Lucius Scipio with many noble captives was sent to Rome to announce the conquest of Spain.
And while everyone else was publishing the fact abroad with great rejoicing and high praise, the one man who had accomplished it was insatiable in his craving for merit and well-earned distinction. He considered the conquest of Spain insignificant compared with all that he had imagined in his high-minded hopes.
Already his eye was upon Africa and the greater Carthage and the glory of such a war, as if [p. 73]
accumulated to bring him honour and a name.1
Accordingly, thinking that he must already make preparations and gain the goodwill of kings and tribes, he decided first to sound King Syphax.
He was the king of the Masaesulians. A tribe bordering on the Mauri, the Masaesulians directly face the region of Spain in which lies New Carthage.
At that time the king had a treaty with the Carthaginians; and Scipio, thinking it would have for Syphax no more weight and sanctity than is usual for barbarians, with whom loyalty depends upon success, sent Gaius Laelius as an envoy to him with gifts.
Delighted with these, and since at that time the situation
was everywhere favourable for the Romans but for the Carthaginians unfavourable in Italy and now quite hopeless in Spain, the barbarian indicated that he would accept the friendship of the Romans; that for its confirmation he would neither give nor receive a pledge except in the actual presence of the Roman commander.
So Laelius, having received from the king a promise to this effect only, that for the visit safety would be assured, returned to Scipio.
A factor of great importance in every respect for a man planning an attack upon Africa was Syphax, the richest king in that land and one who had already gained experience even of the Carthaginians in war, while boundaries of his kingdom were also well situated with reference to Spain in being separated from it by a narrow strait only.
Consequently Scipio thought the matter deserved to be pursued even at a great risk, since it was otherwise impossible.
Leaving Lucius Marcius at Tarraco and Marcus Silanus at New Carthage —to which he had come by land in long stages from Tarraco —that they might defend Spain, [p. 75]
he himself sailed with Gaius Laelius and two quinqueremes2
from (New) Carthage. Using oars for the most part over a calm sea, while at times a gentle wind lent its help, he crossed over to Africa.3
It so chanced that at the very same time Hasdrubal, who had been forced out of Spain and had sailed into the harbour with seven triremes and cast anchor, was bringing his ships to the shore when the two quinqueremes were sighted.
No one had any doubt that they belonged to the enemy, and that they could be surprised by superior numbers before they entered the harbour. But they caused nothing more than uproar and excitement both among soldiers and sailors, as they made ready their arms and ships all to no purpose.
For the sails, catching a slightly stronger wind from the open sea, brought the quinqueremes into the harbour before the Carthaginians could weigh anchor.
Nor did anyone dare to make further disturbance in the king's harbour. So first Hasdrubal and then Scipio and Laelius disembarked and went to the king.