32. The Italiote War, part 1
32. The Italiote War, part 1

Carthage from the mercenary revolt to the Italiote War

While Alexander and his son made the world tremble before the strength of their arms, while their dominion spread from horizon to horizon and they themselves were considered like the great heroes of old, in that time our City was still ruled by its own laws and its own people, uniquely among nations it did not bow before Macedonian tyranny. Autonomous and sovereign, the City rightfully held sway over much of the Great Sea, it received tribute and praise from many peoples and distant lands, and only distant Babylon could rightfully boast of holding more people within its walls. Majestic and prosperous, through the wise guidance of the Adirim our City rose to prominence, ever the envy of lesser peoples.

- Excerpt from History of the Kan'anim by Abdashtart, son of Hanno

For Carthage the last 20 years of the fourth century BCE had been turbulent. Alexander’s intervention in Italy against Agathokles had in the end caused his campaign on Sicily, where he managed to drive the Carthaginians back to their stronghold at Lilybaion although he did not manage to take the city, nor did he successfully cross the sea or defeat the Carthaginian navy. Peace was signed, in and of itself a significant victory for it was not often that the Great King of Asia signed treaties with states he had not submitted. Following the war an internal struggle paralyzed Carthage, and it was the threat of a mercenary revolt combined with a Libyan uprising which gave the impetus to end the standoff and unite around a single leader. This man was Abdmelqart son of Gersakun, who had faced off against Alexander on Sicily and had defeated the rebels who threatened Carthage. A man of both controversial and illustrious descent, his grandfather had attempted a coup but also put an end to a long lasting rebellion among the Libyans and his father was exiled but returned and salvaged the Carthaginian position on Sicily against the Syracusans, by 305 BCE there could be no doubt about who was the Republic’s foremost citizen.

Abdmelqart’s political faction, known as the Gersakunids after his father, held most of the high offices during this period and thus there were few decisions made of which he did not approve. He himself was suffete, chief magistrate of the Carthaginian Republic, for several times. It would be wrong to assume that there was some kind of ideology behind the Gersakunid faction or their opponents, it simply came down to preserving and expanding the prestige and influence of the leading family and their close allies. This was not something new to Carthaginian politics, before the Gersakunids the Magonids had long dominated the political life of the city and had provided many suffetes and generals. Thankfully for the Carthaginian people Abdmelqart was an able and cautious ruler, who genuinely seems to have wanted the best for his city, judging by his policies.

The loss of its Sicilian protectorate and allies, outside of Lilybaion, was a blow to the prestige of the Carthaginian Republic, but economically it did not suffer much. The large amounts of levied and mercenary troops needed to safeguard it against the enemies of Carthage could now be disbanded or redeployed elsewhere. Several years of peace followed the revolt of 305, but throughout the 290’s Carthage was once again involved in several military expeditions, this time into the fertile African hinterlands of the city. The Libyan communities that lived there were divided between small settled communities and rural pastoral dwellers, and while there was some resistance it seems that for the Carthaginians the new territories were acquired with relative ease. During the conflict, which consisted of a series of small campaigns instead of a single sweeping conquest, several generals had been in charge after one another, perhaps as a way of sharing the glory between them. Most of them must have been aligned with the Gersakunid faction. The Republic’s possessions along the Bagradas river were expanded up to the city of Bulla, and towards the south the districts of Zama and Mactar were subjugated. Towns were founded and citizens and veterans were granted lands to cultivate, further expanding Carthage’s agricultural base. Treaties were signed with the Massyilian Numidians, who now bordered Carthage’s territory, granting the pastoralist Numidians the right to graze on Carthaginian land in exchange for their service in the Carthaginian army, granting the Republic a standing force of Numidian cavalry.


The Bagradas River

The inland expansion was one of the pillars of Abdmelqart’s rule, the other was the creation and maintaining of good relations with the Argead Empire. As someone who had personally faced off against the Argead army Abdmelqart understood like no other that Carthage on its own could not stand up indefinitely to an empire as great and wealthy as the one the Argeads ruled, and even if they could find allies victory would have been unlikely. It was thus that he must have argued that it was better to foster good relations and to exploit the commercial chances the Argead Empire offered. The export of Libyan wine and olive oil, especially to Italy, increased greatly during this period, as did the export of the famous purple murex dye. Imports included incense and myrrh from Arabia, Egyptian linen cloth and Indian gemstones. The increasing prosperity due to the expansion of agriculture and trade was the bedrock of Gersakunid rule, and was aided by the enduring peace which allowed Carthage to focus on commerce instead of warfare.

However that doesn’t mean that there weren’t those who were eager to strike back at the Argeads, who wanted to revenge for the humiliation that Alexander had inflicted by almost driving them out of Sicily. Many of those were part of factions opposed to Abdmelqart, who tried to undermine his position by accusing him of cowardice. This was short-sighted at best, for among the common Carthaginians it seems Abdmelqart was still seen as a hero of the war against Alexander, who drove the Greeks out of Africa and managed to keep Lilybaion in Carthaginian hands. But among the Gersakunid faction there were also those who preferred to rekindle hostilities with the Great King of Asia. This was most apparent during the aftermath of the death of Alexander, when Xenodikos of Akragas revolted on Sicily [1]. Bodmelqart [2], a relative of Abdmelqart and proponent of a more aggressive strategy against the Argeads, argued that Carthage should support Xenodikos in his rebellion. Abdmelqart however overruled him, he expected that while Xenodikos would rampage across the island for some time he would be unable to dislodge the Argead garrisons. This turned out to be a wise move, and when Xenodikos resorted to piracy the Carthaginians even decided to support Demetrios in his suppression of the revolt by supplying the Argead army with grain.

Yet events at the same time also proved that the Argead Empire was still a credible threat, it seemed that Philip III was not content with just the empire he ruled because in 294 he invaded and annexed Egypt. This was a shock to the Carthaginians for they had fostered good relations with the Egyptians ever since the war against Alexander. No action was undertaken against the Argeads while Abdmelqart held his position as leading man of the state, but he did embark upon a program of expanding and strengthening the fortifications of Carthage. During the 280’s the seawalls were heightened and the fortifications of the citadel on the Byrsa Hill expanded. Another important construction project was the new harbour, as the city’s old harbour on Lake Tunes was silting up, enabling the Carthaginians to both expand their war fleet and accommodate more merchants. It featured a rectangular port for shipping and a circular port for the navy [3]. These too were protected by walls, and it was possible to close off the entrance to the harbours from the Mediterranean by an iron chain. It was a gargantuan project, thousands of cubits of earth and clay had to be removed and massive stone blocks brought in from the quarries on the Cape Bon peninsula to the east of Carthage. Abdmelqart really left his mark on the city during the 280’s, for he also personally sponsored the restoration and embellishment of the Temple of Reshef, located near the city’s agora, testament to both Abdmelqart’s personal wealth as well as the prosperity of Carthage as a whole.


Harbour of Carthage and the Agora

The harbour was completed in 278, but Abdmelqart did not live to see it. He passed away in the latter months of 279 after a lifetime as foremost citizen of his city. His cautious politics had served the Republic well, but with his death a period of uncertainty started. Abdmelqart had no sons of his own, and so the leadership of the Gersakunid faction was passed on to his son-in-law Hannibal. In the following year Hannibal was even elected as one of the suffetes, but alongside him his colleague was a noted opponent of the Gersakunid policies, a former general named Eshmunhalos. He had served during the African campaigns of the 290’s and he had commanded an expeditionary force to Gadir in Iberia in 285. There a conflict between the Phoenician colony of Gadir and some neighbouring tribes had escalated after which Gadir requested Carthaginian aid. Eshmunhalos managed to defeat Gadir’s enemies relatively quickly and afterwards left behind a small garrison in the city. His experience convinced him that expansion in the Iberian peninsula, or I’-shapan [4] as it was known to the Carthaginians, could be as important as African expansion for the Republic. Back home in Carthage he tried to convince the Adirim and the Assembly to commission an additional expedition, but to no avail. Eshmunhalos however was persistent, and he increasingly sided with those critical of the Gersakunids’ policies. This drew the ire of Abdmelqart and the Gersakunids, who saw further Iberian expeditions as useless adventurism. To them Iberia was a source of silver and mercenaries, but not much more.

Eshmunhalos felt snubbed by this, and he was increasingly side-tracked by the Gersakunids. He lost his position on the Court of 104, which during this era expanded its authority beyond just supervising generals and increasingly acted as an elite among the elite, and he was forced to relinquish some of his Libyan estates after it was ‘proven’ in court that they had been acquired fraudulently. His once good name dragged through the mud Eshmunhalos responded in kind, constantly lambasting the cowardice and subservience of the Gersakunids. While Abdmelqart was still alive this mattered little, he was more or less protected by his status and reputation as saviour of Carthage, but after his death his son-in-law Hannibal was less fortunate. Eshmunhalos gained popularity among the common citizens, who were increasingly wary of the Argead threat, and he often held belligerent speeches in the Assembly where he insinuated that the Gersakunids were lapdogs of the Macedonians. His shared suffeteship with Hannibal did not go well, they often clashed openly over matters of state and not much was achieved during that year. During their debates the rough but charming Eshmunhalos had the upper hand over the erudite but dull Hannibal. Increasingly the Gersakunid faction came under pressure, and with the loss of Abdmelqart they lost much of their support among the Adirim, many of whom disliked the inept and aloof Hannibal.

Eshmunhalos was thus on the ascendant, even after his suffeteship. He promised the citizenry of Carthage lower taxes and expansion in Iberia, where many Carthaginians could escape their crowded city and establish a farm of their own. Despite being at first derided as an eccentric at best by now Eshmunhalos had managed to transform himself into an able populist, constantly railing against the failings of the Gersakunids and their cronies. In 276 both of the suffetes were allies of Eshmunhalos, and it was then that he made his move. While visiting his estate in Tunes he was assaulted by a slave, who was quickly apprehended by Eshmunhalos’ bodyguards. Under torture the slave confessed to being paid by the Gersakunids to assassinate Eshmunhalos. Whether it was true or not the news shocked the city, and fighting broke out between the factions. While the streets were running red with blood an emergency session of the Assembly granted Eshmunhalos the command to restore order. At the head of his troops he marched into the city and cleared the streets and afterwards he graciously relinquished his command and ordered his soldiers to return to their barracks, making clear that he had no ambitions beyond restoring the state. Hannibal and other members of the Gersakunid faction were tried in court for the assassination attempt, and they were found guilty. Hannibal went into exile to Sardinia and had his estates and wealth confiscated. The fall of the Gersakunids was thus swift and relatively bloodless. In their absence there was no doubt about who was now the Republic’s leading man.

Eshmunhalos had no formal position beyond his membership of the Adirim but despite that it was clear for all that he was the effective ruler of Carthage, much more than Abdmelqart had ever been. As was to be expected from a general he invested heavily in the military, the fleet was expanded with an additional 30 quinqueremes. Additional mercenaries were hired among the Libyans, Celts and Iberians, perhaps with his eye on another expedition to Iberia. Plans however changed halfway 274, when a Roman delegation reached Carthage with the offer of an alliance against the Argeads. Waging war against the world’s mightiest empire was quite different from fighting the tribes of Iberia, but the potential wealth and prestige that could be gained were also of a different order. Regaining Sicily for Carthage also must have appealed to Eshmunhalos as it would be an opportunity to outdo the Gersakunids. Thus the alliance was signed, levies and mercenaries were called up and the fleet prepared for war and the Assembly unanimously granted the generalship of the war to Eshmunhalos. With the Great King somewhere far to the east driving the Macedonians out of Sicily and Italy had to be possible, or so Eshmunhalos believed.

Opening moves

When the King heard of what the Romans had done to Neapolis, that they had sought to ally themselves with the Carthaginians and that they sought supremacy over Italy he did not erupt into rage or anger, he only stated with righteous determination that he would have his vengeance. There were those among his advisors and courtiers who cautioned the King, but he remained determined. A Roman ambassador also visited, offering peace if the Macedonians evacuate Italy. He warned the King that if he invaded Italy and if the Romans defeated him he would lose his army, his life and his empire. Unimpressed, the King answered with a single word: ‘’If.’’

- Excerpt from ‘The Life of Philippos Euergetes’ by Simonides of Kos

The early phases of the war were characterized by the quick Roman advance in Italy and the corresponding Carthaginian campaign on Sicily. Argead garrisons were present, but turned out to be inadequate in repelling a determined aggressor. Near the Campanian town of Pompeii another Saunitai army was decisively beaten by the Romans under Laevinus in October 274, which opened the way for a Roman invasion of Saunitis (Samnium) proper. That offensive would have to wait until the spring of 273, but the Romans had advanced quickly compared to their previous conflicts with the Saunitai. This partially had to do with reforms of the Roman army itself, no longer fighting in a rigid Greek-style phalanx during the 290’s they had more or less adapted the Saunitai way of war, with soldiers primarily equipped with large shields, javelins and a short sword of stabbing spear. This gave them the tactical flexibility that was necessary to fight in the rugged hills of central Italy. Another city that fell not long after was Poseidonia, with its magnificent temples, which the Romans occupied in November 274. For the Romans things seemed to be going well.

On Sicily it was much the same. That Carthage would join the war was unexpected, and before most Sicilian cities could mobilise the Numidian cavalry was already rampaging across the countryside. Apollonios, a Macedonian nobleman who was commander of the Argead garrison at Syracuse, rallied the forces on the island and marched out to confront the invaders. Eshmunhalos had landed at Lilybaion in September 274 with a force 50000 strong and he quickly launched his campaign. First he liberated the other Phoenician cities on the island, primarily Panormos and Solous, where the local population opened the gates for him. Then he marched to Messana, following the island’s northern shore, but near Kale Akte he encountered the Argead army under Apollonios, who blocked the road. After a standoff of several days Eshmunhalos took the initiative, early on in the battle he routed the Syracusan cavalry after which he outflanked the Argead lines. Apollonios attempted to retreat to prevent encirclement, but panic broke out shortly afterwards. Eshmunhalos ordered his army to advance and they swept the Argead force off the field, Apollonios retreated back to Syracuse with the survivors, but he practically conceded the rest of Sicily to the Carthaginians. In only a couple of months the situation on the island had thus completely reversed.


The Argyraspidai

Both the Romans and the Carthaginians were in a hurry, hoping to evict the Macedonians totally before a counterattack could be launched. In this regard their offensives were a failure, for in Macedonia armies were already gathered for the reconquest of the west. The fleets of the Hellenic League, the Ionians and the Cypriots were on their way to the Adriatic, so that they could ferry the Argead army across. In Rome and Carthage rumours circulated that a vast army was being gathered, millions of men strong. An exaggeration, but the army that Philip III had gathered was sizeable nonetheless. The elite regiments of the Argyraspidai, the Royal Agema, Bactrian lancers sheeted in heavy armour, Saka horse-archers and 150 heavily armoured war elephants were but a fraction of the force that would descend on Italy. In Macedonia itself he was joined by 16000 veteran phalangites and a force 12000 strong send by the Hellenic League. Thracians, Illyrians and Celts flocked to the Great King’s banner, eager to fight for plunder and pay. In Epiros the Great King was joined by his cousin Aiakides, King of Epiros, and an additional 15000 men. After his grandmother Cleopatra’s death in 292 he ruled the Molossian Kingdom without a regent, and thankfully for the Epirotes he turned out to be an able ruler. He ruled his restless kingdom well, repelling Illyrian pirates and claimants to the throne, and the war in Italy could be a good opportunity for additional plunder and prestige for the nascent kingdom.

All-in-all the Argead army was 120000 strong, and it took several weeks to ferry the troops across from Epidamnos to Brentesion. It was completed early in November, just before the winter storms would make it almost impossible. Philip set up his headquarters at Taras, where the citizens were overawed by the army that he had rallied to its defence. They had off course heard of such fabled lands as India, Baktria or Arabia, but to see their men in the flesh was altogether different, and testament to the Great King’s power and the size of his realm. Already Philip had sent several smaller forces in advance, notably his second son Alexander, who he regarded as the most capable, was send forward to Saunitis with a force 15000 strong to support the Saunitai. 30000 men under command of Demetrios were send to Rhegion, from where they could cross over to Sicily. The Great King himself was not in a hurry, he knew that his very presence would lure out the enemy, and then he would strike. In Rome the news of his arrival in Italy was greeted by some boastful senators as an exceptional chance to humiliate the pompous Greeks and perfidious easterners, but others were more cautious and urged attempts at making peace. Not long after the news of Philip’s arrival reached Rome the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, the greatest in the city, was hit by lightning and burned down, an ominous sign for the superstitious Romans.


  1. See update 29
  2. OTL this is the Bomilcar who attempted a coup in Carthage in 308 BCE.
  3. More or less the same as the OTL harbour of Carthage, although constructed earlier. OTL it was built sometime from the Second Punic War to the Third Punic War, during the last period of Carthaginian history.
  4. Meaning ‘Island of the hyrax’

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The confrontation between Rome, Carthage, and the Argeads is going to be legendary. While Rome and Carthage have rapidly turned the tabled against the Greeks and Saunitai in Italy and Sicily, Philip is bringing in such a massive army that a heated confrontation would most likely decide the war. It's do or die, and judging from what happened to Jupiter, it's not looking good for the Romans.
Seems likely Rome will go down hard, they just don't have the manpower to fight Philip especially when their Italian allies see the Argead army. Carthage may be harder though, re-establishing their control of the former territory in Sicily is possible.
Seems likely Rome will go down hard, they just don't have the manpower to fight Philip especially when their Italian allies see the Argead army. Carthage may be harder though, re-establishing their control of the former territory in Sicily is possible.
Yeah, Carthage has the advantage of being further away from the Argeads in the case that Rome gets slaughtered by Philip. Heck, if they survive unscathed after the conflict they are well poised to expand into Iberia as well regardless who wins or loses under Eshmunhalos.
While Alexander and his son made the world tremble before the strength of their arms, while their dominion spread from horizon to horizon and they themselves were considered like the great heroes of old, in that time our City was still ruled by its own laws and its own people, uniquely among nations it did not bow before Macedonian tyranny. Autonomous and sovereign, the City rightfully held sway over much of the Great Sea, it received tribute and praise from many peoples and distant lands, and only distant Babylon could rightfully boast of holding more people within its walls. Majestic and prosperous, through the wise guidance of the Adirim our City rose to prominence, ever the envy of lesser peoples.

- Excerpt from History of the Kan'anim by Abdashtart, son of Hanno
Two interesting pieces to take from this; first, that Carthage at some point will end up subdued by seemingly the Argeads, and secondly that Abdashtart's work implies some kind of self-consciousness or ethnogenesis among the Canaanites (the titular Kan'anim) is liable to develop as something worth conducting historiography over. I find the latter really interesting, and possibly something that could stem from the former.

For one, assuming that Argead control over both Carthage and old Phoenicia would be concurrent and last at least a significant amount of time, most of the world's Canaanite population would operate in the confines of the same sprawling state entity; for another, being together under Argead control would put them in closer contact/competition with the empire's Greeks, which would realistically have a lot of leeway to exchange ideas with the Canaanites (given the importance of Mediterranean maritime trade/contact in both groups of people) and have by this point undergone an early case of ethnogenesis. That there's a number of easy shared characters for early historiographers to perceive and point out (predominance of city-states in both cultures, colonial expansion throughout the Mediterranean, the importance of republican concepts in both Greece and Carthage) might make it even easier to have Greek ethnogenesis inspire similar ideas among Punic/Phoenician/Canaanite philosophers. I'm not admittedly sure this is how collective identities rise and spread, but it's something I can definitely see happening.

As for the war, it's certainly being framed here as a lot more one-sided than I had initially suspected. With a reformed Samnite/Saunitai-inspired military, it is clear that the Romans won't be going down without a hell of a fight, which might well screw them here. Philip Euergetes' Laconic phrasing aside, I don't think he is of mind to be lenient in the future peace with how things have progressed at this rate.
Two interesting pieces to take from this; first, that Carthage at some point will end up subdued by seemingly the Argeads
I noticed this as well, It does read like Carthage could be subjugated at some point but is it going to be by the Argeads? Do we know when this history was written? If I had to guess I'd say another African power is probably going to be the one to do the subjugating, resurgent Egyptians or perhaps a Berber nation. I've got nothing to back this up though other than a feeling given by a previous excerpt from the History of the Kan'anim:
All of that off course was but the prelude to the war he waged on our City, whose splendour was, and remains, the envy of the Macedonians and the Hellenes.
Could be it just means it becomes a part of a larger Canaanite empire and no longer has self rule over the city as such? Or part of a larger federation of nations EU style?
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I noticed this as well, It does read like Carthage could be subjugated at some point but is going to be by the Argeads? Do we know when this history was written? If I had to guess I'd say another African power is probably going to be the one to do the subjugating, resurgent Egyptians or perhaps a Berber nation. I've got nothing to back this up though other than a feeling given by a previous excerpt from the History of the Kan'anim:
I doubt it's going to be the Argeads. They're too far away to realistically subjugate from Babylon and trying to do so would only end in disaster for Philip or his successors, even if they're the ruler of most of the known world.

A resurgent Egypt also probably wouldn't be interested in Carthage, in my opinion. Nubia and Canaan are much more realistic targets for expansion due to their short distance from the Nile and the Egyptians' historical claims to those lands.

The only reasonable candidate is an Amazigh kingdom like an ITTL Numidia/Mauretania that takes advantage during a period of severe instability, which would be interesting. I'd love to see a fusion between Amazigh and Carthaginian culture in Horus Triumphant, either under the dominion of Carthage or Numidia.
I noticed this as well, It does read like Carthage could be subjugated at some point but is going to be by the Argeads? Do we know when this history was written? If I had to guess I'd say another African power is probably going to be the one to do the subjugating, resurgent Egyptians or perhaps a Berber nation. I've got nothing to back this up though other than a feeling given by a previous excerpt from the History of the Kan'anim:
I'd considered that option, and had debated including it as a possibility. At the same time, the text fits best with some kind of Argead relationship (specifically that the phrases regarding it "still" being ruled by Carthaginians and of it being uniquely independent of the Argeads are right next to one another; the latter could be a separate distinction of its glory during that era), and I don't really see which other powers nearby would be able to subdue Carthage. It's looking like nobody in Italy will be in fit condition to launch overseas conquests for a while following this war, Iberia and Gaul remain fragmented, and as others have mentioned an Egyptian conquest of the area doesn't really make sense (historically, native Egyptian polities really only conquered outside the Nile for strategic positioning, which the Libyan Desert does on its own already).

As others have mentioned, Numidian conquest is the most reasonable as thus, though with the power and population imbalances that too is hard to see barring extreme disunity or weakness in Carthage proper. Then again, such things happened a few times in antiquity (the Gutian and Kassite conquests of Babylon). Looking at the situation with this in mind, I do think it is probably more likely than an Argead conquest, in which case I reckon that it might happen in the wake of the Italiote War (assuming it's a hefty Macedonian victory, of course); Eshmunhalos' grandstanding resulting in crippling indemnities on the republic coupled with any retention of autocratic tendencies might lead to a civil war in Carthage, which could open the door for the Massyilians to sweep in and subdue the republic.

As for timing, I would reckon that the History of the Kan'anim is from a couple of generations following Carthage being subdued by whichever foreign power ends up doing so; a period recently enough for the invaders to not be seen as normal, but long enough ago for the previous periods to be seen as fairly distant history. It may also be that the book is written near the end of non-Punic rule in Carthage, as if it does speak to some form of Canaanite ethnogenesis arising, resistance to the region's rulers could be on the rise - something which neither a small Numidian ruling minority nor a distant Macedonian one would be well-equipped to endure.

This of course is all based on a rather conservative estimate about the context within which the History of the Kan'anim is being used for the story, so if that's not the case, anything goes. Can't count chicks before they've hatched.
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Well argued, I'm still on the fence but think I'm leaning towards your side now re: an Argead conquest, especially if the subjugation is a more on paper tributary sort of thing and doesn't include the great kings garrisons on African soil.

But yeah, agree that a Numidian conquest or submission is probably the most likely in the medium term.
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Thanks for all the comments and likes! The History of the Kana'im is meant to be written around 100 CE (obviously that dating won't be used in the TL, but it's more convenient for me and most readers I think to use it). So that's still some centuries away, and the world will be a drastically different place. Some of the guesses about it aren't that far off by the way.
I have a couple days off this week, so the next update is not that far away. Probably Wednesday or Thursday I think, it depends on the weather.
All-in-all the Argead army was 120000 strong, and it took several weeks to ferry the troops across from Epidamnos to Brentesion. It was completed early in November, just before the winter storms would make it almost impossible. Philip set up his headquarters at Taras, where the citizens were overawed by the army that he had rallied to its defence. They had off course heard of such fabled lands as India, Baktria or Arabia, but to see their men in the flesh was altogether different, and testament to the Great King’s power and the size of his realm. Already Philip had sent several smaller forces in advance, notably his second son Alexander, who he regarded as the most capable, was send forward to Saunitis with a force 15000 strong to support the Saunitai. 30000 men under command of Demetrios were send to Rhegion, from where they could cross over to Sicily. The Great King himself was not in a hurry, he knew that his very presence would lure out the enemy, and then he would strike. In Rome the news of his arrival in Italy was greeted by some boastful senators as an exceptional chance to humiliate the pompous Greeks and perfidious easterners, but others were more cautious and urged attempts at making peace. Not long after the news of Philip’s arrival reached Rome the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, the greatest in the city, was hit by lightning and burned down, an ominous sign for the superstitious Romans.

Well. I'd bet that Rome is quite doomed. The Argeads still have a few strongholds in Italy, their army is massive with a core of superb elites and led personally by the most respected family of the day. However, I can definitely see young Alexander getting the honour of an early death which his famous granddad managed to avoid in this timeline, setting the stage for lesser men to inherit Philip III's throne or even a succession crisis if anything should happen to Philip's eldest son. Thus, the earlier post of Philip's reign being the high point of the early Argead empire becomes true.
33. The Italiote War, part 2
33. The Italiote War, part 2

273 BCE

The Romans, to speak generally, rely on force in all their enterprises.

- Polybius 1.37 (OTL)

The more superstitious among the Romans might have feared the worst on the night in December 274 when a bolt of lightning set ablaze the Temple of the Capitoline Jupiter, the ensuing inferno casting an ominous red glow over much of the city. The same day news had arrived in the city that the Macedonian king had landed on the shores of Italy with a vast army, his intent set on vanquishing Rome. In short, there was more than enough cause for concern among the inhabitants of the city on the Tiber even without this seeming display of divine displeasure. Yet characteristically the Romans did not relent, when an envoy send by Philip arrived a week later and demanded an unconditional surrender the Senate told him that if Philip wanted their earth and water he should come get it himself. Clearly it seems the Romans either did not fear the Great King or hid this fear very well.

At Taras the Great King had made his headquarters and it was from there that he coordinated the war effort. He had already send his son Alexander forward into Saunitis (Samnium) in order to reinforce the position of the Saunitai and to prevent them from striking a deal with the Romans. While in Taras he also summoned various leaders of the Bruttians and the Lucanians and had them reaffirm their loyalty. While probably not too happy with having to kowtow before the Great King they also had to do so in front of the assembled ranks of this army, which was a vast force the likes of which Italy had not seen before. Having thus personally witnessed the strength and wealth that Philip possessed it would be unlikely that the Lucanian and Bruttian leaders would switch sides, after all: who could hope to defeat such an army?

Alexander was Philip’s second son, and reportedly his favourite. His elder brother, the crown prince Philip, remained on his post as regent of Macedonia and his younger brother Ptolemaios served as satrap of Elymais. Alexander seems to have had his father’s favour because they were much alike: he was responsible, brave and hard-working. The crown prince in contrast was a more ‘traditional’ Macedonian prince: drinking, hunting and debauchery filled most of his days, and while he was regent of Macedonia most of his tasks he delegated to others. He was quick to anger and prone to violent outbursts which most often targeted his servants, but after the sudden death of his wife Phila, a daughter of Krateros, there were whispers that her death was not entirely natural. While personally an able warrior as a commander he was rash and uncareful: a minor campaign against some Thracian rebels in 275 almost ended in disaster when the prince obliviously led his army into an ambush, it was only due to a well-timed cavalry charge led by the prince’s cousin Antigonos that the Thracians were driven off the field. It is no wonder then that Philip III chose his middle son over his eldest to accompany him on the campaign.
Alexander had led his troops to Bovianum, capital of the Pentri, the most important tribe of the Saunitai, which he reached in February 273. This attested to Alexander’s abilities as well as the excellent logistics of the Argead army: he led his army across the rugged hills of Italy in the midst of winter with a minimum of casualties. On his way to Bovianum he had managed to ambush a Roman force that was send to block him: his Saunitai guides had showed him a route that led to a ridge above the Roman camp. In the middle of the night he surprised the Romans and torched their camp: the Romans scrambled to respond but were quickly overrun. It was a fortuitous start to Alexander’s campaign.

Apart from Alexander’s march to Bovianum there was little action during the winter months early in 273, Philip prepared his forces and ensured the loyalty of his various Italian allies and the Romans were unable to raise large armies until the end of March. It was then that the Roman farmers put down their hoe’s, ploughs and sickles and picked up their equipment and followed their elected magistrates to war. The mobilisation was large-scale, from the Roman towns and colonies spread across Latium and central Italy and its various allies they were able to call up 120000 men, an astonishing amount for what was a relatively small power. Their offensive would be twofold: one into Saunitis and another into the lands of the Rasna. Philip also undertook action: he send Tiridates, one of the few examples of a son of a Persian nobleman and a Macedonian woman from this era, forward into Lucania with 35000 men in preparation for his campaign into Campania later that year.

The Romans struck into Saunitis in April 293, and not without good reason: the Saunitai combined with Alexander’s forces were a daunting foe, and Bovianum was not far away from the borders of Latium. 30000 men under the consul Publius Decius Mus marched into the highlands, torching Saunitai villages and ravaging the land. Gavius Vettius, meddix [1] of the Pentri, reacted by marching out against them, although Alexander had advised him to await the Argead assault on Campania. Several weeks of skirmishing followed and it was near Aesernia, a town not far from Bovianum located near the Volturnus river, that the armies faced off. The Saunitai-Argead force was somewhat larger but was hampered by the division of its command between Vettius and Alexander, who did not get along and squabbled over which strategy to employ against the Romans. Battle ensued when the Saunitai and some Macedonian contingents moved to block the Romans from crossing the Volturnus at a shallow part of the river, several hours of heavy fighting followed on the riverbanks. After several assaults it seemed as if the Romans would relent and slowly pulled back from the river, after which the Saunitai gave chase. As they surged forth they were suddenly struck in the flank by a Roman force hidden in nearby woods, then the Romans they were chasing turned around and charged the Saunitai, who had walked into a trap. Surrounded they were slaughtered almost to the man, Gavius Vettius among them. Alexander had in the meantime regrouped some remaining Saunitai and his own forces and attempted to retreat back to Bovianum but the Romans were quickly upon them. Hoping to buy his forces some time he led his cavalry into the Roman flank. Perhaps it could have worked, were it not for Alexander’s death: his horse threw him off after it was hit by a Roman javelin. Paralysed the prince was quickly killed by the advancing Roman infantry, and as news of his death spread among the Macedonians they once again started to retreat. With panic and confusion gripping the Argead and Saunitai ranks they were quickly overwhelmed by the renewed Roman offensive. Aesernia so it turned out was a great victory for the Romans.

In the aftermath of the battle Decius Mus made good use of the opportunity he was now presented with and marched on Bovianum post-haste. He fell upon the city several days after the battle, easily defeating the meagre garrison and utterly destroying the place, the population that did not fall to the sword was dragged off to the slave markets. He send further expeditions into Saunitis, plundering and burning as they went, hoping to crush the resistance of the Saunitai. Northern Saunitis was devastated, herds of cattle were carried away and fields were burned. From their hilltop strongholds the Pentri attempted to stall the Roman advance, but it had little effect. One of the greatest victories was the capture of the city of Luceria near the border of Saunitis and Apulia, which would function as a Roman base for campaigns into that region. In August Decius Mus returned to Rome and was granted a triumph for his successful campaign.

The Romans had recovered Alexander’s body from the battlefield and cremated him, sending his ashes back to his father. Philip was distraught at the news of his favourite son’s death and swore vengeance, but he was nonetheless thankful to the Romans for returning his remains and in return released several hundred Roman captives without ransom. Together with the ashes came another demand to evacuate Italy, but the Great King refused to negotiate: he left the choice to the Romans, offering them subjugation or annihilation. Not long afterwards more bad news reached Philip. In March 273 Demetrios and his 30000 strong army were transported from Rhegion to Messana, surprising the local garrison and reconquering the city. The city was purged of all anti-Argead elements and afterwards Demetrios marched south, to relieve Syracuse, which was besieged by the Carthaginians. Eshmunhalos, the Carthaginian leader and general, intercepted the Argead army near Katane. The phalanx held out against the Carthaginian mercenaries, a mixed force of Greeks and Iberians, but after Demetrios’ detachment of Median cavalry routed Eshmunhalos’ Libyan riders the Carthaginians started falling back. Neither side had suffered many casualties but Eshmunhalos understood he was at a distinct disadvantage and managed to retreat back to the siege lines around Syracuse. Katane itself opened up its gates to Demetrios and his army, which spent the next day in drunken stupor in celebration of their victory. Many Macedonians thus woke up with a hangover, but Demetrios did not wake up at all. He had been a longstanding friend and ally of the Great King, but in contrast to him he did often indulge in hedonistic revelry like many others among the Macedonian nobility. Perhaps it was the cause of his death, which despite the circumstances is described by all sources as a natural one. The command of the army fell to Demetrios’ son and second-in-command, the young and talented Antigonos, grandson of Alexander the Great (of whom it was said that he resembled him greatly) and nephew of the Great King Philip III.

While in Katane he heard that Messana had been recaptured by the Carthaginians, a significant blow to the Argead position on Sicily. Antigonos however did not attempt to recapture the city, instead he marched south to relieve Syracuse. Eshmunhalos had expected this and constantly harassed the Macedonians, not allowing them a moment of rest. Several indecisive battles followed throughout April and May 273 which prevented Antigonos from breaking the siege. Frustrated by this Antigonos decided on another tactic, instead of staying in eastern Sicily he marched west, spreading terror in his wake. Like the Romans in Saunitis he burned and pillaged, showing to the communities of Sicily that the Carthaginians were unable to protect them. It was brutal but effective, and throughout 273 Antigonos and his relatively small force of 20000 had inflicted serious damage to Carthage’s allies on the island. The greatest success was the capture of Panormos in September 273 by way of a ruse. A group of Macedonian elite soldiers successfully blended in with a group of refugees fleeing the devastation inflicted upon the Sicilian interior by Antigonos, and in the middle of the night they opened the city gates. Like a pack of wolves upon a flock of sheep Antigonos and his army fell upon Panormos and sacked it brutally, supposedly every adult male was put to the sword. Eshmunhalos was concentrated on his siege of Syracuse, which was going nowhere fast because despite Carthaginian naval prowess the Argead fleet still managed to resupply the city, which combined with Syracuse’s excellent fortifications meant it was more or less impregnable. A certain Hasdrubal, son of Hanno, was thus in charge of the army that was meant to stop Antigonos and his campaign of terror. He was however severely outclassed by Antigonos, who near Entella defeated Hanno despite being outnumbered two-to-one. Near the end of the year it seems his strategy started to pay off when several communities and cities, including Gela, Herakleia Minoa and Camarina, send him envoys to offer their subjugation in exchange for protection against the inevitable Carthaginian response. At the moment it must have seemed as if Antigonos had single-handedly changed the course of war on Sicily.


The Battle of Mylai

Despite this there were some Carthaginian victories in 273, mostly on the naval front. In May 273, not long after the recapture of Messana, a Carthaginian fleet faced off against an Argead one near Mylai on the north-eastern coast of Sicily, and the Carthaginian admiral Shafat of Utica scored a decisive victory, their smaller force of quinqueremes besting the larger Argead trireme fleet. This enabled Shafat to land troops near Rhegion, which was sacked by the Carthaginians in June 273. This was especially painful to the Argead cause, Rhegion had been an important centre of shipbuilding and there were many supplies stored there, which now all perished in the flames. The Carthaginian fleet had also been crucial in keeping the city of Poseidonia (Paestum) supplied. The Argead general Tiridates had been besieging the city with his army for some time, in preparation for Philip’s expected campaign in Campania. The Romans however had fortified the city and managed to defeat several attempted assaults while the Carthaginians ensured that supplies would not run low. This stalemate continued until August 273 when an outbreak of disease forced Tiridates to retreat back to Megale Hellas, leaving Lucania vulnerable.

In response to the failed siege of Poseidonia the Romans pushed into Lucania, perhaps hoping to inspire a revolt there. Earlier in the year the hammer had fallen on the Rasna, in a large battle near Fufluna (Populonia) their resistance was broken; the League of the Rasna barely functioned anymore and most cities thus signed treaties with Rome. This enabled the Senate to send its legions south for a renewed offensive against the Argeads, perhaps they hoped to reach the walls of Taras. The recent strung of victories might have made the Romans somewhat overconfident when they marched into Lucania in September 273 under the command of the year’s other consul Publius Cornelius Rufinus. This time the Great King himself would take to the field, he had remained inactive long enough and was eager to prove himself again on the battlefield.


Battle of Potentia

The armies fought each other at Potentia, where 39 years earlier the Saunitai had defeated the Italiote League [2]. The Great King had chosen his position well, on a narrow plain between two forested hills the phalanx held firm against the Roman assault. For the Romans it was almost impossible to make headway against the dense forest of pikes that opposed them, anchored on the flanks by the elite infantry of the Argyraspidai and steep hillsides. The Romans tired themselves time and time again against the phalanx, but the Macedonians would not yield. When it became clear that Romans were preparing to retreat the Argead cavalry dashed forward, crashing into the Roman lines and causing them to rout. For Philip it was a great victory, but there was little time to rest. The Argead army, 40000 strong, quickly marched north after the battle to relieve the Saunitai tribe of the Hirpini. In conjunction with the attack on Lucania the Romans had also assaulted the territory of the Hirpini, and besieged their capital of Maloeis [3]. Early in November 273 Philip managed to reach Maloeis and defeated the besieging Romans and afterwards campaigned alongside the Hirpini to evict the Romans from southern Saunitis. The onset of winter prevented Philip from either liberating the lands of the Pentri or from marching into Campania. As the armies of the opposing sides returned to their winter quarters they both probably knew that the next year would be crucial.

272 - 271 BCE

Except perhaps the war between the Hellenes and the Trojans we do not know of one more brutal and devastating than the one Philippos Euergetes waged in Italy.

- Excerpt from The lives of the Great Kings of Asia by Hermocles of Brentesion

Both sides spent the winter of 273-272 preparing for the next year. Philip himself was also busy with attending to affairs of the rest of his empire, the Great King was after all the absolute monarch from Macedonia to the Indus and there were some affairs on which only he could decide, despite this brother Karanos doing a good job as chiliarch in Philip’s absence. Antigonos on Sicily remained active during the months, winter was not as harsh there as on the mainland, constantly harassing Eshmunhalos as he was besieging Syracuse. Antigonos used Camarina, one of the cities that had changed sides, as his base. In February 272 an Argead fleet under command of Amyntor defeated the Carthaginian fleet near Leukopetra, the southern cape of Calabria and Italy as a whole. The reason for the Carthaginian defeat was apparently the complete inexperience of the Carthaginian admiral, a close confidant of Eshmunhalos named Mago. Eshmunhalos distrusted the capable Shafat of Utica and had him dismissed and replaced by his associates in the Assembly of Carthage, but this turned out to be a catastrophic mistake. Amyntor had some naval experience, having commanded a part of the fleet during Philip’s Arabian expedition, and managed to outmanoeuvre the Carthaginians, sinking a large part of their fleet. Mago did not survive the battle, perhaps better for him or otherwise he would have been crucified in Carthage. This did enable Philip to send reinforcements to Sicily, which arrived in April 272 at both Camarina and Syracuse.

In a carefully planned campaign Antigonos now launched a new assault on Eshmunhalos’ positions around Syracuse, meeting him in battle near Akrai, just west of Syracuse. Eshmunhalos had the slight advantage in numbers, commanding 40000 men in comparison to Antigonos’ 30000. When battle was joined after some days of skirmishing early in May 272 the Carthaginians seemed to carry the day, their numerically superior heavy infantry (mostly Greeks and Libyans) drove back the Argead left and centre while at the same time Eshmunhalos’ Numidians drove back Antigonos’ light cavalry. Yet Antigonos kept his head cool, his right flank managed to hold firm against the onslaught while the advance of the Carthaginians opened up a gap in their lines. Commanding his heavy cavalry, a mix of Macedonians, Thessalians, Medes and Persians he dashed through, falling upon the Carthaginian rear. Panic broke out among Eshmunhalos’ men and the retreating Macedonian troops rallied again, pushing the Libyans and Greeks back. A large part of the Carthaginian force was surrounded and destroyed, and only half of those who had marched out returned to their camp near Syracuse several days later. It was then that the Syracusan garrison, which maintained contact with Antigonos, sallied out while Antigonos marched in from the west, trapping the remaining Carthaginians. Victory was total, Carthaginian siege equipment and many talents of gold and silver were captured, as were 22000 surviving Carthaginians and their mercenaries who were all shipped off to the slave markets. Eshmunhalos was one of the few survivors, together with some bodyguards he rode back across Sicily to Lilybaion. By now most other Sicilian cities had once again offered their subjugation to Philip, and the situation on the island had thus returned to what it was before the war.

Unwilling to test the stronghold of Lilybaion like his father had done Philip ordered Antigonos to return to Italy, so he could participate in the coming campaign. Already ominous news had reached Taras, the Romans had called up most of their able-bodied men for the coming campaign. Despite the disaster on Sicily the Carthaginians understood that a Roman victory in Italy would drastically improve their own position, and thus they send 20000 men to Italy, where in June 272 they landed at Ostia: Libyans, Iberians, Numidians, Celts, Greeks and even some Carthaginians themselves under command of Hannibal of Gadir, a man whose name betrays his Iberian origins (although his family seems to have lived in Carthage already for quite some time) and another ally of Eshmunhalos. In contrast to the admiral Mago Hannibal had some military experience; he was one of the generals who oversaw the expansion in Africa during the 290’s. It seems that despite the catastrophe of the battle of Akrai Eshmunhalos still commanded the loyalty of many among the Carthaginians, he was still very much the first man of the Republic, and it was unthinkable that the Court of 104 would try him.

The Romans themselves once again levied around 120000 men, 80000 of whom would participate in the following campaign, the rest would garrison Latium and Campania. During April and May Philip had launched some raids into Campania, probing the Roman defences, but it turned out the Romans had fortified the area well and easily repelled them. Late in June 80000 Romans under Publius Decius Mus, the victor of Aesernia and last year’s consul marched across the Apennines together with the 20000 strong Carthaginian force. Despite Saunitai harassment the force reached Luceria practically unscathed early in July. The plan, meant to evict the Argeads from Italy, was an invasion of Apulia to be followed up by an assault on Taras itself. Philip was long since aware of their plans, and had taken countermeasures. During the winter he had send agents north with large amounts of gold and silver, there they visited the Rasna communities that still resisted, most important among them the city of Aritim (Arretium). The agents had to reassure the still resisting Rasna that help was on the way, but they also travelled further north, to the Celtic tribes of Italy, the Insubres, Cenomani, Boii and Veneti. Gold, silver and even land was offered to them in exchange for their aid against the Romans. While none of those tribal confederations as a whole marched off to war there were still many warbands who took up the offer and marched south, where in conjunction with the Rasna they put pressure on the Romans.

Yet it was not enough to deter the Romans from their Apulian offensive, and thus Philip had no choice than to confront them in battle. With an army 90000 strong he marched out from Taras to confront the Romans and Carthaginians, quickly marching north to prevent the Romans from either ravaging Apulia or convincing its inhabitants to change sides. Near the town of Herdonia some skirmishes took place between scouting parties of both armies. Decius Mus and Hannibal thus heard of Philip’s approach and decided to await his arrival. They outnumbered him slightly and were confident in their ability to defeat him. Near the city of Arpi they awaited the Great King, and it was there that the decisive battle of the war would be fought. Almost 200000 men stood on the field that day, with their origins stretching from the oppida of Iberia to the mountains and valleys of the Hindu Kush. The Romans made up the centre and the right flank of their formation while the Carthaginians occupied the left. The Roman centre consisted of their less experienced troops, recently levied without much campaigning experience while the right flank consisted of the elite infantry of the Italian allies (known as the extraordinarii) and the more experienced Romans. They were supported by Roman and allied cavalry, which was meant to protect the flank of the legion. The Carthaginian contingent consisted of a phalanx of citizen troops and various mercenary contingents, among others slingers from the Balearics, swordsmen from Iberia, Hellenic hoplites and Numidian horsemen.

They were opposed by the Argead army, whose main force was its phalanx. On the right facing the Carthaginians, the position of honour, stood the Argyraspidai, then followed the Macedonians, who formed the majority of the phalanx, and then the Greeks of the Italiote and Hellenic Leagues and finally the Epirotes under their king Aiakides. The Macedonians and Argyraspidai were commanded by Antigonos, while Philip himself commanded the hetairoi who he kept in reserve. Also kept in reserve were an elite unit of the hypaspistai and 150 heavily armed elephants. The left flank was guarded by a detachment of Thracian and Illyrian cavalry under command of Amyntor while the right flank was guarded by Iranian cavalry under Tiridates. The battle started with a Roman advance against the phalanx and with clashes of the cavalry on that flank. On the Macedonian right the Numidian cavalry started harassing the Argead ranks before being chased off by the Iranian cavalry. The Argyraspidai started their advance against the Carthaginians, who to their credit managed to hold their own against the Argead elites. On the left the Epirotes were pushed back slightly but Aiakides managed to keep his men in the fight, despite them opposing Rome’s best troops. It was in the centre that things went wrong for Philip: there some uneven terrain made sure that the phalanx could not be formed properly and the Romans managed to inflict many casualties upon the Greeks who were stationed there and were steadily falling back.

After two hours of fighting the Greeks broke and started falling back, the Roman troops pouring through the hole in the Argead line. Had they been professional troops perhaps they had used this opportunity to reform and strike the Argead formation in the rear, but being relatively inexperienced levies they marched straight ahead, perhaps hoping to plunder the Argead camp [4]. Philip, who had not joined the fight and instead was riding behind his lines, shouting encouragements and making sure he was present at hard pressed sections of the phalanx, ordered his reserves to advance and repel the Roman breakthrough. To the Romans, who thought victory was in their grasp, the advance of the elephants must have been a profound shock. Never before had they seen such beasts, the psychological effect must have been immense. As they tore into the Roman formation, trampling unfortunate Romans while from the howdahs on the elephants' backs they were showered with javelins, panic started to spread among the legions. In the meantime Philip himself rallied the Greeks, urging them onward, which seems to have worked for not long afterwards the Romans were pushed back again.


Battle of Arpi

Having averted a crisis now Philip went on the offensive, he ordered the Argyraspidai and the Macedonians to redouble their efforts, putting great pressure on the Carthaginians, who were starting to spread thin. In the meantime the Iranian cavalry had defeated the Numidians and started assaulting the Carthaginian rear, after which Hannibal redirected some of his troops to defend against them. This caused a gap to open up between the Roman and Carthaginian lines which was what Philip was waiting for. He ordered his heavily armoured Bactrian lancers forwards and followed close behind with his hetairoi, they rushed through the gap and fell upon the Roman flank and rear. As the Epirotes were also driving back their opponents the Romans started to falter, and the decisive blow came when the Thracians and Illyrians charged in, completing the encirclement. Decius Mus died fighting, as did most of his army, Hannibal surrendered when he saw that the situation was hopeless. Victory thus belonged to Philip.

Philip gave his army little respite, Antigonos he send north with 20000 men to harass the Roman colonies in Umbria and Picenum while he himself would finally invade Campania. Bovianum was freed from the Romans and afterwards Philip marched into Campania itself, around the start of September 272, where near Calatia he defeated a smaller Roman force. The losses sustained at Arpi were almost impossible to recover from so quickly, and the Romans had already lost many men throughout the war, they were at the end of their line. Things went fast, halfway September Philip appeared before the walls of Capua, which evicted its Roman garrison and declared their allegiance to Philip. A month later the Great King marched into Latium, where the city of Praeneste opened its gates to him. From atop the hillside city’s acropolis he got his first glimpse of the city of Rome in the distance, and it was probably there that he heard the news that Antigonos had occupied Corfinium and had destroyed the Roman colony at Ancona. In October he defeated a final Roman attempt at stopping him near Tusculum, where he defeated a haphazard Roman army effortlessly. The Senate of Rome offered peace and submission, but by now Philip would not accept. He had to set an example.


Siege of Rome

The siege of Rome started later that month and dragged on until March 271, when hunger ravaged the city and the completion of several large siege towers allowed Philip to launch his assault. The walls were captured and during a week of vicious house-to-house fighting much of the city was destroyed beyond repair. Fires started spreading and much of the city burned down. It was a suitable end to a city that had dared to resist the Great King. As he inspected the half-burned city the king was visited by envoys from the Rasna cities, who congratulated the king on his victory. They were however unpleasantly surprised when they heard that they had to accept garrisons in their cities, although Philip also exempted them from tribute for several years because of the devastation that their land had suffered. For now the Rasna acquiesced, and Philip left Antigonos behind in to temporarily settle matters in Italy while he returned to Babylon.

In the meantime the Argead navy had suffered a great defeat against the Carthaginians near Cape Eknomos on Sicily, which made sure that any plans for invading Africa needed to be shelved for the time being. Philip did not mind this much, he had already given orders for the preparation of another expedition to finally subjugate Carthage. From Egypt the army would march across the desert to Carthage, supported by the navy now under construction in the various dockyards of Egypt and Phoenicia, or at least that was the plan. Philip returned to Macedonia in May 271 where he remained in Pella for some time, but just before he intended to return to Babylon he fell ill. According to witness accounts increasingly the king grew paler by the day and occasionally coughed up blood, and quite unexpectedly it was thus at the height of his power that Philippos III Euergetes, Great King of Asia, passed away.


  1. Samnite equivalent of the Roman consul, although there seems to have only been one instead of two.
  2. See update 27
  3. OTL Maleventum/Beneventum
  4. This is based on what happened OTL at Asculum, where some parts of the Epirote phalanx were routed but the Romans marched straight ahead instead of flanking their enemies. Off course a century later and with a more professional force more or less the same happened at Pydna and there they did flank the phalanx.
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A great update, Romans killing Alexander, doomed them to a fight of victory or oblivion. Sicily falling back under Argead control, and no further expansion seemed likely
Welp. That went a lot quicker than I thought it would.

This has got to have been quite the wake-up call for Carthage.

Carthage now has no competitor in the Western Med, plus they got a lot of experience in this war, especially fighting among the doomed Romans. I wonder if any survivors will make their way to Carthage.