Mago, who despaired of success in Spain, of which he [p. 1211]
had entertained hopes, from the confidence inspired first by the mutiny of the soldiers, and afterwards by the defection of Indibilis, received a message from Carthage, while preparing to cross over into Africa, that the senate ordered him to carry over into Italy the fleet he had at Gades;
and hiring there as many as he could of the Gallic and Ligurian youth, to form a junction with Hannibal, and not to suffer the war to flag which had been begun with so much vigour and still more success.
For this object Mago not only received a supply of money from Carthage, but himself also exacted as much as he could from the inhabitants of Gades, plundering not only their treasury, but their temples, and compelling them individually to bring contributions of gold and silver, for the public service.
As he sailed along the coast of Spain, he landed his troops not far from New Carthage, and after wasting the neighbouring lands, brought his fleet thence to the city. Here, keeping his troops in the ships by day, he landed them by night, and marched them to that part of the wall at which Carthage had been captured by the Romans;
for he had supposed both that the garrison by which the city was occupied was not sufficiently strong for its protection, and that some of the townsmen would act on the hope of effecting a change. But messengers who came with the utmost haste and alarm from the country, brought intelligence at once of the devastation of the lands, the flight of the rustics, and the approach of the enemy.
Besides, the fleet had been observed during the day, and it was evident that there was some object in choosing a station before the city. Accordingly, the troops were kept drawn up and armed within the gate which looks towards the lake and the sea.
When the enemy, rushing forward in a disorderly manner, with a crowd of seamen mingled with soldiers, came up to the walls with more noise than strength;
the gate being suddenly thrown open, the Romans sallied forth with a shout, and pursued the enemy, routed and put to flight at the first onset and
discharge of their weapons, all the way to the shore, killing a great number of them;
nor would one of them have survived the battle and the flight, had not the ships, which had been brought to the shore, afforded them a refuge in their dismay.
Great alarm and confusion also prevailed in the ships, occasioned by their drawing up the ladders, lest the enemy should force their way in together with [p. 1212]
their own men, and by cutting away their halsers and anchors that they might not lose time in weighing them.
Many, too, met with a miserable death while endeavouring to swim to the ships, not knowing, in consequence of the darkness, which way to direct their course, or what to avoid.
On the following day, after the fleet had fled back to the ocean, whence it had come, as many as eight hundred were slain between the wall and the shore, and two thousand stand of arms were found.