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Giulio Licinio, The Attack on Cartagena

Key facts
Full title The Attack on Cartagena
Artist Giulio Licinio
Artist dates about 1527; died after 1584
Series Scenes from Ancient Roman History
Date made after 1566
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 35.6 × 153 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG643.1
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Attack on Cartagena
Giulio Licinio

The Attack on Cartagena is one of a series of scenes from ancient Roman history that were probably intended to be inserted into wall panelling. Three further scenes from the series – The Continence of Scipio, The Rape of the Sabines and The Intervention of the Sabine Women – are also in the National Gallery.

The Romans assaulted the Carthaginian stronghold of New Carthage in 209 BC during the Second Punic War. The city, on the coast of north Africa, was on a peninsula connected to the mainlaind by a narrow strip of land. An unexpected storm drained the lagoon into the Mediterranean, allowing the Roman soldiers led by Scipio Africanus to approach the city from the north while the naval forces penetrated the city from the south, and the Carthaginians were forced to surrender. Here, the viewer is thrust into the centre of the action as Roman soldiers lay siege to the city.

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Scenes from Ancient Roman History


These four pictures are from a series of paintings of scenes from ancient Roman history. They were made for the decoration of a room and were originally painted on panel but have since been transferred to canvas. Their size and horizontal format suggests they were probably intended to be inserted into wall panelling, as was common practice in Renaissance Venice.

The pictures in the National Gallery’s collection show: The Attack on Cartagena; The Continence of Scipio; The Rape of the Sabines; and The Intervention of the Sabine Women. Two other pictures from the same series, Coriolanus and Scipio rewarding the Soldiers, are in a private collection.