Scipio visits Africa -- Other operations in Spain -- Destruction of Ilurgia -- The Fate of Astapa
Now Lucius [his brother], having returned from 209 Rome, told Scipio that the Romans were thinking of sending the latter as general to Africa. Scipio had strongly desired this for some time and hoped that events might take this turn. Accordingly he sent Llius with five ships to Africa on a mission to King Syphax, to make presents to him and remind him of the friendship of the Scipios, and ask him to join the Romans if they should make an expedition to Africa. He promised to do so, accepted the presents, and sent others in return. When the Carthaginians discovered this they also sent envoys to Syphax to seek his alliance. When Scipio heard of this, judging that it was a matter of importance to win and confirm the alliance of Syphax against the Carthaginians, he took Llius and went over to Africa with two ships, to see Syphax in person.
When he was approaching the shore the Carthaginian envoys who were still with Syphax sailed out against him with their war-ships, without Syphax's knowledge. But he spread his sails, outran them completely, and reached the harbor. Syphax entertained both parties, but he made an alliance with Scipio privately, and having exchanged pledges sent him away. He also detained the Carthaginians, who were again lying in wait for Scipio, until he was a good distance out to sea. So much danger did Scipio incur both going and returning. It is reported that at a banquet given by Syphax, Scipio reclined on the same couch with Hasdrubal and that the latter questioned him about many things, and was greatly impressed with his gravity, and afterwards said to his friends that Scipio was formidable not only in war but also at a feast.
At this time certain of the Celtiberians and Spaniards were still serving under Mago as mercenaries, although their towns had gone over to the Romans. Marcius set upon them, slew 1500, and scattered the rest of them among their towns. He corralled 700 horse and 6000 foot of the same force, of whom Hanno was in command, on a hill. When they were reduced to extremities by hunger they sent messengers to Marcius to obtain terms. He told them first to surrender Hanno and the deserters, and then he would treat. Accordingly they seized Hanno, although he was their general and was listening to the conversation, and they delivered up the deserters. Then Marcius demanded the prisoners also. When he had received these he ordered them to bring a specified sum of money down to a certain point in the plain, because the high ground was not a suitable place for suppliants. When they had come down to the plain he said: "You deserve to be put to death for adhering to the enemy and waging war against us after your country has espoused our side. Nevertheless, if you will lay down your arms, I will allow you to go unpunished." At this they were very angry and exclaimed with one voice that they would not lay down their arms. A severe engagement ensued in which about half of the Celtiberians fell, not unavenged, the other half escaping to Mago, who had arrived a little before at the camp of Hanno with sixty war-ships. When he learned of Hanno's disaster he sailed to Gades and awaited the turn of events, meanwhile suffering from want of provisions.
While Mago lay here inert, Silanus was sent by Scipio to receive the submission of the city of Castax. When the inhabitants received him in a hostile manner, he encamped before it, and communicated the fact to Scipio. The latter sent him some siege engines and prepared to follow, but turned aside to attack the town of Ilurgia. This place had been an ally of the Romans in the time of the elder Scipio, but at his death changed sides secretly, and having given shelter to the Roman soldiers who had fled thither supposing it to be friendly, had delivered them up to the Carthaginians. To avenge this crime Scipio in his indignation took the place in four hours, and, although wounded in the neck, did not desist from the fight until he had conquered. The soldiers, for his sake, in their fury even forgot to plunder the town, but slew the whole population, including women and children, although nobody gave them any orders to do so, and did not desist until the whole place was razed to the ground. When he arrived at Castax, Scipio divided his army into three parts and invested the city. He did not press the siege, however, but gave the inhabitants time to repent, having heard that they were so disposed. The latter, having slain those of the garrison who objected and put down all opposition, surrendered the place to Scipio, who stationed a new garrison there and placed the town under the government of one of its own citizens, a man of high reputation. He then returned to New Carthage, and sent Silanus and Marcius to the straits to devastate the country as much as they could.
There was a town named Astapa which had been always and wholly of the Carthaginian party. Marcius laid siege to it, and the inhabitants foresaw that, if they were captured by the Romans, they would be reduced to slavery. Accordingly they brought all their valuables into the market-place, piled wood around them, and put their wives and children on the heap. They made fifty of their principal men take an oath that whenever they should see that the city must fall, they would kill the women and children, set fire to the pile, and slay themselves thereon. Then calling the gods to witness what they had done, they sallied out against Marcius, who did not anticipate anything of the kind. For this reason they easily repulsed the light-armed troops and cavalry whom they met. When they became engaged with the legionaries, they still had the best of it, because they fought with desperation. Finally the Romans overpowered them by sheer numbers, for the Astapians certainly were not inferior to them in bravery. When they had all fallen, the fifty who remained behind slew the women and children, kindled the fire, and flung themselves on it, thus leaving the enemy a barren victory. Marcius, in admiration of the bravery of the Astapians, spared the houses.