The army of Hasdrubal, which was the nearest of the Carthaginian armies, lay near the city Baecula.
Before his camp he had outposts of cavalry. On these the light-armed, those who fought before the standards and those who composed the vanguard, as they came up from their march, and before they chose the ground for their camp, commenced an attack in so contemptuous a manner, that it was perfectly evi- [p. 1117]
dent what degree of spirit each party possessed.
The cavalry were driven into their camp in disorderly flight, and the Roman standards were advanced almost within their very gates.
Their minds on that day having only been excited to a contest, the Romans pitched their camp.
At night Hasdrubal withdrew his forces to an eminence, on the summit of which extended a level plain. There was a river on the rear, in front and on either side a kind of steep bank completely surrounded its extremity.
Beneath this and lower down was another plain of gentle declivity, which was also surrounded by a similar ridge equally difficult of ascent.
Into this lower plain Hasdrubal, the next day, when he saw the troops of the enemy drawn up before their camp, sent his Numidian cavalry and light-armed Baleares. Scipio riding out to the companies and battalions, pointed out to them, that "the enemy having abandoned, beforehand, all hope of being able to withstand them on level ground, had resorted to hills; where they stood in view, relying on the strength of their position, and not on their valour and arms.
But the walls of Carthage, which the Roman soldiers had scaled, were still higher. That neither hills, nor a citadel, nor even the sea itself, had formed an impediment to their arms.
That the heights which the enemy had occupied would only have the effect of making it necessary for them to leap down crags and precipices in their flight, but he would even cut off that kind of retreat.
He accordingly gave orders to two cohorts, that one of them should occupy the entrance of the valley down which the river ran, and that the other should block up the road which led from the city into the country, over the side of the hill. He himself led the light troops, which the day before had driven in the advanced guard of the enemy, against the light-armed troops which were stationed on the lower ridge.
At first they marched through rugged ground, impeded by nothing except the road; afterwards, when they came within reach of the darts, an immense quantity of weapon of every description was showered upon them;
while on their part, not only the soldiers, but a multitude of servants mingled with the troops, threw stones furnished by the place, which were spread about in every part, and for the most part convenient as missiles.
But though the ascent was difficult, and they were almost overwhelmed with stones and darts, yet from their practice in approaching walls and their inflexibility of [p. 1118]
mind, the foremost succeeded in getting up.
These, as soon as they got upon some level ground and could stand with firm footing, compelled the enemy, who were light-armed troops adapted for skirmishing, and could defend themselves at a distance, where an elusive kind of fight is carried on by the discharge of missiles, but yet wanted steadiness for a close action, to fly from their position; and, killing a great many, drove them to the troops which stood above them on the higher eminence.
Upon this Scipio, having ordered the victorious troops to mount up and attack the centre of the enemy, divided the rest of his forces with Laelius; whom he directed to go round the hill to the right till he could find a way of easier ascent, while he himself, making a small circuit to the left, charged the enemy in flank.
In consequence of this their line was first thrown into confusion, while they endeavoured to wheel round and face about their ranks towards the shouts which resounded from every quarter around them.
During this confusion Laelius also came up, and while the enemy were retreating, that they might not be exposed to wounds from behind, their front line became disjoined, and a space was left for the Roman centre to mount up;
who, from the disadvantage of the ground, never could have done so had their ranks stood unbroken with the elephants stationed in front.
While the troops of the enemy were being slain on all sides, Scipio, who with his left wing had charged the right of the enemy, was chiefly employed in attacking their naked flank.
And now there was not even room to fly; for parties of the Roman troops had blocked up the roads on both sides, right and left, and the gate of the camp was closed by the flight of the general and principal officers; added to which was the fright of the elephants, who, when in consternation, were as much feared by them as the enemy were. There were, therefore, slain as many as eight thousand men.