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AGAINST  ROME

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A Novel of the Struggle Against Hannibal
By C. M. Sphar
How do you pronounce Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus? Titus Otacilius Crassus? Lucius Aemilius Paullus? Find out here. Welcome to the supplemental Web site for the novel. The list of links at the top and on the left side of each page gets you to lots of pages designed to help you read and enjoy the book. This site is currently under construction, so check back often.
                      Site updated on: January 11, 2004

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Note: Against Rome is currently seeking a publisher. Meanwhile, this site allows you to sample a few chapters (click Samples above) and see related materials aimed at assisting you as you read (click Aids to Reading Above).

Above: The Roman Forum in central Rome as it appears today.

The Backdrop

During her Republican period, before the first emperor ruled, ancient Rome fought a series of long, devastating wars with Carthage, her rival for control of the western Mediterranean Sea. Against Rome is the story of part of that series of wars and the great men who fought on both sides--and the women they loved.

The adversaries engaged initially in the First Punic War, from 264 - 241 B.C. At the time, Carthage ruled the seas, but Rome soon outstripped her by building a large fleet and gradually mastering maritime tactics. One of Rome's chief advantages in this combat was the corvus, a maneuverable gangplank carried aboard Roman quinqueremes that could be dropped onto the deck of a Carthaginian ship. The corvus had a spike at the end that caught the Carthaginian in its grasp. Roman marines then stormed aboard and took the Carthaginian ship, in the kind of land-based fighting at which they excelled.

Rome won that first war, imposing heavy penalties on Carthage. Years later, in 218 B.C., partly as a result of Carthage's treatment at Roman hands, the great general Hannibal marched a huge army from Spain, which Carthage controlled, through southern Gaul (France) and over the Alps into Italy. The story of Hannibal's march, especially the harrowing passage through the Alps with winter hurtling on, is one of the most gripping in the annals of warfare and courage.

The Romans tried to interpose their legions between Hannibal and the city of Rome, but from 218 to 216 B.C. he delivered a series of hammer blows, defeating one Roman army after another. Rome reeled under the assault, but she fought back, though it would be some seventeen long years before the war finally ended. 

After the horrendous battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., in which Hannibal's fifty thousand men utterly destroyed a Roman army of eight legions--some eighty thousand men--Rome took up a strategy of delay. For the next fifteen years, Fabius Maximus, the Delayer, led Rome's fight as the war went first one way, then the other. When would a Roman general arise who could finally defeat the great Hannibal?

Meanwhile, in Spain, Roman legions under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio and his brother Publius took on Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal. If they could wrest Spain from Carthaginian control, the war would be over. But the Cornelius Scipio brothers were both killed in 211 B.C.

But the next year, Publius Scipio's young son, also called Publius Cornelius Scipio, somehow won the opportunity to replace his father and uncle as commander in Spain--at the age of 25, without having held any of the traditional magistracies that led preeminent Romans to the consulship.

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In 209 B.C., young Scipio began an astonishing campaign against Hasdrubal, first seizing Hasdrubal's base at New Carthage, then defeating Carthaginian armies in two great battles. Hasdrubal fled with the remainder of his troops to join Hannibal in Italy. On his way there, however, he encountered a Roman army in northeastern Italy and was defeated at the Metaurus River in 207 B.C. The victors lobbed Hasdrubal's head into Hannibal's camp in the south.

With Spain under control, Scipio became consul of Rome in 205 B.C. and started preparing an invasion of Africa from his base in Sicily. In 204 B.C., as proconsul, he invaded Africa and ravaged the lands around Carthage. Finally, in 203 B.C., Hannibal returned to Africa.

The next year, Scipio met Hannibal in a decisive battle at Zama, south of Carthage. A student of Hannibal for all of his career--Scipio was seventeen when Hannibal invaded--Scipio had reformed Roman tactics to make the legions as flexible as Hannibal's armies. At Zama, Scipio defeated Hannibal, who fled. Scipio negotiated the peace settlement with Carthage and was given the title Africanus for his triumph.

Scipio Africanus's success was not the final chapter, however. That remained to be written by Scipio's grandson (by adoption), Scipio Aemilianus, who destroyed Carthage in a third war in 146 B.C., razing the city to the ground. Tradition has it that he sowed the soil with salt so that Carthage could never revive. Rome went on, however, to build her own Carthage, a Roman city, on the site, and thereafter Rome ruled North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea--and eventually the whole of the Mediterranean-European world.

The book is the story of Hannibal's invasion and the start of Scipio's rise. A forthcoming sequel, Against Hannibal, will take up the story after Cannae through Scipio's triumph in 202 B.C.

 

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            C. M. Sphar, 2003                            Email the Author