Though this letter made at first a great impression on the senate, yet, as their interest in Italy was first and most important, they did not at all alter their resolution in relation to Hasdrubal and his troops.
However, they despatched Himilco with a complete army, and an augmented fleet, to preserve and defend Spain both by sea and land.
When he had conveyed over his land and naval forces, he fortified a camp; and having drawn his ships upon dry land, and surrounded them with a rampart, he marched with a chosen body of cavalry, with all possible expedition; using the same caution when passing through people who were wavering, and those who were actually enemies; and came up with Hasdrubal.
As soon as he had informed him of the resolutions and orders of the senate, and in his turn been thoroughly instructed in what manner to prosecute the war in Spain, he returned to his camp; his expedition more than any thing else saving him, for he quitted every place before the people could conspire.
Before Hasdrubal quitted his position he laid all the states in subjection to him under contribution. He knew [p. 869]
well, that Hannibal purchased a passage through some nations; that he had no Gallic auxiliaries but such as were hired;
and that if he had undertaken so arduous a march without money, he would scarcely have penetrated so far as the Alps.
For this reason, having exacted the contributions with great haste, he marched down to the Iberus. As soon as the Roman generals got notice of the Carthaginian senate's resolution, and Hasdrubal's march, they gave up every other concern, and uniting their forces, determined to meet him and oppose his attempt.
They reflected, that when it was already so difficult to make head against Hannibal alone in Italy, there would be an end of the Roman empire in Spain, should Hasdrubal join him with a Spanish army.
Full of anxiety and care on these accounts, they assembled their forces at the Iberus, and crossed the river; and after deliberating for some time whether they should encamp opposite to the enemy, or be satisfied with impeding his intended march by attacking the allies of
the Carthaginians, they made preparations for besieging a city called Ibera, from its contiguity to the river, which was at that time the wealthiest in that quarter.
When Hasdrubal perceived this, instead of carrying assistance to his allies, he proceeded himself to besiege a city which had lately placed itself under the protection of the Romans;
and thus the siege which was now commenced was given up by them, and the operations of the war turned against Hasdrubal himself.