After having made sufficient trial of their strength in these slight engagements, Hasdrubal first led out his forces for battle, and then the Romans also advanced.
But both the armies stood drawn up before their ramparts; and as neither party began the attack, and the sun was now going down, the Carthaginian first, and then the Roman, led back his troops into the camp. The same occurred for several days. The [p. 1180]
Carthaginian was always the first to lead out his troops into the field, and the first to give the signal for retiring, when they were weary with standing.
Neither party sallied from their posts, nor was a weapon discharged, or a word uttered.
On one side the Romans occupied the centre, on the other, the Carthaginians and Africans together; the allies occupied the wings, which were composed of Spaniards on both sides. The elephants which stood before the Carthaginian line, appeared at a distance like castles.
It was now commonly talked of in both camps, that they would fight in the order in which they had stood when drawn up, and that their centres, composed of Romans and Carthaginians, who were the principals in the war, would engage with equal courage and strength.
When Scipio perceived that this was firmly believed, he studiously altered all his arrangements against the day on which he intended to fight.
He issued orders through the camp at evening, that the men and horses should be refreshed and fed before daylight, and that the horsemen, armed themselves, should keep their horses bridled and saddled. When it was scarcely yet daylight, he sent all his cavalry, with the light troops, against the Carthaginian outposts, and then without delay advanced himself, at
the head of the heavy body of the legions, having strengthened his wings with Roman
soldiers, and placed the allies in the centre, contrary to the full anticipations of his own men and of the enemy.
Hasdrubal, alarmed by the shout of the cavalry, sprang out of his tent, and, perceiving a tumult before the rampart, and his own troops in a state of hurry and confusion, the standards of the legions gleaming at a distance, and the plain filled with the enemy, immediately sent out the whole body of his cavalry against the horsemen of the enemy;
marching himself out of the camp, at the head of the infantry, without departing at all from the usual arrangement in forming his line.
The battle between the cavalry had continued for a long time doubtful; nor could they decide it themselves, because, when repulsed, which was the case in a manner alternately, they had a safe retreat upon the line of infantry.
But when the armies were not more than five hundred paces distant from each other, Scipio, sounding a retreat and opening his files, received into the midst of them the whole body of his cavalry and light-armed troops;
and dividing them into [p. 1181]
two parts, placed them in reserve behind the wings. After this, when it was now time to commence the battle, he ordered the Spaniards, who formed the centre, to advance at a slow pace;
he himself sent a messenger from the right wing, for that he commanded, to Silanus and Marcius to extend the wing on the left in the same manner as they should see him extend
that on the right, and engage the enemy with the light-armed of the horse and foot, before the two centres could meet.
The wings being thus extended, they advanced against the enemy at a rapid pace, with three cohorts of infantry, and three troops of horse, each with the addition of skirmishers, the rest following them in an oblique line.
There was a depression in the centre of the line, because the battalions of the Spaniards advanced slower than the rest, and the wings had already encountered the enemy, when the veteran Carthaginians and Africans had not yet come within distance to discharge their darts;
nor dared they run in different directions to the wings to assist them when fighting, lest they should expose their centre to the enemy approaching over against them.
The wings were hard pressed, by a twofold attack; the cavalry, the light-armed, and the skirmishers, wheeling round, charged their flanks, while the cohorts pressed them hard in front, in order to separate the wings from the rest of the line.