Siege of Curicta, 49 BC

The siege of Curicta (49 BC) was a success for Pompey's supporters against Caesar's governor of Illyria early in the Great Roman Civil War. After taking Rome early in the war Caesar decided to move to Spain to deal with Pompey's most formidable armies, leaving Gaius Antonius (brother of the more famous Mark Anthony) to defend Illyria. He also left a small fleet in the area, under Publius Cornelius Dolabella.

Pompey had command of the seas. His fleets in the Adriatic were commanded by Marcus Octavius and Lucius Scribonius Libo. They drove Caesar's fleet under Publius Cornelius Dolabella out of Dalmatia, and then moved to besiege Antonius, who had taken up a position on the island of Curicta. According to Suetonius Dolabella lost his fleet off Illyricum, although references to a naval battle off Curicta are at best obscure and at worst non-existent in the ancient sources.

Battles of the Great Roman Civil War, 49-45 BC
Battles of the
Great Roman Civil War,
49-45 BC

The most famous incident of the siege is typically obscure. Three rafts were used in an attempt to transport troops between the island and the mainland. Two were successful, but the third was trapped. The Gallic auxiliaries onboard, from Opitergium, fought on for some time but when it was clear that they could not escape killed themselves rather than surrender. Unfortunatly we can't be sure which way these troops were moving - some sources (Cassius Dio) have them attempting to escape from the island, others (Florus) have them attempting to reinforce Antonius.

This left a sizable number of Roman Legionaries trapped on the island, along with Antonius. Eventually starvation forced them to surrender, and most of the troops decided to change sides to support Pompey. One of the more tantalising gaps in Caesar's account of the civil war comes at this point. Later in the text he refers to Titus Pulcio, a centurion who had become famous during the Gallic Wars, 'by whose means we have related that Caius Antonius's army was betrayed'. Sadly the earlier reference, and presumably Caesar's own account of the fighting in the Adriatic, no longer survives. 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 November 2010), Siege of Curicta, 49 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_curicta.html

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