Cornelius Scipio -- Arrives in Spain -- Attacks New Carthage -- Captures the City and Vast Booty
Accordingly a day was fixed for choosing a general for Spain. When nobody offered himself the alarm was greatly augmented, and a gloomy silence took possession of the assembly. Finally Cornelius Scipio, son of that Publius Cornelius who had lost his life in Spain, still a very young man (for he was only twenty-four years of age), but reputed to be discreet and high-minded, advanced and made an impressive discourse concerning his father and his uncle, and after lamenting their fate said that he was the only member of the family left to be the avenger of them and of his country. He spoke copiously and vehemently, like one possessed, promising to subdue not only Spain, but Africa and Carthage in addition. To many this seemed like youthful boasting, but he revived the spirits of the people (for 199 those who are cast down are cheered by promises), and was chosen general for Spain in the expectation that he would do something worthy of his high spirit. The older ones said that this was not high spirit, but foolhardiness. When Scipio heard of this he called the assembly together again, and repeated what he had said before, declaring that his youth would be no impediment, but he added that if any of his elders wished to assume the task he would willingly yield it to them. When nobody offered to take it, he was praised and admired still more, and he set forth with 10,000 foot and 500 horse. He was not allowed to take a larger force while Hannibal was ravaging Italy. He received money and apparatus of various kinds and twenty-eight war-ships with which he proceeded to Spain.
Taking the forces already there, and joining them in 201 one body with those he brought, he performed a lustration, and made the same kind of grandiloquent speech to them that he had made at Rome. The report spread immediately through all Spain, wearied of the Carthaginian rule and longing for the virtue of the Scipios, that Scipio the son of Scipio had been sent to them as a general, by divine providence. When he heard of this report he took care to give out that everything he did was by inspiration from heaven. He learned that the enemy were quartered in four camps at considerable distances from each other, containing altogether 25,000 foot and above 2500 horse, and that they kept their supplies of money, food, arms, missiles, and ships, besides prisoners and hostages from all Spain, at the city formerly called Saguntum (but then called Carthage),202 and that it was in charge of Mago with 10,000 Carthaginian soldiers. He decided to attack these first, on account of the smallness of the force and the great quantity of stores, and because he believed that this city, with its silver-mines and its rich and prosperous territory abounding in everything, and its very short passage to Africa, would constitute a secure base of operations by land and sea against the whole of Spain.
Excited with these thoughts and communicating his intentions to no one, he led his army out at sunset and marched the whole night toward New Carthage. Arriving there the next morning he took the enemy by surprise and began to enclose the town with trenches and planned to open the siege the following day, placing ladders and engines everywhere except at one place where the wall was lowest and where, as it was encompassed by a lagoon and the sea, the guards were careless. Having charged the machines with stones and darts in the night, and stationed his fleet in the harbor so that the enemy's ships might not escape (for he had high hopes of capturing everything the city contained), at daylight he manned the engines, ordering some of his troops to assail the enemy above, while others propelled the engines against the walls below. Mago stationed his 10,000 men at the gates, some to sally out at a favorable opportunity with swords alone (since spears would be of no use in such a narrow space), and others to man the parapets. He made good use of his machines, stones, darts, and catapults, and did effective work. There was shouting and cheering on both sides, and neither was wanting in dash and courage. Stones, darts, and javelins filled the air, some thrown by hand, some by machines, and some by slings; and whatever other apparatus or force was available was made use of to the utmost.
Scipio suffered severely. The 10,000 Carthaginians who were at the gates made sallies with drawn swords and fell upon those who were working the engines. Although they fought bravely, they suffered in their turn no less, until finally the perseverance and endurance of the Romans began to prevail. With the change of fortune, those who were on the walls began to be distressed. When the ladders were put in place, the Carthaginian swordsmen, who had sallied out, ran back through the gates, closed them, and mounted the walls. This gave new and severe labor to the Romans. Scipio, who, as commanding general, was everywhere, giving orders and cheering on his men, had noticed that, at the place where the wall was low and washed by the lagoon, the sea retired about midday. That was the daily ebb tide, for at one time of day the waves were up to one's breast; at another they were not knee high. When Scipio observed this, after ascertaining the nature of the tidal movement and that it would be low water for the rest of the day, he darted hither and thither, exclaiming: "Now, soldiers, now is our chance. Now the deity comes to my aid. Attack that part of the wall where the sea has made way for us. Bring the ladders. I will lead you."
He was the first to seize a ladder and carry it into the lagoon, and he began to mount where nobody else had yet attempted to do so. But his armor-bearers and other soldiers surrounded him and held him back, while they brought a great number of ladders together, planted them against the wall, and began to mount. Amid shouts and clamor on all sides, giving and receiving blows, the Romans finally prevailed and succeeded in occupying some of the towers, where Scipio placed trumpeters and ordered them to sound a blast as though the city were already taken. This brought others to their assistance and created consternation among the enemy. Some of the Romans jumped down and opened the gates to Scipio, who rushed in with his army. Some of the inhabitants took refuge in their houses, but Mago drew up his 10,000 in the market-place. After most of these were cut down he fled with the remainder to the citadel, which Scipio immediately invested. When Mago saw that he could do nothing with his beaten and cowering force, he surrendered.
Having taken this rich and powerful city by audacity and good fortune in one day (the fourth after his arrival), he was greatly elated and it seemed more than ever that he was divinely inspired. He began to think so himself and to give it out to others, not only then, but all the rest of his life. At all events, he frequently went into the Capitol alone and closed the doors as though he were receiving counsel from the god. Even now in public processions they bring the image of Scipio alone out of the Capitol, all the others being taken from the Forum. In the captured city he obtained great stores of goods, useful in peace and war, many arms, darts, engines, dockyards containing thirty-three war-ships, corn, and provisions of various kinds, ivory, gold, and silver, some in the form of plate, some coined and some uncoined, also Spanish hostages and prisoners, and everything that had previously been captured from the Romans themselves. On the following day he sacrificed to the gods, celebrated the victory, praised the soldiers for their bravery, and after his words to his army made a speech to the townspeople in which he admonished them not to forget the name of the Scipios. He dismissed all the Spanish prisoners to their homes in order to conciliate the towns. He gave rewards to his soldiers for bravery, the largest to the one who first scaled the wall, half as much to the next, one-third as much to the next, and to the others according to their merit. The rest of the gold, silver, and ivory he sent to Rome in the captured ships. The city held a three days' thanksgiving, because after so many trials their ancestral good fortune had shown itself once more. All Spain, and the Carthaginians who were there, were astounded at the magnitude and suddenness of this exploit.