Xanthippus of Carthage

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Xanthippus (Greek: Ξάνθιππος) was a Spartan mercenary general hired by the Carthaginians to aid in their war against the Romans during the First Punic War. He trained Carthaginian soldiers and led them into the Battle of Tunis, where Carthaginian forces routed the Roman expeditionary force and captured the Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus in 255 BC.

Xanthippus is credited with the Carthaginian formation, cavalry split between the two wings, mercenary infantry on their right, with a hastily raised phalanx of civilians in the centre and a line of elephants in front of the infantry, which defeated the Romans formed in their normal formation, with the outnumbered cavalry on the wings and legionary infantry in the centre. He also realised the mistakes the Carthaginians were making by avoiding open ground (because of the Romans' superior infantry) which restricted the Carthaginian cavalry and elephants (the strongest parts of their armies).

Diodorus gives an account of Xanthippus' death. After the Battle of Tunis, Xanthippus stopped in the city of Lilybaeum which was besieged by the Romans. He inspired courage and led an attack defeating the Romans. Jealous of Xanthippus's success, the city betrayed him by giving him a leaky ship and he supposedly sank in the Adriatic Sea on his voyage home. For Lazenby this story is completely implausible. There is a report of a Xanthippus being made governor of a newly acquired province by Ptolemy Euergetes of Egypt in 245 BC.[1]

Silius Italicus writes that Xanthippus was originally from Amyclae in Laconia, but this may as well be an invention for metric convenience.


  1. ^ Lazenby 1996, p. 106.