Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Himera

480 B.C.

The opponents

Gelo I (Gela, 540 B.C. Syracuse, 478 B.C.)

Lord of Syracuse and winner of the Carthaginian (also known Gelo I). Native of Gela, it was the first-born of Dinomene, that still had five children (dinomenidi) after him. Of his youth news doesn't stay us worthy of faith. We remain an understood anecdote to show ch'egli he preferred the military exercises to the musical and literary exercises, the horse to the lira. Ippocrate, happened to his brother in the dominion of it Gela, it submitted a military command to Gelo, and it put him soon to head of the cavalry. The wars against the cities of Callipoli, Nasso, Zancle, Syracuse and against some native populations they allowed Gelo to show his value. Fallen Ippocrate to Ibla, Gelo assumed the guardianship of his children, Euclida and Cleandro, and it won the Gelois that had been worth some circumstance to shake the yoke of the dominion. But it held for itself the advantages of the victory, and he made lord of Gela, putting aside the children of Ippocrate. This happened toward 491, and in every case before 488 B.C. The state of which Gelo was to head included big part of oriental Sicily, and it surrounded the territory in Syracuse. This city was prey to social struggles and the minute people, made alliance with the slaves, said calliciri or cilliciri, succeeded in chasing in proclamation the owners (gamori) that were sheltered to Casmene. Of here they turned to Gelo, that welcomed the appeal and it brought back them to Syracuse, where him goes as lord, leaving the government of Gela to his brother Gerone. He was therefore one of the most powerful sovereigns of the time. His magnified new capital with part of the inhabitants of Camarina and of Gela same. It besieged and he forced to the surrender the city of Megara, it transported in Syracuse of it the middle class, it made to sell and to transport out some island the turbulent proletariat, that he considered, according to the sentence that was attributed him, as an uncomfortable neighbour. Gelo was able of to extend its dominoes for the whole oriental coast of Sicily; additionally to this, he was allied with Tero lord of Agrigento and Himera, of which had married his daughter Demarete; it held to his orders a strong army and a fleet reputed as one of the mightiest of how many of it were among the Greek states. In reality Gelo had to handle to protect in Sicily the threat of the Carthaginian ones, which they had prepared a big army (the ancient ones speak of 300.000 men!) what it disembarked to Palermo and it was advanced toward Himera, to which layings siege. The city was defended by Tero, that didn't have enough strengths to the need. Moved in his help Gelo, with an army that makes him ascend to 55.000 men. The struggle was not long and finished with a full defeat of the Carthaginian ones: their commander, Hamilcar, disappeared, an enormous number of prisoners was separated among the winners. The victory of Himera made the pair with that of the Greek to Salamina, and it was said well soon that both had happened in the same day (480 to. C.). The peace that followed, of which he would also have been intermediary Demarete, didn't bring notable territorial changes. Gelo lifted in memory a temple to Demetra and his daughter, of which it possessed in inheritance the priesthood. Other gifts it did to Apollo in Delfi, to Jupiter in Syracuse and in Olimpia. Here had made to lift a bronze group, in memory of a victory gotten to the run of the wagons when it was simply tyrant of Gela. It died shortly after, in 478 or 477 B.C., of dropsy.


Tyrant of Agrigento, child of Enesidemo and belonging to the family of the Emmenidis that was wanted to make to come down from Cadmó. You narrated that Tero, to get the government of the city (in 488 B.C.), had used non dissimilar methods from those already adopted by Falaride. Allied subsequently him with the Dinomenidis, giving in wife to Gelo his daughter Damarete and marrying a daughter of Polizelo, Tero began an expansionistic politics widening the dominoes in Agrigento toward Selinunte, toward Gela and, to north, toward Himera, from where Terillo it chased. Of here the struggle that, allied of Gelo, he conducted against Terillo, Anassila and the punics and that it concluded him with the battle of Himera (480). After the victory, Tero gave the government of the incorporated city in his kingdom to his child Trasideo, whose conducted it had then to conduct the Imeresis to ask the protection of the Dinomenidis. This fact and the blames received by Polizelo seemed they had to upset soon the relationships between the lord of Syracuse and that of Agrigento but the cloud he dispersed and the friendly relationships were reestablished with evident damage of the Imeresis. Around the same time the conspiracy was had, that however it was thoughtless, against Tero by the of him cousins, Ippocrate and Heads. Tero died in 472 leaving the government to Trasideo. Under the kingdom of Tero, only Agrigento climbed not to great power, but it also embellished him of a lot of public works and of some of its more famous (among which certainly those of Atena, of Demetra and Cora as well as the colossal Olimpieion) temples. The tyrant's name agrigentino was made also clear by the song of the poets that they frequented its court, what Simonide and Pindaro that to him it devoted the II and III Olimpica.


Son of Annone, political and military head of the Carthaginian ones perhaps around 480 to. C. it Tried to oppose the intrusive power of Tero in Agrigento, when these it threatened the Carthaginian affairs in Sicily, and to this purpose it contemporarily joined him Terillo, tyrant deposed of Himera and with Anassilao, tyrant of Reggio and Messina. Purpose of the alliance was the creation of a vast Carthaginian dominion, or checked by the Carthaginian ones, on the northern coasts of Sicily actually to the narrow one of Messina. But the ambitious plan failed because Hamilcar, under Himera, he was rout by the connected armies of Tero and Gelo syracusian. It died on the field, or suicidal in holocaust to the gods, as he wants the Carthaginian tradition, or killed by the Greek.

The genesis

In the years that preceded the invasion of Greece from Serse, the components of that that it is particularly today known as Great Greece and the Sicilians, owed look from the aggressiveness and from the thirst of power of two gentlemen of the city of Gela: Ippocrate but soprattuto his successor, Gelo, that had been the principal lieutenant of Ippocrate, noticing him in the dominion of Gela to his death, probably happened in 485 B.C. Terribly ambitious and a great deal able as commander, before putting on to the service of the tyrant, Gelo had tried without success to appropriate some tyranny to Himera, where he had achieved the role of strategist with supreme power; but the transfer to Gela as commander of the cavalry of Ippocrate he had offered him well other resources, on which he could put the hands stealing the power from the children of the tyrant. Its dominoes stretched him on the whole oriental coast of the island, with the alone exception of Catana, destined, for other, to be also it absorbed in the state syracusian. Gelo was allied with Tero lord of Agrigento and Himera, of which had married his daughter Demarete; it held to his orders a strong army and a fleet (it seems over the 200 ships) reputed as one of the mightiest of how many of it were among the Greek states. You narrated of an embassy that Sparta and Athens they would have sent him, under the threat of the invasion shutter, to get helps: to which Gelo answered with proud words and exorbitant pretensions.

The initiative of Gelo worried more than a city of the island, that was right to fear a progressive extension of its influence, above all after the alliance from him stipulated, and enacted with matrimonial ties, with the tyrant of Agrigento, Tero, that was by now tied in Syracuse in a subordinate position. The spark of the war had turned on from Anassila, lord of Reggio, that tied him to the tyrant of Himera after the occupation of Zancle (Messina), Terillo, forcing Tero to intervene for subtracting that important center to the sphere of influence of the filofenicis. It was then that the lord of Messina asked for the punic intervention, delivering his own children as hostages to Hamilcar, then supreme judge of Cartagine. This way, the Carthaginian ones prepared him to the invasion, whose purpose had to be the recapture of Himera. The figures that Diodoro furnishes on their army are, to the usual one, hyperbolic: 300.000 soldiers, enlisted in all the territories under the control punic or Numidia, Spain, Gallia and the same italic peninsula, with 200 triremis and 3000 transport ships.

The punics disembarked to Panormo, and they began the march toward Himera in the late summer of 480 B.C., a march that, as that of Serse from the Ellesponto, was placed side by side by the navigation from the fleet. The lord of Agrigento, Tero, didn't oppose resistance to the march punic; he preferred to contrast to Hamilcar the well garrisoned city, in the hope to withstand up to when Gelo was not able to line up an army of dignified proportions. Neither Hamilcar hindered when these, drawn in dry its war ships, built around you a paling and a ditch, in the zone between the Twisted river and the city, setting over the course of water the field for the terrestrial strengths, and isolating so Himera from the sea and from the inside, where the Carthaginian troops were free to ransack the surrounding territory. To say the truth, an attempt to interrupt the jobs of dig Tero did him, launching the garrison in one gotten by the unhappy result, in which it was enough to Hamilcar to use a contingent of select soldiers to be right of it, decimating the Greek before they succeeded in regaining the boundaries of the city. To that point, Tero held opportune to solicit the intervention of the ally sending a messenger to Gelo. But by now the tyrant of Syracuse it was ready and, in contrast with the extreme slowness with which he had mobilized her, it conducted with great quickness his own troops 50.000 infantrymen and 5000 riders, through Sicily; neither it hesitated, once comes in front of the boundaries of Himera, to unleash his own cavalry, certainly superior to that hostile because of the maritime disaster, to rake up the gangs of pillagers punics along the imerese territory. With this system, while its infantry was busy in the preparation of a strengthened field, Gelo did 10.000 prisoners and, above all infused great trust in the defenders, that, just before his arrival, they were extremely demoralized.

The battle

Thanks to this initial success, to which added the order to open all the doors of the city to intensify gotten her, the tyrant syracusian was by now aware of to have increased the combative spirit of the besieged ones, and subtracted the conviction of their superiority to the punics. This way, while it was planning an attack to set on fire the ships Carthaginian courses to dry on the coast, they brought him a dispatch coming from Selinunte, fallen in the hands of the siracusian patrols, in which the arrival of a contingent of Carthaginian cavalry of reinforcements was signalled in that sector. To that point, the fate had offered a comfortable way to Gelo to arrive behind the hostile fortifications. The arrival of the reinforcements was anticipated for a determined day fixed by Hamilcar to celebrate sacrifices to Poseidon, that the tradition sustains to have been the same in which the battle of Salamina was fought. Gelo owe do not anything else other than to tell his own riders to present to the dawn of that date in front of the field punic, to enter and to set the ships on fire, killing, possibly, the same Hamilcar. Provident besides to place some look-outs on the neighboring high ground, so that they signalled him the moment of the entrance of the Greek in the hostile field, allowing him so to attach in turn, with the rest of the army that held lined up in order of battle.

It spun all smooth. The first thing that the Greek riders immediately did after having entered the camp punic, it was to kill Hamilcar, intent to celebrate the sacrifice. Then, while Gelo began to move his own troops, they fell him toward the ships setting him on fire. The Carthaginian reaction there was, and it was tenacious a great deal: the subordinate commanders were able to mobilize all the available soldiers and, while also the Greek infantry entered the camp, a furious fray instigated him that only after long time it determined the rout of the invaders. Gelo gave order not to do imprisoned, which the pursuit made to the fugitives, which also participated the troops of Tero, extremely bloody. A good halves the army punic remained on the ground, while many succeeded in barricading him in the field strengthened of the infantry, where however, oppressed by the lack of provisions, they were forced to surrender.

The aftermath

This way Gelo, winning in this memorable battle, whose favorable result was due particularly to its ability of commander, big fame was not only purchased among the siciliotis, but also among all the other people. Anybody never, in fact, to memory of man, before him he knew how to contrive such an effective stratagem, or he succeeded in slaughtering in an only battle a great number of Barbarians, or it made a so great number of prisoners. Victory increased in exponential measure the prestige of Gelo, that could nearly extend his own area of influence to whole Greek Sicily, without having to sustain further fights, before dying, only two years later gratified of the title of king by his own fellow citizens. The Carthaginian ones didn't molest the island anymore for seventy years, and a heap of histories rose on the sad destiny that accompanied, in the following years, the remnants of the armed with Hamilcar: it seems that the prisoners were so as that, in the territory in Agrigento, every citizen ended up possessing 500 slaves; and however, a lean group of soldiers succeeded only in reaching the coasts of Africa, since a storm sank how much he had remained of the mighty fleet of invasion.