Hamilcar Survives at Eryx
Despite Autaritus’ and the Gauls’ machinations and defection, Hamilcar was able to keep control of the town of Eryx. He would continue to survive from this base for the duration of the war, down into 241 BCE. He was also able to continue pressuring Roman forces in Sicily, though this would be more limited in scope occurring only in the surrounding areas. As we have seen, the navy was likely withdrawn back to Africa, leaving Hamilcar extremely isolated in the midst of Roman forces and without any Carthaginian reinforcements.
Hamilcar Barca engraving from Ward, Lock, & Co.’s Illustrated History of the World.
Much like at Hercte, Hamilcar’s movements and operations while at Eryx are either lost or not mentioned by the ancient sources. The only specific details of any of Hamilcar’s actions come from fragments of Diodorus Siculus. He relates, in a segment on good discipline in the men, a few details about a successful raid against an unnamed target. “Although Hamilcar had given orders that the soldiers should not engage in plunder, Vodostor was disobedient and as a result lost many of his men.” (24.9)1 The infantry had been overzealous in their small victory and had now wasted any advantage gained. With Hamilcar’s depleted army and seemingly no prospect of being reinforced, any small losses in manpower would be magnified and irreplaceable. This raiding party under the command of Vodostor would have been completely annihilated had it not been for some superb cavalry coming to the rescue. Even though small in number, these 200 cavalry salvaged what was left of the situation and “not only came through safe themselves but provided safety for the others as well.” (Diodorus Siculus 24.9)2
Not at War with the Dead
Even though the one of the consuls of 243, Gaius Fundanius Fundulus, had broken an ancient traditional custom, Hamilcar was willing to grant the request he was earlier denied. It is hard to determine whether or not this is overly embellished due to Diodorus Siculus’ fragmentary nature in this section of his history as well as the general dearth of other source material during this point of the First Punic War. Still, it seems clear that Hamilcar’s honorable character preceded him and was well known.
Two Years at Eryx
View from Mt. Eryx from Victor Duruy’s History of Rome.
And so it was that neither side was ultimately victorious in Sicily and Hamilcar, with some justification, could claim that he was not defeated on the field of battle after his return back to Carthage. When next we return, we will begin to look at Polybius’ declaration that the war was being decided by other means. Namely, both sides would make one final effort to take to the seas once again.
- Diodorus Siculus. Library of History. Translated by Francis Walton. 1957.
- Polybius. The Histories. Translated by W. R. Paton. 1922.