Hunting Hamilcar: The Battle of the Saw Uncovered
Hamilcar Barca, the father of the battlefield genius, Hannibal, is considered even today as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, yet so little is known about the man and his battles, that it inspired Ricky D Phillips, military historian and history detective - who discovered Hannibal’s lost battlefield on the Tagus and uncovered the myths and mysteries of the Espada de Anibal: supposedly Hannibal’s own sword – to set out to find the site of Hamilcar’s famous ‘Battle of the Saw’.
Ricky D Phillips on the battlefield of the Battle of Tagus 220 BC, which he discovered. (Image: Ricky D Phillips)
Like Father, Like Son
“When I went looking for the Battle of the Tagus – Hannibal’s first battle fought in 220 BC – I really had to look back to his military roots. The Hannibal of Cannae is a polished and experienced general, but the Hannibal of the Tagus was raw and untested. What he relied upon more than anything was knowledge, not experience, and that knowledge came directly from the greatest general of Carthage: his own father, Hamilcar. If I wanted to know Hannibal better, I knew that I would have to dig back further into his father’s own murky past.”
Hamilcar brings his young son Hannibal to the sacred aUar and compels the boy to swear eternal hatred to the Romans. The boy aspires to humble Rome. In Zigzag journeys in the Levant, with a Talmudist story-teller (1885) (Public Domain)
This, however, was more easily said than done, for not one of Hamilcar’s own battlefields had ever been discovered. Hamilcar’s first taste of war was in Sicily, during the First Punic War. But this was a ‘petit-guerre’ of raid and skirmish and ambush. It was when that war finished and Hamilcar came home to Carthage that he really made his mark, as tens of thousands of mercenaries were sent back to Carthage demanding years of back pay which Carthage, under heavy indemnities to Rome, simply could not pay. Soon the mercenaries, joined by other conquered peoples such as the Libyans and Numidians, rose up in a mighty army, and the people of Carthage called upon Hamilcar to be their salvation.
The Truceless War
Hamilcar fought four major battles in the so-called Mercenary War - also known as the Truceless War for its savagery and barbarity.
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Top Image: Peace between Hamilcar and Rome by Jacopo Ripanda. Musei Capitolini - Rome (José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0)