With the legates whom he kept sending to Syphax he would send some first centurions of attested courage and discretion as servants and garbed as slaves, that while the legates were in
conference they might roam about the camp in different directions and take note of all entrances and exits, the situation and plan both of the camp as a whole and of its divisions, where the Carthaginians and where the Numidians had their quarters. They were to discover what was the distance between Hasdrubal's camp and that of the king, also to learn their practice as regards outposts and sentries, whether they were more exposed to an unexpected attack by night or by day.
And in the course of numerous conferences other men and again others were purposely sent, that a larger number might acquaint themselves with everything.
When repeated discussions were giving Syphax, and through him the Carthaginians, a daily surer hope of peace, the Roman legates announced that they were forbidden to return to their general unless a definite [p. 379]
answer was made to them.
Therefore, if his own1
decision was already made, <let him declare it>; if on the other hand Hasdrubal and the Carthaginians had to be conferred with, let him confer with them. It was time, they said, either to agree upon peace or to wage war in earnest.
While Hasdrubal was being conferred with by Syphax, and the Carthaginians by Hasdrubal, the spies had time to observe everything, as had Scipio to get together whatever was needful.
And out of the talk of peace and the hope of it, as usually happens, there sprang a neglect on the part of the Carthaginians and the Numidian to guard against any attack which might be made upon them in the meantime.
At last the answer was returned, including certain unreasonable terms adroitly added just because the Roman seemed extremely desirous of peace. These furnished Scipio, who was eager to denounce the truce, a very timely pretext.
And after stating to the king's messenger that he would lay the matter before his council, on the next day he reported that, while he alone strove in vain to bring about peace, no one else had favoured it.2
The messenger therefore, he said, should report that Syphax had no other hope of peace with the Romans except by abandoning the Carthaginians.
His purpose in denouncing the truce was that, being no longer bound by promises, he might carry out his undertaking.. And launching his ships —it was now the beginning of spring —he mounted engines of war and artillery upon them, as though intending to attack Utica from the sea.
He also sent two thousand soldiers to seize the hill he had. previously held,3
looking down upon Utica, both [p. 381]
in order to divert the attention of the enemy from his4
real purpose to anxiety about a
different attack, and at the same time that, when he should himself set out to meet Syphax and Hasdrubal, there should be no sally from the city and no attack upon his camp when left with only a small garrison.