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Siege of Syracuse (270 BC)

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Siege of Syracuse
Roman battle
Campaign: Roman Conquest of Greece
Date: 270 BC
Place: Syracuse, Sicilia Graecus (present-day Siracusa, Province of Syracuse, Sicily)
Outcome: Roman victory
Combatants

Rome Roman Republic

Sparta Syracuse

Commanders

Scipii Quintus Scipio

Sparta Dionysios of Sparta

Strength

3,340 troops

2,600 troops

Casualties

350 killed

1,350 killed

The Siege of Syracuse by the Roman House of Scipii took place in 270 BC, at the end of which the last Greek city remaining in Italy, Syracuse, fell to the Roman Republic.

Background

The Greeks established themselves in Italy ever since the Trojan War, where Aeneas and some followers fled on ships from burning Troy and established Greek colonies in southern Italy, around 1240 BC. These colonies became known as Magna Graecia, and although they were essentially independent city-states, they cooperated when survival was their number-one focus. The Greek cities were the target of Roman expansion in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, with the mainland Italy Greek cities of Tarquinii, Tarentum, and Croton falling to the Roman Republic in the 320s BC. The Greek Sicilian city of Syracuse, however, remained a threat to Roman superiority, and they allied with Carthage, who had a position on the island in Sicilia Poeni. The Syracusans were aided by the other Greek Cities in the 200s BC when the Kingdom of Macedon and the SPQR began expansion into The Balkans and southern Italy, respectively, and Greek faction heir Dionysios of Sparta became the Governor of Syracuse as of 272 BC. In 270 BC, the Scipii were issued a proclamation from the Roman Senate that ordered them to capture the settlement to drive the Greeks out of Sicily. Their general Quintus Scipio led an army of 3,340 troops from the city of Messana in Sicilia Romanus to besiege the city.

Siege

The Roman infantry deployed in front of the city, with the Greek Peltasts and Hoplite Mercenaries deployed on the flanks in case they decided to retreat due to monetary loss. Quintus Scipio ordered his engineers to construct battering rams and scaling ladders, and the Roman Army sat outside the city for six months, while the Greeks stored their food, provisions, and civilians inside of the castle walls, preparing to withstand the impending Roman attack. The Greeks were incompetent to the Roman army, as their troops faced experienced Hastati infantrymen while their Phalangists were immobile when deployed in a phalanx.

In July 270 BC, the Romans launched the assault that they planned out, and their troops headed up the scaling ladders to get rid of the Greek archers on the walls that could target the battering rams built by the SPQR army. The Greek archers were easily massacred as they were not equipped with any side-weapon except for a small dagger, and the Roman short sword-wielding troops were well-trained and disciplined. After the archers were ridden of, the battering rams proceeded to break down the castle gates. The Roman troops had a free hand in the devastation of the Greek army, and they captured 3,084 civilians, who would be dispersed among governed settlements as slaves for the Romans. The Greeks were forced to capitulate after fierce combat that left 1,350 Greeks and 350 Romans dead on the cobblestone streets, and the last of the Greek colonists were forced to return home to Sparta, Athens, Thebes, or simply blended in with the Italian population and lived lives as Romans. Some were recruited by the Romans in their special Greek legions, made up of hoplites, peltasts, and cavalrymen.

Aftermath

The Greek Cities arranged a ceasefire with the House of Scipii after the fall of Syracuse and a kingdom was established in the city, which would last until 212 BC. The Romans took Syracuse when they allied with Carthage in the Second Punic War, and before then, the Romans had already gained a toehold in the Balkans thanks to the efforts of Flavius Augustus and Tiberius Brutus.

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