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Dreadful Scene In the Burning Camps

At the same time the Carthaginians, observing the
and of Hasdrubal.
proportions of the conflagration and the hugeness of the flame that was rising, imagined that the Numidian camp had been accidentally set on fire. Some of them therefore started at once to render assistance, and all the rest hurried outside their own camp unarmed, and stood there gazing in astonishment at the spectacle. Everything having thus succeeded to his best wishes, Scipio fell upon these men outside their camp, and either put them to the sword, or, driving them back into the camp, set fire to their huts. The disaster of the Punic army was thus very like that which had just befallen the Numidians, fire and sword in both cases combining to destroy them. Hasdrubal immediately gave up all idea of combating the fire, for he knew from the coincidence of the two that the fire in the Numidian camp was not accidental, as he had supposed, but had originated from some desperate design of the enemy. He therefore turned his attention to saving his own life, although there was now little hope left of doing so. For the fire was spreading rapidly and was catching everywhere; while the camp gangways were full of horses, beasts of burden, and men, some of them half dead and devoured by the fire, and others in a state of such frantic terror and mad excitement that they prevented any attempts at making a defence, and by the utter tumult and confusion which they created rendered all chance of escape hopeless. The case of Syphax was the same as that of Hasdrubal, as it was also that of the other officers. The two former, however, did manage to escape, accompanied by a few horsemen: but all those myriads of men, horses, and beasts of burden, either met a miserable and pitiable death from the fire, or, if they escaped the violence of that, some of the men perished ignominiously at the hands of the enemy, cut down naked and defenceless, not only without their arms, but without so much as their clothes to cover them. The whole place was filled with yells of pain, confused cries, terror, and unspeakable din, mingled with a conflagration which spread rapidly and blazed with the utmost fierceness. It was the combination and suddenness of these horrors that made them so awful, any one of which by itself would have been sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of men. It is accordingly impossible for the imagination to exaggerate the dreadful scene, so completely did it surpass in horror everything hitherto recorded. Of all the brilliant achievements of Scipio this appears to me to have been the most brilliant and the most daring. . . .

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