Dilution of Oarcrews with Prisoners of War

Classical Quarterly 38 (01):251- (1988)
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At 10.17.6–16 Polybius relates how Scipio seized the opportunity offered by his capture of New Carthage in 209 B.C. to increase his fleet of quinqueremes by half as much again. There is a briefer passage on the same subject in Livy 26.47.1–3. Polybius says that the total number of prisoners taken was nearly ten thousand, from whom Scipio separated two groups: first citizens, men and women with their young children, and secondly craftsmen. He freed the former, and made the latter, numbering about 2000, public slaves of Rome. In Livy's account women and children are not mentioned; the prisoners are said to be ten thousand free men. As in Polybius, the citizens are said to have been set at liberty and the two thousand craftsmen made public slaves. In Polybius Scipio is said to have selected from all those not in the first two groups ‘the strongest, the fittest looking and the youngest and mixed them up with his own crews. And making the whole body of oarsmen half as many again as before he succeeded in manning the captured ships as well as his own στε τος νδρας κστ σκει βραχ τι λεπειν το διπλασους εναι τος πρχοντας τν προγενομνων, for the captured ships were eighteen in number and the original ships thirty-five’. The corresponding passage in Livy is as follows: ‘the remaining multitude [multitudinem, a word suggesting a larger number than the two former groups together] of young inhabitants and of strong slaves he handed over to the fleet to increase the number of oarsmen . And [an increase was needed because] he had added eight captured ships to the fleet’



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