The nearest army of the Carthaginians, that of Hasdrubal, was close to the city of Baecula.1
Before the camp they had cavalry outposts. Upon these the light-armed, the vanguard and men at the head of the column, just as they came up after the [p. 285]
march and before choosing a site for a camp, made an2
attack with such disdain that it was easy to see what was the spirit of each side.
The horsemen were forced into the camp in alarm and flight, and the Roman standards were all but carried inside the very gates.
And on that day, indeed, after they had merely provoked each other to battle, the Romans pitched camp;
but by night Hasdrubal withdrew his troops to a hill the top of which formed an open, level plain.3
The river was behind it, while in front and at the sides a steep bank, as it were, encircled its entire margin.
Beneath was also a lower level area, gently sloping down. This also was surrounded by another ledge no easier to climb.
Down to this lower plain Hasdrubal next day, on seeing the enemy's line standing before his camp, sent down his Numidian cavalry and the light-armed Balearic and African troops.
Scipio, while riding about his ranks and standards, pointed out that the enemy, having given up in advance the hope of fighting on level ground, were hugging the hills and were standing before them in reliance upon position, not upon courage and arms.
But (New) Carthage, he said, had possessed higher walls, which the Roman soldier had scaled; and neither hills nor citadel, not even the sea, had withstood his arms.
The heights which the enemy had taken would only serve them for purposes of flight, as they leaped over precipices and crags. He would cut them off from such a flight too.
And he ordered one of two cohorts to hold the entrance [p. 287]
into the valley through which the river flowed, the4
other to block the road leading from the city down the slope of the hill into the country. He himself led the unencumbered men, who the day before had routed the outposts of the enemy, to meet the light-armed standing on the lowest brow of the hill. At first they advanced over rugged ground, hampered only by the footing.
Then when they came within range, at first an immense number of missile weapons of every kind was showered upon them.
In return they hurled stones which the place affords, strewn broadcast and almost all of them of a size to be thrown, and not only did the soldiers do so, but also the mass of camp-servants mingling with the armed men.
But although the ascent was difficult and they were almost overwhelmed by missile weapons and stones, still, thanks to their practice in scaling walls and to their persistence, they were the first to reach the top. As soon as they had taken some level ground where they could get a firm footing, they dislodged the light-armed enemy —troops
that are accustomed to skirmishing and, while avoiding the real battle by hurling long-range missiles, are protected by distance, but prove unsteady in the face of hand-to-hand conflict. Thus with great slaughter they drove them against the battle-line standing on the higher level of the hill.
Then Scipio ordered his victorious troops to go up facing the centre of the line, divided the rest of his forces with Laelius, and bade him circle round the right side of the hill, until he found a way less difficult of ascent. He himself on the left, after a moderate circuit, charged into the flank of the enemy. In consequence the line was at first [p. 289]
thrown into disorder, while the men tried to wheel5
and made their ranks face the shouts resounding on every side.
In the midst of this disorder Laelius also reached the top;
and the front line of the enemy, as the men gave way and were afraid of being wounded from the rear, lost its solidity, and room was given even for the Romans in the centre to mount to the top.
These men would never have done so over such unfavourable ground if the ranks had stood unbroken with the elephants placed in front of the standards.
While on all sides the slaughter was in progress, Scipio, who with the left wing had charged into the enemy's right wing, was fighting especially against the exposed flank of the enemy.
And no longer was space left open even for flight; for both on the right and on the left Roman outposts had blocked the roads, and the gate of the camp was obstructed by the flight of the general and chief officers, while in addition there was the panic of the elephants, of which, when terrified, they were as much afraid as of the enemy. Accordingly about eight thousand men were slain.