauled ashore his war-ships and furnished the seamen and rowers with arms, so that they might be available for service on land; with these and the army he had taken over from the praetor he made up a force of 22,000 infantry and 1200 cavalry. With this combined force he invaded the hostile territory and fixed his camp at no great distance from Hampsicora's lines. Hampsicora himself happened to be absent; he had paid a visit to the Pelliti-Sardinians in order to arm the younger men amongst them so as to increase his own strength. His son Hostus was in command and in the impetuosity of youth he rashly offered battle, with the result that he was defeated and put to flight. 3000 Sardinians were killed in that battle and 800 taken alive; the rest of the army after wandering in their flight through fields and woods heard that their general had fled to a place called Cornus, the chief town of the district, and thither they directed their flight. That battle would have finished the war had not the Carthaginian fleet under Hasdrubal, which had been driven by a storm down to the Balearic Isles, arrived in time to revive their hopes of renewing the war. When Manlius heard of its arrival he retired upon Carales, and this gave Hampsicora an opportunity of forming a junction with the Carthaginian. Hasdrubal disembarked his force and sent the ships back to Carthage, and then, under Hampsicora's guidance, proceeded to harry and waste the land belonging to the allies of Rome. He would have gone as far as Carales if Manlius had not met him with his army and checked his widespread ravages. At first the two camps faced each other, with only a small space between; then small sorties and skirmishes took place with varying results; at last it came to a battle, a regular action, which lasted for four hours. For a long time the Carthaginians made the issue doubtful, the Sardinians, who were accustomed to defeat, being easily beaten, but at last when they saw the whole field covered with dead and flying Sardinians they too gave way, but when they turned to flee the Roman wing which had routed the Sardinians wheeled round and hemmed them in. Then it was more of a massacre than a battle. 12,000 of the enemy, Sardinians and Carthaginians, were slain, about 3700 were made prisoners, and 27 military standards were captured.

What more than anything else made the battle glorious and memorable was the capture of the commander-in-chief, Hasdrubal, and also of Hanno and Mago, two Carthaginian nobles. Mago was a member of the house of Barca, a near relative of Hannibal; Hanno had taken the lead in the Sardinian revolt and was unquestionably the chief instigator of the war. The battle was no less famous for the fate which overtook the Sardinian generals; Hampsicora's son, Hostus, fell on the field, and when Hampsicora, who was fleeing from the carnage with a few horsemen, heard of his son's death, he was so crushed by the tidings, coming as it did on the top of all the other disasters, that in the dead of night, when none could hinder his purpose, he slew himself with his own hand. The rest of the fugitives found shelter as they had done before in Cornus, but Manlius leading his victorious troops against it effected its capture in a few days. On this the other cities which had espoused the cause of Hampsicora and the Carthaginians gave hostages and surrendered to him. He imposed upon each of them a tribute of money and corn; the amount was proportioned to their resources and also to the share they had taken in the revolt. After this he returned to Carales. There the ships which had been hauled ashore were launched, the troops he had brought with him were re-embarked, and he sailed for Rome. On his arrival he reported to the senate the complete subjugation of Sardinia, and made over the money to the quaestors, the corn to the aediles, and the prisoners to Q. Fulvius, the praetor. During this time T. Otacilius had crossed with his fleet from Lilybaeum to the coast of Africa and was ravaging the territory of Carthage, when rumours came to him that Hasdrubal had recently sailed from the Balearic Isles to Sardinia. He set sail for that island and fell in with the Carthaginian fleet returning to Africa. A brief action followed on the high seas in which Otacilius took seven ships with their crews. The rest dispersed in a panic far and wide, as though they had been scattered by a storm. It so happened at this time that Bomilcar arrived at Locri with reinforcements of men and elephants and also with supplies. Appius Claudius intended to surprise him, and with this view he led his army hurriedly to Messana as though he were going to make a circuit of the province, and finding the wind and tide favourable, crossed over to Locri. Bomilcar had already left to join Hanno in Bruttium and the Locrians shut their gates against the Romans; Appius after all his efforts achieved no results and returned to Messana. This same summer Marcellus made frequent excursions from Nola, which he was holding with a garrison, into the territory of the Hirpini and in the neighbourhood of Samnite Caudium. Such utter devastation did he spread everywhere with fire and sword that he revived throughout Samnium the memory of her ancient disasters.

The chronicle of Silius Italicus is mainly based on Livius' report, and enriched with mythical narratives.  Hampsicora is here called Hampsagoras. 

PUNICA, XII. 342-421
[...]Meanwhile Torquatus, now advanced in years, was  attacking the island of Sardinia, where he had fought  before, with an army from Italy. For Hampsagoras, proud of the name which he had inherited from Trojan ancestors, had invited the Carthaginians to start a fresh campaign in the island. His son Hostus was  a goodly youth and worthy of a better father ; and  Hampsagoras, no friend to peace and devoted to  barbarous customs, relied upon his son's youthful vigour and hoped by war to revive his own feeble old age. When Hostus saw Torquatus and his army coming on with speed and eager for battle, he eluded them by his knowledge of the country and fled through secret byways in the forest ; and so, escaping  by familiar short-cuts, he concealed himself in a wooded valley under the shade of trees. 
The island of Sardinia, compassed about by the sound of the waves, is made narrow at the ends by the sea that shuts it in ; and the land within its borders is irregular in shape, resembling the sole of a naked foot. Hence it was called Ichnusa by the first colonists from Greece. But afterwards Sardus, proud of his descent from the Libyan Hercules, named it anew after himself. Then some Trojans, scattered over the seas after the sack of Troy, came and settled there against their will. Iolaus, too, increased the  fame of the island when he brought thither a band of Thespiadae on ships of Thespiae. Legend also  tells that, when Actaeon was torn to pieces - the grievous penalty he suffered for seeing Diana while bathing -his father, Aristaeus, appalled by so strange a tragedy, fled across the sea to the bays of Sardinia, guided, it is said, by his mother, Cyrene, to this unknown land. The island is free from snakes and breeds no poisons ; but the climate is gloomy and the air infected by the swamps that abound there. 
The side that looks toward Italy and defies the waves with its rocky cliffs is sultry ; and inland the feeble crops are burnt up by excessive heat, when the South-winds blow at midsummer. But the rest of 
the island flourishes under the special favour of Ceres. 
Such is the nature of the land, and here Hostus slipped away from Torquatus again and again through the trackless woodlands ; he was hoping for a Carthaginian army and Spaniards also to help him  in the fighting. As soon as he was encouraged by the landing of their ships, he burst forth at once from his concealment ; and the armies, bristling with spears, faced each other, eager to come to close quarters. Spears, hurled from a distance, speed across the open space between the hosts ; and at last they take to the sword, that tried and trusty weapon. Fearful carnage followed ; they slay and are slain, and death by the ruthless blade overtakes man after man on either side. 
I cannot hope to tell of all these countless deaths and dreadful deeds in a manner worthy so great a theme,  or find words to match the ardour of the combatants;  but grant me this. Calliope, in reward of my pains — that I may hand down to long ages the noble deeds, too little known, of a great man, and crown the poet's brow with the wreath he deserves. Foremost in the fight was Ennius/ a scion of the ancient stock of King Messapus ; and his right hand held the vine-staff , the distinguishing badge of the Roman centurion. He came from the rugged land of Calabria, and he was a son of ancient Rudiae — Rudiae which now owes all her fame to this child of hers. He fought in the van ; and, even as the Thracian bard long ago dropped his lyre and hurled missiles brought from Rhodope, when Cyzicus made war upon the Argo, so Ennius had made himself conspicuous by slaying many of the enemy, and his ardour in battle grew with the number of his victims. 
Now, hoping to win everlasting fame by disposing of such a dangerous foe, Hostus flew at Ennius and strongly hurled his spear. But Apollo, seated on a cloud, mocked his fruitless endeavour and sent the weapon wide into the distant air. Then he spoke : " Too insolent, too bold are you : give up your design. That sacred head is dearly loved by the Muses, and he is a bard worthy of Apollo. He shall be the first to sing of Roman wars in noble verse, and shall exalt their commanders to the sky ; he shall teach Helicon' to repeat the sound of Roman poetry, and he shall equal the sage of Ascra  in glory and honour". Thus Phoebus spoke, and Hostus was struck by an avenging arrow  which pierced both his temples. Panic-stricken by their prince's fall, his soldiers turned and fled, rushing all together from the field. When Hampsagoras heard of his son's death, he was distracted with rage : with hideous yells such as barbarians utter, he stabbed his own heaving breast and  hastened to join his son in the nether world.[..]
Tiberius Catius Silius Italicus (lived c. 28 – c. 103 AD), Punicatransl. James Duff, 1860-1940
 Punica is about the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), in seventeen books

Fig. 2. The area of Cornus.  Modified from:

Fig. 3. The archaeological site of Cornus today. From: L'Unione Sarda, Febrary 4th, 2015.