In the beginning of the summer in which these events occurred, the war commenced by land and sea in Spain also.
To the number of ships which he had received from his brother, equipped and ready for action, Hasdrubal added ten.
The fleet of forty ships he delivered to Himilco: and thus setting out from Carthage, kept his ships near the land, while he led his army along the shore, ready to engage with whichever part of his forces the enemy might fall in with.
Cneius Scipio, when he heard that the enemy had quitted his winter quarters, at first formed the same plan; but afterwards, not daring to engage him by land, from a great rumour of fresh auxiliaries, he advances to meet him with a fleet of thirty-five ships, having put some chosen soldiers on board.
Setting out from Tarraco, on the second day, he reached a convenient station, ten miles from the mouth of the Iberus. Two ships of the Massilians, sent forward from that place reconnoitring, brought word back that the Carthaginian fleet was stationed in the mouth of the river, and that the camp was pitched upon the bank.
In order, therefore, to overpower them while off their guard and incautious, by a universal and wide-spread [p. 787]
terror, he weighed anchor and advanced. In Spain there are several towers placed in high situations, which they employ both as watch-towers and as places of defence against pirates.
From them first, a view of the ships of the enemy having been obtained, the signal was given to Hasdrubal; and a tumult arose in the camp, and on land sooner than on the ships and at sea; the dashing of the oars and other nautical noises not being yet distinctly heard, nor the promontories disclosing the fleet. Upon this, suddenly one horseman after another, sent out by Hasdrubal, orders those who were strolling upon the shore or resting quietly in their tents, expecting any thing rather than the enemy and a battle on that day, immediately to embark and take up arms: that the Roman fleet was now a short distance from the harbour.
The horsemen, despatched in every direction, delivered these orders; and presently Hasdrubal himself comes up with the main army.
All places resound with noises of various kinds; the soldiers and rowers hurrying together to the ships, rather like men running away from the land than marching to battle.
Scarcely had all embarked, when some, unfastening the hawsers, are carried out against the anchors; others cut their cables, that nothing might impede them; and by doing every thing with hurry and precipitation, the duties of mariners were impeded by the preparations of the soldiers, and the soldiers were prevented from taking and preparing for action their arms, by the bustle of the mariners.
And now the Roman was not only approaching, but had drawn up his ships for the battle. The Carthaginians, therefore, thrown into disorder, not more by the enemy and the battle than by their own tumult, having rather made an attempt at fighting than commenced a battle, turned their fleet for flight; and as the mouth of the river which was before them could not be entered in so broad a line, and by so many pressing in at the same time, they ran their ships on shore in every part.
And being received, some in the shallows, and others on the dry shore, some armed and some unarmed, they escaped to their friends, who were drawn up in battle-array over the shore. Two Carthaginian ships were captured and four sunk on the first encounter.