ROME RESURGENT: I PART
246 BC VENI, VIDI, VICI - SYRACUSAN AND ROMAN STYLE
Reinvigorated Roman armies unfortunately caught also the attention of the Gerousia, which was finally compelled to form a new army to defend Sicily. And what an army it was! Twenty thousand infantry and 10.500 cavalry, half of them elite Numidians. That much for my proposed numerical superiority. My brother had again the upper hand in Sicily. My only consolation was that the commander of the new Army of Sicily, Bostar, was an obvious political nomination lacking military credentials.
The new Roman consuls had to stay in Italy due to the imperium rules. Only a Rome Consul had the necessary freedom of action to handle the siege of Tarentum (and not to be stuck in Campania) while a Field Consul was allowed to take Massilia as his imperium even if his army was still in Italy. Alas, the Senate thought it wise to reward Torquatus for his exploits in Sicily and he got the Home Army. I was beginning to wonder how long the Tarentines could hold out with such worthies send out to help them. The Massilian Expedition got a more promising commander in Numerius Fabius Buteo for whom this was his second consulship. The reappearance of the Buteo brothers heralded the end of the dominance of the Crassus family, of whom Manius was still the Proconsul of the Northern fleet, something of a Crassus family property lately. Other nominations were not as inspired. Quintius Caedicius continued his low-profile career as the commander of the Home Fleet at Ostia. Gaius Furius Pacilus got the Neapolis fleet and Gaius Sulpicius Galus the Army of Sicily besieging Messana. A third Gaius (the Romans were rather unimaginative what comes to first names), Atilius Regulus, had the Tarentum fleet. He had to be the son of the Consul active early in the war. The Senate again voted for 6.000 reinforcements to replenish the legions.
Buteo opened the year by marching swiftly all the way to Massilia and beginning the siege works. Rather promising start for an army that had lingered two years around Pisa. Crassus duly brought his fleet to blockade the Greek city while the Punic squadron stationed at the port chose not to challenge him. After years of planning my strategy was finally bearing fruit. Pacilus took his 100 quinqueremes to blockade the besieged Messana. But here it all depended on the skill of two E status leaders and dark clouds were gatherind around them. Adherbal raised anchor at Carthage to take his 220 ships around Sicily to Messana. My brother was at last going to fight for the control of the seas! Yet, it turned out to be a false alarm. Arriving at the Straits Adherbal faced so adverse winds that he was unable to close in with Pacilus and thus a naval battle still eluded us. My relief was shortlived, though. The siege of Messana finally provoked the Tyrant of Syracuse to take action. Hiero had spend the last thirteen years to recreate his army and was now able to field a mercenary army of 6000 infantry and 2500 elite cavalry to relieve his garrison at Messana. It was to be another humiliation for Rome. Galus had a much larger army of 13.500 infantry (including the veteran 4th) and 3000 cavalry, but he allowed Hiero to surprise him in his siege camp (this was our first X-result). Syracusan losses were slight (500 men), but the Romans were completely routed loosing 4.000 men. Survivors fled inside the walls of nearby Mylae and later retreated back to Agrigentum. The Second Siege of Messana had ended in dismal failure.
After years of solid Magonid rule there was suddenly another attempted coup d’etat in Carthage and the mastermind behind it was none other than Hanno Hamilcar, the past Hero of the Republic. He must have expected to be reinstated to his old army when Magonids regained power and having been disappointed in this several times decided to take matters to his own hands. Alas, it was not to be and it was the cross for the old man. A sorry end for the most skillfull Punic general.
The rest of the year was plagued by gales on the Mediterranian. Himilco still failed to blockade Tarentum where Hasdrubal was making slow progress, but loosing too many men. He was down to 6000 infantry (which I only now realise was not in fact even enough to maintain the siege!) and his cavalry just wasted time munching away meager supplies. Hannibal Gisgo and his 80 quinqueremes were detained by strong winds outside Sardinia for so long that the 3500 garrison of Massilia succumbed to attrition before help arrived. This was an unexpected stroke of luck for me. So far only two medium cities had fallen in the entire war (Messana and Agrigentum) and now Massilia starved in few months causing just scant losses to the besiegers. We were still under the delusion that naval squadrons can flee from captured ports and thus finally got a small naval skirmish outside Massilia. Crassus sank ten Punic ships and the rest fled to Sardinia (they should have all been sank at port as we soon realised).
Having reduced Massilia in record time Buteo decided to take his army south to help Tarentum before winter. Torquatus turned out to be unable to get his legions out of Capua, but Buteo not only took his tired men down to Lucania, but also besieged Metapontum. This act of superb generalship all but doomed Hasdrubal’s chances to take Tarentum. He was cut off from his base and could not receive reinforcement to fulfill his dwindling ranks. Surely Rome had been saved.
245 BC HASDRUBAL MAKES HIS MOVE
With the fall of Massilia I took the lead in VPs for the first time in the game, 11 versus 10. My cautious strategy of pushing around enemy flanks was finally paying dividents. Yet, there was still much to worry about. Hiero’s brilliant victory at Messana had incapacitated the Roman army in Sicily and Hasdrubal, although weakened, was still besieging Tarentum. To make matters worse the Gerousia was aroused by the news from Massilia to stretch the resources of the Republic for yet another army of 15.000 infantry and 5.000 cavalry. Fortunately, half the cavalry and some infantry were citizen recruits and could not serve outside Africa. This army would have been larger still, but my brother took siege engines instead. The rules are ambiguous concerning the placement of such machines, but it appears that they do not have to be placed with the other recruits. Hence they were given to Hasdrubal, who had regained his supply route. Bostar had been sacked over the Winter due to lack of initiative, but his replacement as the commander in Sicily, Hanno (IP-14), was hardly more promising. Perhaps Bostar had also been implicated in the coup of Hanno Hamilcar. Lack of trust towards the Magonid military was demonstrated with the choise of commander for the new army. Himilco, a Barcid, was recalled from Italy and Boodes, an unpolitical careerist took over the fleet at Metapontum. Himilco’s nomination must have been the price the Magonids had to pay for getting the Barcids to support the ultimate effort of a fourth army.
Alarmed, the Roman Senate pushed through the election of Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, a good general whose career had been overshadowed by the military families. Now he finally got a chance to proove his merit and he chose to take over the Home Army at Capua. The reason why Hasdrubal was able to get siege engines from Carthage was that I had disbanded the remnants of Buteo’s army besieging Metapontum. This might sound surprising, but the Corsican veterans were by now too depleted to be of any help. I rather gambled with the Senate for a new consular army for Quintius Caedicius, the Field Consul. To my relief the Senators agreed and finally freed me from manpower problems. One more legion was raised with the reinforcements and thus Rome had seven legions, all of them nearly full. Both sides had now four armies and over 300 warships. Everything was set for the grand finale.
Buteo was still around after his great performance last year and he got the important post of commanding the Tarentum fleet. Marcus Atilius Regulus was alloted the task of bringing back home the Northern fleet from Massilia. Marcus Aemilius Paullus whose father had spend his career mostly in the North, got the Ostia Fleet while the Neapolitan Fleet went to Lucius Caecilius Metellus. The Rhegium squadrons went to Appius Caudius Caudex. After this group of able leaders the commander of the Sicilian Army was a rude disappointment, Gaius Aquilius Florus for whom this was the second posting to the Island. Young Gaius Lutatius Catulus, the son of the former strong man of Rome, got his first command as the Praetor of the newly recruited 7th legion.
For the first time during the game I felt somewhat confident over my situation. I was now on the lead and all I had to do was to keep what I had to win. Or so I thought. My brother again turned the tables on me by sending Himilco and his new army to invade Numidia. Each city conquered there would bring him two additional victory points without me having any way to respond to it. It had all been build on sand, literally. Cautious as ever, Himilco proceeded slowly, but during the year he was able to take back Veneria and conquer also Theveste for four VPs. I would still have to be the aggressive party in order to win. Despite there now being four Punic armies stacked against me, I chose to continue my well-established strategy of facing the least resistance. With one army in Numidia and another stuck to defend Carthage, my brother could not fight me in three fronts, Sicily, Sardinia and Italy. One would have to go and I had a good idea what it would be.
Consequently, young Catulus led the 7th legion for an invasion of Sardinia. My brother was well aware of the threat as I had already send Paullus with 60 ships to blockade Olbia. He had countered with characteristic caution by sending a duumvir with ten ships to patrol the Fretum Gallicum. The squadron duly intercepted Catulus, only to be sunk by his convoy of 20 quinqueremes. After landing outside Olbia, Catulus compelled the garrison to surrender and another squadron stationed at the port was scuttled. Roman control of the Northern seas was once again confirmed, especially after Regulus sank a raiding party outside Paestum. Catulus had proven himself a worthy son of his famous father. Things were proceeding according to plan also in Italy. Scipio renewed the siege of Metapontum after making a wide detour to avoid interception by Hasdrubal. The Carthaginian was finally making some progress with the walls of Tarentum with his siege engines, but he was now once again without supply, or means to receive reinforcements. With Tarentum appearing safe, Caedicius decided to take his new army to Sicily instead. He was, however, delayed at Rhegium and unable to cross the Straits before winter storms set in. In the meanwhile, Hanno thought it best to show some initiative as the new commander in Sicily and once again took Heracle Minoa (they must have installed revolving doors to their gates by now).
In Autumn Hasdrubal finally made his decision and having done so acted with unexpected vigour. Breaking camp outside Tarentum he slipped past Scipio to Bruxentum, took the city and used its small port to sail all the way to Sardinia. Blown off course he collected his fleet, landed at Caralis and marched straight through the Island to Olbia, all in the space of a few weeks (one LAM). Scipio hastened in pursuit with one legion (the other was left outside Metapontum, but could not continue the siege lacking a leader) and also made it to Olbia to join forces with Catulus before Winter.
244 BC ANNUS MIRABILIS
The Gerousia decided that the Republic could not maintain four armies and one would have to go. Rather coolly, my brother picked Himilco’s army in Numidia. (Well, not exactly picked, but it was his second choise for a roll after his redundant home army) He did not wish to be deprived of his armies in Sicily or Sardinia and counted that his current lead of 14 vs. 11 would be enough. Back in Rome Lucius Caecilius Metellus got his second consulship and the command of the new Army of Sardinia. Gaius Aurelius Cotta, whose father was consul almost two decades ago, received the command of the army at Rhegium on its way to Sicily. Scipio became Proconsul of the old Army of Sicily outside Agrigentum as a reward of his smart leadership last year. All my three main armies were thus in good hands. As a sign of his passing influence the previous strongman Manius Otacilius Crassus was only able to get the preatorship of the 6th legion outside Metapontum. By chance, Marcus Aemilius Paullus and Marcus Atilius Regulus continued to command the Home Fleet now stationed at Cumae and Neapolis. The Rhegium patrol got Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, the son of the man who had been Consul when the war begun all those years ago. Aulus Postumius Albinus took the Tarentum fleet, again reverted to being in the backwaters. As fate would have it, his father had once commanded the same fleet managing to bully Samnite rowers to rebellion.
With Hasdrubal now safely out of Italy, the Senate returned to its old policy of mere 2.000 new recruits per year. Thankfully the lean years were now behind me. With only four more years to go I decided that it was high time for decisive action. My brothers VPs broke down to 3 from the control of Mare Africum, 4 from Numidia and 7 from Sardinia. The first two were quite out of my reach and with Hasdrubal in Sardinia I had no reason to assume success there. Thus I would need to increase my own VPs. I had 4 from Corsica, 4 from controlling Mare Gallicum and 3 from Mare Ligusticum. I was far from controlling either East of West Sicily. The control of Mare Sardoum would be decided by the fighting for Sardinia and there was no way to control Mare Tyrrhenium. Fretum Siculi was there to be had, if I ever got Messana, but it would only bring a single VP. Considering my options I realised that Messana was no longer an issue. I would have to take Syracusa, not to ally with it. Conquest of Syracusa would bring 10 VPs and also the control of Mare Ionium for five more VPs (By the way, why are there Punic VPs for the control of Mare Ionium, as the Carthatinian conquest of Tarentum is enough to end the game in any way?). As a result of these calculations, I formed a grand strategy. The Army of Sardinia would try to break Punic hold on that Island and keep Hasdrubal busy while the Army of Sicily defended Agrigentum and also the back of the new Army of Syracusa (now at Rhegium) who would in turn besiege the great Greek emporium. The Home Fleet would finally activate to blockade Syracusa as otherwise it would be hopeless to tackle with Hiero’s remaining mercenaries.
So much for plans. Regulus duly took his hundred quinqueremes at Neapolis all the way outside Syracusa challenging the Punic fleet stationed there to battle. Boodes, who had sailed away from Metapontum after Hasdrubal left Italy, took up the challenge and we finally, finally had a real naval battle. After twenty years of war centered on islands! The Carthaginian only had 40 ships, but they did their best and the result was a draw with ten ships sank on both sides. But on one of those ships drowned also Proconsul Regulus who took with him to Davy Jones’ Locker much of my chances for early victory against Syracusa. The grossly incompetent Lucius Valerius Flaccus took over the command of the fleet (with Regulus’ next LAM), but to my surprise no Punic sails were to be seen on the horizon. Hannibal Gisgo just covered the Messanan Straits with 80 ships and Adherbal made his usual naval exercises on the African coast. I am not sure why my brother did not take more decisive action at this point, as although Boodes had successfully kept the port of Syracusa open, he had only 30 ships left. Maybe he had not realised that I really intended to strike at Syracusa and thought I only tried to sidetrack him while I got my army across the Straits to Sicily. But even then Hannibal should surely have blockaded Rhegium and not to have remained passively outside Messana.
The next to move was Hanno who at last marched towards Agrigentum. Scipio’s army had been stationed on the hills outside the city in order to be able to intercept at last moment, if need be, and also to be better protected from the huge Punic cavalry. He wondered whether Hanno really intended to besiege Agrigentum with an army laden with horses and suspected that the Carthaginian was only trying to lure him down to the open to be butchered by his cavalry superiority. So he stayed foot and watched Hanno making camp outside the walls of Agrigentum. The latter turned out to be too timid to begin the siegeworks while Scipio outmanouevred him by circumventing the city staying on the hills and then heading for Heraclea Minoa. Hanno hurried back to protect his supply base and intercepted Scipio just outside its walls. In the resulting battle Hanno’s badly trained force of 16.000 infantry and 10.000 cavalry were crushed by Scipio’s experienced army of 14.500 infantry (including the veteran 4th) and 2500 cavalry. The Carthaginians lost 4.000 men against meagre 500 Roman losses. It was no surprise that Hanno was recalled home, although his political connections still saved his life.
Contrary to tradition the garrison at Heraclea Minoa refused to surrender to the winners and instead of besieging it, Scipio turned around and turned East. With the Punic army in Sicily rendered useless, the ambitous Proconsul wanted to be the first to besiege Syracusa, despite his orders to act as a screen for the actual siege. This decision was to have grave consequences later on. Hiero was, for once, caught by surprise and unable to field his army before the Romans had besieged his capital. After twenty years of warfare the fighting had finally arrived to his doorstep. Consul Cotta was outraged hearing that Scipio had stolen a march on him and hurried his army across the Straits landing outside Megara. Hannibal Gisgo’s fleet was misplaced to interfere. Having failed to bully the Syracusan garrison at Megara to surrender Cotta hastened to take command of the siege of Syracusa. Scipio left the siege to him and managed still to take Helorus at the southern tip of Sicily before going to winter quarters. Excellent year for him.
Having got permission from the Gerousia to take the Home Army to Numidia, Gisgo at last left the banquests of the Carthaginian nobility behind him and made something to further the cause of the Republic. He marched all the way to Thagaste adding a third Numidian town and two more VPs to my brother’s plate. Back in Italy Crassus besieged Metapontum, mainly for lack of anything better to do as his 6th legion was not allowed to leave Italy by the rules. The Roman fleet was concentrated to ports from Neapolis all the way to the newly build Brundisium as a preparation for the great naval push next year. Carthaginian countermoves came to grief when Boodes sank with thirty ships in a winter storm. This was to be the sole naval disaster of its kind during the whole war.
Just when it appeared that nothing more would happen during this memorable year another decisive battle was fought in Sardinia. Metellus and Hasdrubal had spend the year staring at each other in their camps outside Olbia while conducting minor skirmishing. Then, late in Autumn Metellus realised that his hour of fame was passing without anything to show for it and he decided to offer battle. Metellus had 16.500 infantry and 4000 cavalry against Hasdrubal’s 8.500 infantry and 3500 elite cavalry. Punic cavalry superiority could have made up for lack of numbers, but the Roman legions broke through Hasdrubal’s center butchering 2000 men and loosing only half that number. Surviving Carthaginians fled to the hills covered by their cavalry. It was another major victory that not only destroyed Punic siege engines, but ended Hasdrubal’s career. Dismayed by the second disaster of the year the Gerousia called him home, although he was quitted of charges of treason due to his past achievements. Flushed from his victory Metellus forced Tibula to surrender, after spending some weeks outside its gates (he needed two LAMs for this). The reason for his timidity in following up his great victory was revealed when he died of sickness just before winter. He was sorely missed by the grieving Republic.
After years of small actions with minor goals the war was certainly picking up speed again. Much of this was due to the repercussions of the Punic Italian campaign. During the three years it lasted, Rome raised three new leagions and 16.000 men as reinforcements. Had the invasion succeeded, it would have brought victory to my brother (although we did not realise that taking Tarentum would have been enough), but it failed and as a consequence initiative was again strongly in Roman hands. The Tarentine campaign brings to mind Gallipoli during the First World War. Potentially decisive, it never had enough force committed to succeed (mere 11.000 infantry and 40 ships) and thus it only drained Punic resources needlessly.
Yet time was now running out for me. My brother had safe lead (16 VPs versus 11) and there were no easy picking left for Rome. I was finally forced to face the enemy face to face. The place where I choose to do this was Syracuse, not because it would have offered a favourable place for a showdown, but because I had little choise left. Granted that the Battle of Olbia had unexpectedly opened also the possibility of conquering Sardinia, but there everything favoured my brother who could easily use his large fleet to defend the Island while the nearest Roman naval bases were very far away. To take Syracuse defended by Hiero and his large army was a daunting task, but at least its surroundings were more accessible to Roman armies and fleets than it was to the Carthaginians. There was also in my favour the unexpected stroke of luck that out of four Punic armies one was now disbanded, another far in Numidia and the remaining two in disorder. Thus I could count to have the upper hand on land for most of the three remaining years. But what about at sea? Syracusa would not fall without a blockade and our great navies were about to do battle at last.
Very interesting and well written session report. Keep up the good work!