Battle of Panormus
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The Battle of Panormus was fought in 250 BC between a Roman consular army led by Lucius Caecilius Metellus and Carthaginians led by Hasdrubal during the First Punic War. The resulting Roman victory led to Panormus remaining under Roman control for the remainder of the war.
Towards the end of 252 BC or early 251 BC, Carthage had put down a Libyan revolt in Africa and sent an army under the command of Hasdrubal, son of Hanno the Great, to Sicily. Hasdrubal was present at the Battle of Tunis, along with the Greek mercenary general Xanthippus, and learned much from this experience. According to Polybius, Hasdrubal roamed the region of western Sicily around the cities of Lilybaeum and Selinus for two years unopposed by the Romans who kept to high ground. However, Hasdrubal decided to attack a Roman consular army under the command of Consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus, which was gathering the harvest around Panormus. Hasdrubal marched his men and elephants through the Orethus valley towards Panormus. This operation seemed reasonable because the other consular army was on its way to Rome and the conditions were favourable.
Having caused the Romans to retreat behind the walls of Panormus, and subsequently ravaged the countryside, Hasdrubal's forces came towards the city by exiting the valley and crossing the Orethus River. Metellus ordered his light troops to harass the Carthaginian vanguard and discharge their javelins into the elephants. In order to do this, the Roman light troops took cover in the ditches that surrounded the city. The commander of the Carthaginian elephants, believing the resistance to be weak, advanced to scatter the light troops. The elephants were now exposed and javelins and missiles discharged upon them from both the city walls and the entrenched light troops caused them to panic and charge into their own ranks. At this point, Metellus and his legions were stationed outside of a city gate facing the Carthaginian left. At the fleeing of the elephants, Metellus ordered the legions to charge the Carthaginian left flank. This manoeuvre broke the Carthaginian line and routed their army. However, the Romans did not pursue the fleeing army but rather captured the remainder of the elephants, who were later slaughtered in the circus in Rome.
As was custom after a defeat, Hasdrubal was recalled to Carthage to be executed. His successor, Adhubal, decided Selinus could no longer be garrisoned and had the town destroyed. With the exception of Hamilcar Barca's guerrilla warfare, this defeat marked the end of significant Carthaginian land campaigning in Sicily.
- Walbank, Commentary on Polybius, vol. I, p. 102.
- M. Gwyn Morgan, "Polybius and the Date of the Battle of Panormus", The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (May, 1972), pp. 121–129.
- Frank William Walbank, A Commentary on Polybius, Oxford University Press, 1979.