Something is rotten in the state of Carthage - a Carthage Civil War AAR

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

crownsteler

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Hi all. Earlier I posted about the fun I had playing as Carthage. One of the fun things about that campaign is the absolute mess my state was, and how I wasn't sure I could avoid a civil war. Now the civil war has happend, though I perhaps did not do all I could to avoid it.

I wanted to write my experience down. First as an entry to the Tell us your story! Sept 24 - Oct 1 contest, but I am too late, it isn't written from a first person perspective, and it is too long to fit in a single post. But since I had so much fun, I'd thought I'd post my story here.

Carthage has grown from a minor settlement founded as a refuge by Queen Dido/Elissat into the largest and most prosperous empire in the Western Mediteranean. Her strong navy protecting her vast trade network and many ports, while her armies have succeeded in capturing the rich gold and silver mining regions of Iberia.

01 Overview of Carthage before the civil war.png

The Carthaginian Empire on the eve of the civil war.

Yet not all that looks well, is well. For years the political system of Carthage, once described by Aristotle as the best in the world, has been hollowed out by polarisation and infighting. With the various factions of the Adirim [the Carthaginian Senate] at eachother's throats: just a few years earlier a prominent adir (senator) of the Democratic Mizreh (faction) had been assassinated by a member of the Landowning (oligarchic) Mizreh, nearly plunging the empire's subject people's into revolt; the assassinated adir had been the prime proponent of bringing Carthage's subject peoples into society on a more equal footing. Keeping the peace has been a full-time job ever since, because of which the instruments of state have been effectively paralysed. Ambitious adirim and shofetim have had to resort to legal and extra-legal shenanigans to get their agenda's fulfilled. Which has only served to further increase polarisation and deadlock, most recently by a push to annex more of Iberia, a move vehemently opposed by the landowners who fear the waning of their influence as more wealth is extracted from Iberian mines.

02 senate polarisation.png

This is no basis for stable government.

In this world enters Ithimbal, son of Muttumbal, son of Adherbal, and elected shofet in 203 BC. Having done away with the dual shofetim after Bomical's Revolution, the task of navigating these tense political waters fell on his shoulders alone. And he might have been up to it under different circumstances. His term didn't even start half bad, as his assertive and altruistic nature gave hope that the city's political crisis might have been resolved peacefully. But the fates seemed to have a different path in mind for Ithimbal, as he soon started showing ever more erratic and unstable behaviour. This would soon cause the whole house of cards which was the political landscape of the city to come tumbling down. In the spring of 202 BC Ithimbal ordered Labi of the Gisgo be brought before the Miat -the supreme court of 104 judges- on charges of corruption and misuse of the ships he had been given command of for personal gain. Labi was guilty, all knew it and it had been going on for years, just nobody had the courage to act upon it. You see; Labi may not have had a great name or heritage, but he was an excellent admiral, and merit counts for just as much as birth in Carthage; giving him a fleet of ships to command in the full knowledge that he would use them to enrich himself was everybody's way of keeping Labi occupied, satisfied and out of the way.

For Ithimbal this was not enough, he was determined, nay, obsessed with getting Labi convicted and cruxified. When prominent adirim started supporting Labi and calling for his release, Ithimbal spend vast sums of the city's public treasury to buy their silence. While public corruption has always been part of Carthage, even before the recent troubles, Ithimbal's corruption far exceeded what is acceptable in polite society.

With such blatent corruption in display, how could the Miat vote otherwise than for Labi's release?

Labi, an experience wiser, quickly gather his men and ships and set off for Karali on Sardinia. There, safe in the knowledge that nobody could touch him on the island, he declared he would no longer recognize Ithimbal as the legitimate shofet of Carthage.

And there, then, the whole house of cards collapsed.

Labi, due to his low birth and meteoric rise, had been a champion of sorts for the Democratic Mizreh. Having been waiting for just such an occurance, they joined his banner en mass. And, suprisingly, so did the landowners. Having been pushed to the brink by the many political shenanigans which had taken place the last few years, and the subsequent waning of their influence, they jumped at this chance to remake the Adirim.

03 civil war divisions.png

Territory loyal to Ithimbal (white) and joining with Labi (green)

The rebellion spread like wild fire. First Karali, then Sulki, the whole of Sardinia, Iboshim, Iberia, Gadir, Beerot. Within a few weeks Carthage was reduced to a coastal strip extending from Ubon Massylia (Annaba) to Tayinat (Sfax) -Carthage's sister cities appearently caught unawares and unsure what to do in the confusion- and the cities of Zaz and Lilybaya on Sicily. The rest of the empire had risen up in revolt against Ithimbal. Critically, so did Bomical, son of Adonibaal. Noone knows exactly why Bomical joined the rebellion -he had been loyal to the state for his whole life. But whatever the reason may be, he took with him Carthage's professional army: 15.000 well trained phalangites, belaeric slingers and elephants, leaving Carthage virtually defenseless. Indeed; Carthage's entire armed forces had abandoned Ithimbal. The only assets he had left were 70 or so smaller ships layed up in the Great Cothon. Those could be quickly manned by citizen rowers. Raising an army was a whole different matter though: Carthaginians themselves are not used to fighting and are too pampered to be of much use anyway.

Raising a new army would take some time. In the mean time Bomical had near free reign of the country side. The only obstacle he faced was Vaga, from whence the entire upper basin of the Bagradas river could be controlled. Its garrison had remained loyal to Ithimbal and would form a serious thorn in Bomical's side if not dealt with. It was obvious Bomical would first move on this city, and it was obvious that Ithimbal had to stop him. Pleading, begging, grovelling before Carthage's sister cities he convinced them to mobilise their militias and sent them to relieve Vaga.

And they did. 24.000 men would march towards Vaga. 28.000 raw recruits, old men and -occassionally- brutes would march towards Bomical and his professional army of 15.000. Bomical lost 1.000 men. The militia? 10.000. Vaga had fallen.

Yet not all was lost. The forges of Carthage had been working non-stop to turn plates and spoons into swords and shields, and tables into spears. Vaga's defiance had bought Ithimbal valuable time to equip a new army of 19.000: 8.000 hoplites, 2.000 cavalry and 9.000 assorted infantry. With this army he set out for Thignica where Bomical had made his camp.

2.500 of Ithimbal's army would not return from Thignica, Bomical lost 300. Such is the way of an untrained levy under an incompetent commander against hardened veterans.

Yet Ithimbal thought he could salvage the situation by taking Vaga in a suprise attack. But Bomical was no fool and set a quick chance, perventing any such thing. Defeated, Ithimbal returned to Carthage. There the news reached him that the Galadousi Numidians had made common cause with the Labiists and attacked Ubon Massylia. Ubon may have been cut off from Ithimbal by Bomical and the loss of Vaga; it was still an important city, and -above all- a loyal city. Ithimbal had no intention of letting the city fall to the Galadousi. He loaded his men into whatever ships were available and set off for Ubon.

If there is one thing the Numidians are known for; it is their excellent light cavalry. As soon as they learned where Ithimbal would land they sent out there cavalry to drive him back into the sea. And so it transpired; pelting the landing troops with their javalins, Ithimbal would loose 1.800 men before he decided to call off the landing and returned to Carthage. The Galadousi lost no more than 600. With the relieve attempt thwarted, Ubon would surrender within a month. By the end of 200 BC, Ithimbal had lost most of what little he had to start with, and was left with a tiny sliver of land along the African coast.

04 3 years of civil war.png

The situation at the end of 200 BC after 1.5 years of civil war. Dashed: regions subject to frequent raiding by Numidian and Musulami tribes. They were spurred into action by the collapse of Carthaginian power.

At sea the situation was no better: the old and senile Qartmashal of the Tapapid was put in charge of what little ships remained in Carthage. With those he sortied into the waters between Carthage and Sicily, only to loose 20 ships to storms and enemy action. He would not set out to sea for some time after this.

Only in Sicily were things looking up for Ithimbal: an enterprising young man by the name of Abaraban Korbidus, who originally hailed from Sardinia, had raised a local militia of 7.000 men; the Punic settlements on the western edge of the island had felt little for making common cause against Carthage with their historic enemies. There were therefor more then enough willing men to help Abaraban subdue the treacherous Greeks. With no standing army in Sicily to join the Labi, he had little trouble subduing the towns on the island. One by one they fell and, remarkably, Abaraban managed to restrain his men from sacking them. That is: until they reached Katane. There his men thoroughly sacked the town and enriched themselves. Why he did it is unknown. Perhaps he knowing that Messana, that fortified town on the north point of the island, was still waiting for him and he required more men to take it? If so; it worked brilliantly. When he finally reached Messana his army had grown to 15.000 men, and the city would inevitably fall this. Though that would still be some way in the future.

05 Sicily Campaign.png

Abaraban's campaign on Sicily.

While Abaraban was celebrating his successes in Sicily, the situation in Africa was further deterioration for Ithimbal. Not wishing to get bottled up in Carthage with his army, Ithimbal had moved his army south the wide open Tunisian plains. There, he hoped, he could strengthen the floundering moral of his army by scoring some easy victories of the Numidian raiders. At Muzuc a small band of about 4.000 Numidians had made camp. That would be the ideal target for Ithimbal and his 19.000, right?

There the Numidians, again making excellent use of their superiour mobility, engaged in a running battle with the Carthaginian army, and slowly drew the pursuing Ithimbal towards Bomical and his waiting army. Only in the nip of time did Ithimbal spot Bomical and withdraw. But not before loosing 1.900 men to Numidian javalins.

06 ithimbal Campaign 2.png

The campaigns of Ithimbal (202-199 BC)

By now the army had enough. An ambitious young officer by the name of Milkiram 'informed' Ithimbal that the army would now be following him, and that Ithimbal better leave. Ithimbal only barely made it out of the camp and headed for Carthage. There he barricaded himself in the temple of Eshmun on the Byrsa and kept on proclaiming himself to be the only rightful shofet, even years after the election happened and he would have been replaced.

Meanwhile Milkiram had to set about rebuilding the confidence and moral of, now his, army. He concluded that Ithimbal's idea was sound, just lacking in execution. Scouts reported a small detachment of Labiists troops operating to the south of Nabul. That would be the ideal target, Milkiram decided. He set of with his 18.000 agains the 4.000 Labiist.

He lost. You see; it may have been a small detachment, but it was a veteran force commanded by Bomical. Something the scouts had forgotten to report on. And the army, still shaken and demoralised, had little appetite to face Bomical in the field just yet. And so Milkiram headed back south, to Tayinat, and would remain there for some time to train and reinforce his army.

By now, Carthage had been thoroughly cut of from her field army and was nearly isolated. The only thing saving her were her massive walls; three walls ever increasing in size stretching across the istmush connecting the city to the mainland. However; walls are not the only aspect to a city's defense. And Carthage, the massive city she was, had to rely on her extensive hinterland to feed her population. A hinterland now controlled by the Labiists, who were not to keen on supplying the city.

Moral in the city was raised however when Abaraban made his unexpected entry into the city. He had captured Messana and, rather than stay there had, had slipped past Labi and his fleet. Bringing with him not just his army, but also the vast booty they had captured sacking Messana and Katane. He gracefully offered a large part of that booty to the city. Though gracefully it may not have been, as he privately confessed that he was afraid he would be burned at the stake if he did not.

07 milkiram Campaign 2.png

Milkiram did not start off any better than Ithimbal

With Bomical operating to the south of Carthage, Vaga was Abaraban's logical target. For capturing it would put the Bagradas valley back in the hands of Carthage, saving her from her dire food situation. Unbeknownst to Abaraban Metallo, commander of the armies in Iberia and Labiist, had made his way to Africa with his army and taken command of Bomical's army while Bomical himself had gone south. With a total of 20.000 men under Metallo, include Bomical's veterans and his elephants, ready to defend Vaga, Abaraban had little hope of success. His men, though high spirited, were a motely crew drawn from all over Sicily to subdue some rebellious settlements. They had never seen combat, let along against a professionial army. Shattered they retreated to Tayinat, to link up with Milkiram. Out of 15.000 men, only 8.000 would make it there. Though to their credit, they did manage to inflict almost 3.000 casualties to Metallo's army. That is more than that Milkiram and Ithimbal had managed so far.

The dual defeats of Milkiram and Abaraban, and Metallo's arrival in Africa, moved the war into a new phase: until now the war had been fought mostly in the field, and the cities, save for Vaga and Ubon, had been left alone. But with Carthage's field armies defeated and bottled up on the Tunisian plains, and Metallo bringing much needed reinforcements, the Bomical turned his attention to Carthage himself. He would take the majority of the army, about 25.000 men, to siege Carthage, while he sent Metallo with 8.000 men to siege Nabul -the second largest city in Africa-. At a the same time a fleet under the command of a man called Qartiation sailed into the Bay of Utica and cut Carthage and Utica off from their wealthy trade.

08 noose tightening.png

The noose was thightening.

Yet, the dual sieges of Carthage and Nabul proved to be a huge strategic mistake on the part of Bomical: While starvation would soon set in Carthage, the city walls itself were as formidable as ever and the city showed no willingness to surrender. While at Nabul poor coordination with their fleet ment the port was not properly blocked. This gave Milkiram much needed time to train and reinforce his army. When he finally set out in late 197 BC to relieve Nabul, he would do so with almost 40.000 men, including the various militia's, Abaraban's remands and 200 elephants. This would be it: he had scrapped the bottom of the barrel, trained and supplied his army to the best of his ability. There would be no coming back from a loss of this army. Carthage would then surely fall.

Ithimbal was off to a good start at Nabul, but how could he not? 40.000 against 8.000? When Metallo learned what was coming his way, he quickly broke camp and tried to retreat. But to no avail. At Nepheris his army was crushed, thoroughly. And would no longer take to the field after this. A much needed victory, a first victory. But there was still Bomical and his veterans.

09 after nepharis.png

The strategic situation after the battle of Nepheris.

Milkiram dispatched Abaraban to Vaga to secure their rear while he would put pressure on Bomical, who was now effectively trapped between Carthage and Milkiram's army. Bomical was no fool though. He had already build a line of circumvallation across the istmush to cut of Carthage and prevent her garrison from sallying forth, he quickly moved his army behind this line and set about building a line of contravallation across across the istmush to his rear. And so the besieger became the besieged.

Carthage.png

Carthage's unique geography played a critical role during the siege.

The allied militia would prove to play a critical role in starting the battle. Despite the strategic situation improving markedly, the situation inside of the city had reached a boiling point. Hunger had killed by now at least 6.000 people, and more would soon follow. The desperate pleas reached Milkiram's camp, but weary of Bomical's skill, not mention his strongly fortified position, Milkiram declined to act. His militia allies were not as disciplined however, and they did launch an attack on Bomical's walls. Left with no choice but to support his allies, Milkiram gave the order for the attack.

10a battle of Carthage.png

A hard fought battle would ensue.

Milkiram would prevail, but the chaotic and uncordinated attack allowed Bomical to inflict significant losses on Milkiram's force and -worse- allowed him to slip away with most of his army still intact. Still, Carthage was save and Milkiram was hailed a victorious general by the citizenry of Carthage.

07 siege of carthage.png

Milkiram's victorious campaign to save Carthage.

12 result milkiram Campaign.png

The Carthaginian Empire in the autumn of 195BC. 8 Years of civil war, and little had changed.

After the failed siege of Carthage it would not be long until both Vaga and Ubon would return to Carthaginian control. Still the war was far from over. Bomical had been forced from Africa, but he and his army -though weakend- were still aroud, while at sea Labi still reigned supreme. Worse yet; Gudmal -a lowborn officer Milkiram had left in charge of the army while he was celebrating his victory- started realising the power of his position, started demanding reforms to how slaves were dealt with, threating to create a new rift so soon after the situation had -barely- been salvaged.

11 epilogue.png

This war isn't over yet.

If well appreciated I might continue on with the story of Ithimbal, Labi, Milkiram and Bomical.
 

stnylan

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A very gripping tale this. Nail-biting stuff.
 

HistoryDude

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I want to see what happens next!

Carthage looks like it's about to collapse... just in time for Rome to seize hegemony of the Western Mediterranean!
 

Hendreforgan

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Hi all. Earlier I posted about the fun I had playing as Carthage. One of the fun things about that campaign is the absolute mess my state was, and how I wasn't sure I could avoid a civil war. Now the civil war has happend, though I perhaps did not do all I could to avoid it.

I wanted to write my experience down. First as an entry to the Tell us your story! Sept 24 - Oct 1 contest, but I am too late, it isn't written from a first person perspective, and it is too long to fit in a single post. But since I had so much fun, I'd thought I'd post my story here.

If well appreciated I might continue on with the story of Ithimbal, Labi, Milkiram and Bomical.

Sorry, I'm a bit puzzled? Without exception, other than just once to see what it was like to play Rome as Rome, I play as Carthage and have done through virtually all the Upgrades, but I can't tell if your excellent article above is a wonderfully worded account of a game you played or this is one aspect of I:R that I've missed or not seen as an Achievement.

In truth your account is so mouth-watering I want to know how to play it!