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Appian's History of Rome: The Punic Wars §§101-105


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. His account of the Punic Wars, which deals with the wars in Africa, is fortunately among these better preserved parts.

The translation was made by Horace White; footnotes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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Carthage. Map design Jona Lendering.
Carthage
[§101] [149] As these things were happening all the time, the fame of [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus] was on the increase, so that the other tribunes, out of envy, spread a report that there was an understanding between [Himilco] Phameas and Scipio, arising from the former friendship between the ancestors of Phameas and Scipio's grandfather [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Africanus].

Certain Africans had taken refuge in towers and castles, with which the country abounded, in pursuance of agreements made with the other tribunes, and the latter, after giving them this permission, had set upon them when they were going out; but Scipio always conducted them safely home. For this reason none of them would make any agreement unless Scipio were present. In this way his reputation for courage and good faith spread gradually among both friends and enemies. After the Romans had returned from their foraging the Carthaginians made a night attack on their fort by the sea, causing tremendous confusion, in which the citizens joined by making noises to add to the alarm. While [consul Manius] Manilius kept his forces inside, not knowing where the danger lay, Scipio, taking ten troops of horse, led them out with lighted torches, ordering them, as it was night, not to attack the enemy, but to course around them with the firebrands and make a show of numbers and to frighten them by making a feint of attacking here and there. This was done until the Carthaginians, thrown into confusion on all sides, became panic-stricken and took refuge in the city.


This also was added to the famous exploits of Scipio. Thus in the mouths of all he was proclaimed as the only worthy successor of his father, Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia, and of the Scipios into whose family he had been received by adoption.

[§102] Manilius undertook an expedition to Nepheris against Hasdrubal, which Scipio disapproved of because the road was flanked by mountain crags, gorges, and thickets, and the heights were occupied by the enemy. When they had come within 500 meters of Hasdrubal, and to the bed of a river where it was necessary to go down and up again, in order to reach the enemy, Scipio urged him to turn back, saying that another time and other means would be more propitious for attacking Hasdrubal. The other tribunes, moved by jealousy, took the opposite view and held that it savored of cowardice, rather than of prudence, to turn back after coming in sight of the enemy, and that it would embolden him to attack them in the rear. Then Scipio gave another piece of advice, that they ought to fortify a camp on the hither side of the stream, to which they could retreat if they were overpowered, there being now no place where they could take refuge.

The others laughed at this, and one of them threatened to throw away his sword if Scipio, instead of Manilius, were to command the expedition. Thereupon Manilius, who had not had much experience in war, crossed the river and on the other side encountered Hasdrubal. There was great slaughter on both sides. Finally Hasdrubal took refuge in his stronghold, where he was safe and from which he could watch his chance of attacking the Romans as they moved off.

The latter, who already repented of their undertaking, retired in good order till they came to the river. As the crossing was difficult on account of the fewness and narrowness of the fords, it was necessary for them to break ranks. When Hasdrubal saw this he made a most brilliant attack, and slew a vast number of them who were more intent upon flight than upon defending themselves. Among the killed were three of the tribunes who had been chiefly instrumental in urging the consul to risk the engagement.

[§103] Scipio, taking 300 horsemen that he had with him and as many more as he could hastily collect, divided them into two bodies and led them, with many charges, against the enemy, discharging darts at them and retreating by turns, then straightway coming back at them and again retreating, for he had given orders that one half of them should advance by turns continually, discharge their javelins, and retire, as though they were attacking on all sides.

This movement being constantly repeated without any intermission, the Africans, thus assailed, turned against Scipio and pressed less heavily on those who were crossing. The latter hurried across the stream and after them came Scipio with his men under a shower of darts and with great difficulty. At the beginning of this fight four Roman cohorts were cut off from the stream by the enemy and took refuge on a hill.

These Hasdrubal surrounded, and the Romans did not miss them until they came to a halt. When they learned the facts they were in a quandary. Some thought they ought to continue their retreat and not to endanger the whole army for the sake of a few, but Scipio maintained that while deliberation was proper when you were laying out your plans, yet in an emergency, when so many men and their standards were in danger, nothing but reckless daring was of any use. Then, selecting some companies of horse, he said that he would either rescue them or willingly perish with them.

Taking two days' rations, he set out at once, the army being in great fear lest he should never return. When he came to the hill where the men were besieged he took possession of another eminence hard by and separated from the former by a narrow ravine. The Africans pressed the siege vigorously, making signals to each other and thinking that Scipio would not be able to relieve his friends on account of the excessive fatigue of his march. But Scipio, seeing that the bases of the two hills curved around the ravine, lost no time but dashed around them and secured a position above the enemy. They, finding themselves surrounded, fled in disorder. Scipio did not pursue them, as they were much superior in numbers.

[§104] Thus Scipio saved these men also, who had been given up for lost. When the army at a distance saw him returning safe, and that he had saved the others contrary to expectation, they shouted for joy and conceived the idea that he was aided by the same deity that was supposed to have enabled his grandfather Scipio to foresee the future.

Manilius then returned to his camp in front of the city, having suffered severely from not following the advice of Scipio, who had tried to dissuade him from the expedition. When all were grieved that those who had fallen in battle, and especially the tribunes, remained unburied, Scipio released one of the captives and sent him to Hasdrubal, asking that he would give burial to the tribunes. The latter searched among the corpses, and, recognizing them by their signet rings (for the military tribunes wore gold rings while common soldiers had only iron ones), he buried them, thus thinking to do an act of humanity not uncommon in war, or perhaps because he was in awe of the reputation of Scipio and thought to do him a service.

As the Romans were returning from the expedition against Hasdrubal, Phameas made an attack upon them while demoralized by that disaster, and as they came into camp the Carthaginians made a sally from the city and killed some of the camp followers.

[§105] [148] Now the Senate sent commissioners to the army to get particulars, before whom Manilius and the council and the remaining tribunes bore testimony in favor of Scipio; for all jealousy had been stifled by his glorious actions. The whole army did the same, and his deeds spoke for themselves, so that the messengers, on their return, reported to everybody the military skill and success of Scipio and the attachment of the soldiers to him.

These things greatly pleased the Senate. On account of the many mishaps that had taken place, they sent to Massinissa to secure his utmost aid against Carthage. The envoys found that he was no longer living, having succumbed to old age and disease. Having several illegitimate sons, to whom he had made large gifts, and three legitimate ones, who differed from each other in their qualities, he had asked Scipio, on the ground of Massinissa's friendship with him and with his grandfather, to come and consult with him concerning his children and the government. Scipio went immediately, but shortly before he arrived Massinissa breathed his last, having charged his sons to obey Scipio in the matter of the division of the estate.

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