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Dacian Towns and Sarmizegetusa

The Roman Emperor Trajan fought the Dacians from 101-102 C.E. and attacked their capital city, Sarmizegetusa. He successfully won the war, but a few years later, the Dacians were prepared to fight again. They had refortified the walls of their capital city, and in 105 the second Dacian war began (Salmon 93).

The Dacians were capable, formidable enemies whose careful planning can be seen in the placement and structure of their capital city. Before the first Dacian War began, the Dacians were already making preparations for war, particularly “the removal of the Dacian capital from Porolissum to Sarmezegetusa” (Salmon 86). This was clearly a strategic change because “The latter site…was not exposed to an attack from the strengthened province of Pannonia” (Salmon 86). The fortified city was additionally located “on top of a 1,200 meter high mountain” and was “the core of the strategic defensive system in the Orastie Mountains…comprising six citadels” (Wikipedia Contributors). The location of the city made it highly defensible; however, the Dacians pushed security further by surrounding the city with stone walls and wooden defenses. These elements can be seen in the Dacian towns depicted on Trajan’s column.

Figure 1. Drum 7, spiral 8d, scene 57. "Assault on a Dacian Village." Used by permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via

Figure 1, “Assault on a Dacian Village,” shows both stone walls and sharp wooden fences defending a particular village (Rockwell). The sculptor also took care to include two distinct lines toward the center of the image which indicate that the village in hilly or mountainous (Rockwell). Unfortunately despite these fortifications, the villages, including the capital, “were seldom designed to offer sustained resitance” (Matyszak 223). By using seige tactics, inlcuding cutting off Dacian water supplies, the Romans were able to defeat the Dacians in both wars (Matyszak 223).  During the first Dacian war they took the capital and left the Dacians to recover.  During the second Dacian War, however, “Trajan took Sarmizegethusa [sic], and proved that he was in an unforgiving mood by leveling it to the ground” (Matyszak 223).

Works Cited

Matyszak, Philip. The Enemies of Rome from Hannibal to Attila the Hun. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2004. Print.

Rockwell, Peter. “Assault on a Dacian Village.” The McMaster Trajan Project, 2009. Web. 9 March 2012.

Salmon, Edward Togo. “Trajan’s Conquest of Dacia.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association , 67 (1936): 83-105. Web.

Wikipedia contributors. “Sarmizegetusa Regia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2012.

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Politics and War: Scipio Africanus and the Battle of Zama

Meeting of Hannibal and Scipio at Zama. Adapted from Young Folks' History of Rome by Charlotte Mary Yonge. “Battle of Zama.” Wikipedia. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

The first Punic War (264-241 B.C.) began as a small conflict in Sicily which quickly escalated into an all out war between Carthage and Rome (“Punic Wars”). The Romans won many of the battles, and the war eventually ended with a peace treaty that gave the Romans control of Sicily. Twenty-two years later (219 B.C.) Hannibal “attacked Saguntum in Hispania, a city allied to Rome, starting the second Punic War” (“Punic Wars”). After suffering a major defeat at Cannae, the Roman armies under the direction of Publius Cornelius Scipio (Scipio Africanus) traveled to Africa and prepared for the Battle of Zama.

From the accounts given of him, Scipio Africanus appears to have been not only a strong general, but also a capable politician in the time surrounding the battle of Zama. There was significant initial resistance to Scipio’s plan to attack the Carthaginians in their own territory by the Roman Senate. They were “persuaded by Fabius Maximus that the enterprise was far too hazardous” (“Battle of Zama”). However, Scipio, who had been elected a consul because of his recent victories against the Carthaginians, apparently had enough political savvy and support to convince the Senate to let him go, but not enough to convince them to supply him with an army of anything more than volunteers (“Battle of Zama”). Eventually he did receive the support of formal troops.

Scipio’s language during the battle of Zama also indicates political savvy. Polybius recounted that Scipio’s reply to a speech made by Hannibal at the beginning of the battle was “That neither in the Sicilian nor Iberian war were the Romans the aggressors, but the Carthaginians” and that “the gods themselves had confirmed this by giving the victory…to those who acted only in self-defense” (Polybius 15.8). This is, of course, frankly false. The first Punic War was started because of offenses on both sides, but Scipio’s statement, if recorded accurately, would have served to validate the actions of his troops and intimidate his enemies. Though it is possible that Polybius may have distorted Scipio’s language in order to strengthen the “righteous” image of the Roman army in the second Punic War, and though it is possible that Scipio himself may have believed that they Romans were completely innocent, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Scipio might have used such a tactic purposefully to his advantage.

One of the strongest indications of Scipio’s political prowess, however, came at the end of the battle. As part of the treaty to end the war after the Carthaginians had been defeated, Scipio requested various things including “a hundred hostages of their good faith, —such hostages to be selected from the young men of the country by the Roman general, and to be not younger than fourteen or older than thirty years” (Polybius 15.18). According to M. James Moscovish, “the Senate had authority to amend treaty clauses issued by its generals in the field, but in the case of Scipio’s terms with the Cartheginians…the Senate ratified them without change” (418). Though the Senate might have changed any number of terms in the treaty, they remained satisfied with Scipio’s decisions. This seems to indicate that Scipio had either enough insight into the Senate to create a treaty that supported their interests, or enough influence because of the significance of his victory that the Senate wanted to pacify him. Either way, Scipio’s political and military abilities during the battle of Zama significantly impacted the empire.

Works Cited

“Battle of Zama.” Wikipedia. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

Polybius. Histories. Perseus Digital Library. Ed. Gregory R. Crane. Tufts University. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

“Punic Wars.” Wikipedia. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

Muscovich, M. James. “Hostage Regulations in the Treaty of Zama.” Histora: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte. 23.4 (4th Qtr., 1974): 417-427. JSTOR. Web. 16 Feb. 2012

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In-Class Assignment: How did Hannibal Get Elephants over the Alps?*

  1. Hannibal’s army was directed by guides.
  2. He had the animals walk carefully through narrow places.
  3. He had his men clear vegetation.
  4. He had his men build roads.
  5. He had his men follow the contours in the mountains.
  6. He hit detours at cliffs and was misled by guides from time to time.
  7. He had his men clear away snow and ice.
  8. He had his men cut through rock to create paths by quickly heating frozen rock, using sour wine as a corrosive, and then using picks.
  9. He had his men create a zig-zag track to minimize the slope of the road during the group’s descent.
  10. The elephants took longer to move over the top of the mountains than the men and horses because they had to widen the path.
  11. The animals had to eat local vegetation along the way, so the animals almost starved while they were stuck at the peak.
  12. The Italian side of the Alps has ample vegetation, so once Hannibal got the army over the top of the mountain, the party was able to feed the animals and rest.

*Notes based on information from

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Women and Warfare: Queen Artemisia at Salamis

Figure 1: Artemisia of Caria. Adapted from Guillaume Rouille. Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum. “Artemisia I of Caria.” Wikipedia. com. Wikipedia. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

King Darius of Persia tried to invade Greece after a series of revolts, but was defeated at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 BCE, the Persian King Xerxes I, the son of Darius, began a second invasion of Greece (“Battle of Salamis”). After defeating the Greeks at the battle of Thermopylae, the Persians prepared a fleet of 1,207 ships to fight at sea in the straits between Salamis, a large island, and the Greek mainland (Munson 92). Five of these ships belonged to a female commander from Halicarnassus: Queen Artemisia.

Herodotus introduces Artemisia by saying, “Of the officers I shall make no mention…but I shall mention Queen Artemisia at whom I especially marvel, who being a woman went to war against Greece….on account of her daring and manly courage, and not under any compulsion” (qtd. in Munson 91). Another translation of Herodotus substitutes the words “great spirit and vigor of mind” for “daring and manly courage” (Herodotus 344). It is at any rate clear that the qualities which Herodotus ascribes to Artemisia are worthy of the highest esteem.

Rosaria Munson states that “Unlike most other ruling queens of the Histories, Artemisia is of Greek stock and a ruler and commander of Greeks” (Munson 93). She retained power in her kingdom after the death of her husband (“Artemisia I of Caria”), but translations differ about whether she maintained power because her son was not yet of age or because of her sheer force of will (Herodotus 344, Munson 91). Her military judgment was unimpeachable in the narrative: she advised Xerxes to engage in a “joint land-sea offensive” at Salamis, and Xerxes ignored the advice which resulted in a loss at Salamis (“Artemisia I of Caria”). After the battle, she advised Xerxes to return home to protect himself: this time he followed the advice to positive ends (“Artemisia I of Caria”). The King’s trust and regard for Artemisia were expressed after this incident when he sent his children with her to Ephesus (Herodotus 406). Artemisia was not, however, revered by everyone. The Greeks offered 10,000 drachmae for her capture because they believed that it was “a most disgraceful circumstance that a woman should fight against Athens” (Herodotus 403). She also had political enemies in the Persian court who envied her relationship with the King (Herodotus 397).

Works Cited

“Artemisia I of Caria.” Wikipedia. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

“Battle of Salamis.” Wikipedia. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

Herodotus. Herodotus, Translated from the Greek, with Notes and Life of the Author. Trans. William Beloe. Philadelphia: McCarty and Davis, 1844. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. “Artemisia in Herodotus.” Classical Antiquity 7.1 (1988): 91-106. Web. 31 Jan. 2012.

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