Mercenary War Battles > Battle of "The Saw"

Battle of "The Saw"

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Battle of "The Saw"


Mercenary Rebels




Military Forces

  • 10,000 Infantry
  • 2,000 Cavalry
  • 50,000 Infantry


  • Minimal Losses
  • 45,000 Dead


The Battle of "The Saw" was a major conflict of the Mercenary War that occurred between the Carthaginians and their former mercenary allies during the First Punic War. The name for the battle is derived from the box-like canyon that most of the fighting occurred in. During the previous Battle of Carthage in 238 BC the supply lines of the mercenaries that were besieging Carthage were broken by Hamilcar Barca which forced them to withdraw.

However, as they were retreating the mercenaries realized they had superior numbers over Hamilcar's forces and attempted to engage them in open combat. Hamilcar however, managed to outmaneuver the mercenaries and avoid any direct open conflict with them. Soon he managed to lure the mercenary army near the canyon and quickly ambushed them.

The startled mercenaries fled into the canyon and became trapped. Hamilcar initiated a siege on the canyon and simply waited while the mercenaries starved to death. According to the Greek historian Polybius thousands of the mercenaries starved to death and others even resorted to cannibalism. Knowing their situation was dire the mercenary leaders Spendius, Autaritus, and Zarzas attempted to arrange a surrender with Hamilcar.

However, the Carthaginian general was to have nothing of it and he imprisoned them. After having their leaders captured and left with no other options the weakened mercenaries attempted to fight the Carthaginians but were cut down in short order. In the savage aftermath Hamilcar ordered the immediate execution of the remaining 40,000 mercenaries, probably as an act of retribution and revenge for the 700 Carthaginian prisoners that Spendius had tortured and executed previously.

Mercenary War

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Primary Sources

Polybius, Histories, Book I, 84-85.

Secondary Sources

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