At the beginning of the summer in which these operations were carried on, war was also begun [p. 263]
in Spain by land and sea.
To the number of ships,1
all rigged and fitted out, which Hasdrubal had taken over from his brother he added ten, and entrusted the fleet of forty sail to Himilco;2
and then, setting out from Carthage,3
he made his ships keep near the land and led his army along the shore, prepared to do battle with whatever part of their forces tile Romans might bring against him.
When Gnaeus Scipio learned that the enemy had left his winter quarters, he was minded at first to do the same; but on second thoughts concluded not to risk a battle on land, in view of the enormous number of auxiliaries with which rumour credited the Carthaginian, and embarking some of his best troops, went out to meet the enemy with a fleet of five and thirty ships.
On the second day out of Tarraco he came to an anchorage ten miles from the mouth of the river Ebro. Thence he dispatched two Massiliot scouting vessels, who reported that the Punic fleet was lying in the mouth of the river and their camp established on the bank.
Accordingly, in order to take them off their guard and unprepared, while at the same time spreading a universal panic, he weighed anchor and proceeded towards the enemy. The Spaniards have numerous towers built on heights, which they use both as watch-towers and also for protection against pirates.
From one of these the hostile ships were first descried, and on a signal being made to Hasdrubal, the alarm broke out on land and in the camp before it reached the sea and the ships; for no one had yet heard the beat of the oars or other nautical sounds, nor had the promontories yet disclosed the fleet to view, when suddenly [p. 265]
one galloper-after another, sent off by Hasdrubal,4
dashed up to the sailors, who were strolling about the beach or resting in their tents and thinking of nothing so little as of the enemy or of fighting on that day, and bade them board their ships in haste and arm themselves, for the Roman fleet was even then close to the harbour.
These orders the gallopers who had been sent out carried
far and wide, and presently Hasdrubal himself appeared on the scene with his entire army, and all was noise and confusion as the rowers and soldiers rushed down together to their ships, as though their object were rather to flee the shore than to enter battle.
Hardly were they all on board, when some cast off the hawsers5
and swung out on to their anchors, and others —that nothing might detain them —cut the anchor cables, and, in the hurry and excessive haste with which everything was done, the soldiers' gear interfered with the sailors in the performance of their tasks, and the confusion of the sailors kept the soldiers from taking and fitting on their armour.
By this time the Romans were not only drawing near, but had already formed their ships in order of battle. The result was that the Phoenicians were dismayed alike by the enemy's attack and by their own confusion, and after making rather a pretence of fighting than actually engaging, turned about and ran for it.
With a line so extended —and many ships came up at the same time —they were quite unable to get into the river's mouth against the current, but rowed in anywhere to the land; and getting ashore, some through shoals and others on a dry beach, some with their arms and some [p. 267]
without, they fled to the battle-line of their friends,6
which was drawn up along the shore. Two, however, of the Punic ships had been taken in the first attack and four had been sunk.7