Scipio Determines to Attack
When news of these proceedings reached the Roman
camp Scipio immediately determined to attack. Leaving
orders, therefore, to the army and navy, which were besieging Utica, as to what they were to do, he started with all his
army in light marching order. On the fifth day he reached
the Great Plains, and during the first day after his arrival
encamped on a piece of rising ground about thirty stades from
the enemy. Next day he descended into the plain and drew up
at a distance of seven stades from the enemy, with
his cavalry forming an advanced guard. After skirmishing
attacks carried on by both sides during the next two days, on
the fourth both armies were deliberately brought out into
position and drawn up in order of battle.
The battle on the Great Plains. 24th June, B. C. 203.
Scipio followed exactly the Roman system,
stationing the maniples of hastati in the front,
behind them the principes, and lastly the triarii in the rear.
Of his cavalry he stationed the Italians on the right wing, the
Numidians and Massanissa on the left. Syphax and Hasdrubal
stationed the Celtiberes in the centre opposite the Roman
cohorts, the Numidians on the left, and the Carthaginians on
The Roman wings are both victorious.
At the very first charge the Numidians reeled
before the Italian cavalry, and the Carthaginians
before those under Massanissa; for their many
previous defeats had completely demoralised
them. But the Celtiberes fought gallantly, for they had no
hope of saving themselves by flight, being entirely unacquainted
with the country; nor any expectation of being spared if they
were taken prisoners on account of their perfidy to Scipio: for
they were regarded as having acted in defiance of justice and
of their treaty in coming to aid the Carthaginians against the
Romans, though they had never suffered any act of hostility at
Scipio's hands during the campaigns in Iberia.
The Celtiberes, on the centre, are cut to pieces after a gallant resistance.
When, however, the two wings gave way these men were surrounded by the principes and
triarii, and cut to pieces on the field almost to
a man. Thus perished the Celtiberes, who yet did very
effective service to the Carthaginians, not only during the
whole battle, but during the retreat also; for, if it had not
been for the hindrance caused by them, the Romans would
have pressed the fugitives closely, and very few of the enemy
would have escaped.
Syphax and Hasdrubal escape.
As it was, owing to the delay caused
by these men, Syphax and his cavalry effected
their retreat to his own kingdom in safety;
while Hasdrubal with the survivors of his army
did the same to Carthage.