Lucius Scipio was sent to Rome to convey the news of the reduction of Spain, and with him a number of distinguished captives.
While everybody else extolled this achievement as an event in the highest degree joyful and glorious, yet the author of it alone, whose valour was such that he never thought he had achieved enough, and whose search for true glory was insatiable, considered the reduction of Spain as affording
but a faint idea of the hopes which his aspiring mind had conceived.
He now directed his view to Africa and Great Carthage, and the glorious termination of the war, as redounding to his honour, and giving lustre to his name.
Judging it therefore to be now necessary to pave the way to his object, and to conciliate the friendship of kings and nations, he resolved first to sound the disposition of Syphax, king of the Masaesylians, a nation bordering on the Moors, and lying for the most part over-against that quarter of Spain in which New Carthage is situated.
The king was at the present juncture in league with the Carthaginians;
and Scipio, concluding that he would not hold it as more binding and sacred than was customary with barbarians, sent Caius Laelius as envoy to him with presents.
The barbarian, delighted with these, and seeing that the Roman cause was then successful in every quarter, but that the Carthaginians were unfortunate [p. 1185]
in Italy, and no longer existed in Spain, consented to accept the friendship of the Romans, but refused to give or receive a solemn ratification of it except the Roman general himself were present in person.
This being the case, Laelius returned to Scipio, having received from the king merely an assurance of a safe journey.
To one desirous of getting a footing in Africa, Syphax was of great importance, as he was the most powerful king in that country, had already had experience of the Carthaginians themselves in war, and the boundaries of his dominions lay very conveniently with respect to Spain, from which they are separated by a narrow strait.
Scipio, therefore, considering it an object of sufficient importance to warrant his attempting it, notwithstanding the greatness of the danger which attended it, since he could not effect it otherwise, left for the protection of Spain Lucius Marcius at Tarraco, and Marcus Silanus at New Carthage, to which place he had gone on foot by long marches;
and setting out himself in company with Caius Laelius, with two quinqueremes from Carthage, passed over into Africa, working the vessels with oars for the greatest part of the voyage, in consequence of the calmness of the sea, though sometimes they were assisted by a gentle breeze.
It so happened, that just at that time Hasdrubal, having been driven out of Spain, had entered the harbour with seven triremes, and having cast anchor was mooring his ships.
The sight of two quinqueremes, which it was the firm opinion of everybody belonged to the enemy, and might be overpowered by superior numbers before they entered the harbour, produced no other effect than a tumult and confusion among the soldiers and sailors, who endeavoured to no purpose to get their arms and ships ready;
for their sails, impelled by a somewhat brisker gale from the sea, brought the quinqueremes into the harbour before the Carthaginians weighed their anchors, and no one dared make any further stir now that they were in the king's harbour.
Thus Hasdrubal, who landed first, and Scipio and Laelius, who landed soon after, proceeded to the king.