This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
From the day when he was proclaimed commander-in-chief, he seemed to regard Italy as his assigned field of action, and war with Rome as a duty imposed upon him.  Feeling that he ought not to delay operations, lest some accident should overtake him as in the case of his father and afterwards of Hasdrubal, he decided to attack the Saguntines.  As an attack on them would inevitably set the arms of Rome in motion, he began by invading the Olcades, a tribe who were within the boundaries but not under the dominion of Carthage. He wished to make it appear that Saguntum was not his immediate object, but that he was drawn into a war with her by the force of circumstances, by the conquest, that is, of all her neighbours and the annexation of their territory.  Cartala, a wealthy city and the capital of the tribe, was taken by storm and sacked; the smaller cities, fearing a similar fate, capitulated and agreed to pay an indemnity. His victorious army enriched with plunder was marched into winter quarters in New Carthage.  Here, by a lavish distribution of the spoils and the punctual discharge of all arrears of pay, he secured the allegiance of his own people and of the allied contingents. At the beginning of spring he extended his operations to the Vaccaei, and two of their cities, Arbocala and Hermandica, were taken by assault.  Arbocala held out for a considerable time, owing to the courage and numbers of its defenders;  the fugitives from Hermandica joined hands with those of the Olcades who had abandoned their country-this tribe had been subjugated the previous year-and together they stirred up the Carpetani to war.  Not far from the Tagus an attack was made upon Hannibal as he was returning from his expedition against the Vaccaei, and his army, laden as it was with plunder, was thrown into some confusion.  Hannibal declined battle and fixed his camp by the side of the river; as soon as there was quiet and silence amongst the enemy, he forded the stream. His entrenchments had been carried just far enough to allow room for the enemy to cross over, and he decided to attack them during their passage of the river.  He instructed his cavalry to wait until they had actually entered the water and then to attack them; his forty elephants he stationed on the bank.  The Carpetani together with the contingents of the Olcades and Vaccaei numbered altogether 100,000 men, an irresistible force had they been fighting on level ground.  Their innate fearlessness, the confidence inspired by their numbers, their belief that the enemy's retreat was due to fear, all made them look on victory as certain, and the river as the only obstacle to it. Without any word of command having been given, they raised a universal shout and plunged, each man straight in front of him, into the river.  A huge force of cavalry descended from the opposite bank, and the two bodies met in mid-stream. The struggle was anything but an equal one.  The infantry, feeling their footing insecure, even where the river was fordable, could have been ridden down even by unarmed horsemen, whereas the cavalry, with their bodies and weapons free and their horses steady even in the midst of the current, could fight at close quarters or not, as they chose.  A large proportion were swept down the river, some were carried by cross currents to the other side where the enemy were, and were trampled to death by the elephants.  Those in the rear thought it safest to return to their own side, and began to collect together as well as their fears allowed them, but before they had time to recover themselves Hannibal entered the river with his infantry in battle order and drove them in flight from the bank.  He followed up his victory by laying waste their fields, and in a few days was able to receive the submission of the Carpetani There was no part of the country beyond the Ebro which did not now belong to the Carthaginians, with the exception of Saguntum.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.