Battle of Himera (409 BC)
The Second Battle of Himera was fought near the city of Himera in Sicily in 409 BC between the Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Mago
Hannibal Mago
Hannibal was a grandson of Hamilcar Mago.He was shofet of Carthage in 410 BC and in 409 BC commanded a Carthaginian army sent to Sicily in response to a request from the city of Segesta. He successfully took the Greek city of Selinus and then Himera...

 (A king of Carthage of the Magonid family, not the famous Hannibal of the Barcid
The Barcid family was a notable family in the ancient city of Carthage; many of its members were fierce enemies of the Roman Republic. "Barcid" is an adjectival form coined by historians ; the actual byname was Barca or Barcas, which means lightning...

 family) and the Ionian Greeks of Himera aided by an army and a fleet from Syracuse. Hannibal, acting under the instructions of the Carthaginian senate, had previously sacked and destroyed the city of Selinus after the Battle of Selinus
Battle of Selinus
The Battle of Selinus which took place in the spring of 409 BC, is the opening battle of the so called Second Sicilian War. The 10 day long siege and battle was fought in Sicily between the Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Mago and the Dorian Greeks of Selinus...

 in 409 BC. Hannibal then attacked the city of Himera, site of the great Carthaginian defeat of 480 BC and utterly destroyed that place. Himera was never rebuilt, a new city of Thermae
In ancient Rome, thermae and balnea were facilities for bathing...

 was built to the west of the ruined city, which contained a mixed population of Greeks and Phoenicians.


Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

ns of Western Sicily had aided the Elymians against the Dorian Greeks of Selinus in 580 BC, when a Greek colonization attempt of Lilybaeum was defeated. The invasion of Spartan Dorieus was again defeated by Carthage near Eryx
In Greek mythology, Eryx was a king of the city of Eryx in Sicily. He was either the son of Poseidon or Aphrodite and King Butes of the Elymian people of Sicily. Eryx was an excellent boxer but died when Heracles beat him in a match....

 in 510 BC, and a war followed where Carthage destroyed the city of Hereclea Minoa. Carthage had signed treaties with the cities of Selinus, Himera and Zankle by 490 BC. The pretext for launching the great Punic Sicilian expedition of 480 BC was the restoration of the deposed tyrant of Himera. The Sicilian Greeks under the tyrants Gelo
Gelo , son of Deinomenes, was a 5th century BC ruler of Gela and Syracuse and first of the Deinomenid rulers.- Early life :...

 of Syracuse and Theron
Theron, originally Greek pronounced and meaning "Hunter", or as a last name , may refer to:*Theron of Acragas , 5th century BC tyrant of Acragas, Sicily*Therons, a race of fictional aliens in the Dan Dare stories...

 of Akragas had crushed the Punic expedition in the 1st battle of Himera in 480 BC
Battle of Himera (480 BC)
The Battle of Himera , supposedly fought on the same day as the more famous Battle of Salamis, or on the same day as the Battle of Thermopylae, saw the Greek forces of Gelon, King of Syracuse, and Theron, tyrant of Agrigentum, defeat the Carthaginian force of Hamilcar the Magonid, ending a...


Carthage had stayed away from Sicilian Greek affairs following the defeat for 70 years, during which time Greek culture started to penetrate the Elymian, Sikanian and Sicel cities. The political landscape in Sicily also changed as Greek tyrants were replaced by democracy and oligarchy, the domain of Syracuse shrunk and infighting between Greek cities flared up in Sicily. Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 had sent fleets to Sicily in 427, 425 and 424 BC to intervene, which caused Hermocrates
Hermocrates was a general of Syracuse during the Athenians' Sicilian Expedition.The first historical reference to Hermocrates is at the congress of Gela in 424 BC, where he gave a speech demanding the Sicilian Greeks stop their quarrelling...

 of Syracuse requesting all Sicilian Greek cities to remain at peace at the congress of Gela in 424 BC.

The Elymian city of Segesta
Segesta was the political center of the Elymian people, located in the northwestern part of Sicily, in what are now the province of Trapani and the comune of Calatafimi-Segesta....

 had clashed with Selinus over territorial rights and marriage issues, and had been worsted in the conflict. After an appeal to Carthage was turned down in 415 BC, Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 heeded the plea for help and sent over an expedition that was ultimately defeated at Syracuse in 413 BC. Faced with renewed hostility from Selinus, Segesta again appealed to Carthage in 410 BC. The Carthaginian Senate, after some debate, agreed to intervene. This appeal came at a time when the mainland Greek cities were locked in the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

, and Syracuse, an ally of Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

, was not focused on Sicily. The Syracusan fleet was operating in the Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...



Hannibal Mago sent two expeditions to Sicily, the first one in 410 BC which drove the Selinute army from Segestan territory, and the second one obliterated Selinus after besieging the city in 409 BC. The mission given to Hannibal by the Carthaginian Senate was fulfilled with the fall of Selinus. However, Hannibal chose to march on Himera and avenge the defeat of his grandfather 70 years.

Opposing forces

Carthage is said to have mobilized 120,000 men including 4,000 cavalry, recruited from Africa, Sardinia, Spain and even Sicilian Greeks for the Selinute campaign in 409 BC, but a realistic estimate is around 40,000 soldiers. The Cartgaginian army, after the battle of Selinus, had been reinforced by 20,000 Sicel and Elymian soldiers on the way to Himera, boosting it's strength to 50,000 soldiers at this point.

Carthaginian Cohorts

The Carthaginian army was made up of many nationalities. The Libyans supplied both heavy and light infantry and formed the most disciplined units of the army. The heavy infantry fought in close formation, armed with long spears and round shields, wearing helmets and linen cuirasses. The light Libyan infantry carried javelins and a small shield, same as Iberian light infantry. The Iberian infantry wore purple bordered white tunics and leather headgear. The Heavy infantry fought in a dense phalanx, armed with heavy throwing spears, long body shields and short thrusting swords. Campanian
The Campanian is, in the ICS' geologic timescale, the fifth of six ages of the Late Cretaceous epoch . The Campanian spans the time from 83.5 ± 0.7 Ma to 70.6 ± 0.6 Ma ...

, Sicel, Sardinian and Gallic infantry fought in their native gear, but often were equipped by Carthage. Sicels and other Sicilians were equipped like Greek Hoplites.

The Libyans, Carthaginian citizens and the Libyo-Phoenicians provided disciplined, well trained cavalry equipped with thrusting spears and round shields. Numidia provided superb light cavalry armed with bundles of javelins and riding without bridle or saddle. Iberians and Gauls also provided cavalry, which relied on the all out charge. Carthage at this time did not use elephants, but Libyans provided bulk of the heavy, four horse war chariots for Carthage, which was not present at Himera in 409 BC. Carthaginian officer corps held overall command of the army, although many units may have fought under their chieftains.

Greek forces

The mainstay of the Greek army was the Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

, drawn mainly from the citizens and mercenaries. Sicels and other native Sicilians also served in the army as hoplites and also supplied peltasts, which is a unit where the poorer citizens also served. The Phalanx
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

 was the standard fighting formation of the army. The cavalry was recruited from wealthier citizens and hired mercenaries. Large Sicilian cities like Syracuse and Akragas could field up to 10,000 – 20,000 citizens, while smaller ones like Himera and Messana mustered between 3,000 – 6,000 soldiers. Syracuse had sent a relief force, originally recruited for aiding Selinus to Himera, it included 3,000 soldiers from Syracuse, 1,000 from Akragas and probably 1,000 mercenaries.


Hannibal marched to Himera probably using the same route taken by the Selinus horsemen in 480 BC and set up his main camp on the west of the city, while about a third of the army encamped to the south of Himera. The city of Himera sits on top of a hill 300-400 feet high on the western bank of the River Himera. The hill is steep in the northern, western and eastern sides but gradually slopes to the south. There are hills to the west and south of the city. Instead of building a circumventing wall and fully investing the city, The Carthaginians assaulted the walls with the help of siege towers and battering rams after setting up their camps. However, the city walls withstood the attack and no breaches could be made for the Punic infantry to exploit. Hannibal then sent sappers, who dug tunnels under the walls and collapsed sections of it by setting fire to the wooden support beams. Carthaginian infantry then attacked through the gap, but The Himerans repulsed the Punic assault on the city, and then threw up make shift walls to close the breaches.

Sometime after this event, Syracusan general Diocles arrived with 3,000 Syracusan hoplites, 1,000 soldiers from Akragas and another 1,000 mercenaries and entered the city. Joining the Himeran force of about 10,000 troops (majority hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s with some cavalry and peltast
A peltast was a type of light infantry in Ancient Thrace who often served as skirmishers.-Description:Peltasts carried a crescent-shaped wicker shield called pelte as their main protection, hence their name. According to Aristotle the pelte was rimless and covered in goat or sheep skin...

s), the Greeks launched a surprise attack on the Punic lines, probably on the forces posted on the south of the city. The Greeks achieved total surprise and in the confusion, Carthaginian troops fought each other as well as Greeks. As the Carthaginians ultimately broke and fled after losing about 6,000 soldiers, Greek soldiers went after the scattered remnants of their enemy. At this point, Hannibal launched a counter attack with the force he had held in reserve at the other camp (to the wast of Himera), routed the Greeks and chased them back into the city, with 3,000 Greeks losing their lives in the debacle.

The main Syracusan fleet was away from Sicily, but 25 trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s had arrived at Himera after the battle from Syracuse. As the Carthaginian fleet was at Motya, their arrival gave the Greeks command of the sea around Himera. Hannibal spread a false report that the Punic army was going to attack Syracuse after sailing there from Motya, as the main army of Syracuse was approaching Himera, thus leaving their city unguarded. This convinced the Syracusans to leave Himera for their mother city. The city of Himera had little chance of withstanding the Carthaginians on their own, so they decided to evacuate the city. Diocles marched out of the city with half the men and all his troops at night, the Syracusan ships evacuated as many of the women and children as possible. The Carthaginians resumed their assaults the next day. The city managed to hold out for 1 day. Just as the Syracusan fleet was returning and was within sight of the city the following day, the Carthaginians broke through. Iberian troops of the Punic army had managed to secure a gap in the wall, and also the sections of the wall flanking the gap. This held off the Greeks until the Carthaginian army stormed the city through the gap, and the reduced garrison of Himera was overcome by weight of numbers.

Acts of Vengeance

Hannibal sacrificed 3,000 Greek prisoners at the place where Hamilcar, his grandfather and leader of the 480 BC expedition, had fallen. The city of Himera was utterly destroyed, even all the temples were flattened to the ground, and the women and children were enslaved. Hannibal did not, however, divert a river over the city site (like the Greeks did at Sybaris
Sybaris was an ancient city in Magna Graecia on the western shore of the Gulf of Taranto. The wealth of the city during the 6th century BC was so great that the Sybarites became synonymous with pleasure and luxury...

 in 511 BC) to complete his revenge. The spoils of war were divided among his troops, and the prisoners were sold into slavery. The Italian mercenaries, who mostly led the assault, complained that they had been abused by their commander and that their payment was not sufficient. They were subsequently discharged. Ironically, they took service with the Greeks.


Hannibal did not go after Akragas or Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

, the Sicilian cities mainly responsible for the humiliation at Himera at 480 BC after sacking Himera. He disbanded his army (the remaining Italian mercenaries chose to take service with Syracuse), garrisoned the Punic territory with sufficient troops and returned to Carthage with the fleet, where he was received with honors. Himera as a city would never be rebuilt again. The survivors of Himera built a city called Thermae nearby, which housed a mixed population of Greeks and Phoenicians.

The Greek response to the sack of Himera was mild. Syracuse chose to expand her fleet and Akragas began to expand her army, but no official action was taken against Carthage or the Punic territory in Western Sicily. Hermocrates
Hermocrates was a general of Syracuse during the Athenians' Sicilian Expedition.The first historical reference to Hermocrates is at the congress of Gela in 424 BC, where he gave a speech demanding the Sicilian Greeks stop their quarrelling...

, a Syracusan general, chose to use the sack of Himera to set up a base at Selinus around 407 BC and raid the territories of Motya and Panormus, which provoked a strong Carthaginian response and almost the whole of Sicily fell under Carthaginian domination by 405 BC.

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