Siege of Salonae, 49 BC

The siege of Salonae (49 BC) was an unsuccessful attempt by Pompey's supporters in Illyricum to capture a town that supported Caesar (Great Roman Civil War). In the previous year Marcus Octavius, one of Pompey's supports, had played a part in the defeat of Caesar's forces at Curicta. In the following year Pompey still had the stronger fleet, but that didn't stop Caesar moving his army across the Adriatic from the east coast of Italy. Pompey's fleets moved too late, but they were still able to blockade Mark Antony at Brundusium.

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

While most of Pompey's fleet was involved in this blockade a small part of it, under Marcus Octavius, was sent up the Adriatic towards Dalmatia. The town of Issa changed sides on his approach, but the Roman citizens of Salonae (now Solin, Croatia) held out against him. The city was protected by its natural position on a hill, and the citizens built a number of wooden towers to reinforce the defences. When their numbers began to fall they set at liberty all of the slaves old enough to fight. According to Caesar they also cut off their women's hair and used it to make rope for siege engines.

Octavius responded by building five camps around the city and preparing for a regular siege. The blockade can't have been very effective, for the citizens were able to get messengers out to Caesar to ask for corn, and the siege seems to have carried on for some time. Eventually the defenders decided to risk everything in an attack on Octavius's camps. The woman and children took up positions on the walls in an attempt to convince Octavius that the walls were still manned. This allowed the defenders of the town and their newly freed slaves to launch an attack on one of the enemy camps. This was a total success, and they then moved on to attack each of the remaining four camps in turn, each time successfully. Octavius and the survivors were forced to flee back to their ships and abandon the siege, eventually making their way to Pompey's camp at Dyrrachium.

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

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