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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. XI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1957

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book XXV

(Vol. XI) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

 p121  Fragments of Book XXIV

1 1 The Carthaginians, having razed to the ground the city of Selinus, removed its population to Lilybaeum. The Romans, with a fleet of two hundred and forty warships, sixty light vessels, and a large number of transports of all types, sailed into Panormus and thence to Lilybaeum, which they put under siege.​1 On land they blockaded the city from sea to sea by means of a trench, and constructed catapults, battering rams, covered sheds, and penthouses. The entrance of the harbour they blocked with fifteen light vessels, which they had loaded with stones. The Roman host numbered one hundred and ten thousand, while the besieged had seven thousand infantry and seven hundred cavalry. 2 In the course of the siege relief arrived from Carthage, four thousand men and supplies of food, and Adherbal and his men took heart again.​2 The Romans, who had observed the force effecting an entrance, again blocked the mouth of the harbour with stones and jetties, and barred  p123 the channels with huge timbers and anchors;​3 but when a strong wind arose, the sea grew turbulent and broke everything up. The Romans constructed an engine for hurling stones, but the Carthaginians built another wall on the inner side. The Romans then filled the moat, which was sixty cubits wide and forty deep. Joining battle at the seaward wall they placed men in ambush in front of the city, and when the defending forces had been drawn off into the battle on the seaward side the men who were lying in ambush with ladders round climbed up and captured the first wall. 3 When the Carthaginian general got news of this, he fell upon them, killed large numbers in a single place, and forced the others to flee. And with the aid of a strong gale they set fire to all the Roman engines of war, their penthouses, stone-throwers, battering rams, and covered sheds. Perceiving, however, that their cavalry was of no service to them in the confined space, the Carthaginians dispatched them to Drepana; there they greatly assisted the Carthaginians. 4 The Romans were rendered helpless by the burning of their engines, as well as by short rations and pestilence, for since they and their allies fed solely on flesh they were so infected that large numbers died in a few days. For this reason they were even ready to abandon the siege, but Hiero, the king of Syracuse, dispatched an abundant supply of grain, and gave them fresh courage to resume the siege.

5 On the accession to office of the new consuls, the  p125 Romans gave the command to the consul Claudius, son of Appius.​4 Upon assuming command of the army he again blocked the harbour, as his predecessors had done, and again the sea hurled all to bits. Claudius, however, in high self-confidence, equipped the best ships, two hundred and ten in number, and set off to Drepana to do battle with the Carthaginians. He was defeated with the loss of one hundred and seventeen ships and twenty thousand men. It would not be easy to discover a fierce fight at sea followed by a more glorious victory in this period — no comparable victory, I mean, for anyone, not merely for the Carthaginians. The surprising thing, however, is that though the Carthaginians were involved in so great a battle and . . . with ten​5 ships . . . not only was no one killed but even the wounded were few. 6 After this they sent Hannibal the trierarch to Panormus with thirty ships, and plundered and carried off to Drepana the stores of grain belonging to the Romans. Then, taking from Drepana whatever other provisions were of use, they went to Lilybaeum, and provided the besieged population with an abundance of good things of all sorts. 7 Carthalo the general also arrived from Carthage with seventy warships and a like number of provision transports. When they also​6 had set upon the Romans, he succeeded  p127 in sinking some ships and in dragging to the shore five of those lying at anchor. Then, hearing that the Roman fleet had set sail from Syracuse, he prevailed upon his fellow commanders and put to sea with one hundred and twenty ships, the best of the fleet. When the two fleets sighted one another off the coast of Gela the Romans took fright and put in at Phintias, where they left under shelter of land the ships laden with provisions and the remainder of the fleet; when the Carthaginians bore down, there was a sharp struggle. Finally the Carthaginians disabled fifty of the large freighters, sent to the bottom seventeen men-of‑war, and stove in and rendered useless thirteen others. 8 Afterwards, the Carthaginians, on reaching the Halycus River, gave their wounded men a period of rest. The consul, Iunius, knowing nothing of these events, put to sea from Messana with thirty-six warships and a considerable number of transports. But having rounded Cape Pachynus and anchored near Phintias, he was astounded to learn what had taken place. 9 Later, when the Carthaginians advanced against them with their entire fleet, the consul, seized with fear, burned the thirteen ships that were useless, and attempted to sail back to Syracuse, thinking that Hiero would provide them safety. But being overtaken off the coast of Camarina he put in to land for refuge, at a place where the shores were rocky and the water shallow. When the wind increased in violence, the Carthaginians rounded Cape Pachynus and anchored in a relatively calm spot, whereas the Romans, placed in great peril, lost all their provision ships and likewise their warships, so  p129 that of one hundred and five of the latter only two were saved and most of the men perished. 10 Iunius, with the two warships and the surviving men, made his way to the army encamped at Lilybaeum,​7 whence he made a sally by night and gained Eryx; he also fortified Aegithallus (now called Acellum) and left eight hundred men there as a garrison. 11 But when Carthalo learned that Eryx and its environs had already been occupied, he brought over an army by sea at night, and by an attack on the garrison of Aegithallus got possession of that stronghold. In his success he slew some and forced others to seek refuge at Eryx. Three thousand men guarded the fortress.​8 In the first naval battle​9 thirty-five thousand Romans were lost, and the number of men taken captive was no less.

2 1 The Carthaginians selected the men who were keenest to get money and most daring (some three hundred in all) for the attempt to burn the siege engines,​10 since it is these qualities that provide the strongest motive to make men scorn all danger. In general it was the bravest who were killed in making assaults and in the storming of walls, since of their own accord they went headlong into perils that offered scant hope of succour.

3 1 When Claudius arrived in Sicily​11 he took command of the forces at Lilybaeum, and calling an assembly bitterly assailed the consuls who had just handed over the army to him, charging that they  p131 had been remiss in their handling of the war, drunkards who lived lives of licence and luxury, and that on the whole they had been the victims of a siege rather than the besiegers. Since he was naturally hot-blooded and mentally unstable, his conduct of affairs often verged on the lunatic. In the first place, he repeated the mistake of those whose leader­ship he had denounced, for he likewise reconstructed the jetties and barriers in the sea; his witlessness, however, outdid theirs in so far as the error of not being able to learn from experience is greater than that of being the first to try and fail. He was also a born martinet, and applied the traditional punishments​12 unmercifully to soldiers who were Roman citizens and flogged the allies with rods. In general, the distinction of his clan and the reputation of his family had so spoiled him that he was supercilious and looked down on everyone.

4 1 Finding himself overtaken he​13 fled for refuge to the shore, for he regarded the terrors of shipwreck more lightly than the risk of battle.

5 1 Even before he became general, Hamilcar's nobility of spirit was apparent, and when he succeeded to the command he showed himself worthy of his country by his zeal for glory and scorn of danger.

2 He was reputed to be a man of exceptional intelligence,  p133 and since he surpassed all his fellow citizens both in daring and in ability at arms, he was indeed

Both a goodly prince and a brave warrior.​14

6 1 Near Longon​15 there was a fort, called Italium, belonging to Catana. Barca the Carthaginian, having attacked this . . .

7 1 He revealed to no one what had been planned; for he was of the opinion that when such stratagems are imparted to one's friends they either become known to the enemy through deserters or produce cowardice among the soldiers by their anticipation of great danger.

2 For the plans and stratagems of generals, when imparted to one's friends, become known to the enemy through deserters, and engendering cowardice in the soldiers fill them with anticipations of great danger.16

8 1 Barca, after sailing in at night and disembarking his army, took the lead in person on the ascent to Eryx, a distance of thirty stades. He captured the city​17 and slew all the . . . The survivors he removed to Drepana.

 p135  9 1 On every occasion and in every undertaking good discipline turns out to be productive of good results.

Although Hamilcar had given orders that the soldiers should not engage in plunder, Vodostor​18 was disobedient and as a result lost many of his men. So true is it that on every occasion good discipline turns out to be productive of good results that now, though the foot-soldiers, let alone ruining the great success that had already been achieved, even risked complete destruction, the cavalry, though not more than two hundred in number, not only came through safe themselves but provided safety for the others as well.

2 Hamilcar sent to Eryx to arrange for taking up the dead for burial. The consul Fundanius​19 bade the messengers, if they were sensible men, request a truce to recover, not the dead, but the living. After giving this arrogant reply the consul straightway suffered serious losses, so that it appeared to many that his boastfulness had met with due retribution from the gods.

3 When Fundanius sent heralds to arrange for the burial of the dead, Barca's reply was very different from that given on the earlier occasion. For stating that he was at war with the living, but had come to terms with the dead, he granted permission for their burial.

10 1 Hanno,​20 being a man of great enterprise and  p137 eager to win renown, and, above all, having at his disposal an idle army, hoped by means of this expedition to train the army while providing its maintenance from the enemy's country, thus relieving the city of its expense, and at the same time to accomplish many things that would redound to the glory and advantage of the fatherland.

2 When Hanno had forced Hecatompylus to capitulate, the elders of the city approached him, bearing the olive-branches of supplication, and besought him to treat them humanely. Since the general was concerned to enjoy a good reputation, and preferred kindness to retribution, he took three thousand hostages but left the city and its estates untouched, and in consequence received crowns and other high honours from the grateful people. And his soldiers, whom the inhabitants entertained splendidly and with great cordiality, feasted on the abundance of all things provided for their enjoyment.

11 1 The consul Lutatius,​21 with three hundred warships and seven hundred transports and carriers, a thousand vessels in all, sailed to Sicily and cast anchor at the trading-station of the Erycinians. Likewise, Hanno himself, setting out from Carthage with two hundred and fifty warships, together with​22 cargo ships, came to the island of Hiera. As he proceeded thence towards Eryx the Romans came out to meet him, and a battle ensued, hotly contested on  p139 both sides. In this battle the Carthaginians lost a hundred and seventeen ships, twenty of them with all men aboard (the Romans lost eighty ships, thirty of them completely, while fifty were partially destroyed), while the number of Carthaginians taken prisoner was, according to the account of Philinus,​23 six thousand, but according to certain others, four thousand and forty. The rest of the ships, aided by a favouring wind, fled to Carthage.

3º Such heights of bravery were reached that even the generals on both sides distinguished themselves by their personal exploits and led the way amid hazards. Here the most surprising accidents on occasion befell the bravest men. For when their ships were sunk, some who were far superior in courage to their opponents were captured, not because they fell short in deeds of valour, but because they were over­powered by the irresistible force of necessity. For what does bravery profit a man when his ship goes down, and his person, robbed of its footing, is delivered by the sea into the hands of the enemy?

12 1 The mother of the young men was bitter at the death of her husband,​24 and believing that he had died of neglect she made her sons maltreat the prisoners. They were accordingly cooped up in an extremely narrow room, where for lack of space they  p141 were forced to make do by contorting their bodies like coiling serpents. Later, when they had been deprived of food for five days, Bodostor died of despair and privation. Hamilcar,​25 however, being a man of exceptional spirit, held out and clung still to hope, desperate though he was. But although he repeatedly pled with the woman and recounted with tears the care he had lavished upon her husband, she was so far removed from any feelings of kindliness or considerations of humanity that for five days she shut the corpse in with him, and though she allowed him a little food her sole aim was to enable him thereby to endure ship wretched state. 2 When finally he despaired of winning pity by supplications, he cried aloud and called upon Zeus Xenios​26 and the gods who watch over the affairs of men to witness that instead of a due return of kindness he was receiving punishment beyond human endurance. Yet he did not die, whether because some god took pity on him, or because chance brought him unexpected assistance. 3 For when he was at the point of death as a result of the effluvia from the corpse and his general maltreatment, some of the household slaves recounted to certain persons what was going on. They were scandalized, and reported it to the tribunes. Since in any case the cruelty that had been revealed was shocking, the magistrates summoned the Atilii and very nearly brought them to trial on a capital charge, on the ground that they were bringing disgrace upon Rome; and they threatened to exact fitting punishment from them if they should not bestow all possible care upon the prisoners. The  p143 Atilii rebuked their mother sternly, cremated the body of Bodostor and sent the ashes to his kinsmen, and brought Hamilcar relief from his dire distress.

13 1 When the envoys of the Romans, together with Gesco,​27 came to Barca and read the terms of the agreement, he remained silent up to a certain point. But when he heard that they were to surrender arms and hand over the deserters, he could not restrain himself but ordered them to depart at once. He was prepared, he said, to die fighting rather than agree through cowardice to a shameful act; and he knew too that Fortune shifts her allegiance and comes over to the side of men who stand firm when all seems lost, and that the case of Atilius had provided a striking demonstration of such unexpected reversals.

14 1 After the Romans had been at war with the Carthaginians for twenty-four years and had held Lilybaeum under siege for ten years, they made peace.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The story of the siege is told in detail by Polybius, 1.41‑48.

2 According to Polybius (1.44), the relief expedition comprised 10,000 men and was headed by Hannibal; Adherbal was commander-in‑chief, and was then at Drepana (1.46). Wesseling, following Zonaras, 8.15 (who names Ἀρδέβας as commander of the relief expedition), transposes to read: "relief arrived from Carthage — Adherbal with . . . men and supplies — and their confidence was restored."

3 Presumably floating timbers anchored.

4 P. Claudius Pulcher. The other consul of 249 B.C. was L. Iunius Pullus.

5 The number is probably wrong, and the grammar of the clause is at least unusual; very likely the original narrative has suffered from careless condensation. Polybius' account of the battle (1.49‑51) does not suggest any such disparity in the size of the two fleets, and the number may belong to a clause referring to the Roman fleet of 210 ships.

6 This may be a garbled reference to the simultaneous land attack led by Himilco (Polybius, 1.53.5) while Carthalo was attacking the ships.

7 See Polybius, 1.53‑54, for a slightly different account of these two naval disasters, and, for the capture of Eryx, 1.55.

8 Presumably this refers to the Roman garrison on Eryx.

9 It is not clear just which battle is meant.

10 Cp. chap. 1.3, and for the offer of rewards Polybius, 1.45.3.

11 Cp. chap. 1.5.

12 See Polybius, 6.37‑38, for the severity of these punishments.

13 Iunius: cp. chap. 1.9.

14 Homer, Iliad, 3.179. Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, was appointed general in 247 (246 Beloch) B.C. Cp. Polybius, 1.56.

15 Stephanus of Byzantium records the name of a Sicilian city Longonê. The place is otherwise unknown.

16 Here again the excerptor of the Hoeschel fragments has carelessly distorted the sense (see the Constantinian fragment, above). Perhaps, despite the word order, he intended to construe δειλίαν with ἐντίθησι. The idea is expressed more fully in Dio Cassius, 12.43.25.

17 The city of Eryx was part way up the mountain; the Romans had and retained garrisons both at the summit and at the foot of Mt. Eryx (Polybius, 1.58.2). The preceding fragment of Diodorus probably refers to this bold stroke.

18 Probably the same as the Bodostor of chap. 12.

19 C. Fundanius Fundulus.

20 The Hanno of this chapter, who rose to fame in the Mercenary War (Book 25.2‑6; Polybius, 1.65 ff.), is to be distinguished from the Hanno of chap. 11. Hecatompylus is in Libya (Book 4.18.1), and the incident related here is referred to by Polybius (1.73.1), but the exact date is uncertain (not before 247 B.C., to judge by the position of the fragment in the Constantinian collection).

21 C. Lutatius Catulus, consul for 242 B.C. The decisive naval battle at the Aegates Islands (cp. Polybius, 1.60‑61) was fought in March 241 B.C.

22 Or perhaps "and three hundred cargo ships." See critical note.

The critical note to the Greek text (ναῦσι διακοσίαις πεντήκοντα μακραῖς καὶ τοῖς φορτηγοῖς) reads:

Wurm and Herwerden suggest that the article has been substituted for the numeral τ′.

23 See note on Book 23.8. Polybius gives the figures as "nearly 10,000"; de Sanctis emends here to read: "6,000 Carthaginians, 4,040 others" (see critical note).

The critical note to the Greek text (καρχηδονίων ἑξακισχιλίους, ὡς δὲ ἕτεροι) reads:

ὡς δὲ ἕτεροι] τῶν δὲ ἑτέρων de Sanctis.

24 Regulus. This fragment certainly belongs earlier, and by its position in the collection could be placed as early as 247 B.C. When Regulus himself died in uncertain. It may be noted that nothing in the extant portion of the book suggests that Diodorus included the familiar story of Regulus' embassy (cp. Horace, Odes, 3.5).

25 Which Hamilcar this was is uncertain.

26 "Protector of strangers."

27 Gesco was in command of the Carthaginian forces at Lilybaeum at the close of the war; cp. Polybius, 1.66.

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