Restores Discipline and captures Megara -- Cruelties of Hasdrubal -- Scipio's Intrenched Camp -- Cuts off the Supplies of Carthage -- Attempts to close the Harbor but fails -- Indecisive Naval Engagement -- Desperate Fight for Possession of a Quay -- Scipio captures Nepheris
Having spoken thus, Scipio forthwith expelled the crowd of useless persons and with them whatever was superfluous, idle, or luxurious. The army being thus purged, and full of awe for him, and keenly intent for his commands, he made an attempt one night, in two different places, to surprise that part of Carthage called Megara. This was a very large suburb adjacent to the city wall. He sent a force round against the opposite side, while he advanced directly against it a distance of twenty stades with axes, ladders, and crowbars, without noise and in the deepest silence. When their approach was perceived and a shout was raised from the walls, they shouted back -- first Scipio and his force, then those who had gone around to the other side -- as loudly as possible. The Carthaginians were at first struck with terror at finding such a large force of the enemy attacking them on both sides in the night-time, but Scipio with his utmost efforts was not able to scale the walls. There was a deserted tower outside the walls, belonging to a private citizen, of the same height as the walls themselves. He sent some of his bravest young men to the top of this tower, who with their javelins fought back the guards on the wall, threw planks across, and made a bridge by which they reached the walls, descended into the town, broke open a gate, and admitted Scipio. He entered with 4000 men, and the Carthaginians made a hasty flight to Byrsa, as though the remainder of the city had already been taken. All kinds of noises were raised and there was great tumult. Many fell into the hands of the enemy, and the alarm was such that those encamped outside left their fortification and rushed to Byrsa with the others. As Megara was planted with gardens and was full of fruit-bearing trees divided off by low walls, hedges, and brambles, besides deep ditches full of water running in every direction, Scipio was fearful lest it should be impracticable and dangerous for the army to pursue the enemy through roads that they were unacquainted with, and lest they might fall into an ambush in the night. Accordingly he withdrew.
When daylight came Hasdrubal, enraged at the attack upon Megara, took the Roman prisoners whom he held, brought them upon the walls, in full sight of their comrades, and tore out their eyes, tongues, and tendons with iron hooks; of some he lacerated the soles of the feet, he cut off the fingers of others, and some he flayed alive. All who survived these tortures he hurled from the top of the walls. He thus gave the Carthaginians to understand that there was no possibility of peace with the Romans, and sought to fire them with the conviction that their only safety was in fighting. But the result was contrary to his intention, for the Carthaginians, conscience-stricken by these nefarious deeds, became timid instead of courageous, and hated Hasdrubal for depriving them of all hope of pardon. Their senate especially denounced him for committing these savage and unusual cruelties in the midst of so great domestic calamities. So he arrested some of the complaining senators and put them to death. Making himself feared in every way he came to be more like a tyrant than a general, for he considered himself secure only if he were an object of terror to them, and he trusted that he should be protected from danger in this way.
Now Scipio set fire to the camp of the enemy, which they had abandoned the day before, when they took refuge in the city. Being in possession of the whole isthmus he began a trench across it from sea to sea not more than a stone's throw from the enemy. The latter were not idle. . Along the whole distance of five and twenty stades he had to work and fight at the same time. When he had finished this one he dug another of the same length, at no great distance from the first, looking towards the mainland. He then made two others running transversely, giving the interior space the form of a quadrangle, and threw around the whole a palisade of chevaux-de-frise. In addition to the palisade he fortified the ditches also, and along the one looking toward Carthage he built a wall twenty-five stades in length and twelve feet high, without counting the parapets and towers which surmounted the wall at intervals. The width of the wall was about one-half of its height. The highest tower was at the middle, and upon this another of wood, four stories high, was built, from which to observe what was going on in the city. Having completed this work in twenty days and nights, the whole army working and fighting and taking food and sleep by turns, he brought them all within the fortification.
This was at the same time a camp for himself and a rather long fort commanding the enemy's country. From this base he could intercept all the supplies sent to the Carthaginians from the interior, since Carthage was every-where washed by the sea except on this neck. Hence this fort was the first and principal cause of famine and other troubles to them, for, while the great multitude betook themselves from the fields to the city, and none could go out on account of the siege, foreign merchants ceased to frequent the place on account of the war. Thus they had to rely on food brought from Africa alone, little coming in by sea and only when the weather was favorable, much the greater part being forwarded by the land route. Deprived of this, they began to suffer severely from hunger. Bithya, their cavalry general, who had been sent out some time before to procure food, did not venture to make the attempt by attacking and breaking through Scipio's fortification, but he sent supplies a long way around by water, although Scipio s ships were blockading Carthage. The latter did not keel) their place all the time, nor did they stand thickly together, as they had no shelter and the sea was full of reefs. Nor could they anchor near the city itself, with the Carthaginians standing on the walls and the sea pounding on the rocks there worst of all. Thus the ships of Bithya and an occasional merchant, whom the love of gain made reckless of danger, watching for a strong and favorable wind, spread their sails and ran the blockade, the Roman galleys not being able to pursue merchant ships sailing before the wind. But these chances were rare and only when a strong wind was blowing from the sea. These supplies Hasdrubal distributed to his 30,000 soldiers exclusively, for he despised the multitude; for which reason they suffered greatly from hunger.
When Scipio perceived this he planned to close the entrance to the harbor on the west side, not very far from the shore. For this purpose he carried a strong embankment into the sea, beginning on the tongue of land which lay between the lake and sea, advancing straight toward the harbor's mouth. He filled it with heavy stones so that it might not be washed away by the waves. The embankment was twenty-four feet wide on the top and four times as much on the bottom. The Carthaginians at first despised this work as likely to take a long time, and perhaps impossible of execution altogether. But when they saw the whole army proceeding eagerly, and not intermitting the work by day or by night, they became alarmed, and began to excavate another entrance at another part of the harbor in midsea, where it was impossible to carry an embankment on account of the depth of the water and the fury of the wind. Even the women and children helped to dig. They began the work inside, and carefully concealed what they were doing. At the same time they built triremes and quinqueremes from old material, and they left nothing to be desired in the way of courage and high spirit. Moreover, they concealed everything so perfectly that not even the prisoners could tell Scipio with certainty what was going on, but merely that there was a great racket in the harbor day and night; what it was about they did not know. Finally, everything being finished, the Carthaginians opened the new entrance about the dawn of day and passed out with fifty triremes, besides pinnaces, brigantines, and other small craft decked out in a way to cause terror.
The Romans were so astounded by the sudden appearance of this new entrance, and of the fleet issuing from it, that if the Carthaginians had at once fallen upon their ships, which were in disorder by reason of beleaguerment of the walls, neither sailors nor rowers being present, they might have possessed themselves of the whole fleet. But now (since it was fated that Carthage should perish) they only sailed out to make a show, and, having flouted the enemy in a pompous way, they returned inside the harbor. Three days later they set out for a naval engagement, and the Romans advanced to meet them with their ships and other apparatus in good order. They came together with loud shouts on both sides and cheers from the rowers, steersmen, and marines, the Carthaginians resting their last hope of safety on this engagement and the Romans hoping to make it their final victory. The fight raged till midday. During the battle the Carthaginian small boats, running under the sides of the Roman ships, which were taller, stove holes in their sterns and broke off their oars and rudders, and damaged them in various other ways, advancing and retreating nimbly. As the day verged toward evening the battle was still undecided, and the Carthaginians thought best to withdraw, not that they were beaten, but to renew the engagement the next day.
Their small boats retired first, and arriving at the entrance, and becoming entangled on account of their number, they blocked up the mouth so that when the larger ones arrived they were prevented from entering. They took refuge at a wide quay, which had been built against the city wall for unloading merchant ships some time before, and on which a small parapet had been erected during this war lest the space might sometime be occupied by the enemy. When the Carthaginian ships took refuge here for want of a harbor, they ranged themselves with their bows outward and received the attack of the enemy, some of them standing on the ships, some on the quay, and still others on the parapet. To the Romans the onset was easy, for it is not hard to attack ships that are standing still, but when they attempted to turn around, in order to retire, the movement was slow and difficult on account of the length of the ships, for which reason they received as much damage as they had given; for while they were executing the movement they were exposed to the onset of the Carthaginians. Finally five ships of the city of the Sidet, which were in alliance with Scipio, dropped their anchors in the sea at some distance, attaching long ropes to them, by which means they were enabled to dash against the Carthaginian ships by rowing, and having delivered their blow warp themselves back by the ropes stern foremost. Then the whole fleet, catching the idea from the Sidet, followed their example and inflicted great damage upon the enemy. Night put an end to the battle, after which the Carthaginians withdrew to the city -- as many of them as survived the engagement.
At daylight Scipio attacked this quay because it was well situated to command the harbor. Assailing the parapet with rams and other engines he beat down a part of it. The Carthaginians, although oppressed by hunger and distress of various kinds, made a sally by night against the Roman engines, not by land, for there was no passage-way, nor by ships, for the water was too shallow, but naked and bearing torches not lighted, so that they might not be seen at a distance. Thus, in a way that nobody would have expected, they plunged into the sea and crossed over, some of them wading in water up to their breasts, others swimming. When they reached the engines they lighted their torches, and becoming visible and being naked they suffered greatly from wounds, which they courageously returned. Although the barbed arrows and spear-points rained on their breasts and faces, they did not relax their efforts, but rushed forward like wild beasts against the blows until they had set the engines on fire and put the Romans to disorderly flight. Panic and confusion spread through the whole camp and such fear as was never before known, caused by the frenzy of these naked enemies. Scipio, fearing the consequences, ran out with a squadron of horse and commanded his attendants to kill those who would not desist from flight. He killed some of them himself. The rest were brought by force into the camp, where they passed the night under arms, fearing some desperate deed of the enemy. The latter, having burned the engines, swam back home.
When daylight returned the Carthaginians, no longer molested by the engines, rebuilt that part of the outwork which had been battered down and added to it a number of towers at intervals. The Romans constructed new engines and built mounds in front of these towers, from which they threw upon them lighted torches and vessels filled with burning brimstone and pitch, and burned some of them, and drove away the Carthaginians. The footway was so slippery with coagulated blood, lately shed in great quantity, that the Romans were compelled, unwillingly, to abandon the pursuit. Scipio, having possessed himself of the entire quay, fortified it and built a brick wall of the same height as that of Carthage, and at no great distance from it. When it was finished, he put 4000 men on it to discharge darts and javelins at the enemy, which they could do with comparative safety. As the walls were of equal height the darts were thrown with great effect. And now the summer came to an end.
At the beginning of winter, Scipio resolved to sweep away the Carthaginian power in the country, and the allies from whom supplies were sent to them. Sending his captains this way and that he moved in person to Nepheris against Diogenes, who held that town as Hasdrubal's successor, going by the lake while sending Gaius Llius by land. When he arrived he encamped at a distance of two stades from Diogenes. Leaving Gulussa to keep Diogenes unceasingly employed, he hastened back to Carthage, after which he kept passing to and fro between the two places overseeing all that was done. When two of the spaces between Diogenes' towers were demolished Scipio came and stationed 1000 picked soldiers in ambush in the enemy's rear, and 3000 more, also carefully selected for bravery, in his front, to attack the demolished rampart. They. did not make the attack en masse, but by divisions in close order, following each other, so that if those in front were repulsed they could not retreat on account of the weight of those coming behind. The attack was made with loud shouts, and the Africans were drawn thither. The 1000 in ambush, unperceived and unsuspected, fell boldly upon the rear of the camp, as they had been ordered, and tore down and scaled the palisade. When the first ones entered the Africans were panic-stricken and fled, thinking that the numbers of the new assailants were much greater than they were. Gulussa pursued them with his Numidian cavalry and elephants and made a great slaughter, some 70,000, including non-combatants, being killed. Ten thousand were captured and about 4000 escaped. In addition to the camp the city of Nepheris was taken also, after a siege of twenty-two days, prosecuted by Scipio with great labor and suffering on account of the severity of the weather. This success contributed much to the taking of Carthage, for provisions were conveyed to it by this army, and the people of Africa were in good courage as long as they saw this force in the field. As soon as it was captured the remainder of Africa surrendered to Scipio's lieutenants or was taken without much difficulty. The supplies of Carthage now fell short, since none came from Africa or from foreign parts, navigation being cut off in every direction by the war and the storms of winter.