Phönix D I

Whereas Austria-Hungary had developed one of the world’s first successful reconnaissance aircraft-the Etrich Taube-it lacked the financial resources and industrial infrastructure to see substantial increases in aircraft production until the last 2 years of the war. One reason for its problems was that its overreliance upon Lohnerwerke GmbH before the war had left Austria-Hungary without a strong domestic industry, forcing it to allow German firms (Albatros, Aviatik, and Deutsche Flugzeug Werke) to establish subsidiary divisions within the country, something it had been reluctant to do before the war. In addition, Austria-Hungary allowed the somewhat unscrupulous financier Camillo Castiglioni to obtain a virtual monopoly over the aircraft industry when he purchased Igo Etrich’s Brandenburg company (later known as Hansa-Brandenburg) and gained controlling interest in Phönix Flugzeugwerke A. G. and the Ungarische Flugzeug Werke AG (UFAG). Compared with their German counterparts, Austro-Hungarian firms were far less efficient, with approximately twice as many workers being required to build an airplane in 1918. As a result, Austria-Hungary had no choice but to import aircraft from Germany to meet its wartime needs. Nevertheless, the Austro-Hungarian aircraft industry did produce one of the war’s better fighters in the Phönix D. I, but it unfortunately came too late.

The Phönix D. I biplane was intended as a replacement for the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I. Although it was produced in smaller numbers (120 D. I, 45 D. II, and 48 D. IIa fighters) than the Aviatik D. I and did not begin entering service until October 1917, the Phönix D-series fighters are generally considered the best fighters designed and produced in Austria-Hungary.

Previously, the Phonix Flugzeug-Werke firm had been contracted to produce the Hansa-Brandenburg D I fighter under license. When it became apparent by 1917 that the infamous Star-strutter could not be developed further, the company embarked on a new aircraft. The design eventually incorporated a fuselage similar to the D I and also sported wings of unequal span that ended in rounded wingtips and swept-back leading edges. It was also considerably more powerful than the earlier machine, being propelled by a 200- horsepower Hiero engine. One interesting innovation was locating the armament within the engine cowling. This enhanced streamlining but placed the guns beyond the pilot’s reach if they jammed. The resulting craft was faster in level flight but somewhat unstable and slow-climbing. The Austrian government, hardpressed on all fronts, nonetheless ordered the new craft into immediate production. In the spring of 1918 it entered service as the Phonix D I and was deployed with army and navy units.

The new machine was far from perfect, but it represented a dramatic improvement over the earlier Star-strutter. In capable hands the D I proved more than a match for the Italian Hanriots and SPADs. The D. II series was lightened by approximately 100 lbs and featured a more aerodynamic wing design, resulting in improved maneuverability. The D. IIa was powered by a 230 hp Hiero inline motor, which increased maximum speed to 115 mph and slightly improved its rate of climb. All versions featured twin-synchronized Schwarzlose machine guns, but they were placed within the engine cowling, which denied the pilot access in the event of a jam. Nevertheless, it proved to be a match for Allied fighters.

The new D II model had introduced balanced elevators and other refinements, but the craft was judged too stable for violent acrobatics. On this basis, a few machines were fitted with cameras to pioneer single-seat high-speed reconnaissance work.

An improved model, the D. III, was entering production just as the war ended, but none saw service. Sweden purchased twenty-one Phönix D. III fighters after the war and later produced an additional seventeen after obtaining the license rights. It remained in service with the Swedish Army Air Force until 1933.

Phonix then concocted the D III model shortly before hostilities concluded. It featured a more powerful engine and ailerons on all four wings, which greatly improved all-around maneuverability. The war ended before the D III could be deployed, but 158 examples of all versions were delivered.

After the war, Sweden expressed interest in obtaining several copies of the D III along with manufacturing rights. Seventeen were ultimately constructed, and they rendered useful service until 1933.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 2 inches; length, 21 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 1,510 pounds; gross, 2,097 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Hiero liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,310 feet; range, 217 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1933

Hansa-Brandenburg D. I

The first purely Austro-Hungarian fighter to enter production was the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I biplane, which was designed by one of the German firm’s top engineers, Ernst Heinkel. Although approximately fifty were produced at the German plant, they were used exclusively by the Luftfahrtruppen (LFT). An additional seventy were produced by Phönix1 in late 1916 and began entering service in early 1917. The Hansa-Brandenburg D. I was a rather compact fighter with a wingspan of 27 ft 10.5 in., a length of 20 ft 8 in., and a loaded weight of 2,112 lbs and its 185 hp Austro-Daimler inline engine was capable of producing up to 115 mph. Nevertheless, pilots complained about its unstable flight characteristics and the poor forward visibility caused by its raised engine cowling, which made landing hazardous.

Its most unique characteristic was the use of a star-strutter system, suggested by Austrian engineering professor Richard Knoller, in which four struts attached to the top wing and four struts attached to the bottom wing converged together in a central housing approximately midway in the gap between the wings, giving it the appearance of two pyramids joined together at the points. Although this provided a strong support system for the wings, the added weight and drag may have contributed to the aircraft’s unwieldiness. The Ufag and Phonix companies tried improving the craft with modified tail configurations, with little success. Another problem of the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I was that (with the exception of some of the last produced by Phönix) it lacked a synchronized machine gun, relying instead upon a Schwarzlose mounted to the top wing-a firing system that was outmoded by the time it entered service in late 1916 and early 1917.

Although approximately fifty were produced at the German plant, they were used exclusively by the Luftfahrtruppen (LFT). An additional seventy were produced by Phönix in late 1916 and began entering service in early 1917.

As a result, only a few experienced pilots, such as Austro-Hungarian ace Godwin Brumowski, enjoyed success in the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I. Most pilots derisively referred to it as a flying coffin, which was an indictment against its lack of firepower as well as its tendency to enter deadly spins.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 10 inches; length, 21 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, two inches

Weights: empty, 1,482 pounds; gross, 2,073 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,404 feet; range, 260 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun

Service dates: 1916-1917



Syracuse Hoplites

Beneath the top tier of the diadochi–the senior Macedonian military commanders who had carved up the great empire between them–was a jostling group of minor princes, junior officers and other adventurers, many with the most tenuous connections to Alexander. Self-conscious about their peripheral position on the fringes of this gilded world, some ardently desired to be included in the dazzling club of A-list Hellenistic monarchs. Such a figure was Agathocles, a dashing cavalry commander with a shady past that included spells in exile and as a mercenary captain, who had risen to autocratic power in Syracuse in the 320s through popular demagogy and military thuggery.

The conscious connection that had been made by Alexander between his great victories in the East and the earlier Persian invasion of Greece (at first he mooted his campaigns in Asia as a revenge mission) also breathed new life into the perennial conflict between Carthage and Syracuse. Once more the totally erroneous but seductive idea that the Sicilian wars were a western extension of the age-old struggle between the civilization of Greece and the dark forces of the barbarian East would have renewed capital. Throughout a long and eventful career, Agathocles consistently chose to present himself as the western heir to Alexander. His coinage, like that of other post-Alexander Greek leaders, self-consciously reproduced the motifs favoured by the Great King of Macedon and self-styled Lord of Asia.

However, Agathocles’ talent stretched to more than an ability to present himself as the heir to Alexander in the West. Carthage’s long sojourn on Sicily meant that many Sicilian Greeks had a very good knowledge of Carthaginian military institutions. Indeed, one of Agathocles’ most potent weapons was his understanding of Carthage and his awareness of the tensions that existed between the city and its army in Sicily. Carthage’s use of mercenaries to fight its wars engendered a feeling of suspicion towards its generals, and the ruling elite in particular felt threatened by the perceived unconstitutional ambitions of the men who were sent to command the Carthaginian armies. During the fourth century BC it appears that Carthage’s generals, particularly in Sicily, had acquired a wide range of powers that allowed them to operate with a certain amount of autonomy while on campaign, including the authority to negotiate for peace and to form alliances (although it is likely that these agreements then needed to be formally ratified by the Council of Elders, who also approved the resupply of armies). Indeed, such was their mandate for independent action that the fourth-century-BC Athenian politician Isocrates was moved to comment that the Carthaginians were ‘ruled by an oligarchy at home, by a king in the field’

Faced with this desperate situation, Agathocles would decide upon a course of action so bold and indeed reckless that he caught the Carthaginians completely by surprise. He would take the war to the Carthaginians where they least expected it: in the Punic heartlands of Africa. Once more Agathocles showed a sound understanding of Carthage and its people. He knew that most Carthaginians had no experience of war. Their armies were made up largely of mercenaries, and as yet they had never been forced to fight any major conflicts in their North African homeland. By launching a surprise attack there, he would be able quickly to acquire supplies and booty, and thus pay his troops from land that had, unlike Sicily, been spared the ravages of war. He was also hopeful that the Libyans, for so long discontented by the treatment that they had received from the Carthaginians, would rise up and join with him. Faced with such a crisis at home, he reasoned, Hamilcar and his forces would quickly be compelled to evacuate Sicily.

Agathocles quickly recruited Syracusan levies, mercenaries and even slaves to serve in his army. Money for the expedition was acquired by murdering his surviving aristocratic opponents and confiscating their property, pillaging orphans’ inheritances, appropriation of temple offerings and women’s jewellery, and compulsory loans. After assembling a fleet of 60 ships and a very modest force of 13,500 men, Agathocles managed to slip through the Carthaginian blockade. Carefully disguising their route to ensure that the Carthaginians remained oblivious to the real objectives of the mission, in 310 the Syracusan flotilla landed on the Cap Bon peninsula a mere 110 kilometres from Carthage, after six days at sea. Knowing that he was finished if this venture failed, Agathocles set fire to the ships so that any thought of escape was discounted. He dedicated them to the goddesses Demeter and Core–surely as a way of propagandizing this campaign as Sicilian Greek revenge for previous outrages committed by the Carthaginians on their island. After a final exhortation to his troops, they moved against and captured with ease the towns of Megalopolis and Tunes (Tunis).

Buoyed by the ease of these successes, Agathocles’ army then pitched camp not far from Carthage, whose citizens started to panic because they wrongly assumed that Agathocles’ presence in Africa meant that the Carthaginian forces in Sicily must have been totally destroyed. Male citizens were now drafted into the army under the joint command of two political rivals, Bomilcar and Hanno. The campaign opened disastrously for the Carthaginians, with a heavy defeat in which their most able commander, Hanno, was killed. Bomilcar, seeing this as an opportunity to seize autocratic power for himself, retreated to Carthage with his troops.

Diodorus recounted how, with their city under siege and their best general far across the sea in Sicily, the Carthaginians sent a large sum of money and expensive offerings to the temple of Melqart at Tyre, in the belief that their present misfortunes were due to the god being disgusted with the miserly nature of their recent tithes. Now the terrified Carthaginians were also supposed to have tried to appease their vengeful gods by offering up 200 high-born children for sacrifice. Later another 300 citizens, who were thought to have particularly offended the gods, were reported to have voluntarily sacrificed themselves in the fire. In perhaps a further sign of the Carthaginians’ fears of having provoked divine anger, an inscription dated to around this period refers to the construction of new temples to the goddesses Tanit and Astarte, replete with decorations, gold statuary and furniture. Tellingly, the inscription also refers to the construction of fortification walls around the sanctuary, and probably also around the hill where it was sited.

Soon disastrous news arrived in Carthage from Sicily. Its general Hamilcar had been captured and killed while attacking Syracuse, with the result that the Carthaginian army in Sicily had fragmented into several warring factions. Agathocles was said to have carefully displayed Hamilcar’s head, which had been sent over from Sicily, within sight of the already demoralized Carthaginians.

On the brink of a great victory, it is perhaps hardly surprising that Agathocles’ Alexander complex became ever stronger. Certainly his coins from the period clearly aped those of the Macedonian king, especially in their use of the thunderbolt as a motif. His troops, however, mutinied, upset by their general’s pretensions and increasingly high-handed behaviour and, more importantly, by his failure to pay them. The Carthaginians now quickly seized on Agathocles’ difficulties and offered the leaders of the mutiny enhanced pay and a bonus if they brought the Sicilian Greek army over to them. Agathocles, whose troops still held him in great esteem, only just managed to save the situation by theatrically threatening to commit suicide.

After once more bolstering his position by defeating a Carthaginian force, Agathocles, distrusting the local Libyans and Numidians, cast around for an additional ally with whom to deliver what he believed would be the final victory. He successfully enticed Ophellas, the ruler of the Greek city of Cyrene and a man with a real Alexandrian pedigree (he had served in the army of the Macedonian king), to join the campaign with the promise of all the Carthaginian territory in North Africa if they were successful. However, true to form, Agathocles quickly murdered his new ally and incorporated his large and wellequipped army into his own forces. Yet the greatest danger to Carthage would come from those whom it had entrusted with its own defence.

The Carthaginian general Bomilcar, who had long held autocratic ambitions, at last judged the time had come to act. First he sent out a force made up of many of Carthage’s most distinguished citizens to fight against the Numidian tribes, thereby removing from the city many of those who might oppose his coup. He then mustered his troops, made up of citizens and mercenaries, in an area of Carthage called the New City. Diodorus left a vivid account of what occurred next:

Dividing his troops into five groups, he sounded the attack, massacring those who opposed him in the streets. Since an extraordinary disturbance broke out everywhere in the city, the Carthaginians at first thought that the enemy had broken in, and that the city had been betrayed. When however the true situation became known, the young men gathered together, formed groups, and moved against the tyrant. However, Bomilcar, slaughtering those in the streets, moved quickly into the marketplace. Discovering many unarmed citizens there, he killed them. The Carthaginians, however, took over the tall buildings around the marketplace, and hurled down missiles which struck the rebels. Hard-pressed, the plotters closed ranks and forced their way through the narrow streets of the New City, all the time being struck by objects thrown from the houses that they passed by. Once they had occupied higher ground, the Carthaginians, who had now mustered all the citizens, rallied their forces against the rebels. At last, sending older citizens as envoys, and offering an amnesty, terms for surrender were agreed. Against the rebels they demanded no restitution, on account of the dangers presently facing the city, but Bomilcar himself was cruelly tortured and then put to death, with no attention being paid to oaths that had been given. Thus, in this way, the Carthaginians, having faced the gravest danger, saved the constitution of their forefathers.

Diodorus, whose sources were ever hostile to Carthage, could not resist the temptation of highlighting the treachery of the Carthaginians at the end of this account, although on this occasion the victim was a traitor. There is, however, no reason to dispute his account of the attempted coup.

Although he now found himself in control of a huge swathe of Carthaginian territory in North Africa, Agathocles now received alarming news of renewed conflict in Sicily, where several vassal cities had decided to take advantage of the lengthy absence of the Syracusan army to declare their independence. Agathocles was forced to return to try to retrieve the situation, leaving his son Archagathus, who had inherited little of his father’s political or military talents, in command of his army.

The Carthaginians, clearly re-energized by the defeat of the coup and the absence of their talismanic opponent, intelligently refocused their military strategy away from set-piece battles, in which they had fared so badly. They now split their forces into three combat groups with explicit areas of operation: the coast, the interior and the deep interior. Faced with this fresh challenge, Archagathus made the catastrophic decision to match this move by dividing his own forces in the same way. Soon the two battalions that had been sent into the interior to hunt down their Carthaginian foes were ambushed and cut down.

Deserted by his fickle Libyan allies, Archagathus rallied the remainder of his forces at Tunes, and sent messages to his father requesting urgent help. Although Agathocles did return, he found the situation irretrievable. A further defeat at the hands of the Carthaginians was followed by a terrible conflagration, which Diodorus–surely fancifully –states was started by the Carthaginians incinerating the fairest of their Greek captives as sacrificial victims to their gods. Many Sicilian Greek troops were killed, which led the Syracusan general to decide to leave Africa. Knowing that a large-scale evacuation would quickly come to the attention of the Carthaginians and lead to an attack, after one failed attempt to flee, Agathocles eventually managed to slip away, leaving his army and at least two of his own sons behind. This last detail, probably taken from Timaeus, whose loathing of Agathocles made him want to portray him in as poor a light as possible, may well have been false. A Roman account, clearly using other sources, related that Agathocles tried to take Archagathus with him, but they became separated during the night and the latter was captured and brought back to the Syracusan camp.

After killing their erstwhile general’s progeny, Agathocles’ deserted army swiftly negotiated surrender with the Carthaginians. The latter offered them generous terms: all the army received cash donatives, and those who wished to be were co-opted into the Carthaginian army; the remainder were transported to Sicily and allowed to settle at the Punic city of Solus. Those who, out of misguided loyalty to their old leader, refused to cooperate were set to work to restore the lands which as soldiers they had laid waste. The most recalcitrant were crucified.

After settling with his troops, the Carthaginians then concluded a peace with Agathocles himself, which superficially offered surprisingly generous terms. Carthage agreed to pay Agathocles a large amount of gold and grain, in exchange for which he would recognize Carthage’s rights over all the territory that it had previously controlled in Sicily.

Sicilian Wars (409-307 BC)

War of Croatian Independence

On 22 August 1991, with the Croatian president’s ultimatum to the Yugoslav state presidency to halt the federal army’s aid to the Serb militias and to disarm them; failing to do so, he claimed, would make the federal army an army of occupation. As expected, the Yugoslav state presidency was rather evenly divided on its response and, accordingly, a few days later the Croatian prime minister called for general mobilisation in the anticipation of a `war of liberation’. On 14 September 1991 over one hundred Yugoslav army barracks throughout Croatia were blockaded by the Croatian forces. While the Croatian governments’ strategy emulated, perhaps belatedly, the Slovenian government’s blockade of the Yugoslav army bases in June 1991, the Croatian forces were not that well prepared for the operation; their training and deployment was inferior to that of the Slovenian forces and, more importantly, unlike the Slovenian defence ministry, the Croatian leaders had no intelligence of the Yugoslav army’s planning and intentions.

In contrast to the Slovenian operation which was restricted to the securing of the international border crossing, the Yugoslav army high command initially planned to contest almost all of Croatia in order to sever its communications with the outside world and to defeat its armed forces. And, unlike its Slovenian operation, its campaign in Croatia was, initially, not authorised by the Yugoslav federal government and the state presidency: the president of the Yugoslav state presidency and the federal prime minister, both Croats, opposed the campaign but to no avail. The army’s planned campaign in Croatia, however, required a massive call-up of reservists in Serbia and Montenegro and the activation of reserve officer personnel. Faced with a widespread resistance to this call-up, desertion of its reservists, its own poor command and communications, and unexpectedly stiff resistance from the Croatian forces, the Yugoslav army high command quickly abandoned its initial plans and restricted its operations to the following areas:

  • a concentrated assault on western and eastern Slavonia and Baranja, including the cities of Vukovar and Osjek (with substantial Serb populations);
  • an assault on the seaside town of Dubrovnik and its hinterland; . a naval blockade of the largest ports in Croatia and the extrication of the Yugoslav federal navy’s equipment from those ports;
  • the withdrawal of personnel and heavy weapons from its garrisons in Croatia, including the central garrison in Zagreb.

Apart from its drive to enlarge the territories already controlled by Serb militias, the Yugoslav federal army was also attempting to secure Serbia’s and Montengro’s communication links. The city of Vukovar, for example, (with a mixed Serb and Croat population of almost equal proportions), controls access to the Danube and the mountainous hinterland of the Adriatic city of Dubrovnik (with a very small Serb population) controls the communication links to the main Yugoslav navy base at Kotor in Montenegro.

While not deployed or armed to counter an attack of such a magnitude, the Croatian army, police units, various volunteer units as well as foreign mercenaries (probably over 120 000 in number) were able to slow down and stop the Yugoslav army’s initial advance. In particular, the volunteer units (such as those of the ultra-right wing Croatian Defence League – HOS) provided the backbone of resistance to the Yugoslav army’s onslaught on Vukovar and elsewhere. However, the Croatian forces were not able to stop the much better equipped and trained army from achieving most of its objectives: the army occupied the hinterland of Dubrovnik almost unopposed and, after a three-month siege and artillery bombardment, in November 1991, it took the ruins of Vukovar as well; most of the army’s personnel and equipment was retrieved from the blockaded garrisons and port facilities. While the fighting continued into November 1991, by the end of October the frontline – roughly following the borders of Serb-settled areas of Krajina, Lika, Banija, Kordun and East and West Slavonia – had been stabilised.

In these areas the Croatian forces faced the Serb militias who were defending their own homes and families from the Croat forces who, they believed, were intent, like the Ustasha of the past, on their annihilation. For those Serb conscripts and volunteers their primary homeland were the regions in which they grew up. In a wider sense, they regarded Yugoslavia and not Croatia as their homeland; and, as non-Serb parts of Yugoslavia were seceding from it, Yugoslavia came to mean simply the Serb-populated lands of former Yugoslavia. In defending their primary homeland, many Krajina Serbs believed they were also defending their wider homeland of the Serb lands of former Yugoslavia.

Outside the Serb-controlled areas, the Yugoslav federal army was confronting the Croat conscripts and volunteers who equally firmly believed that they were defending their own homes and families from a brutal, foreign army. However, the homeland they were defending was Croatia, as home for all Croats, including possibly, the Croatian patriots of Orthodox faith or Serb origin. According to the generally accepted, official Croatian national ideology, the Serbs who do not accept Croatia as their homeland simply have no place in Croatia. The insurgent Serbs were thus regarded as instruments of the enemy ^ of the Belgrade government intent on subjugating Croatia and the Croats to its rule. Each of the two views presented the conflict as a defence of one’s homeland from foreign rule and one’s right to live in the homeland of one’s own; the conceptions of the homeland were, however, mutually exclusive.

For the Yugoslav federal army’s conscripts and officers – the Serbians from Serbia as well as other nationalities – this was not a contest over a territory which they could call their homeland in the same sense; they were not defending their homes or the regions in which they grew up. The old Partisan vision of Yugoslavia as a common homeland to all of its nations, which, until 1991, presented the Yugoslav federal army as the defender of Yugoslavia, could provide no justification for the army’s role in this war. The Yugoslav army’s high command belatedly realised this and removed, in the later stages of the war, the Partisan army red star insignia and replaced it with a Yugoslav tricolour flag. The removal of the red star symbolised the end of the Partisan pan-Yugoslav vision as the national liberation ideology of the South Slavs. In fact, many members of the Yugoslav army had no clear ideological or patriotic conception of their role in Croatia: many did not see the conflict as a defence of the Serb lands of former Yugoslavia. This could explain, at least in part, the widespread desertion and relatively low morale in many of its units deployed in Croatia.

The stand-off reached in November 1991 was probably, at least to some extent, due to the problems of morale on both sides. Because of the resistance to the call-up and the low morale of its conscript units, the Yugoslav army did not have sufficient manpower to engage the Croatian forces outside the Serb-settled areas. The Croatian volunteers and conscripts, while committed to the defence of their homes and homeland, were in 1991 not (as yet) a force capable of engaging the Serb defenders of their homes in their homeland, backed by the Yugoslav army and its heavy weaponry. Realising that it cannot, for the time being, conquer these areas, the Croatian government moved to consolidate its gains and to remove, like the Slovenian government, the remnants of the Yugoslav federal army from Croatia. Failing to secure this through the EC, the Croatian government accepted the UN-negotiated plan for the cessation of hostilities (see below). The Yugoslav army’s high command, having extricated its personnel from the Croat-controlled areas and secured the borders of the Republic of Serb Krajina, could declare its objectives achieved; this would allow it to withdraw its conscript units while leaving some of its weaponry as well its officers in command of the Serb Krajina militias.

In contrast to the war in Slovenia, the second phase of the war in Croatia resulted in the death of more than 10 000 Croatian service personnel and civilians, in the injury of many more and in the largescale destruction of towns and villages. Many regions were cleared of their Serb or their Croat inhabitants (as well as of their minorities such as the Ukrainians) making hundreds of thousands of people refugees. Yet, in spite of failing to conquer the Serb-controlled areas, the Croatian government could safely proclaim itself a victor in what it called `The Homeland War’. The war, in its second phase, ended the threat of the Yugoslav federal army to the Croatian government (as it was replaced by the UN forces in the Serb Krajina) and contributed, mainly as the focus of a public relations campaign, to the gaining of international recognition for Croatia’s independence. As in the Slovenian case, in retrospect it appears that both objectives could have been eventually achieved without going to war with the Yugoslav federal army. But, as in Slovenia, the war shifted the focus of Croat national allegiance exclusively to the Croatian state: the war appears to have demonstrated what the Croatian president, Dr Tudjman, had argued in his dissident days, that only the Croatian state and its armed forces could guarantee peace and freedom to the Croats faced with an enemy – the Serbs – within as well as outside Croatia.

While the unpopularity of this war in Serbia eroded electoral support for Milošiević ‘s government, it enabled him to sideline and dismiss many Yugoslav army officers, of any nationality, who opposed the army’s engagement in Croatia. The war in Croatia thus helped to transform the Yugoslav army, originally a multinational force, into a Serbian force increasingly under the control of Milošiević ‘s government.

A Homeland Destroyed: the End of Serb Krajina

In a 48-hour operation, starting on 1 May 1995, the Croatian army conquered the whole of western Slavonia (UNPA – Sector West). In spite of the concentration of more 15 000 Croatian troops, the Serb defenders (outnumbered three to one) appeared to be caught by surprise and offered only sporadic resistance. The UN forces were brushed aside and an unknown number of Serb civilians killed. The Croatian government had, however, good reason to believe that Milošiević, in his efforts to obtain the lifting of the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia, would refuse any aid to the Krajina Serb forces. In defiance of Milošiević ‘s policy, the Krajina Serb leader Babice ordered the launching of several unguided surface-to-surface missiles on Zagreb and his forces shelled several towns in Croatia within the reach of their artillery. His action brought a sharp rebuke from the US government which, however, condemned neither the Croatian army’s attack nor the expulsion of almost the whole Serb population of western Slavonia (around 15 000) to Bosnia and Serbia.

In fact, this operation appears to have been a dress rehearsal for a series of much larger operations which the Croatian army launched in August and September across the Krajina region and western Bosnia. Its operations in Bosnia were part of the US plan of pacification of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the imposition of the Contact group plan for the partition of the republic into the Bosnian Muslim/Croat and Serb ‘entities’. However, in July 1995, the Croatian army had already entered into southwest Bosnia and conquered the Grahovo-Glamoci area, burning the villages and forcing its entire Serb population to flee. Having thus secured a much less defended, southwest approach to Krajina, it was ready to start its final assault on the region.

The Croatian army’s operation `Storm’, planned and executed with the assistance of the US officers, was launched on 4 August 1995, with 150 – 70 000 troops supported by armour and heavy artillery as well as NATO air strikes against Serb communications centres in the Serb Krajina. As in the May operation, the Croatian forces – which greatly outnumbered the defendents – brushed the UN forces aside and completed the operation in four days. In this operation, Milošiević ‘s government severely restricted Krajina Serb forces’ attempts to retaliate or to resist: a few weeks before the attack it replaced the Krajina Serb top commanders with reliable officers from Serbia and issued sealed orders to unit commanders to withdraw their units and to evacuate the Serb population on prearranged routes to Bosnia and Serbia. As the Krajina Serb leaders had feared since December 1992, Milošiević abandoned their cause of independence from Croatia; in return for his co-operation in the Croatian conquest of Krajina and, later, with the NATO-supported offensive in Bosnia, the US supported the partial lifting of the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia in December 1995.

In a few days between 150 and 200 000 Serbs – almost the whole of the Serb population – had retreated from the towns and villages under heavy Croat bombardment, first to Bosnia and then to Serbia. Some of the remaining, mostly elderly Serbs, fell victim to the `scorched earth’ policy which involved looting and burning of the abandoned villages. As a result, the dominant media image of the Serbs as brutal aggressors favoured by the Croatian government, was very briefly replaced on television screens by the image of Serb refugees from Krajina as victims of the Croatian army; the Western media could have hardly failed to record the largest single operation of forced expulsion of civilians in the Yugoslav conflict to date, carried out this time with the US support and without opposition from its European allies. This four-day operation realized for the first time the nineteenth-century nationalist dream of an independent and pure Croatia. As most of its Serb inhabitants from other areas had already left, Croatia would soon reach a rare level of national purity, paralleled in this part of the world only by Slovenia: by 1998, when the last UNPA area, Eastern Slavonia, was transferred to Croatia, Croatia had 94 per cent of its population declared to be Croat.

Caesar Besieged in Alexandria

“Battle of Alexandria Caesar left behind his purple cloak which was later captured by the Alexandrians as a battle trophy”

Shortly after Cleopatra’s October 48 BC arrival, Caesar moved from the villa on the royal grounds to the palace proper. Each generation of Ptolemies had added to that sprawling complex, as magnificent in its design as in its materials. “Pharaoh” means “the greatest household” in ancient Egyptian, and on this the Ptolemies had delivered. The palace included well over a hundred guest rooms. Caesar looked out at lush grounds dotted with fountains and statuary and guesthouses; a vaulted walkway led from the palace complex to its theater, which stood on higher terrain. No Hellenistic monarchs did opulence better than the Ptolemies, the preeminent importers of Persian carpets, of ivory and gold, tortoiseshell and panther skin. As a general rule any surface that could be ornamented was—with garnet and topaz, with encaustic, with brilliant mosaic, with gold. The coffered ceilings were studded with agate and lapis, the cedar doors with mother-of-pearl, the gates overlaid with gold and silver. Corinthian capitals shimmered with ivory and gold. Cleopatra’s palace boasted the greatest profusion of precious materials known at the time.

Insofar as it was possible to be comfortable while under siege, Cleopatra and Caesar were well accommodated. None of the extravagant tableware or plush furnishings of their redoubt detracted, however, from the fact that Cleopatra—virtually alone in the city—was eager for a Roman to involve himself in Egyptian affairs. The rumbles and jeers outside, the scuffling in the street, the whizzing stones, drove that point home. The most intense fighting took place in the harbor, which the Alexandrians attempted to blockade. Early on they managed to set fire to several Roman freighters. The fleet Cleopatra had lent Pompey had moreover returned. Both sides jockeyed for control of those fifty quadriremes and quinqueremes, large vessels requiring four and five banks of rowers. Caesar could not afford to allow the ships to fall into enemy hands if he expected to see either provisions or reinforcements, for which he had sent out calls in every direction. Nor could he hope to man them. He was seriously outnumbered and at a geographic disadvantage; in desperation, he set fire to the anchored warships. Cleopatra’s reaction as flames spread over the ropes and across the decks is difficult to imagine. She could not have escaped the penetrating clouds of smoke, sharp with the tang of resin, that wafted across her gardens; the palace was illuminated by the blaze, which burned well into the night. This was the dockyard fire that may have claimed some portion of the Alexandrian library. Nor could Cleopatra have missed the pitched battle that preceded the conflagration, for which the entire city turned out: “And there was not a soul in Alexandria, whether Roman or townsman, except for those whose attention was engrossed in fortification work or fighting, who did not make for the highest buildings and take their place to see the show from any vantage point, and with prayers and vows demand victory for their own side from the immortal gods.” Amid mingled shouts and much commotion, Caesar’s men scrambled on to Pharos to seize the great lighthouse. Caesar allowed them a bit of plunder, then stationed a garrison on the rocky island.

Also shortly after Cleopatra’s arrival, Caesar composed the final pages of the volume we know today as The Civil War. About those events he would have been writing in something close to real time. It has been suggested that he broke off where he did—with Arsinoe’s defection and Pothinus’s murder—for literary or political reasons. Caesar could not easily discourse on a Western republic in an Eastern palace. He was also at that juncture in his narrative briefly in possession of the upper hand. Just as likely Caesar found himself with less time to write, if not overwhelmed. He was indeed the man who famously dictated letters from his stadium seat, who turned out a text on Latin while traveling from Gaul, a long poem en route to Spain. The murder of the eunuch Pothinus had galvanized the opposition, however. Already it included the women and children of the city. They had no need of wicker screens or battering rams, happy as they were to express themselves with slingshots and stones. Sprays of homemade missiles pelted the palace walls. Battles flared night and day, as Alexandria filled with zealous reinforcements and with siege huts and catapults of various sizes. Triple-width, forty-foot stone barricades went up across the city, transformed into an armed camp.

From the palace Caesar observed what had put Alexandria on the map and what made it so difficult to rule: its people were endlessly, boundlessly resourceful. His men watched in amazement—and with resentment; ingenuity was meant to be a Roman specialty—as the Alexandrians constructed wheeled, ten-story assault towers. Draft animals led those mammoth contraptions down the straight, paved avenues of the city. Two things in particular astonished the Romans. Everything could be accomplished more quickly in Alexandria. And its people were clever copyists of the first rank. Repeatedly they went Caesar one better. As a Roman general recounted later, they “put into effect whatever they saw us do with such skill that it seemed our troops had imitated their work.” National pride was at stake on both sides. When Caesar bested the seafaring Alexandrians in a naval battle, they were shattered. Subsequently they threw themselves into the task of building a fleet. In the secret royal dockyard sat a number of old ships, no longer seaworthy. Down came colonnades and the roofs of gymnasiums, their rafters magically transformed into oars. In a matter of days, twenty-two quadriremes and five quinqueremes materialized, along with a number of smaller craft, manned and ready for combat. Nearly overnight, the Egyptians conjured up a navy twice as large as Caesar’s.*

Repeatedly the Romans sputtered about the twin Alexandrian capacities for deceit and treachery, which in the midst of an armed conflict surely counts as high praise. As if to prove the point, Ganymedes, Arsinoe’s ex-tutor and the new royal commander, set his men to work digging deep wells. They drained the city’s underground conduits, into which they pumped seawater. Quickly the palace water proved cloudy and undrinkable. (Ganymedes may or may not have known this to be an old trick of Caesar’s, who had similarly annoyed Pompey.) The Romans panicked. Did it not make more sense to retreat immediately? Caesar calmed his men: Fresh water could not be far off, as veins of it reliably occurred near oceans. One lay just beyond the palace walls. As for withdrawal, it was not an option. The legionnaires could not reach their ships without the Alexandrians slaughtering them. Caesar ordered an all-night dig, which proved him correct; his men quickly located fresh water. It remained true, however, that on their side the Alexandrians had great cleverness and plentiful resources, as well as that most potent of motivations: their autonomy was at stake. They had distinctly unfavorable memories of Gabinius, the general who had returned Auletes to the throne. To fail to drive Caesar out now was to become a province of Rome. Caesar could only remind his men they must fight with equal conviction.

He found himself entirely on the defensive, perhaps another reason the account of the Alexandrian War that bears his name was written by a senior officer, based on postwar conversations. Caesar indeed controlled the palace and the lighthouse in the east, but Achillas, Ptolemy’s commander, dominated the rest of the city, and with it nearly every advantageous position. His men persistently ambushed Roman supplies. Fortunately for Caesar, if there was one thing he could count on as much as Alexandrian ingenuity it was Alexandrian infighting. Arsinoe’s tutor argued with Achillas, whom he accused of treachery. Plot followed counterplot, much to the delight of the army, bribed generously and in turn more generously by each side. Ultimately Arsinoe convinced her tutor to murder the redoubtable Achillas. Cleopatra knew well what their sister Berenice had accomplished in their father’s absence; she had badly blundered in failing to prevent Arsinoe’s escape.

Arsinoe and Ganymedes turned out to be no favorites of the people, however. This the Alexandrians made clear as reinforcements approached and as Caesar—despite a forced swim in the harbor and a devastating loss of men—began to feel the war turning in his favor. To the palace came a delegation in mid-January, shortly after Cleopatra’s twenty-second birthday. They lobbied for young Ptolemy’s release. Already the people had tried unsuccessfully to liberate their king. Now they claimed they were finished with his sister. They yearned for peace. They needed Ptolemy “in order, as they claimed, that they might consult with him about the terms on which a truce could be effected.” He had clearly behaved well while under guard. Generally he left no impression of fortitude or leadership, though petulance came naturally to him. Caesar saw some advantages in his release. Were the Alexandrians to surrender, he would need somehow to dispense with this extraneous king; Ptolemy could clearly never again rule with his sister. In his absence Caesar would have better reason to deliver up the Alexandrians to Cleopatra. And were Ptolemy to continue to fight—it is unclear if the rationale here was Caesar’s, or attributed to him later—the Romans would be conducting a war that was all the more honorable for being waged “against a king rather than against a gang of refugees and runaway slaves.”

Caesar duly sat Cleopatra’s thirteen-year-old brother down for a talk. He urged him “to think of his ancestral kingdom, to take pity on his glorious homeland, which had been disfigured by the disgrace of fire and ruin; to begin by bringing his people back to their senses, and then save them; and to trust the Roman people and himself, Caesar, whose faith in him was firm enough to send him to join enemies who were under arms.” Caesar then dismissed the young man. Ptolemy made no move to leave; instead he again dissolved into tears. He begged Caesar not to send him away. Their friendship meant more to him even than his throne. His devotion moved Caesar who—eyes welling up in turn—assured him that they would be reunited soon enough. At which young Ptolemy set off to embrace the war with a new intensity, one that confirmed that “the tears he had shed when talking to Caesar were obviously tears of joy.” Only Caesar’s men seemed gratified by this turn of events, which they hoped might cure their commander of his absurdly forgiving ways. The comedy would not have surprised Cleopatra, well accomplished in the dramatic arts, and possibly even the mastermind behind this scene. It is conceivable that Caesar liberated Ptolemy to sow further dissension in the rebel ranks. If he did so (the interpretation is a generous one), Cleopatra presumably collaborated on the staging.

Fortunately for Caesar and Cleopatra, a large army of reinforcements hurried toward Alexandria. The best help came from a high-ranking Judaean official, who arrived with a contingent of three thousand well-armed Jews. Ptolemy set out to crush that force at nearly the same moment that Caesar set out to join it; he was for some time frustrated by the Egyptian cavalry. All converged in a fierce battle west of the Nile, at a location halfway between Alexandria and present-day Cairo. The casualties were great on both sides, but—by storming the high point of the Egyptian camp in a surprise early-morning maneuver—Caesar managed a swift victory. Terrified, a great number of the Egyptians hurled themselves from the ramparts of their fort into the surrounding trenches. Some survived. It seemed Ptolemy did not; he was probably little mourned by anyone, including his advisers. As his body never materialized, Caesar took special pains to display his golden armor, which did. The magical, rejuvenating powers of the Nile were well known; already it had delivered up queens in sacks and babies in baskets. Caesar did not want a resurrection on his hands, though even his meticulous efforts now would not prevent the appearance of a Ptolemy-pretender later.

With his cavalry Caesar hurried to Alexandria, to receive the kind of welcome he had doubtless expected months earlier: “The entire population of the town threw down their weapons, left their defenses, assumed the garb in which suppliants commonly crave pardon from their masters, and after bringing out all the sacred objects with whose religious awe they used to appeal to their displeased or angry monarchs, went to meet Caesar as he approached, and surrendered to him.” Graciously he accepted the surrender and consoled the populace. Cleopatra would have been ecstatic; Caesar’s defeat would have been hers as well. She presumably received advance word but would in any event have heard the raucous cheers as Caesar approached on horseback. His legions met him at the palace with loud applause. It was March 27; the relief must have been extreme. Caesar’s men had given him more than a decade of service, and on arrival in Alexandria believed the civil war to be over. They had by no means counted on this last, little understood exploit. Nor were they alone in their consternation. Rome had heard nothing from Caesar since December. What was keeping him in Egypt, when all was off-kilter at home? Whatever the reason for the delay, the silence was unsettling. It must have begun to seem that Egypt had claimed Caesar as it had Pompey and—as some would argue—in an entirely different way, it ultimately would.


Diodorus’ account of the relationship between the Carthaginians and the cult of Demeter and Core was in fact very partial. The goddesses had long been worshipped by the Punic population of Sicily as fertility and underworld deities, and it was most likely from this source that the cult had first come to Carthage. Core, in particular, became a ubiquitous presence on Carthaginian coinage. The two goddesses were two of the most popular motifs of the Punic world–especially on terracotta incense-burners, where they were depicted wearing concave headdresses in which perfumed pellets were placed. Indeed, within a very short period of time during the fourth century BC the cult would also proliferate across other Punic areas of the western Mediterranean, such as the rural shrine of Genna Maria in Sardinia, where the worship of Demeter was clearly amalgamated with that of indigenous deities. What is also clear is that, despite Diodorus/ Timaeus’ insistence to the contrary, this was no mere replication of the Greek cult, but one that had already been mediated through the extensive cultural and religious borrowings that had been taking place between the diverse communities that inhabited the island of Sicily, before being tailored to the diverse religious needs of its adherents across the Punic world.

Then there was the syncretistic figure of Heracles–Melqart, who became increasingly popular in Carthage during the third century BC. Of particular significance are a series of engraved bronze hatchet razors (a traditional part of the Punic funerary assemblage) dating to this period and found in the cemeteries that ringed the city. Although the images that were engraved on many of the blades of these hatchets show traditional Levantine representations of Melqart dressed in a long tunic and headdress, with a double-sided axe resting on his shoulder, new representations of the god had also begun to appear. Indeed, one particular example shows Heracles complete with a lionskin, a club and a hunting dog at his feet, in the classic iconography of the hero that had developed in the Greek cities of southern Italy. Yet, as the French scholar Serge Lancel has rightly observed, this was really only an ‘Italianate veneer’ on Punic Melqart. For on the reverse side of the blade was an image of Ioloas, Heracles’ nephew and companion, holding a branch from the kolokasion plant in one hand and a quail in the other. This was a Greek interpretation of the Phoenician/Punic rite of egersis. The story, preserved by the Greek writer Athenaeus, summarizing a story told by an earlier fourth-century Greek author, Eudoxius of Cnidus, told how ‘Tyrian’ Heracles lay dying and was soothed by his faithful companion with the leaves from the kolokasion plant, before being brought back to life by the smell of roasting quail meat. Another hatchet razor dating to the third century BC found in Carthage displays a possible Sardinian connection, with an engraving of Heracles naked under his lionskin leaning on his club on one side of the blade, while on the other side Sid, wearing a plumed headdress, spears a kneeling figure wearing a breastplate and a short tunic.

Thus, rather than proving the existence of an unbridgeable divide between Greek and Punic populations in the West, Timaeus and the other Sicilian Greek historians used by Diodorus represented a shrill xenophobic reaction to the growing political, cultural and religious syntheses that governed not only their home island, but also the whole central Mediterranean. For Timaeus in particular, the attraction of this model of ethnic conflict between Greeks and barbarians was clearly the result of his long absence from Sicily and the continually shifting compromises and allegiances that made up the political landscape there.

Depiction of a bust possibly belonging to Agathocles


Despite the fact that these sweeping generalizations bore little resemblance to the geopolitical realities on the ground, they did increasingly have an impact on the local Sicilian potentates who were Carthage’s rivals on the island: much better to portray oneself as the saviour of western Hellas from oriental barbarism than as yet another feuding warlord. After Alexander’s untimely death, his generals had quickly divided up his vast dominions in Asia, Europe and Egypt, and many bullishly adopted the heroic public persona of the Great King. As Peter Green has remarked, ‘They stood long after his death, in his [Alexander’s] tremendous shadow still. He made them what they were: and however consciously they might try to jettison his alleged ideals . . . their fierce ambitions forced them to follow where he had led.’

Beneath the top tier of the diadochi–the senior Macedonian military commanders who had carved up the great empire between them–was a jostling group of minor princes, junior officers and other adventurers, many with the most tenuous connections to Alexander. Self-conscious about their peripheral position on the fringes of this gilded world, some ardently desired to be included in the dazzling club of A-list Hellenistic monarchs. Such a figure was Agathocles, a dashing cavalry commander with a shady past that included spells in exile and as a mercenary captain, who had risen to autocratic power in Syracuse in the 320s through popular demagogy and military thuggery. Like Gelon and Dionysius, Agathocles would use the almost continuous round of warfare that he provoked with the Carthaginians as a way to consolidate his regime.

The conscious connection that had been made by Alexander between his great victories in the East and the earlier Persian invasion of Greece (at first he mooted his campaigns in Asia as a revenge mission) also breathed new life into the perennial conflict between Carthage and Syracuse. Once more the totally erroneous but seductive idea that the Sicilian wars were a western extension of the age-old struggle between the civilization of Greece and the dark forces of the barbarian East would have renewed capital. Throughout a long and eventful career, Agathocles consistently chose to present himself as the western heir to Alexander. His coinage, like that of other post-Alexander Greek leaders, self-consciously reproduced the motifs favoured by the Great King of Macedon and self-styled Lord of Asia. A century later, the Roman playwright Plautus would mockingly refer to Agathocles’ desperation to ape the imagery and antics of Alexander.

However, Agathocles’ talent stretched to more than an ability to present himself as the heir to Alexander in the West. Carthage’s long sojourn on Sicily meant that many Sicilian Greeks had a very good knowledge of Carthaginian military institutions. Indeed, one of Agathocles’ most potent weapons was his understanding of Carthage and his awareness of the tensions that existed between the city and its army in Sicily. Carthage’s use of mercenaries to fight its wars engendered a feeling of suspicion towards its generals, and the ruling elite in particular felt threatened by the perceived unconstitutional ambitions of the men who were sent to command the Carthaginian armies. During the fourth century BC it appears that Carthage’s generals, particularly in Sicily, had acquired a wide range of powers that allowed them to operate with a certain amount of autonomy while on campaign, including the authority to negotiate for peace and to form alliances (although it is likely that these agreements then needed to be formally ratified by the Council of Elders, who also approved the resupply of armies). Indeed, such was their mandate for independent action that the fourth-century-BC Athenian politician Isocrates was moved to comment that the Carthaginians were ‘ruled by an oligarchy at home, by a king in the field’.

Although these generals were drawn from Carthaginian ranks, they had been chosen not by the Tribunal of One Hundred and Four, but by the whole citizenry of Carthage in the Popular Assembly. This fact alone placed them under suspicion by the elite. The development of the Carthaginian army in Sicily into a quasi-independent institution with its own coinage and administrative structure made the situation even more tense. The ports of Sicily were hundreds of kilometres away from Carthage, and news of events on the island was sporadic and often inaccurate. In such circumstances it was easy for a military commander to forget that he was answerable to his peers.

Though Carthaginian army commanders made decisions with considerable autonomy while on campaign, these decisions were retrospectively subject to a rigorous audit carried out by the Tribunal of One Hundred and Four. Many years of campaigning in Sicily meant that these generals could scarcely have failed to notice how some of their Syracusan equivalents–men who like themselves had first gained their commands through their popularity with the general citizenry –had managed to shed the awkward scrutiny to which they were subjected by their peers by seizing autocratic power. The harsh punishment of military commanders who had failed to show sufficient skill or courage on the battlefield was a long-standing feature of Carthaginian political life. The Carthaginians were certainly not the first in the ancient world to use crucifixion; however, whereas others reserved this horrific punishment for the lowest of the low–runaway slaves, common criminals, and foreigners–Carthage would periodically nail its generals to the cross. This was not just a grim warning against failure, but also acted as a gruesome form of political decapitation.

The feelings of distrust were reciprocated by the military commanders themselves, who complained of the hostile treatment that they received from their fellow citizens on their return from campaign. As Diodorus/Timaeus acutely observed when providing an explanation for a later attempted army coup:

The basic cause in this matter was the Carthaginians’ severity in inflicting punishments. In their wars they advance their leading men to commands, taking it for granted that these should be the first to brave the danger for the whole state; but when they gain peace, they plague these same men with suits, bring false charges against them through envy, and load them down with penalties. Therefore some of those who are placed in positions of command, fearing the trials in the courts, desert their posts, but others attempt to become tyrants.

On one occasion early in his career, in the 320s BC, when his hopes of political power in Syracuse had been seemingly dashed, Agathocles raised an army of discontented Sicels with the intention of seizing the city with violent force. Finding that a large Carthaginian army was blocking his path, Agathocles used his considerable talent for diplomacy with the Carthaginian commander, Hamilcar. Learning that Hamilcar had ambitions of seizing autocratic power in Carthage, Agathocles agreed a secret arrangement with him whereby the Carthaginian army would stand aside so that he could take Syracuse, in exchange for which he would help the general in any future attempt to seize power in his home city. Indeed, Hamilcar went even further in his cooperation with Agathocles, by supplying him with 5,000 troops to assist in the massacre of his political opponents in Syracuse. A peace treaty was then agreed that appeared to be immensely favourable towards Agathocles, even though he was hardly in a strong position. Under its terms, the eastern Sicilian cities were compelled to acknowledge Syracusan suzerainty, while the Carthaginians gained nothing aside from confirmation of the territory that they had already held before the conflict. The situation was made even worse by Hamilcar’s appearing to turn a blind eye to Agathocles’ continued harassment of Carthage’s Sicilian allies.

The Greek and Roman sources which record this pact suggest that the crafty Agathocles duped Hamilcar. A more realistic explanation may be that continued violence and instability in Sicily was in the interests of both the Carthaginian army and Agathocles. The instability was an indication both of the lack of control that Carthage had over its army and of the level of collusion between its forces in Sicily and its Syracusan foes. The reaction of the Carthaginian Council is revealing. Rather than recalling Hamilcar and openly confronting him with his treachery, the Council voted on the matter but suppressed their judgement until such time as they felt confident to act against him. The Carthaginian army in Sicily was beginning to act as a semiautonomous force, and its supposed masters in Carthage had little power to control it.

In fact Hamilcar died before justice could be dispensed, and the confrontation that the Carthaginian Council had obviously feared was avoided. In an attempt to seize back the agenda, the Council sent a delegation directly from Carthage to warn Agathocles that he should respect the existing treaties between the two states. But, in an effort to reassert the Council’s authority over their forces in Sicily, a fresh army was recruited under a new commander, Hamilcar, son of Gisco.

Hamilcar’s campaign did not get off to an auspicious start. As the army crossed over to Sicily, a number of ships carrying Carthaginian noblemen were sunk in a storm. However, on his arrival on the island, in 311, Hamilcar quickly proved to be an excellent general. After winning a comprehensive victory, the Carthaginians managed to blockade Agathocles and the remainder of his forces in Syracuse. Hamilcar then followed up these military successes with a diplomatic initiative among the Greek Sicilian states which left Agathocles increasingly isolated. In a marked departure from his predecessors, Hamilcar attempted to end the war through the final defeat of Agathocles and the capture of Syracuse.

Agathocles was portrayed by Diodorus (as usual taking his information from earlier Sicilian Greek sources) as ruthlessly exploiting the tensions between the Carthaginian generals and the politicians at home. In this he was following historians such as Timaeus (who particularly disliked Agathocles because he had been responsible for the exile of the historian’s father), who showed Agathocles in a poor light as a political opportunist who willingly entered into compacts with the hated Carthaginian intruders. However, it also points to Agathocles’ understanding of the fears and ambitions of the Carthaginian military commanders on Sicily as a key element in his own rise to power.


During a twelve-year period in the 330s and 320s BC, a young Macedonian king, Alexander (‘the Great’), had by the tender age of 31 succeeded in becoming master of an empire that stretched from Greece to Pakistan. Many of Alexander’s contemporaries and those who came after him understandably struggled to make sense of his extraordinary success. After all, what Alexander had achieved had never been done before and, it was thought, could never be matched again. Stories swirled around the towns and cities of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East that Alexander was not just descended from celestial lineage, but was actually a god himself.

His meteoric career would be marked out not just by an astounding sequence of military victories, but also by an ability to write his own headlines. Alexander’s ‘heroic’ image was carefully worked on by the coterie of advisers, diarists and historians who accompanied him on campaign. Portrayed as the new Heracles, he had stormed across Asia capturing all in his path. After he stopped his great march eastward in what is now Pakistan, the question for all the peoples of the West was whether they would be the next targets in his seemingly endless thirst for glory and conquest. The terrifying speed with which Alexander had built up his huge Asian empire meant that the idea of his turning his attention westward was a distinct and unsettling possibility. Alexander made the world seem like a small place.

Envoys from all over the lands of the western Mediterranean therefore made the long and arduous journey to the royal court at Babylon to strike up friendly relations with Alexander and to find out what his future intentions were. From Italy there came Bruttians, Lucanians and Etruscans. From the northern climes there were Celts and Scythians. Iberians came from the far West, and Nubians from the depths of Africa. Among this gaggle of supplicants was a Carthaginian, Hamilcar ‘Rodanus’, who had probably learned his Greek while living on the island of Rhodes. Unlike the others, however, Rodanus had not been sent to find out if Alexander wished Carthage well: events at the finale of the siege of Carthage’s mother city of Tyre had emphatically answered that question.

Alexander and his armies had approached Tyre in 332 BC. After being refused entry to the sacred sanctuary of Melqart, Alexander had besieged and then sacked the city, massacring its defenders and enslaving its remaining population. Melqart, the god whose annual cycle of death and rebirth took place in the heat of the sacred fire, would be smothered in the smoking ashes of the city which had for centuries nurtured him. Generations of Tyrian tradition and religious observance would be buried under the martial pomp of self-consciously Greek/ Macedonian ceremonial: military parades, gymnastic competitions, and a torchlight procession of Alexander’s army. The solemn burning of the effigy of Melqart would be set aside for yet another set of anodyne athletic competitions in honour of the Hellenic Heracles. Alexander also seized the sacred boat in which the Carthaginians had first brought their offerings to Melqart many centuries ago, and inscribed it with a Greek dedication.

Diodorus, clearly following Timaeus, digressed from the history of his Sicily to tell how a group of thirty Carthaginian emissaries, who had brought the annual tithe from their city to be offered to Melqart, had found themselves stranded in the besieged Tyre. When the city fell, Alexander had spared the Carthaginians’ lives, sending them home with the ominous warning that Carthage’s turn would come once the conquest of Asia was complete. So Rodanus’ mission at the court in Babylon was to discover quite when rather than if Alexander would launch an attack on Carthage.

According to the Roman historian Justin, Rodanus, considering it unwise to present his credentials in the normal fashion, managed to secure an audience with Alexander by convincing his close associate Parmenion that he was in fact an exile and that he wished to join the Macedonian army. On finding out the Great King’s intentions, Rodanus sent secret missives back to Carthage. However, such was the paranoia that had gripped the panic-stricken city that no one was above suspicion. Rodanus would be rewarded on his return from this potentially perilous mission with execution, because his fellow citizens were convinced that he must have tried to betray Carthage to the Macedonian king.

Alexander’s early demise, in Babylon in June 323, has made it impossible to know if he really did plan to attack Carthage. However, western-Greek and, later, Roman historians certainly wanted their readerships to think so. It suited their anti-Carthaginian agenda to conflate Alexander’s war against the Persian Empire with the Syracusan struggle against Carthage. During his long years of exile in Athens, Timaeus had become deeply influenced by the increasingly hawkish attitudes towards Persia that many Athenian writers had developed against the backdrop of Alexander’s great campaigns in the East. It is highly pertinent that Diodorus, once more following Timaeus, described how, after capturing Tyre, Alexander liberated a statue of the god Apollo which had been sent as an offering to Tyre by the Carthaginians after they had plundered it from the Greek Sicilian city of Gela. Diodorus also took from Timaeus one of the temporal synchronicities of which the latter was so fond, namely that the capture of Tyre had occurred on exactly the same day of the month and hour of the day as when the Carthaginians had stolen the statue from Gela.

Diodorus/Timaeus, like other eastern-Greek commentators, was aware of the association between Melqart and Heracles. He states that it had been Alexander’s initial intention to ‘sacrifice to the Tyrian Heracles’. However, he was certainly not inclined to dwell upon the syncretism that had developed between the Greek hero and the Phoenician god in the minds of many in the Mediterranean world. Instead, as the Carthaginian military became a permanent presence on Sicily, he and other Sicilian historians promoted the association between Carthage and that other supposed great enemy of the Greek world, Persia.

To that end, we know from Diodorus that Timaeus restated the old fabrication that Himera had been the western front of a coordinated attack on the Greeks organized between Carthage and their Persian allies. Then, by pushing back the date of the battle so that it now fell on the same day as Thermopylae, when 300 Spartans had heroically resisted but eventually been overwhelmed by a huge Persian force, Timaeus could portray Himera as the vital turning point in this Mediterranean-wide war between the barbarians and the forces of Hellas. Moreover this also obscured the Syracusan tyrant’s failure to send any help to the mainland Greeks by creating enough delay for a further fabrication: that Gelon had actually sailed to Greece to help the war effort against the Persians, only to be conveniently met by news of the great victory at Salamis.

In Timaeus’ account of the later wars between Carthage and Syracuse, the complex strategic reasons why it was important for Carthage to intervene militarily in Sicily, like those of the Persians in Greece, were reduced to little more than a wish to enslave Hellas, beautifully articulated in one episode by the apparent discovery of 20,000 pairs of manacles in the Carthaginian camp after a Greek victory, or simply a hatred of all Greeks. In another wonderfully evocative but surely manufactured vignette, Timaeus described how Greek mercenaries fighting for Syracusans while fraternizing with their fellow countrymen who were in the employ of the Carthaginians asked them how they could serve a state whose sole aim was to barbarize a Greek city.

Yet what remains of Sicily’s material culture tells a very different story from the tales of ghastly inter-ethnic conflict and total war propagated by hostile Sicilian Greek historians. Decades of bloody conflict had in fact done little to impede the processes of acculturation and accommodation between the Greek and Punic communities on the island. Indeed, the wars between Carthage and Syracuse had directly led to the export far beyond its shores of the religious and cultural syncretism that was long one of the defining characteristics of colonial Sicily. In particular, such ideas had found fertile ground in Carthage, where they had probably been introduced both by members of the Carthaginian elite who had served as officers in the army in Sicily and by the sizeable Sicilian Greek community who were now resident in the city.

One particularly prominent example was the growing prominence in Carthage of the cult of the Greek deities Demeter, a fertility goddess, and her daughter Core, the consort of Hades, king of the underworld. In his history, Diodorus, thought to be following Timaeus, strongly emphasized the Sicilian Greek origins of the cult by insisting that the abduction and rape of Core by Hades actually took place on the island, even though Greek cities in southern Italy had claimed that the heinous event had taken place there. When in 396 BC the cult was officially adopted in Carthage, Diodorus later portrayed this merely as a panic-stricken attempt to appease the goddesses after they had punished the Carthaginians with a visitation of the plague, after the sacking of their temple at Syracuse by the hapless general Hamilcar. At the same time, Diodorus emphasized the indelibly Hellenic nature of the cult by reporting that the Carthaginian authorities had sought out Greeks living in Carthage and assigned them to the service of the goddesses, while those aristocratic Carthaginians who were appointed to be priests of the cult were instructed to follow ‘the ritual used by the Greeks’.

Radschlepper Ost [Škoda RSO]

Looming majestically in the Zuffenhausen forecourt, Porsche’s Skoda-built Type 175 was created to duplicate on the Eastern Front the artillery-shifting achievements of Austro Daimler’s Goliath in the First World War.

With the war in Russia dragging on into a second year, the HWA asked Ferdinand Porsche to design and build a modern version of the high-wheeled Austro-Daimler M 17 Goliath tug that had been so successful both in the First World War and afterwards. Fully briefed, Karl Rabe began to delineate its characteristics on Monday, 26 January. He entered it in his log as the Type 175, known as the Radschlepper Ost or ‘Wheeled Eastern Tractor’.

Partner in the project was Skoda of Pilsen, reawakening an important First World War relationship. On 2 February Porsche and Rabe hosted a day-long discussion in Zuffenhausen with an 11-man delegation from the Czech company led by veteran design engineer and director Emil Řezníček. Skoda would produce the huge 9-ton vehicles to Porsche’s designs.

Spaced on a 118.1-inch wheelbase, the same as that of the M 17, at just under 5ft in diameter the steel wheels of the Type 175 were even larger than those of its First World War counterpart. While small cleats were integral with the wheels, larger ones and ice studs were stowed on board to be attached when required. The use of steel was a direct response to the shortage of rubber, tyres of such size consuming far too much of this scarce resource.

Another shortage was of lead, for which the batteries in the submarines of Admiral Karl Dönitz had absolute priority. Accordingly Porsche and Rabe provided a small crank-started VW-based parallel-twin engine to start the main four-cylinder unit. The latter was a long-stroke four of 6.0 litres with overhead valves and air cooling by a blower driven from the nose of the crankshaft. Reached at a modest 2,000rpm, its peak output was 80bhp. A five-speed gearbox translated this into 11,000lb of pulling power, implemented when required by a chassis-mounted winch.


This is a heavy prime mover with four large wheels, intended for use on the Russian front. This vehicle should not be confused with the Raupenschlepper Ost, a fully-tracked prime mover also intended for use on the Russian front.


•  Length: 20 feet.

•  Width: 7 feet 4 inches.

•  Height: 10 feet.

•  Wheels (steel): Four, 4 feet 10 inches in diameter.

•  Engine: 4-cylinder, in-line, air-cooled, 90 horsepower.

•  Fuel: Gasoline.

•  Capacity: 6,024 cubic centimeters. (367.46 cubic inches.) (with 2-cylinder, air-cooled, 12 horsepower auxiliary starter engine)

•  Drive: 4 wheel, with locking differential.

•  Gears: Five forward, one reverse.

•  Speed, road: 6 miles per hour (average)

•  Weight unloaded: 9 tons.

•  Useful load: 4.5 tons.

•  Trailed load: 5.6 tons.

•  Winch capacity: 5.6 tons.