Titus Livius XXIII 40 writes: «(In Sardinia Titus Manlius praetor) Cum his equitum peditumque copiis profectus (a Karalibus) in agrum hostium haud procul ab Hampsicorae castris castra posuit. Hampsicora tum forte profectus erat in Pellitos Sardos ad iuventutem armandam qua copias augeret; filius nomine Hostus castris praeerat. Is adulescentia ferox temere proelio inito fusus fugatusque». Gian Domenico Mazzoccato’s translation: ‘In Sardegna, il pretore Tito Manlio partì da Càgliari con questa massa di cavalieri e fanti, e pose il campo in territorio nemico non lontano dall’accampamento di Amsicora. Caso volle che in quel periodo Amsicora fosse partito per arruolare dei giovani presso i Sardi Pelliti, nell’intento di rinforzare il suo esercito. A comandare gli accampamenti era suo figlio Hosto il quale, fatto spavaldo dalla giovane età, venne sconsideratamente a battaglia ma fu sbaragliato e messo in fuga’. In English: ‘In Sardinia, Titus Manlius praetor left Caralis with this mass of knights and infantrymen, and placed his camp in enemy territory not far from Ampsicora’s camp. It happened that Ampsicora at that time had left to enroll young people by Sardinians Pelliti, in order to strengthen his army. To command the camp was his son Hosto who, defiant from a young age, came thoughtlessly into battle but was routed and put to flight”.
My second period translation is as follows: ‘Caso volle che in quel tempo Amsicora fosse andato ad (arruolare) soldati professionali al fine di dare nerbo ai suoi giovani e con ciò rinvigorire l’esercito’, ‘It happened that Ampsicora had gone to (recruit) professional soldiers (pellitos Sardos) in order to reinforce his young men and thereby reinvigorate his army’.
This established, it’s now necessary to shed some light on the millennial question of “Sardinians Pelliti”. Livius writes Pellitos Sardos, not Sardos Pellitos, and this construction already makes one meditate. The fact is that every historian, every philologist has always interpreted Pellitos Sardos as ‘Sardinians dressed in skins’, moreover generalizing, that is, promoting to the world Livius wanted to see “Sardinians all dressed with sheep or goat skins”. But this, in addition to being an illicit generalization, moreover a result of pure ignorance, as we can easily perceive, is a translation intentionally connected only to Lat. pellis ‘skin’ despite other available translation. This interpretative uni-directionality produced a very banal epithet since dressing of skins was never a national costume anywhere in the world, although it was of normal use in Sumer, in Mongolia, among Vikings and among Jews, in Sardinia, and even in Rome where they notoriously wore skins even among banner-bearers and the participants in Lupercàlia, that is in addition to shepherds.
It’s all too easy to rest in an apathetic ambiguity when we talk about “pelliti”. An ambiguity that has been floating and confusing us for two millennia, and the one which had even confused Marcus Tullius Cicero, who took the opportunity to cynically link the idea of ”skins” to the “physical dirt” and even to “moral dirt” of Sardinians, none excluded (Pro Scauro 22.46).
In an attempt to clarify the whole issue, the first obstacle to be removed is Sardinian surname Pillitu, coincidentally identical to Livian epithet pellitus. Well, in southern Campidano pillitu indicates “female sexual organ, vagina”. Massimo Pittau, in writing a book on Sardinian Surnames, did not think twice about ruling this surname means ‘pussy’. And since each surname is nothing more than an ancient personal name, Pittau did not even realize the enormity of his affirmation, given that neither a mother, nor a father would ever have called their daughter “Figa, Pussy”, let alone his son1.
Furthermore, in this investigation it’s also necessary to investigate Sardinian surname Pili, Pilo, which seems to contain the same root as surname Pillitu and Livian Pellitus. Let’s face it, Pilo has the same base as Lat. pīlum ‘assault javelin’ (it was the deadly Roman rod for up-close use, pulled just before the body-to-body contact): it’s difficult to find another meaning. Clearly, originally Pilo was a virile Sardinian name, not necessarily originating from Rome. Lat. verb pellĕre ‘to beat, strike’ is also connected to this root. See also Camp. impellidóri ‘fire poker’, as well as impetta, ampetta ‘spinta, push, shove’ (cfr. Lat. pĕtere ‘cercar di colpire, to hit, strike’).
In approaching the true meaning of Pellitus, another important consideration must be made: Livius clearly distinguishes the Sardinians already involved in Ampsicora’s block (undoubtedly not-pelliti) and Sardinians whom he goes after (i.e. pelliti), who undoubtedly were contacted not so much to constitute a numerical reinforcement, but because they were people well-trained in fighting, compared to Arborèa young people involved in Ampsicora’s events. Pelliti dwelled elsewhere, far from Arborèa, they did not feel directly invested by Romans, the invaders of Sardinia cereal territories, but – here is a peculiar detail – they held a rank or profession different from the Arborean peasants and fishermen ones.
The asphyxiated and monolithic fixity in considering “Sardi Pelliti” as “Sardinians dressed in skins” leaves no way out if we do not follow other and more fruitful ways of interpretation. Following those ways involves first of all breaking the ideological bond expressed by the short-sighted and odd theory that the Sardinian language derived from Latin; by virtue of this theory, no other interpretation on Sardinian lexicon would be valid. Well, to detriment of the affiliates of this theory, I observe it has led them to such exhaustion, that it didn’t even allow them to weave a simple reasoning, which is this: keeping firmly themselves on “Sardinian < Latin” theory, academics should have noticed pelliti strangely resemble Lat. velītes (I remember Sardinian’s tendency to double -l- before -ī-); and if Lat. velītes is an adjectival, I don’t see why pelliti shouldn’t be too. Roman velītes were a ‘special army-corps made up of soldiers ready for very rapid incursions out of the normal ranks’ (Livy XXI 55), normally armed with two rods, i.e. pīli, with which they often managed to vanquish the entire enemy’s army front. If some reader is not entirely convinced of identity pelliti-velītes because of an annoying v-, then I remind them velītes take their name from pīlum ‘lance, spear’, which – coincidentally – has the same initial p- as pelliti. In Latin those deadly pīla are also called velitares hastae, ‘assault spears’ (i.e. ‘spears in use to velīti’).
In Italian language the name of dangerous pīlum survives in verrettòni (still an exchange p- > v-, and vice versa an exchange /l/ > /r/). In Middle Ages they constituted ‘arrows to be thrown by hand or with a crossbow’, a ‘type of very long and robust arrows’.
At this point I truly hope that among Latinists to whom I address my reasong, there will be none who, after being convinced thanks to the evidence here shown, would choose to defend the out-dated theory, and keep saying that Sardinian pelliti is deriving strictly from Lat. velītes, since nothing of what has been handed down from history in this regard suggests Sardinian term depending on a Roman one. Instead, it’s necessary to postulate a common root to these two words, issued in mutual millenary autonomy, a root which can be observed primarily in the archaic Egyptian language. But watch out for the Egyptian language! It’s necessary to know its grammar well and be warned Egyptians were refractory to /L/: wherever it nestled, they inexorably assimilated it to /R/.
So the etymological basis of pelliti-velītes is Eg. peri ‘fighting man, warrior, mighty man of war’, perru ‘those who come out or go out, attackers’, perå ‘he who attacks’, per-ā ‘war, bravery’, ‘hero, mighty man, warrior, fighter, soldier’, per-t ‘battlefield’, ‘vigour, strength, attack’, perti ‘mighty one, might, strength, a professional soldier’; per-ā ḥa-t ‘hero, brave man’, per ḥa-t ‘a bold, brave man’. More precisely, Pelliti should be compared with Eg. perti ‘a professional soldier’ and also with Eg. per ḥa-t ‘bold, brave man’. Here is solved the mystery of Pelliti, of Sardinian surname Pillitu too, of surname Pilo, Pili too, as well as of Velītes themselves.
This opportunity also allows Sardinian surnames Pira, Piras to be relocated in this semantic area. The variant -r- replaces -l- in Pilo, Pili; unfortunately the greater or lesser Egyptian phonetic heritage in Sardinia is no longer easily measurable. It’s especially evident among Sassarians (who change every /L/ in /R/), a little evident also among the people of Càgliari; but a /L/ pronounced almost like the uvular /R/ of Parisians still survives in Quartu and in several other villages of southern Sardinia. But it’s now certain that within this generation the uvular pronunciation of /L/, increasingly faded, will disappear from southern Sardinia. Moreover, very often the /e/ commonly expressed by Egyptologists to fill the vowel void of Egyptian consonant spelling, in Sardinia it reappears as /i/.
Barbaricini. Within this renewed context, the hasty several days journey made by the moneyed Ampsìcora suggests Pelliti to be enlisted dwelled far from Arborèa, certainly in the same area where Barbaricini were settled (or, which is the same, in the large Ilienses’ territory). We cannot underestimate the aid of etymology in clarifying this topic. Equal help is given by interpretation.
First of all, it should be clarified once and for all Barbaricìni is a Sardinian compound based on Akk. arbu ‘(mountain) waste, harsh, uncultivated’ + rīqu(m) ‘free’ + enu ‘sir, lord’ (arba-rīq-enu construct state > [b]arbarikinu > barbaricínu). The synthetic meaning is ‘free lord of mountains’. In fact, it’s known Romans had full use only of plain or hilly territories, but not of mountain territory pertinent to Ilienses, which constitue the central-eastern mountainous axis of Sardinia.
Ilienses. Even ethnic Ilienses indicates a people who lived in those same internal mountains of Sardinia. It matters little if Romans really believed in Ilienses’ Trojan origin. If we admit they believed it, a strong suspicion arises: why did Romans, instead of ingratiating themselves in all ways with this “sister population” and making them – as they say – “golden bridges”, fought it with no holds barred and means? Actually Ilienses has etymological basis in Sum. ili ‘man’ + en ‘lord, ruler (i.e. free)’ + še ‘a quality of milk’: ili-en-še ‘free people producing milk X’ (obviously it was the Pecorino romano, which means ‘mountains sheep’s milk’, cf. Heb. rōmēm ‘high’, rūm ‘height, altitude’).
We observe the ethnic Barbaricini gives some information on the socio-economy of these ‘free lords of mountains’. In turn, the ethnic Ilienses integrates these informations by specifying mountain dwellers produced sheep’s milk. A third piece of information is given by adjectival Pelliti, so we know these mountaineers, perhaps by overpopulation or by mere tradition, trained warriors who at any time could be hired for any given conflict. This type of socio-economy reverberates somewhat the one implemented by Spartans for many centuries, who for a long time supplied the best warriors and generals in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, hired as mercenaries, especially after the Persian Wars. For example, let’s read the final episode of Anabasis, where Spartan strategós Tibrone, looking for good fighters to make war against Tissaferne and Farnabazo, hired “in a closed box” all veterans of “The 10,000” led by Xenophon, considering them expert and very hardened after the endless flight that had brought them to Aegean through endless victorious clashes in Persian territory.
Lacking historical evidence, it’s impossible to draw a parallel between Spartans of the Hellenic decadence and Ilienses of the Nuragic decadence, these ones remainders of famous wars brought into the East by Sea Peoples (and by Shardana people) in the mid-second millennium BCE. (in full Nuragic splendor). But we can safely interpret the inevitable throng of those wars, organized in waves, was the establishment of a “martial” tradition that allowed Shardana (Pelliti) to always offer new combat-trained men.
Berrùda. Now we cannot conclude this discourse on Sardi Pelliti without regaining the Sardinian word berrùda, which has the same root and the same contents. The occasion allows us to note, like in hundreds of other Sardinian words, this one comes in Sardinian speech with /R/ while similar words retain /L/. Log. Berùdu is similar to It. ‘verruto’, ‘iron pitchfork’ (ancient weapon used by Sardinians). In general, berrúdu, berúdu is like It. surname Berruti, a word to designate the ancient weapon (see Statuti Sassaresi III, 11 (85 r): o uirga ouer verrutu o maça de ferru ‘o verga o verruto o mazza di ferro’, ‘either rod or verrutu or iron mace’). In order to discuss the etymology of this word, we should simply examine attentively the term berrùda, which in anc. Camp.-Log. documents is often found in the phrase kita de verruta (CSMB 2); qujda de berruda (CdL 52 (16 v); 53 (17 v), which was, according to Spano’s explanation, ‘the council of elders’, “so said because they brought the verruto (see berúdu) to judge” (citation by Wagner DES I, 198).
According to Wagner, this voice is equivalent to Lat. verutus, verrutus (a kind of javelin whose name already appears in Ennius, reappears in Marius’ time, is then mentioned by Dionysius of Halicarnassus during the Empire, and finally by Vegetius in 4th century2). Of this judging panel Paulis discussed for several dozen pages, leading the reader – through a very tiring exhibition worthy of a better cause – to share with him some absurd and disastrous etymologies, whose triumphant outcome would be kita equivalent to neighborhood (the fourth part of a city which for a week a month had to call a guard service (sic!: see SMS 26); while berruda would be precisely the dangerous rod, the dangerous pitchfork (which we discussed in Berúdu voice). So every linguist of “Romance” tradition have inherited, thanks to Giulio Paulis, the belief those judges entered armed into the Sanhedrin, and Sanhedrin took its particular name from this javelin (sic!).
Instead, the question cannot be resolved in this way, since the etymological basis of denomination kita de verruta lies, as for kita, in Sum. ki ‘place, settlement’ + tu ‘leader’; therefore originally ki-tu indicated the ‘elders’, the ‘village optimates’, who by their nature were called to judging and administrative colleges. Etymology of verruta is in turn based on Akk. bērūtum (a collegium of officials) < bērum ‘selected’; also ‘elite of soldiers’; ‘an administrative body’. So kita de berruda (or verruta) literally calls an ‘administrative or judicial body chosen from the local elders, especially from the military caste’.
Ilienses mastrucati. We mentioned further on the dislike of M. Tullius Cicero against Sardinians Pelliti, preferably called by him Sardinians mastrucati. Attilio Mastino3 writes rightly «a Trojan origin for Ilienses must obviously be excluded, given that it was possible to ascertain a learned paretimology for this people’s name, to refer to the end of Republican age, however dating back to the period prior to Sallustius’ Historiae: Sardinian Ilienses, moreover, had been known to Romans for at least two centuries, since the campaign of Marcus Pinarius Rusca in 181 BC., when they had rebelled together with Corsicans. Pomponius Mela expressly states Ilienses are the oldest people in Sardinia (in ea populorum antiquissimi sunt Ilienses) and therefore it’s certainly a local tribe, almost certainly “autochthonous” and barbaric; I believe they must therefore refer to an indigenous or better Barbaricinus area … On the other side, a Greek origin of Ilienses must also be excluded».
Mastino continues his speech on Ilienses stating «the name of Sardi Pelliti seems to refer to mastruca, the typical inland Sardinian clothing, so despised by Cicero, who speaks of mastrucati latrunculi for the victories of Albucius and of pelliti testes for the trial against proconsul Scaurus; Ninfodorus Syracusanus, who wrote during the Hellenistic age, says Sardinia is an extraordinary land of herds and there are goats whose skins natives use as clothing; and that, always in these same skins, the woolly hairs are long, etc.»
Mastino also writes: «More explicitly Isidore, taking up Cicero and Jeronimus in the seventh century, specifies: mastruca autem dicta, quasi monstruosa, eo quod qui eam induuntur, quasi in ferarum habitum transformentur». Mastino goes on, even mentioning the grim Isidore’s definition, and assumes Gurulesi (current Cuglieritani) dressed with goatskin, also by virtue of the fact Lamarmora himself 170 years ago recalls the curious fact in Montiferru all shepherds always dressed with sheepskin.
Undoubtedly the use of skins noticed by Lamarmora was almost wide among Sardinian shepherds, not everywhere, however, least of all in Barbàgia. I too happened to find shepherds dressed in this way in some area of Sardinia; with mastruca are also the shepherds of the great painter Giuseppe Biasi. The use of this overcoat came to an end only a few decades ago, also because nowadays the nomadic sheep farming on Sardinia has disappeared and breeders have become citizens to all intents and purposes.
Etymology of mastruca has never been investigated, and obviously the goodwill of Isidore of Seville, a great investigator of meanings of the ancient knowledge but unfortunately without adequate tools, is not enough. However the etymology is useful to better delineate the function of this historic coat. The etymologic basis is Sum. maš ‘twin’ + tur ’illness, disease’ + kar ‘to flee, escape, remove’. Originally maš-tur-kar meant ‘double removal of malaise’, or ‘(garment that) removes two ailments’ (i.e. the big chill and mosquitos stings).
I pledge to account for this etymology, starting with a fundamental consideration: it would be very strange if shepherds used mastruca everywhere, even in summer. Although the extremely warm wool was turned to outside, it not means that the heavy burden clothing lightened the heat of sun: it was much easier for a shepherd to find shelter under the myriad of trees that once dotted every region in Sardinia, including Arborèa. For example, leaning against those ponds was the large Sant’Anna’s forest, which was set on fire by the Piedmonteses to drive out bandits. I repeat, we need to better understand the role of this double-faced overcoat. In my opinion, its role was twofold: 1. keeping warm in winter, and this was useful for transhumant mountain shepherds, who did not even have a hut because of their constant moving; in addition, the mobility in foreign lands exposed them to thefts and robbers, so the shepherd, isolated but armed with a rifle, was alert day and night, forced to be in the open air and to listen to every rustle of foliage (these situations have also been verified by me); 2. The second role of mastruca was to protect from summer mosquitoes, i.e., to escape malaria, from which the island was infested mainly along the large lagoon regions of Arborèa and Càgliari. Those who still linger to say that Sardinians ignored transmission of malaria through mosquitoes, do not know what they say, and do nothing but repeat stale considerations made by any “learned” people. Moreover, it’s still Giuseppe Biasi who painted the shepherds almost all abundantly bearded. For a shepherd who took refuge with his flock at night in the nearby village, mastruca, beard and cap were sufficient to defend himself against anopheles during the day.
So we have to divide past shepherds into two categories: a) those of mountains, who descended numerous on the plains only in winter (when malaria subsided); b) the few sedentary shepherds of the great marshy plains, which were historically exploited by some shepherds from the neighboring villages (or by some daring Barbarician), as the lagoon plains did not lend themselves to agriculture. These malarial plains, sacrificed to inculture despite feracity, were a well-known phenomenon, and lasted in that state until the recent agrarian reform of twentieth century, which for Sardinia was a real revolution.
So Cicero’s brother in Sardinia rightly saw Sardos mastrucatos everywhere, and referred this wonder to his brother Tullius. Quintus did not travel through Barbàgia, because this mountaineous areas were still untamed (they belonged to Sardi Pelliti), but he only visited the granary areas as well as the lagoon areas where, together with fishermen, both in winter and in summer paradoxically lived rare local shepherds.
M. Tullius Cicero – drunk with racism and colonial fury – called pelliti testes the 120 Sardinians who had come to Rome confident of having justice over Scaurus. But it’s better to re-read the piece (21.45): Haec cum tu effugere non potuisses, contendes tamen et postulabis ut M. Aemilius cum sua dignitate omni, cum patris memoria, cum avi gloria, sordidissimae, vanissimae, levissimae genti ac prope dicam pellitis testibus condonetur? ‘And since you (Triarius, the accusing lawyer chosen by Sardinians) will not be able to reply my comments, you will still have the courage to argue Aemilius Scaurus with his high prestige, with the memory of his father, with the glory of his ancestor, must be sacrificed to these dirty people, I was going to say, to these witnesses covered with skins?’.
It would be hard to believe that 120 Sardinian witnesses, so erudite as to perfectly understand Latin and able to present themselves to testify at the rostrums, had gone to Rome wearing a (non-existent) “national costume”. Cicero was an acrid enemy of Sardinians who, according to him, had not yet become friends with the Roman people after 180 years (see ch. 12.44). Besides Cicero had the judging embodiment – obviously Roman – on his side, and he could even afford to openly mock the 120 Sardinians in the forum, assuming an impressive arrogance for us moderns, rendered tetragonal by the invulnerability that gave him the same Roman power, dominating and mastering Mediterranean. Cicero associated the concept of mastrucati with that of “cave ferinity”, but it’s the entire Pro Scauro oration repeatedly punctuated by the observation all Sardinians have Phoenician origin, therefore Punic origin, therefore they were a race of liars. And already in the previous passage (21:45), in one of his famous “crescendo”, Cicero had reiterated the idea of ferinity of this people with the phrase Quem purpura regalis non commovit, eum Sardorum mastruca mutavit? “If he (Scaurus) remained honest in face of the royal purple, why Sardinians’ mastruca made him change his way of life?”.
In short, Cicero, pompous of Romanism and cynically sold to the highest bidder, shows an authentic obsession with mastruca, pointing it out as an unequivocal sign of primitive and asocial life; moreover, he was completely obsessed by Sardi Pelliti, a further derogatory appellation in its ambiguity and yet famous, given that is used as a precise historical name, without racist fever, by Titus Livius (XXIII 40), who was of Gallic origins and would not have ever dared to notice something regrettable in this adjectival. It was precisely the pen of this historian, capable of skeletal but very effective sentences, that handed down to posterity an ethnic qualification of which the interpretation leaves no doubt.
1 Common Campidanian word pillìtu is the same as Log. piscítu ‘vagina, vulva’. Puddu identifies pillítu indifferently with the sexual organ of babies and girls; until half a century ago in Logudoro and in Sàssari the two organs were indifferently indicated with piscìta, regardless of the age of man and woman. Both terms confirm each other and have the same etymological basis, which is Akk. pištu, piltu ‘abuse, scandal’ (so called because the nakedness of this organ was taboo among Semites). The most ancient base, however, is Sumerian, from piš ‘rhyme, gorge, rift’ + tu ‘spell’: piš-tu means ‘rhyme of spells’ (referring to female organ: a whole program). Therefore piscítu is not at all onomatopoeic, as Wagner proposes, nor does it derive from It. pìscio ‘urine’.
2 Note by Giulio Paulis: Studies on Medieval Sardinian 59.
3 (I Sardi Pelliti del Montiferru o del Marghine e le origini di Hampsicora, in G. Mele (ed.), Santu Lussùrgiu: dalle origini alla “Grande Guerra”, Vol. 1 Ambiente e storia, Nuoro 2005, pp. 141-166).
After Trasimeno’s defeat (21 June 217 BC), the Second Punic War threatened a tragic epilogue to Roman power. In the last attempt to escape, Quinctus Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator for the second time, becaming famous as ‘Temporizer’, Cunctator. Although at the cost of losing most of his Italian allies, he let the entire peninsula be plundered, devastated and occupied, abandoning it in the hands of Hannibal for the sole purpose of keeping Punics away from Rome. The city was now isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded by atrocious devastations. Wheat, among a thousand perils, came from Sicily and Sardinia.
On the same day of his re-election, the Dictator summoned the Senate (Livy XXII 9) and said d’amblée Gaius Flaminius consul had undergone Trasimeno’s defeat «more for his neglect of rites and omens than for recklessness and incompetence. It was therefore necessary to consult gods themselves to know how to atone for their resentment. He managed to get decemviri sacris faciundis to be asked to consult Sibylline Books, a procedure never deliberated except when terrible wonders were announced. Decemviri, having examined the prophetic books, reported to senators the vow made to Mars for that war (in Spain) 1 had been carried out in an irrational way, and had to be repeated all over again and with greater solemnity. Besides it was necessary to make a vow of great games to Jupiter and temples to Venus Ericina and to the Mind; moreover it was necessary to organize a supplication and a lectisternium, as well as taking a vow of a vēr sācrum if Romans had been fought successfully and the republic had been, after the war, in the same condition as it was before the war (aedes veneri Erycinae ac Menti vovendas esse, et supplicationem lectisterniumque habendum, et vēr sācrum vovendum si bellatum prospere esset)».
Immediately after in chap. 10 Livy continues: «Having completed these senatorial resolutions, the pontifex maximus Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, following a consultation with the college made by Praetor, expresses the opinion that, first of all, the people should be consulted about the vēr sācrum because this is a matter of a vow that cannot be made without people’s permission. The proposal was made to the people according to this formula: “Do you want and order that these rites take place in this way? If Roman people’s republic of Quirites is saved in the next five years, as I (pontifex maximus) would like it to be saved, from these wars, from the war Roman people have with Carthaginians, from the war with the Gauls who stay on this side of Alps, then Roman people of Quirites give as a gift: everything the vēr will produce of pigs, sheep, goats, oxen; everything not usually consecrated to gods to be sacrificed to Jupiter from the day senate and Roman people will have fixed (tum donum duit populus Romanus Quiritium quod vēr attulerit ex suillo ovillo caprillo bovillo grege quaeque profana erunt Iovi fieri, ex qua die senatus populusque iusserit…)».
Before continuing this discussion, even out of mere curiosity, I invite you to observe how Quinctus Fabius was a shrewd politician; as such he was capable of first recalling, up to exasperation, the duty of religious habitus, in the awareness people have never ceased, in ong millennia since the dawn of civilization, to soothe their misfortunes with the superstitious placebo of sacred rituals. In that moment of danger he recognized the usual scenography of novenas, processions, supplications, lectisternia was not enough, while something strong and unusual was needed. What more magnificent and imaginative rite than a vēr sācrum, that is, a sacralized exodus of young Romans to far lands? And this, mind you, in spite of the undoubted fact that Hannibalic Wars were causing a very strong hemorrhage of young blood in Rome, such as to deeply undermine the stability and even the survival of the city. Moreover, Rome had never felt a need for sacred migrations, because since its foundation the demographic expansion was amply compensated, as well as by the death in war of hundreds of thousands of young people, even with a deduction of colonies, which in the time of Hannibal were already twelve.
The Cunctator was cynically aware that removing Hannibal from Rome meant compensating it with so many massacres and famines in every allied city, in the myopic and indolent expectation that in five to ten years Roman women would offer new youth to the inexhaustible carnage of war, which would have dwelt obsessively because of the infamous “hedgehog strategy”, since Hannibal explicitly wanted to take Roma’s place in creating an empire: such a replacement had first to take place in Italy. That hallucinated temporizing was also reproached by Scipio the African (Livy XXVIII 40-44) who, made strong rather than frightened by the defeat and death in battle of his father and uncle, with intelligent and audacious strategy reconquered the whole of Spain and brought the war directly to Africa, instead of suffering it in Italy. In that historical climate, the proposal of a vēr sācrum could only arise from a paranoid mind, seconded by decemviri’s and pontifex-maximus’ cowardice.
Dwelling first of all on the mention relating to the herds to be sacrificed in the hypothetical “spring”, it should be noted that there are rare sheep and goats available in spring. For example, according to a millenary pastoral custom, sheep in Sardinia (and in the rest of Italy) are impregnated by the male as soon as the pastures begin to turn green with the first autumn rains. As a result, the lambs are born almost two months before Christmas. Likewise the kids. Sheep and goats, as soon as they are deprived of their babies, are again impregnated by the male, so that other lambs and kids are born before Easter. Having also consumed the Easter rite and Spring has begun, other lambs are certainly born before the summer vegetable break, but they are (and were) no longer destined for the altars (for the Christmas and Easter rite) but to reintegrate the flock. We know that the two rites of the beginning of the year and the beginning of spring, albeit with a changed name, were also in force in Rome, and there was also the planned reintegration of the flock in the rest of the year. It seems strange that the pontifex maximus ordered the Roman people to further diminish the remaining flocks as soon as Punic terror ceased, since calamities and famines induced by invaders had to be urgently compensated by new births, so that Roman and Italian economy was put back in order (so Livy himself teaches in several parts of his Ab Urbe condita). The pontiff and the decemviri were not inexperienced people and, as landowners, they were experts in agricultural economics.
Gian Domenico Mazzoccato, the translator of Livy, comments that vēr sācrum was “a rite of Sabine origin according to which everything was born in the spring following that vote was consecrated to the gods: animals were sacrificed and human beings were sent, as soon as become adults, to create a new colony”.
Mazzoccato’s translation and commentary deserve further attention regarding the vēr sācrum, which is misinterpreted by all scholars as “holy spring”. Dwelling first of all on the mention relating to the herds to be sacrificed in the hypothetical “spring”, it should be noted that there are rare sheep and goats available in spring. For example, according to a millenary pastoral custom, sheep in Sardinia (and in the rest of Italy) are impregnated by the male as soon as the pastures begin to green again with the first autumn rains. As a result, the lambs are born almost two months before Christmas. Likewise the kids. The sheep and goats, as soon as they are deprived of their babies, are again impregnated by the male, so that other lambs and kids are born before Easter. Having also consumed the Easter rite and Spring has begun, other lambs are certainly born before the summer vegetable break, but they are (and were) no longer destined for the altars for the Christmas and Easter rites but to reintegrate the flock. We know that the two rites of the beginning of the year and the beginning of spring, albeit with a changed name, also existed in Rome, and the planned reintegration of the flock was also in force for the rest of the year. It seems strange that the pontiff maximum ordered the Roman people to further diminish the remaining flocks as soon as the Punic terror ceased, since the calamities and famines induced by the invader had to be urgently compensated by new births to put the economy of Rome back on track and of Italy (so Livio himself teaches in several parts of his Ab Urbe condita). The pontiff and the decemvirs were not inexperienced people and, as landowners, they were experts in agricultural economics.
It goes without saying the Latinists’ interpretation of a “sacred spring” (in the part relating to gifting of animals) commanded for the time immediately following the defeat of Hannibal, has weak methodological props. Then the period ending deserves attention: quaeque profana erunt Iovi fieri, which seems having to be read as a closing gloss: ‘everything is not consecrated should be attributed to Jupiter’. As if to say that, of every good owned, a good part belonged to vēr sācrum, the remainder belonged to the temple of Jupiter Capitoline.
The lucky Romans who escaped the expulsion would not have owed anything: they would have been left without flocks, as well as without agricultural food.
The first sentence also deserves attention: quod vēr attulerit ex suillo ovillo … ‘what vēr will do, that is, will produce as pigs, sheep …’. I wonder why the subject of the subordinate should be the “Spring”. Why ignore that almost every lexeme of ancient languages (and even of new ones) is a polysemic formula, as such legible even with other etymology, therefore with other semantics? There is confusion on several levels about vēr sācrum, and its etymology must be recovered to illuminate it somewhat.
Dionysius of Alicarnassus, a contemporary of Livy, also writes of the vēr sācrum. From the translation of Les Belles Lettres we read: «1. The first settlement of [Italian] Aborigines, it is said, takes place precisely in this region, after they had driven out the Umbrians. Then, starting from there, they made war on all the Barbarians and in particular on the Siculi, who were their neighbors, in order to conquer their territory. At the beginning it was a group of consecrated young people who left, a handful of men sent by their own parents in search of means of subsistence: they thus obeyed an ancient custom that I know was widely followed by both the Barbarians and the Greeks. 2. Whenever the cities of one or the other experienced an increase in population such that territory resources were no longer sufficient to feed the entire people, or that earth devastated by climate change no longer provided the habitual productions, or that some event of this kind, better or worse, befell these cities, forced them to reduce the number of their inhabitants, they consecrated to one of their gods all the men born in the same year and, after having armed them, they sent them out of their homeland: if it was a question of giving thanks to the gods for a population abundance or it was a victorious outcome of a war, it was after having made the ritual sacrifices and having escorted their colonists under favorable auspices; but if, victims of gods’ wrath, they begged them to ward off the evils that afflicted them almost returning to (the results of) the same ceremony, they had to leave in affliction and praying those who forced them to go». In Greek, for a comparison, I propose paragraph 2: Οπότε γάρ ϵις όχλου πλῆθος επίδοσιν αι πόλεις τισί λαβοῖεν ὥστε μηκέτι τὰς οικείας τροφάς ἅπασιν εἶναι διαρκεῖς, ἢ κακωθεῖσα ταῖς ουρανίοις μεταβολαῖς ἡ γῆ σπανίους τούς ειωθότας καρπούς εξενέγκειεν, ἢ τοιόνδε τι πάθος ἄλλο τάς πόλεις κατασχόν εἴτε ἄμεινον εἴτε χεῖρον ανάγκην επιστήσειε μειώσεος τοῦ πλήθους, θεῶν ὅτῳ δή καθιεροῦντες ἀνθρώπων ετείους γονάς ἐξέπεμπον ὅπλοις κοσμήσαντες ἐκ τῆς σφετέρας, εἰ μέν ὑπέρ εὐανδρίας ἢ νίκης ἐκ πολέμου χαριστήρια θεοῖς αποδιδοῖεν, προθύοντες ἱερά τά νομιζόμενα εὐφήμοις οἰωνοῖς τάς ἀποικίας προπέμποντες, εἰ δ’ἐπί μηνίμασι δαιμονίοις ἀπαλλαγάς αἰτούμενοι τῶν κατεχόντων σφᾶς κακῶν τό παραπλήσιον δρῷεν, αὐτοί τε ἀχθόμενοι καί συγγνώμονας αξιοῦντες γίνεσθαι τούς απελαυνομένους.
Through Dionysius we perceive vēr sācrum (not quoted by him with these words) was not undertaken without collective anguish and was decided only in extremis. In the Mediterranean sea, the vēr sācrum of TYrrhenus is famous (Herodotus, Stories I, 94), who left Lydia, impoverished, only nineteen years after the onset of the famine. The exodus became doubly heartbreaking if, living in a territory bordered by other ethnic groups jealous of their possessions, people was forced to cross seas or deserts and go very far from the homeland, as happened to Tyrrhenus and Moses (Exodus), not to speak of Elisa-Dido’s forced exodus from Tire: Carthage was founded amidst extreme difficulties; not to speak of Aeneas’ even more forced exodus, when he fled from Troy. Each of these detachments was the cause of new wars (such as that of Aeneas and Moses); while Elisa, perhaps for her great beauty, was able to rest on a small coastal portion, and we must imagine the development of her settlement sprang from talent and fury. We know nothing of Tyrrhenus’ hardships, except that he was driven out of numerous lands before landing in upper Italy (Herodotus). Instead we know everything of Odisséus’ adventures, narrated by Homer in a compelling work. Odisséus shows his essence already with his name: Odi- is a constructed state by Eg. ut ‘to go away’ + suu ‘shipwreck’, ‘evil, wickedness’. The compound Odi-suu meant ‘going away, wandering and shipwrecked by evil’.
The entire book of Moses (Έξοδος) meant, in Greek, ‘Exit, Departure’; the same meant in Hebrew (שמות, Scemoth), from Eg. šem ‘to go, march, travel’ + ut ‘to go away’; the compound šemut is not a plural in -ut but the reinforcing agglutination of two concepts. Greek Έξοδος has an etymological basis in Sum. e ‘to go out’, ‘to come forth, exit’ (from Eg. āq ’entrance and exit’, åḥ ‘to go’) + Eg. ut ‘to go away’.
Perhaps the vēr sācrum was calamitous even for Homo Sapiens, which once reached the Delta had to forcibly expand into the Mediterranean coasts, on North African coasts, in Greece, in Syria, in Mesopotamia, clashing with the Neanderthal clans. It’s unrealistic to interpret Dionysius’ assertion as vēr sācrum was primarily Italic, with a focus on Umbria. He made it clear that vēr sācrum affected the entire Mediterranean, and he specified the circumstances of this event occurrence, without however mentioning the “technical” formula eternalized by Livy, who is the only one to have handed down the synthetic definition, evoked by no one else with similar appellation.
Each scholar left the concise Livian quotation in the hands of his students, interpreting vēr sācrum as “Sacred Spring” without ever any doubt aimed at shedding light, without any attempt to broaden the cognitive boundaries drawn by Dionysius, and without even asking the problem of polysemy, that is, of the many meanings that each single lexeme can receive in any language. After Dionysius, no news.
Yet the historical memory of the “Sacred Detachment” or “Sacred Separation” cannot have vanished into thin air, it must have left some linguistic mark in the Mediterranean languages. It’s up to us to trace its signs. A first sign is easily found in Italian surname Versace (from Lat. Vēr-sācer), which originally indicated ‘the one who puts himself at the head of a detachment’. And so we discover the persistence of this ancient word in Italy. However, broadening the horizons, we observe that Moses was also a Versace, as we will see later.
At this point, we must ask ourselves, rigorously, why Primavera (Spring) is involved in the whole issue. Indeed, it’s not involved, also because the Mediterranean is a temperate zone and any season was suitable for a vēr sācrum. We verify this further by discovering Lat. vēr as ‘spring’ has an etymological basis in Akk. ērum ‘awake, to become awake’. Clearly, this etymology indicates the ‘awakening of nature’, not a ‘detachment from the original tribe’.
That the lexical and etymological basis of ‘spring’ (vēr) was different from the very beginning, is also demonstrated by the Lat. adj. sācrum in the sense of ‘intangible, holy, sacred, inviolable, forbidden to the profane’: it has the basis in Egyptian s-åqer ‘to make perfect’. It was from the concept of perfection that the archaic concept of sacredness arose. I would say that all this is enough to postulate for Livian vēr sācrum the search for a different etymology, where even the supposed adjective sācrum has a different semantic location.
That Latinists formulate vēr sācrum as a ‘sacred spring’ reveals their inability to proceed by etymological ways. They are satisfied with the only word (plus adjective) found in Latin dictionary, getting out of comparing them with a series of Mediterranean homophonic words in order to understand whether the lapidary Livian quotation is an already crystallized lexeme (a hapax legómenon), a lexeme that has now lost its archaic polysemic ties, a surviving moneme with only one meaning while the other homophonic concepts have now disappeared from Latin speech.
Indeed, it’s easy to glimpse a paronomasy in that interpretation of Latinists. They miss the conception – which must be fundamental for any etymologist – that originally there was a single language in the Mediterranean and that many lexemes of any individual language have now isolated themselves, have become free from an once shared poly-semantic spectrum.
The true basis of vēr sācrum is Sum. be, ber ‘to cut off’, especially bir ‘to shred’. Anyway see also Sum. u ‘earth, territory’ + ere ‘to go’ (akk. wārum ‘to lead, conduct’): the compound u-ere means ‘to leave the land’. In any case, the entire formula can also be translated into the archaic Egyptian language: ber ‘exit, gateway’ + saker ‘ to journey, sail’. So the vēr sācrum (ber saker) was exactly the ‘journey of departure, of detachment’. Nothing to share with a “spring”, much less with the “sacred”.
Hebrew word Pêsach ‘Passover’ too has the same etymological basis. By common notion, Pêsach commemorates the “liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt and its exit to the Promised Land”. From the book of Exodus we know the long dramatic story, which began with the pharaoh who prevented the departure, continued with the pursuit of the Egyptian troops, then brought to the limit by forty years in the desert, culminating finally with the entry into Canaan, beyond the desert.
Pêsach has an etymological basis in Akkadian pasāḫu ‘to drive away’. But at this point a surplus of attention is needed, since Hebrew language as well as the Eastern Semitic ones such as Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian, are in themselves evolved languages, which over the millennia have taken steps to agglutinate the monosyllables of original languages (of Egyptian and Sumerian ones) presenting everywhere already composed words (bisyllables).
Therefore Heb. Pêsach has a direct basis in Eg. per ‘to go out, depart, leave one’s country’ (see ber ‘exit, gateway’) + s-ākh ‘to rise up, lift up on high’. The compound per-s-ākh originally meant ‘to rebel and leave’. See also the compound bes ‘come, hurry’, bess ‘advance, laughed; pass on’ + såq ‘to collect, gather together, assemble’; the meaning is ‘come together to go beyond’.
In turn, Aramaic Pasḥa ”Easter” is based on Eg. pa ‘to fly’ or pā ‘ancestor’ + skha ‘to remember, commemorate’ or skhab ‘to travel’. Pā-skha can therefore be composed in the sense of ‘remembrance of the ancestors’; or pa-skhab in the sense of ‘escape journey’. May be the two meanings (the Hebrew one already commented on and this Aramaic one as ‘memory of the ancestors’) re-emerged and coexisted during the Babylonian captivity, crystallizing into two different definitions. Apparently, the various Jewish diasporas in Rome, Sardinia and in Mediterranean contributed to the fixation of this Aramaic diction, for which we still have Sard. Pascha, It. Pasqua.
1 Shortly after Hannibal’s passage in Italy and Trasimeno’s defeat, Scipio as a diversion had occupied Catalonia and had formed alliance relations with Iberian peoples on this side of Ebro. At the same time, wonders had occurred in Italy which had thrown everyone into superstition (XXI 62). Only a series of expiatory rites, novenas, supplications, as well as a lectisternium had overcome mass superstition. But apparently the decemviri sacris faciundis later did not consider that series of rites correct, which therefore, under Cunctator’s dictatorship, had to be partly corrected or repeated. A vēr sācrum was added to these precautions.
III – MAINÓMENOI ÓRĒ – INSANI MONTES
Painted in color on parchment, these mountains are mentioned in the Ptolemaic paper of the Laurentian Codex (c. 31r): they are translated as Insani by L. Florus. Curiously, in this map but also in the previous one (Greek Urb. Code 82, the oldest cartographic document of Sardinia), the island description does not contain any mountain, except for the Mainómenioi, evidently considered the most important, located exactly where today is the very long mountain range of Marghine-Goceano, which practically divides Sardinia in two.
Luigi Piloni (CGS 2) recalls the use of the adjective insanus ‘insane’ among the ancients, and Forcellini states as follows: “Insani montes apud Livium XXX, 39 sunt praealti in Sardinia e quorum vertice validi venti et maxime incerti (unde nomen) in mare ruunt et periculum navigantibus afferunt». Piloni himself reiterates that the expression indicates ‘that drives (sailors) crazy’. In reality, Livy (correctly) only reports consul Claudius, sailing alongside Sardinia towards Carthage, «while rounding Insani mountains he was caught, in places particularly difficult for navigation, by an even more violent storm [than the one had tossed him from Ostia to Populonia and then into the Tuscan archipelago], such as the fleet was upset. Many ships suffered serious damage and were deprived of their equipment; some were smashed. Although damaged and torn to pieces, the fleet managed to reach Karalis». In Latin ««Ibi superantem Insanos montes multo et saevior et infestioribus locis tempesta adorta disiecit classem …». That storm had been tormenting Claudius for days but he could not avoid sailing in mid-December as he had to quickly reach Carthage to give a hand to Scipio the African. Unfortunately he was forced to repair in Karalis because the storm had lasted intensely for about a week and raged in waves (technically said: that was a “train” of fast perturbations from High Atlantic; or worse, Claudius had run into a Mediterranean cyclone that dragged towards Corsica and Sardinia the Polar Front coming from the mouths of Trieste, that is from NE: in short, in my opinion those were bora-winds, cold and tearing). In no text is written this endless storm came from Montes Insani. Livy only writes that the storm strengthened again as Claudius rounded those mountains. Obviously the verb “rounding” for the E coast of Sardinia makes no sense. Instead, it makes sense that the entire coast, excluding the Olbian fjord, does not offer any shelter to a large fleet but at the limit, here and there, it offers shelter to individual boats.
Absurdly, every translator, every interpreter (unfortunately lacking in notions of climatology) has sought the cause of that deadly storm in the Insane Mountains, which really had to do with a Mediterranean cyclone like cabbages for a snack, since no storm was born and is descended on the sea from a mountain, especially when the mount has insignificant heights. If people wanted to insist on this ridiculous theory, then it would be necessary to realize that every Atlantic perturbation, or those of Polar Front, hit the Mediterranean originating and descending from Ligurian Apennines, rather than originating in the Gulf of Mexico Stream or in the Arctic Circle.
Regarding the location, while Lamarmora (Voyage en Sardaigne, vol. II, 403) identifies Insani Montes in Montiferru massif while Pais in Limbara chain (?), R.B. Motzo in his accurate study The position of the Montes Insani of Sardinia «has shown “unquestionably” that Insani montes are the whole complex of central mountain culminating in Gennargentu and that with its branches goes as far as the Tyrrhenian sea, making this coast high and without harbors and therefore often dangerous to sailors, especially in coastal navigation as that of ancients was more often» (quotation from Piloni).
All the scholars mentioned here, starting with Forcellini, an eminent Latinist, start with Livy, the first who mentioned these Montes, but other writers also recall the source of L. Florus and Pliny (Fara GS 53), and strictly adhere to semantic scheme more in vogue, to which of course Fara himself adheres, who specifies «A turbid and completely pestilential air is precisely enclosed between them, as Pausanias and Leonicus refer; which, however, does not happen today as we will demonstrate in its time». We also have a Vittorio Angius’ attestation (excerptum from Casalis) who in History of Sardinia, from its origins to the Roman era (vol. 22 of L’Unione Sarda, p. 187), writes: «Greek appellation of those mountains that in Latin language corresponds to insani or insanientes, it was named by others as insalubres. Opposite against northern air is a southern lower stagnating pestilential atmosphere, which stops those winds. But the error becomes evident from Claudianus, who said insani (unhealthy), because frequent and sometimes violent gusts of wind fell on the sea from their yokes to inflict annoyance or damage to the navigators. And since similar gusts go to the sea from the group of these mountains, from this sailors will have given them that name, later adopted by other people». Angius, by an eloquence as refined as it’s convoluted, paraphrases Fara, without equaling his brevity and without equaling his intellectual honesty.
In any case, there has been no writer, ancient or modern, nor even current, who, instead of insisting in the insane vogue of stamping one’s feet on the same stagnant water in the same mortar for 2000 years, has bothered to better understand the question of Mainómenoi orē or Insani Montes, first of all by scrutinizing Ptolemy’s map de visu, then materially traveling through Sardinian mountain systems, then rummaging through the Semitic dictionaries. One wonders, with the rigor that this scandalous bad habit finally claims: 1. why Ptolemy placed these mountains in the center of the island, right on the parallel-meridian which crosses the boundless chain of Marghine-Goceano; 2. why from these mountains Témos pótamos runs to the West and Kaίdeis pótamos (the current Posàda river) runs to the East. All these very precise and pertinent cartographic indications would have allowed anyone to perfectly locate the Mainómenoi orē, avoiding any hesitation and undressing that hateful self-confidence that led them to defile the palaces of culture.
If they had scrutinized Ptolemy’s map, and compared it with any current relief (or isoipsic) map, all the scholars of the last century, and I also include Lamarmora, could have ascertained that from Monte Ferru of Cùglieri (which rises from St. Caterina’s inlet), an immense mountain range begins and splits the island in two, continuing beyond Macomer pass, beyond Uccàidu pass, up to the pass above Buddusò, then arching to the E for incorporate the immense granite plateau of Buddusò-Bitti-Alà, from which it finally glides towards Ferònia (Posàda) coast.
Fantasies about a dangerousness of winds violently discharged on the sea from those heights (1000-800-700 m), would have subsided with this reconnaissance, since this mountain range has never deviated nor accelerated any atmospheric current (and neither do they Còrsica mountains, which run with a cordillera above 1500-2500 m along the whole island ridge). Our scholars know neither the principles of meteorology, nor the orography of Sardinia, and they feel free to crash mephitic water in the mortars prepared by the Latin writers, who – it is said to their advantage – never commented on the oronym Mainómenoi (orē) or Insani (montes) ‘mad mountains’.
It was a good rule of the ancients never to meddle (if not exceptionally: see Iqnusa and Sandaliótis) in translating toponyms or oronyms. They were content to report in the phonetics of their own language what they had learned from geographers or navigators of previous times, inevitably adapting it according to the paronomasy law.
And it’s by scrutinizing the Semitic dictionaries that we are able to clarify the misunderstanding, since Ptolemy’s expression Mainómenoi orē repeats with Greek phonetics what in Akkadian-Sumerian is written Manûm-enû ur: exactly manûm ‘count, enumerate, make a list’ + enû ‘barring border’; therefore manûm-enû ‘list, row (of mountains) of a border that hinders’ + Sum. ur ‘go on, go on’. Manûm-enû ur was heard by Greeks as Mainómenoi orē, that is, ‘mad, furious mountains’, which Latin writers translated literally as insane ‘mad’, while in reality they indicated a ‘mountain range that bars’, on the other hand known until today as Màrghine, from Sum. mar-gin, referring to a mountainous system indicating the concatenation, the erection as a barrier between two territories, from mar ‘to spread in length’, mar ‘(towed) car’, mar ‘sift, separate, shell’ (also in the sense of lining up like a “rosary”) + gin ‘mountain, mountains’: a clear semantic field, pertaining to a mountainous sequence.
Some acute readers but less familiar of grandiose historical fresco of the entire Livian work, could object to my scientific reconstruction that Livy, in citing Insani Montes, clearly suggests they, far from being at a very distance from sea, are right along Sardinian coast, and therefore all that remains is to identify them in the high and inhospitable Baunéi’s coast. In turn, I object that Livy often quotes geographic data with poor precision. This is a reflection of the lack of precision he himself blames the historians he draws from. Therefore he, needing to place that orography handed down without precision, preferred to identify it in Baunéi’s coast, since it’s precisely that long interminable vision that in ancient times kept every sailor away, and even more so kept away those who, by governing a fleet, could not even in extremis enjoy a beach long enough to run aground the ships. Moreover, even in the presence of long beaches, they would have been unapproachable with the billowing waves from the East: on the contrary, they would have been approachable if the storm had come from the land, from the supposed Montes Insani, since the land wind keeps the beaches quiet. In any case, any beach would not have been able to satisfy the landing of that wrecked fleet, since that accident so similar to a shipwreck required a seafaring city with a shipyard or at least skilled carpenters. It is no coincidence that the consul has given up on continuing to Carthage, taking refuge in Kalaris until ending his mandate and depriving Scipio of the help needed to engage in the decisive battle of Zama.