148 B.C.

To 150 B.C.149 B.C.148 B.C.147 B.C.146 B.C.

The following timeline includes some of the more important events that took place during the second year of the Third Punic War, with references to relevant passages within our principal ancient sources.


YEAR: 148 B.C.

CONSULS: Sp. Postumius Albinus Magnus and L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

148, Part I: The War Drags On

Masinissa, king of Numidia, asks for Scipio Aemilianus’s help in settling his affairs and commands his sons to obey the Roman tribune’s decisions; Scipio leaves for Numidia at once but the 90-year old ruler dies in Cirta two days before his arrival (Polybius 36.16.1-11; Appian 105-106; Livy, Periochae 50.5-7; Diodorus Siculus 32.16; Cassius Dio 21.27)

One of the three envoys sent to Masinissa, Marcus Claudius Marcellus — who was elected consul for a third time in 152 — is caught in a storm en route and perishes at sea (Livy, Periochae 50.9)

Scipio divides the bulk of Masinissa’s power and property among his three legitimate sons; Gulussa, the late king’s second son and now in command of Numidia’s armed forces, is persuaded to join Manilius’ army with a division of light cavalry (Appian 106; Livy, Periochae 50.7)

Gulussa’s cavalry seeks out Himilco Phameas’ strongholds and puts an end to his raids on Roman targets (Appian 107)

In a chance encounter, Scipio Aemilianus promises Himilco Phameas his protection in exchange for the latter’s surrender; the Carthaginian commander says that he trusts Scipio and will consider the offer seriously (Appian 107; Livy, Periochae 50.8; Diodorus Siculus 32.17.1)

early spring: Desiring to redeem himself from his previous defeats before command is transferred to the new consuls, a better-prepared Manilius launches a second attack against Hasdrubal’s Nepheris quarters, but the expedition ends in another failure; while the Romans agonise over how to secure a safe retreat Scipio receives a message from Himilco telling him that he is ready to surrender (Appian 108; Cassius Dio 21.27)

With Manilius’ authorisation Scipio facilitates the surrender; Himilco joins the Roman army with some of his officers and 2,200 horsemen, while the remaining Carthaginian cavalry passes into the command of Hanno the White (Appian 108; Livy, Periochae 50.8; Diodorus Siculus 32.17.1)

During the three-day Roman retreat Scipio, Gulussa, and their new ally Himilco ride with their men towards the Great Barathrum plain on a foraging expedition and return to the starving army with much-needed provisions (Appian 109)

One of the new consuls for 148, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, sets off for Africa to assume command over Roman forces there; on receiving this news Manilius sends Scipio to Rome with Himilco (Appian 109)

The legionaries escort Scipio to the ship bound for Rome and publicly voice their desire to see the tribune return as consul, believing that only he could defeat Carthage; many of them write letters to their relatives in Rome expressing this wish (Appian 109)

After his arrival, Scipio Aemilianus presents Himilco to the Roman Senate; the Senate congratulates Scipio on his successes and rewards the Carthaginian deserter with a purple robe, a horse adorned with gold, a complete set of armour, 10,000 drachmas in silver coin, 100 minas of silver plate and a fully-furnished tent, promising to give him even more in return for his continued cooperation; Himilco agrees and promptly returns to the Roman army’s headquarters in Africa (Appian 109; Cassius Dio 21.27)

148, Part II: Scipio’s Rise to the Consulship

early spring: With Lucius Mancinus serving as admiral of the Roman fleet, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus arrives in Africa and takes command of the army (Appian 110)

Choosing to avoid a direct confrontation with Carthage, Calpurnius Piso attacks the neighbouring cities of Aspis (through a combined land and sea assault) and Hippagreta (by means of a prolonged siege that lasts the entire summer) but fails to take either; the defeated consul then retires to Utica for the winter (Appian 110; Diodorus Siculus 32.18)

Bithya, a Numidian chieftain serving under Gulussa, deserts the Roman army and joins the Carthaginians with 800 cavalry (Appian 111)

Filled with renewed confidence at their recent victories, the Carthaginians send messengers to the Macedonian pretender Andriscus seeking an alliance and promising aid in his own war against Rome; an embassy is even sent to Micipsa and Mastanabal (sons of Masinissa) in Numidia asking for their assistance, with the warning that even they are under threat of Roman subjugation (Appian 111)

Desiring greater power, Hasdrubal suddenly accuses the military commander in Carthage, a nephew of Gulussa and also named Hasdrubal, of seeking to betray the city to his Numidian kinsman; surprised by the unexpected charge, the accused is unable to defend himself and is lynched (Appian 111; Livy, Periochae 50.10)

News of Calpurnius Piso’s failures reaches Rome and the frustrated people, remembering Scipio Aemilianus’ daring exploits during his term of service in Africa, begin to manifest a desire to see the tribune assume command (Appian 112; Diodorus Siculus 32.9a)

Scipio — though officially a candidate for the aedileship — is elected consul by the Comitia Centuriata, with Gaius Livius Drusus as his junior colleage; when the consul Postumius Albinus points out that he is ineligible for the position because of his age (which is about five years below the legal minimum) the electors hold fast to their choice, insisting that in accordance with ancient law the people have supreme authority over the election of magistrates and may therefore set aside any relevant statutes as they see fit (Appian 112; ‘Plutarch’, Apophth. Scip. Min. 4; Livy, Periochae 50.11-12; Diodorus Siculus 32.9a; Velleius Paterculus 1.12.3)

When the presiding consul refuses to give ground on the matter, a Tribune of the Plebs threatens to use his right of intercessio in order to annul the entire election — leaving Rome without magistrates for the following year — unless the Comitia’s choice is allowed to prevail; the Senate resolves the issue by allowing the tribunes to repeal the lex Villia Annalis (a statute establishing minimum ages for senior magistracies) for one year and re-enact it immediately afterwards (Appian 112; Livy, Periochae 50.12; Diodorus Siculus 32.9a)

Livius Drusus proposes that the African command be awarded to one of the new consuls in the usual manner (i.e. through the casting of lots), but a Tribune of the Plebs takes the matter to the Comitia and Scipio is chosen again; under the same measure he is allowed to conscript troops and gather volunteers for the war effort (Appian 112; Livy, Periochae 51.1; Florus 1.31.12)


To 150 B.C.149 B.C.148 B.C.147 B.C.146 B.C.


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