The Carthaginian Civil War (49BC-47BC)was a major civil conflict fought between two factions in the Carthaginian Republic vying for power; the Aristos, led by Alahar Muttenbaal and a number of others against the Proles, led solely by Gisgo Barca. The war was the culmination of decades of tension between the two social and economical classes, the upper (aristos) and the lower (proles).

The Civil War was fought in various theaters and battles were fought on every major continent within the Republic. Campaigns were waged in Italy, Greece, Syria, and Anatolia. The war finally ended after Gisgo defeated his final opponents at the Battle of Salamis Landing. The changes to the politial government following the war eliminated the tyranical Council of One-Hundred Forty and allowed the lower class to have a say in making political decisions.

Background and Pre-War Situation

The Aristos had been in control of the two ruling political assemblies (Senate and Council of One-Hundred Forty) of the Carthaginian Republic since its founding. Senators, by tradition, could only be elected if they were Aristos and Councilors could only be elected if they owned property or possessions equal to or more than 500,000 Drachma. When Hannibal Barca returned from his numerous conquests he found that he had made many political enemies as many other politicians were jealous of his glory, wealth and prestige. His conquests had also made him popular among the Proles and he was a hero of the lower class. This offered him small protection as the Aristos could not punish him without angering the people and they feared angering the Proles because they knew what damage they could do when angered. In order to secure a safer position for himself and to bring an end to the corruption and tyranny of the Council of One-Hundred Forty Hannibal set to work to limit their powers. First he limited a Councilor's term from lifetime to a year. He then banned the practice of inheriting the title from a deceased Councilor and made mandatory elections in which the Proles could vote. His descendants followed in his footsteps and made other laws intended to weaken the Council such as forcing the Council to announce when it was meeting to discourage secret plotting and espionage and stripping Councilors of their title as Asydotos (legal immunity), allowing them to be prosecuted. This infuriated the Council who sought to dishonor the Barcids and null.

At the time the Council made its decision to dishonor the Barcids the leader of the Barcid Household was Gisgo Barca, who had been given governorship of Numidia Gonimos and had spent several years conquering Mauritania without explicit consent of the Senate. Gisgo's fellow Shofet and political ally Alahar had protected him from his political allies while he was away in Mauritania. In exchange for Alahar's protection and political support Gisgo sent back wealth from his conquests to be used for bribery and as payment. However over the years Gisgo and Alahar had drifted apart and Alahar, envious of Gisgo's rising prestige and military success, sided against him and demanded he disband his Drachions, return to Carthage and face trial for misconduct of war and war attrocities. Gisgo correctly assumed that if he returned to Carthage unarmed and alone he would be given a sham trial, executed and the Barcid family would be dishonored. Instead, he decided to March on Carthage and attempt to re-ally himself with Alahar.

Civil War

Crossing the Medjerda and March on Carthage

The Medjerda River formed the boundary between Numidia Gonimos and Africa Proper. It literally divided the foreign provinces from the African homeland. Crossing it with troops was forbidden and an act of treason as having an army too close to Carthage itself could be used to coerce and intimidate the Senate into doing whatever the commander of said army wanted. Gisgo however, in order to ensure he would not be unfairly prosecuted, crossed the Medjerda River with his favorite Drachio XIII Italia and marched on Carthage. Initially Alahar believed he could defeat Gisgo as Gisgo had only crossed the Medjerda with one Drachion (the equivalent of about 7,500.) However the small amount of Gisgo's troops allowed him to march very quickly, catching Alahar by surprise as he didn't expect Gisgo's fast progress and didn't raise enough troops in time to engage Gisgo. Adding to Alahar's precarious position was that many of his troops were unexperienced raw recruits while Gisgo's were hardened experienced veterans from Mauritania. He quickly announced that "Carthage cannot be defended" and, with many of his supporters and members of the Senate and Council, fled Carthage for Utica.

Italian Campaign

When Gisgo arrived in Carthage he found that Alahar had retreated to Utica. As Alahar continued raising troops and levies Gisgo settled the political mess in Carthage, getting himself elected Shofet once more with his second in command Bomilcar elected as his colleague. He continued sending peace offerings to Alahar, insisting they renew their alliance. However Alahar rejected all peace attempts and finally Gisgo left the city to engage Alahar in Utica, however he found he had sailed for Magna Graecia in Carthaginian Italy. As Gisgo had no navy of his own he had to build one and wait to pursue Alahar.

Gisgo finally managed to cross the Straits of Lilybaeum and landed in Sicily, where he engaged Alahar's rear guard of 4,000 men. However the entire rear guard defected to Gisgo without a fight, merely swelling his ranks. From Sicily he sailed across the Straits of Messina and landed at Tarentum. From Tarentum he pursued Alahar, who still refused to engage in battle with Gisgo until finally he accepted at the Battle of Capua. At the Battle of Capua Alahar inflicted sever casualties onto Gisgo's army, killing 1,000 veterans from Mauritania and capturing 400 other troops. Alahar refused to pursue Gisgo as he believed the retreat was actually a feint to lure him into a trap. It was only after he interrogated the captured soldiers he learned of the retreat was legitimate and pursued however he was too late to deliver the final blow.

After Capua Gisgo retreated northwards, intending to take refuge in Arretium and resupply his army. However Alahar managed to trap and besiege him on the southern banks of the Tiber. Gisgo made two attempts to cross the river however Alahar repulsed both river crossing attempts while inflicting heavy casualties. By now Gisgo's army was tired, short-supplied, weary and starving and Alahar merely wanted to sit and wait for desertion and starvation to destroy Gisgo's army. However Alahar's political allies believed it would look better at home if Gisgo was decisvely beaten in a battle. Under pressure Alahar offered battle and Gisgo, at the Battle of the Tiber, decisively defeated and scattered Alahar's entire army.

War Against Pontus

Following his defeat at the Tiber Alahar fled to the Kingdom of Pontus as he had made good friends with the previous king Mithridates IV during the Scythian Invasion of Asia. However Mithridates had passed away and his son, Pharnaces II had become King and had laid claim to the throne of Armenia. When Alahar arrived Pharnaces, hoping to gain favor with Gisgo, had Alahar killed and presented the head to Gisgo as a gift. Gisgo however was furious as he had wanted to reinstate his alliance and friendship with Alahar. In retribution Gisgo ordered Pharnaces to withdraw his claim to the Armenian throne and to not interfere with politics outside his borders for the rest of his life. Pharnaces refused and attacked Gisgo but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Nicopolis. He withdrew to the northern territories of his kingdom to raise a new army however was killed by his own commanders, who signed a peace treaty with Gisgo shortly afterward.

Greek Campaign and War on Attalus

Following his victory in Pontus Gisgo learned that two Councilors, Attalus the Stern and Helias Baalincor, had raised an army in Greece and had wooed the Greek governors to their side. Facing the loss of the most wealthy region in the Republic Gisgo sailed to Greece and won decisive battles at Corinth and a significant victory at Axias (where Attalus drowned and Helias later commit suicide.)

Syria and End of the War

Despite the fact the war was nearly over, with Gisgo's main enemies dead and most of the Republic swearing allegiance to him, Alahar's son Iosephus escaped Greece to Syria where he raised an army of mercenaries amongst the Greeks living in Syria. He attempted to make an alliance with the Kingdom of Pontus (now under a client king of Gisgo), which starchly refused and notified Gisgo of Iosephus's actions. Gisgo sailed back from Greece to Asia where he defeated and captured Iosephus at the Battle of Raphia. With his last enemy in his hands Gisgo was now in complete control of the Republic.


Following his victory at Raphia Gisgo was in control of the entire Republic. He enacted a series of reforms, first dissolving the Council of One-Hundred Forty and forcing all former Councilors into political retirement. Next in its place he formed the Proletariat Judiciary, which was a political body of proletariats which had legislative powers which were nearly equal to the Senate. This effectively ended the tyranny of the Council of One-Hundred Forty and enabled the lower class to protect themselves from the upper class. The creation of the Judiciary balanced out power in the Republic and created a system of checks-and-balances which satisfied both classes and kept the peace from then on.


49 BC

  • January 4: Gisgo Barca receives order from the Senate and Council to return to Carthage to stand trial for misconduct of war and war attrocities.
  • January 16: Word gets back to Carthage Gisgo has crossed the Medjerda and is approaching Carthage
  • February 4: Alahar's retreats to Utica with most of the Senate and Council and begins levying troops
  • February 8: Gisgo arrives in Carthage to settle the political situation and restore order to the city
  • March: Gisgo pursus Alahar to Utica however finds he has sailed for Magna Graecia in Southern Italy with most of the Senate and Council
  • April: Gisgo lands at Tarentum and beings pursuing Alahar, who refuses battle and continues gathering troops
  • Gisgon (Carthaginian July): Gisgo barely avoids catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Capua and manages to escape north.
  • August: Gisgo becomes trapped on the banks of the Tiber and is repulsed twice attempting to cross it. His army begins to starve as his allies attempt to get much needed supplies to him.
  • September: Under pressure Alahar offers battle and at the subsequent Battle of the Tiber Gisgo utterly destroys Alahar's army. Alahar flees to Pontus (in Anatolia) and is murdered
  • November 4: Gisgo arrives in Pontus and learns of Alahar's murder. He orders Pharnaces to withdraw his claim to the Armenian throne.
  • November 25: Pharnaces officially sends his refusal of Gisgo's demands to Gisgo and attacks him at the Battle of Nicopolis. Pharnaces loses and is forced to flee north where he is betrayed and murdered by his own commanders. These commanders sign a treaty with Gisgo shortly afterword.

48 BC

  • February: Attalus the Stern and Helios Baalincor raise a new army in Greece and convince the Greek governors to denounce Gisgo
  • May 3: Gisgo arrives in Greece and lands on the Pelopponnese. Attalus and Helios retreat to Athens in Attica.
  • May 24: Gisgo leads his army to invade Attica however the combined army of Helios and Attica block his advance at the Isthmus of Corinth. At the Battle of Corinth Gisgo defeats Helios and Attica and forces them to flee north
  • Gisgon: Gisgo defeats Attalus and Helios at the Battle of Axios, where Attalus drowns. Helios later commits suicide to avoid capture.
  • September: Gisgo defeats the last resistance in Greece and captures his former lieutenant in Mauritania after the Battle of Pella.

47 BC

  • January: Gisgo learns of Alahar's son, Iosephus, raising an army in Syria. He sets sail with his own army to defeat him.
  • June: Gisgo lands at Tyre and pays his respect to the Phoenician home city before departing to engage Iosephus.
  • Gisgon: Iosephus attacks Gisgo at the Battle of Raphia and decisively defeats his army. Iosephus is captured afterwards however is spared and sent back to Carthage.
  • August: Gisgo returns to Carthage where he is given a triumph and (illegally) is elected Shofet for a period of 10 years.
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