), an African who served as a mercenary soldier in the army of the Carthaginians in Sicily during the first Punic war.
In the mutiny which broke out among the mercenaries after their return to Africa, B. C. 241, he took so prominent a part, that he became apprehensive of being singled out for punishment, in case the mutineers should be induced to disband themselves. Hence when Gisco was at length sent to the camp at Tunis, with full powers to satisfy their demands, Matho united with Spendius, a Campanian deserter, who was influenced by similar motives, in persuading the soldiers to reject the proffered terms.
These two leaders quickly obtained so much influence with the mixed multitude of which the army consisted, that the troops would listen to no one else, and Matho and Spendius were soon after formally appointed generals. Their first object was now to render the breach with Carthage irreparable, for which purpose they induced the soldiery to seize on Gisco and the other Carthaginian deputies, and throw them into prison ; after which they proceeded to declare open war against Carthage, and Matho sent messengers to the African subjects of that state, calling upon them to assert their independence.
The latter were easily induced to avail themselves of an opportunity of throwing off a yoke which they had long felt to be galling and oppressive, and almost universally took up arms, thus at once imparting a national character to the rebellion.
The two cities of Utica and Hippo alone refused to join in the revolt, and these were in consequence immediately besieged by the insurgents. Matho and Spendius now found themselves at the head of an army of 70,000 Africans, in addition to the mercenary troops originally assembled; and having the command of the open country, they were abundantly supplied with provisions, while they held Carthage itself effectually blockaded on the land side. Hanno, who was at first appointed to take the command against them, proved no match for troops which had been trained up in Sicily under Hamilcar Barca: the rebels even surprised his camp, and obtained possession of all his baggage.
The great Barca himself now took the field, forced the passage of the Bagrada, and restored the communications of the city with the open country. Hereupon the two leaders separated, and while Spendius undertook to oppose Hamilcar in the field Matho continued to press the siege of Hippo.
But the successes of Hamilcar, and still more the favourable impression produced by the clemency with which he treated those prisoners who had fallen into his hands, began once more to alarm the chiefs of the insurgents, lest the fidelity of their adherents should be shaken. They in consequence determined to render pardon impossible, by involving them all in still deeper guilt; and Spendius and Matho united with a Gaul named Autaritus in urging the soldiers to the execution of Gisco and all the other Carthaginian captives. Not only was this sanguinary resolution carried out, with circumstances of the utmost barbarity, but the rebels refused to give up the dead bodies, and even threatened to treat in like manner any Carthaginian heralds who should for the future be sent to them.
These atrocities quickly led to sanguinary measures of retaliation on the part of the Carthaginian generals, and the war was henceforth marked by a character of ferocity unparalleled in the whole course of ancient history.
Meanwhile, the dissensions between the Carthaginian generals Hamilcar and Hanno prevented their carrying on any effectual operations against the insurgents, and the latter soon after obtained an important accession to their cause in the two powerful cities of Utica and Hippo, which at length abandoned the alliance of the Carthaginians, murdered the garrisons that occupied them, and opened their gates to the rebels. Thus strengthened, Matho and Spendius now ventured to lay siege to Carthage itself; but while they cut off the city from all communications on the land side, they were themselves threatened from without by the army of Hamilcar, who by means of his Numidian horse was now completely master of the open country, and so effectually intercepted their supplies, that they were finally compelled to raise the siege. Not long afterwards Spendius, who had again attempted to oppose Hamilcar in the field, with an army of 50,000 men, was compelled by the superior skill and generalship of his opponent to surrender, and was himself made prisoner, while almost the whole of his army was put to the sword.
This catastrophe was followed by the submission of most of the revolted cities, and Matho, with the remainder of his forces, took refuge in Tunis, where he was closely besieged by Hamilcar on the one side and his new colleague Hannibal on the other.
But the negligence of the latter soon afforded Matho an opportunity of surprising his camp, which he took, with great slaughter, carrying off an immense booty, and Hannibal himself as a prisoner, whom he immediately caused to be crucified, in revenge for the like cruelty inflicted upon Spendius.
This blow compelled Hamilcar to raise the siege of Tunis, but it was the last success obtained by the rebels: a reconciliation being brought about between the two Carthaginian generals, they again took the field in concert, and Matho, after several partial actions, in which he was for the most part worsted, was at length driven to risk a general battle, and was totally defeated.
The greater part of his troops fell on the field, and he himself was made prisoner, and carried in triumph to Carthage, where he was shortly after put to death with every species of indignity. (Plb. 1.69
; Diod. xxv. Exc. Hoesch.
pp. 509, 510, Exc. Vales.
pp. 566, 567, Exc. Vat.
pp. 55, 56 ; Appian, App. Pun. 5