Battle of Himera
Part of The Sicilian Wars
Date 480 BC
Location Himera
Result Syracuse remains the dominant power in Sicily
Carthaginian expansion into Sicily
Probably less than the Carthaginian forces
300000 (Ancient sources)
50000 (Modern estimates)

The Battle of Himera (480 BC), supposedly fought on the same day as the more famous Battle of Salamis (according to Herodotus 7.166) or on the same day as the Battle of Thermopylae (according to Diodorus Siculus 11.24.1), saw the Greek forces of Gelo, King of Syracuse, and Theron, the sole ruler of Agrigentum, defeating the Carthaginian force of Hamilcar, ending the Carthaginian threat to the Greek colonies on the island.

Hamilcar had led a large army from Carthage, Libya, Iberia, Liguria, Helisycia, Sardinia, and Corsica against the Sicilians.

After winning the battle, Gelon could not find Hamilcar despite exhaustive searching. Herodotus maintains that Hamilcar, unable to obtain a favorable omen during his many sacrifices that day and having heard that his army was on the brink of defeat, leaped into the flames. His body was completely incinerated.

For years afterwards, the Carthaginians offered sacrifices to him and erected monuments of him in their various colonies and a splendid monument in Carthage.

The battle serves as a classic example of ancient greek bias, and the storytelling, literary, anti-barbarian, pro-Greece style of Herodotus. Carthage could not possibly muster a mercenary army of 300000 men, and would not contribute the Carthaginian militia (if it still existed) for the purpose of supporting a dynastic puppet; Theron of Akragas. Theron also most likely had an army of his own. Carthage could muster 50000 men at the most when the city was directly threatened as shown at Zama in 202BC; in which all possible forms of defence was situated in modern Tunisia. On the other hand, when Rome was directly threatened in 216BC, Rome used more populous Italy to still only muster 80000 men into one army. Therefore, it is actually impossible that the trading empire of carthage would send 300000 men for a skirmish-related campaign.

It is likely the army was substantial and strong, but probably at the very most 50000 strong. There is no evidence to support anything like a 300000-strong army, which would have been seen as an army of mythical size. Such an army could not be mustered, and more so, beaten by any ancient army, let along the armies of claimants to small city-states in Greek Sicily. If Hamilcar killed himself prior to the battle's climax, as implied, the Greeks not only won, they anhihilated the gargantuan force.


  • Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Twelve volumes. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989. Vol. 2. Books 2.35–4.58. ISBN 0674993349. Vol. 7. Books 15.20–16.65. ISBN 0674994280. Vol. 10. Books 19.66–20. ISBN 0674994299.
  • Herodotus; Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0674991338. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.

Sicilian Wars
1st Himera  – Crimissus  – 2nd Himera

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