Having made these preparations, he called a council, and after ordering the spies to give an account of the discoveries they had made, and requesting Masinissa, who was acquainted with every circumstance relating to the enemy, to state what he knew, lastly, he himself laid before the council the plan proposed for the following night.
He gave directions to the tribunes, that when, after the breaking up of the council, the trumpets had sounded, they should immediately march the legions out of the camp. Agreeably to his commands, the standards began to be carried out about sun-set.
About the first watch they formed the troops in marching order. At midnight, for it was seven miles' march, they came up at a moderate pace to the camp of the enemy.
Here Scipio assigned a part of his forces, together with Masinissa and the Numidians, to Laelius, ordering them to fall upon the camp of Syphax, and throw fire upon it.
Then taking each of the commanders, Masinissa and Laelius, aside, he implored them separately to make up by diligence and care for the absence of that foresight which the night rendered it impossible to exercise.
He said, that he should himself attack Hasdrubal and the Carthaginian camp; but that he should not begin till he saw the fire in that of the king.
Nor did this delay him long; for when the fire thrown upon the nearest huts had taken effect, immediately communicating with all those which were within the shortest distance, and those connected with them in regular succession, it spread itself throughout the whole camp.
The confusion and alarm which took place, in consequence of so widely extended a fire breaking out during the night, were as great as might naturally be expected; but as they concluded that it was the effect of chance, and not produced by the enemy, or connected with the war, they rushed out in a disorderly manner, without their arms, to extinguish the
flames, and fell in with armed enemies, particularly the Numidians, who on account of their knowledge of the king's camp were placed by Masinissa in convenient places at the openings of the passes.
Many perished in the [p. 1289]
flames in their beds while half asleep; and many, tumbling over one another in their haste to escape, were trampled to death in the narrow passages of the gates.