149 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 first year of the Third Punic War, with references to relevant passages within our principal ancient sources.


YEAR: 149 B.C.

CONSULS: L. Marcius Censorinus and M’. Manilius

149, Part I: The Final Days of Peace

Marcus Porcius Cato delivers his final De Bello Carthaginiensi oration, arguing that Carthage could not be trusted and poses a real and present danger to Rome; the powerful speech virtually eliminates any remaining opposition to war (Plutarch, Cato the Elder 27; Livy, Periochae 49.2-3; Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.14.20 [possible fragment of the speech]; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 9.3.31 [possible fragment of the speech]; Gellius 9.14.10 [possible fragment of the speech])

After the surrender of Utica (a major harbour city within striking distance of Carthage), Rome formally declares war against the Carthaginians; both consuls are immediately despatched to Africa with the Roman invasion army and fleet (Polybius 36.3; Appian 75; Livy, Periochae 49.4-5,8; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Florus 1.31.7)

Carthage sends five senior envoys to Rome — Goscon Strytanus, Hamilcar, Misdes, Gillimas, and Mago — in a last-ditch effort to sue for peace; the Senate offers the Carthaginians their territory and the right to be governed under their own laws in return for the city’s surrender, but also demands that 300 noble hostages be handed over at Lilybaeum (in Sicily) within thirty days as a gesture of goodwill (Polybius 36.4; Appian 76; Livy, Periochae 49.7-9; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26)

In spite of Carthaginian suspicions, which are rapidly overcome by the urgency of the situation, 300 young men from noble families are chosen and sent to Lilybaeum; on their arrival the hostages are received by the consuls — who had stopped over in Sicily on their way to Africa — and placed under the custody of Quintus Fabius Maximus, who then transports them to Rome aboard a massive sixteen-banked warship (Polybius 36.5; Appian 77; Livy, Periochae 49.7-9; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26)

The consuls and the enormous Roman expeditionary force land at the Cape of Utica, giving rise to tumultuous scenes of excitement and panic in Carthage (Polybius 36.6.1-2; Appian 78; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26)

Carthaginian ambassadors sent to meet the Roman commanders are ordered by Lucius Marcius Censorinus to surrender their city’s weapons and war engines; out of sheer desperation, they comply, turning over to the Romans thousands of sets of armour — 200,000 according to Appian and Polybius, though this is almost certainly exaggerated — as well as torsion engines, javelins, and ammunition (Polybius 36.6.3-7; Appian 80; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26; Florus 1.31.7)

After receiving the surrendered war materiel, Censorinus relays the final (and harshest) command of the Senate: the Carthaginians must abandon their city, which would be completely destroyed (except for their temples and cemeteries), and remove themselves to any site of their choosing within their territory provided it is not less than 10 miles from the sea; the Carthaginian emissaries, fearing the vengeance of their own people, plead with the Romans to move their fleet closer to the city so that their fellow citizens may be sufficiently cowed into accepting the Senate’s demands (Appian 80-91; Livy, Periochae 49.9; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26; Florus 1.31.8)

Rome’s orders are relayed to Carthage’s Council of 104; on hearing these commands, the people break into a riot — with the encouragement of the furious mothers of the hostages who had been sent to Lilybaeum — and start attacking their own ambassadors, councillors who had favoured negotiations with Rome, Italian expatriates and anyone they deem responsible for this calamity (Polybius 36.7; Appian 91-92; Diodorus Siculus 32.6; Cassius Dio 21.26; Florus 1.31.8)

The Council of 104 immediately declares war against Rome; in preparation for the coming siege all slaves are emancipated, Hasdrubal (who had earlier been condemned to death for starting the war with Numidia) is pardoned, and all citizens participate in the manufacturing of weapons; owing to the lack of resources, the women shave off their hair to be woven into cords for use in catapults and contribute their gold jewellery to help finance the war effort (Appian 93; Diodorus Siculus 32.9; Florus 1.31.8-10)

149, Part II: The First Battles of the Third Punic War

Censorinus and Manilius lay siege to Carthage, expecting a quick victory against unarmed defenders, but the Roman forces under their command meet stiff resistance at the city walls and are repulsed twice; fearing an attack from behind by Hasdrubal’s troops, and realising that the siege may take longer than expected, the consuls fortify two camps not far from the city walls to provide a secure base of operations for their legions (Appian 97; Livy, Periochae 49.10; Cassius Dio 21.26; Florus 1.31.10-11)

Himilco Phameas, in command of the Carthaginian cavalry, falls upon a party sent by Censorinus to gather wood for siege engines; 500 Roman soldiers are lost (Appian 97)

After further attempts by both consuls to scale the walls fail, Censorinus brings up two gigantic battering rams — each crewed by 6,000 men — and succeeds in creating two breaches, but his troops are driven back by the defenders who immediately begin to repair the walls; that night, a Carthaginian raiding party sets fire to the siege machines, rendering them inoperable (Appian 98; Cassius Dio 21.26)

When a Roman contingent is driven off in an attempt to break into the city, troops under the command of Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus manage to keep their retreating comrades from being cut off as they pull back; the action brings the tribune much renown (Appian 98; Livy, Periochae 49.11)

late July: Disease breaks out in Censorinus’ lakeside camp, forcing him to move his legions to a healthier site by the sea (Appian 99)

Taking advantage of prevailing winds, the Carthaginians send unmanned fireships towards the Roman fleet, causing heavy losses (Appian 99)

Censorinus sails back to Rome to conduct the elections for the following year’s magistrates, leaving Manilius in sole command (Appian 99; Livy, Periochae 49.13)

A Carthaginian night raid on Manilius’ camp causes immense panic among the Romans; Scipio Aemilianus leads a small division of mounted troops and drives the invaders out (Appian 99; Livy, Periochae 49.12)

Manilius shores up his camp’s defences to prevent further incursions and orders the construction of a new fort on the coast to protect arriving supply ships (Appian 100)

With 10,000 legionaries and 4,000 cavalry under his command, Manilius sets out to ravage the Carthaginian hinterland and gather supplies for the coming winter; Himilco Phameas inflicts heavy losses on some of the scattered foraging parties but avoids Scipio’s harvesters, which the tribune keeps well-organised and shielded by both footsoldiers and mounted troops (Appian 100)

The Carthaginians attack the new fort on the coast, sowing confusion among the Roman troops; Scipio Aemilianus leads approximately 300 horsemen out of Manilius’ camp and, instead of launching a direct attack, orders his men to light torches and move around the enemy to create the illusion of a large Roman force massing to repel them; the ploy works, the panic-stricken Carthaginian raiders fall back to their city and Scipio’s reputation for courage and cunning increases as a result (Appian 101; Livy, Periochae 49.12)

winter: Against Scipio’s advice, Manilius launches a badly planned direct assault on Hasdrubal’s stronghold near Nepheris; the Romans make some headway but are soon forced to disengage as the enemy troops take refuge in their well-defended camp (Appian 102; Livy, Periochae 49.13-15; Cassius Dio 21.27)

When the Romans are forced to break ranks while retreating across a river, Hasdrubal attacks, killing many men as they try to flee; Scipio takes the 300 cavalry under his command and adds to them as many horsemen as he could find, divides the force into two groups and harasses the enemy, drawing their attention away from the Roman fugitives (Appian 102-103)

Four units of Roman soldiers are cut off on a hill during the retreat and are in danger of being slaughtered by Hasdrubal’s troops; against the advice of his comrades Scipio takes two day’s rations and sets off with some cavalry to rescue the stranded legionaries; through a daring assault he succeeds in forcing the much larger Carthaginian army to withdraw and leads the troops to safety (Appian 103; Livy, Periochae 49.15)

Scipio releases one of his captives with a message for Hasdrubal, asking the latter to give any slain Roman tribunes a proper burial; he agrees to do so and searches among the enemy dead, recognising the officers’ corpses by their gold signet rings and interring them honourably (Appian 104; Diodorus Siculus 32.8)

Himilco Phameas’ cavalry attack the demoralised Roman troops as they march back to camp from the Nepheris campaign; forces sallying from Carthage inflict further losses as the Romans file into Manilius’ fort (Appian 104)

A commission sent by the Roman Senate to gather information on the war against Carthage returns with news of Scipio’s exploits, eliciting praise from the ageing Marcus Porcius Cato who remarks — quoting Homer — that ‘only his wisdom abides, the rest glide around him like shadows’ (Appian 105; Plutarch, Cato the Elder 27; ‘Plutarch’, Apophth. Scip. Min. 3; Livy, Periochae 49.16; Diodorus Siculus 32.9a; Homer, Odyssey, 10.495)

Towards the end of 149 BC, Marcus Porcius Cato dies at the age of eighty-five, three years before the final destruction of Carthage (Plutarch, Cato the Elder 27; Pliny, Historia Naturalis 29.8; Velleius Paterculus 1.13.1)


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

One thought on “149 B.C.

  1. Estoy buscando la familia, padre de Caius Lucius Marcius Septimius, Centurión, pertenece a la orden de caballería y se distingue en la segunda guerra púnica, en la VIIII legión al mando de los hermanos Escipiones.
    Se le menciona por última vez en el 206.

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