5. Son of Hamilcar Barca, and brother of the famous Harnibal.
He was the youngest of the three brothers, and must have been quite a youth when he accompanied Hannibal into Italy, B. C. 218.
But his whole life had been spent in camps, under the eye of his father or brother, and young as he was, he had already given proofs not only of personal courage, but of skill and judgment in war, sufficient to justify Hannibal in entrusting him with services of the most important character.
The first occasion on which he is mentioned is the passage of the Po, which he effected successfully at the head of the cavalry: according to Caelius Antipater, he and his horsemen crossed the river by swimming. (Liv. 21.47
At the battle of the Trebia shortly afterwards, he was selected by his brother to command the body of chosen troops placed in ambuscade among the thickets of the bed of the river, and by his well-timed attack on the rear of the Roman army contributed mainly to the success of the day. (Plb. 3.71
; Liv. 21.54
; Frontin. Strateg.
2.5.23.) We next find him commanding the rear-guard during the attempt to cross the Apennines, and in the dangerous and toilsome march through the marshes of Etruria. At Cannae he was associated with his brother in the command of the main body of the Carthaginian army: such at least is the statement of Polybius and Livy: Appian, on the contrary, assigns him that of the right wing: in either case, it is clear that he held no unimportant post on that great occasion. (Plb. 3.79
; Liv. 22.2
; Appian. Annib.
After the battle he was detached by Hannibal with a considerable force, to complete the subjugation of Samnium: as soon as he had effected this he marched southwards into Bruttium, and after receiving the submission of many cities in that part of Italy, crossed over in person to Carthage, where he was the first to announce the progress and victories of his brother.
The tidings naturally produced a great effect, and, notwithstanding the opposition of Hanno, the Carthaginian senate came to the resolution of sending powerful reinforcements to Hannibal in Italy.
A force of 12,000 foot and 1500 horse, with twenty elephants and sixty ships, was accordingly assembled, and placed under the command of Mago, but just as he was about to sail intelligence arrived of the alarming state of the Carthaginian affairs in Spain, which induced the government to alter their plan of operations, and Mago, with the forces under his command, was despatched to the support of his brother Hasdrubal in that country, B. C. 215. (Liv. 23.1
; Appian, App. Hisp. 16
; Zonar. 9.2
It is hardly necessary to point out in detail the part borne by Mago in the subsequent operations in Spain, a sketch of which is given under HASDRUBAL, No. 6
. We find him mentioned as cooperating in the siege of Illiturgi (B. C. 215), in the defeat of the two Scipios (B. C. 212), and on several other occasions- (Liv. 23.49
; Appian, App. Hisp. 24
.) His position during these campaigns is not quite clear, but it would seem that though frequently acting independently, he was still in some degree subject to the superior authority of his brother, as well as of Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco: perhaps it was the somewhat ambiguous character of their relations to one another that led to the dissensions and jealousies among the three generals, of which we hear as one of the chief causes that led to the disasters of the Carthaginian arms. (Plb. 10.6
At length, in 209, it was determined at a council of the three generals, held shortly after the battle of Baecula, that while Hasdrubal, the son of Barca, set out on his adventurous march into Italy, Mago and the other Hasdrubal should carry on the war in Spain; the former repairing in the first instance to the Balearic islands, in order to raise fresh levies for the approaching campaign. (Liv. 27.20
The whole of the following year is a blank, so far as the Spanish war is concerned; but in 207 we had Mago in Celtiberia at the head of an army composed mainly of troops levied in that country, but to which Hanno, who had just arrived in Spain, had lately joined his new army of Carthaginian and African troops. Their combined forces were, however, attacked by M. Silanus, one of the lieutenants of Scipio, and totally defeated; Hanno himself was taken prisoner, while Mago, with a few thousand men, effected his escape, and joined Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco, in the south of Spain. Here they once more succeeded in assembling a numerous army, but the next year (B. C. 206) their decisive defeat by Scipio at Silpia [HASDRUBAL
, p. 358] crushed for ever all hope of re-establishing the Carthaginian power in Spain. (Liv. 28.1
; Plb. 11.20
; Appian, App. Hisp. 25
; Zonar. 9.8
After this battle Mago retired to (Gades, where he shut himself up with the troops under his command; and here he remained long after Hasdrubal had departed to Africa, still keeping his eye upon the proceedings of the Romans, and not without hope of recovering his footing on the main land; for which purpose he was continually intriguing with the Spanish chiefs, and even it is said fomenting the spirit of discontent among the Roman troops themselves.
The formidable insurrection of Indibilis and Mandonius, and the mutiny of a part of the Roman army, for a time gave him hopes of once more restoring the Carthaginian power in that country; but all these attempts proved abortive. His lieutenant Hanmo was defeated by L. Marcius, and Mago, who had himself repaired to his assistance with a fleet of sixty ships, was compelled to return to Gades without effecting anything.
At length, therefore, he began to despair of restoring the fortunes of Carthage in Spain, and was preparing to return to Africa, when he received orders from the Carthaginian senate to repair with such a fleet and army as he could still muster to Liguria, and thus transfer the seat of war once more into Italy.
The command was well suited to the enterprising character of Mago; but before he finally quitted Spain he was tempted by intelligence of the defenceless state of New Carthage to make an attempt on that city, in which however he was repulsed with considerable loss. Foiled in this quarter, he returned to Gades, but the gates of that city were now shut against him, an insult he is said to have avenged by putting to death their chief magistrates, whom he had decoyed into his power, under pretence of a conference; after this he repaired to the Balearic islands, in the lesser of which he took up his quarters for the winter. (Liv. 28.23
; Appian, App. Hisp. 31
; Zonar. 9.10
The memory of his sojourn there is still preserved, in the name of the celebrated harbour called Portus Magonis, or Port Mahon.
Early in the ensuing summer Mago landed in Liguria, where he surprised the town of Genoa. His name quickly gathered around him many of the Ligurian and Gaulish tribes, among others the Ingaunes, and the spirit of disaffection spread even to the Etruscans, so that the Romans were obliged to maintain an army in Etruria, as well as one in Cisalpine Gaul, in order to hold him in check. Whether these forces proved sufficient effectually to impede his operations, or that he wasted his time in hostilities against the mountain tribes, in which at one time we find him engaged, our imperfect accounts of his proceedings will not enable us to decide.
It is certain that, though repeatedly urged by messages from Carthage to prosecute the war with vigour, and more than once strengthened with considerable reinforcements, he did not effect anything of importance, and the alarm at first excited at Rome by his arrival in Liguria gradually died away. Meanwhile, the successes of Scipio in Africa compelled the Carthaginians to concentrate all their forces for the defence of their capital, and they at length sent messengers to recal Mago as well as his brother Hannibal from Italy B. C. 203. Just before these orders arrived Mago had at length encountered in Cisalpine Gaul the combined forces of the praetor Quiuctilius Varus and the proconsul M. Cornelius.
The battle, which was fought in the territory of the Insubrians, was fiercely contested, but terminated in the complete defeat of the Carthaginians, of whom 5000 were slain. Mago himself was severely wounded, but effected his retreat to the seacoast among the Ingaunes, where he received the pressing summons of the senate to Carthage.
He immediately embarked his troops, and set sail with them in person, but died of his wound before they landed in Africa. (Liv. 28.46
; Polyb. Frag. Hist.
31; Appian, App. Hisp. 37
9, 31, 32; Zonar. 9.11
.) Such is the statement of Livy and all our other authorities; but Cornelius Nepos, on the contrary, represents him as not only surviving the battle of Zama, but as remaining at Carthage after the banishment of Hannibal, and subsequently co-operating with his brother at the commencement of the war with Antiochus (B. C. 193) in endeavotring to induce the Carthaginians to join in hostilities against Rome.
According to the same author, he was banished from Carthage on this account, and died soon after, being either shipwrecked or assassinated by his slaves. (Corn. Nep. Hann.
It seems probable that the circumstances here related refer in fact to some other person of the name of Mago, whom Nepos has confounded with the brother of Hannibal.