Battle of "The Saw"

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Battle of "The Saw"
Part of Carthage's Mercenary War
Date 238 BC
Location Tunis, Carthage
Result Decisive Carthaginian victory
Carthage Rebel mercenaries
Commanders and leaders
Hamilcar Barca Spendius,
10,000 infantry,
2,000 cavalry
50,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
Minimal 45,000 killed

The Battle of "The Saw" was a major event, mostly a protracted siege rather than a battle in the Mercenary War between Carthage and her former mercenary armies from the First Punic War. It takes its name from its location: a box-like canyon known as "The Saw" because of its shape.

In 238 BC Hamilcar Barca managed to destroy the supply lines of the armies besieging the city of Carthage, forcing them to withdraw. The mercenary armies proceeded to fight a running battle with Hamilcar's forces, attempting to engage and destroy them with their superior numbers. Hamilcar managed to avoid direct confrontation, and to outmaneuver the mercenaries.

Having lured the mercenary armies near "The Saw", he managed to ambush them and the panicked mercenaries fled into the canyon. He then besieged the canyon, and waited. Polybius speaks of thousands of the rebel mercenaries starving, and reports of cannibalism.

Knowing they could not win, the mercenary commanders Spendius, Autaritus, and Zarzas, met Hamilcar in order to arrange a surrender, but Hamilcar had them seized and imprisoned. With no other options, the remaining weakened mercenaries attempted to break the siege and escape, but were swiftly and easily defeated.

Hamilcar then ruthlessly ordered the execution of the remaining 40,000 starving rebels. The rebels under Spendius had previously tortured and executed some 700 Carthaginian prisoners, so this action was probably a form of revenge.