People > Xanthippus of Carthage

Xanthippus of Carthage

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Background

Xanthippus of Carthage, known in Greek as Ξάνθιππος was a famous Spartan mercenary generals that was employed by the Carthaginians during the First Punic War to aid them in their fight against the Roman Republic. He managed to train many Carthaginian soldiers and eventually led them into the successful Battle of Bagradas or the Battle of Tunis. During this engagement the Carthaginians managed to capture the Roman consul named Marcus Atilius Regulus.

Xanthippus is given credit for helping to develop the Carthaginian military where he innovated the Carthaginian formation which split the cavalry into two wings and placed war elephants in front of the infantry. He also incorporated a center phalanx. However, simply by getting rid of incompetent military leaders and utilizing the strongest aspects of the Carthaginian military such as the cavalry and elephants he vastly improved the army.

There are competing accounts regarding the death of Xanthippus. According to Diodorus following the Battle of Tunis he journeyed to Lilybaeum which was under siege by the Romans. According to Diodorus' account he inspired great moral in the defense of the city and led a major offensive against the Romans.

Due to this, the Carthaginians became envious of the Spartan commanders successes and this made the merchants respect, fear and envy him. According to Diodorus the Carthaginians gave him a leaky ship following this which sank, plunging him to his death in the Adriatic Sea as he sailed home. However, others such as Lazenby believe this is account is impossible as it contradicts other accounts which place Xanthippus in the Ptolemaic Kingdom where he was granted a governor position by Ptolemy III Euergetes in 245 BC.

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Bibliography

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Lazenby, John F. (1996). The First Punic War. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781134214228.

[1] Lazenby 1996, p. 106.