In the mean time, the Carthaginians had now filled the walls again with armed men, who were supplied with a great quantity of missiles from the immense stores which they had laid up.
But neither men nor missiles, nor any thing else, so effectually defended them as the walls themselves; for very few of the ladders were equal to the height of them, and all those which were longer than the rest were proportionably weaker.
Accordingly, those who were highest being unable to mount from them, and being followed, nevertheless, by others, they broke from the mere weight upon them. Some, though the ladders stood, a dizziness having come over their eyes in consequence of the height, fell to the ground.
And as men and ladders were every where tumbling down, while the boldness and alacrity of the enemy were increased by the mere success, the signal for retreat was sounded;
which afforded hopes to the besieged, not only of present rest after such a laborious contest, but also for the future, as it appeared their city could not be taken by scalade and siege. To raise works they considered would be attended with difficulty, and would give time to their generals to bring them assistance.
Scarcely had the first tumult subsided, when Scipio ordered other fresh and unfatigued troops to take the ladders from those who were tired and wounded, and assault the city with increased vigour.
Having received intelligence that the tide was ebbing, and having before been informed by some fishermen of Tarraco who used to pass through the lake, sometimes in light boats, and, when these ran aground, by wading, that it afforded an easy passage to the wall for footmen, he led some armed men thither in person.
It was about mid-day, and besides that the water was being drawn off naturally, in consequence of the tide receding, a brisk north wind rising impelled the water in the lake, which was already in motion, in the same direction as the tide, and rendered it so shallow, that in some parts the water reached only to the navel, while in others it scarcely rose above the knees.
Scipio, referring this discovery, which he had made by his own diligence and penetration, to the gods and to miracle, which had turned the course of the sea, withdrawn it from the lake, and opened ways never before trodden by human feet to afford a passage to the Romans, ordered them to follow Neptune as their guide, and [p. 1080]
passing through the middle of the lake, make good their way to the walls.