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Scipio Prepares to Attack Utica by Sea

By the beginning of spring Scipio had completed the
Spring of B. C. 203.
reconnaissances necessary for this attempt upon the enemy; and he began launching his ships, and getting the engines on them into working order, as though with the purpose of assaulting Utica by sea. With his land forces he once more occupied the high ground overlooking the town, and carefully fortified it and secured it by trenches. He wished the enemy to believe that he was doing this for the sake of carrying on the siege; but he really meant it as a cover for his men, who were to be engaged in the undertaking described above, to prevent the garrison sallying out, when the legions were separated from their lines, assaulting the palisade which was so near to them, and attacking the division left in charge of it. Whilst in the midst of these preparations, he sent to Syphax inquiring whether, "in case he agreed to his proposals, the Carthaginians would assent, and not say again that they would deliberate on the terms?" He ordered these legates at the same time not to return to him, until they had received an answer on these points. When the envoys arrived, the Numidian king was convinced that Scipio was on the point of concluding the agreement, partly from the fact that the ambassadors said that they would not go away until they got his answer, and partly because of the anxiety expressed as to the disposition of the Carthaginians. He therefore sent immediately to Hasdrubal, stating the facts and urging him to accept the peace. Meanwhile he neglected all precautions himself, and allowed the Numidians, who were now joining, to pitch their tents where they were, outside the lines. Scipio in appearance acted in the same way, while in reality he was pushing on his preparations with the utmost care. When a message was returned from the Carthaginians bidding Syphax complete the treaty of peace, the Numidian king, in a state of great exaltation, communicated the news to the envoys; who immediately departed to their own camp to inform Scipio from the king of what had been done. As soon as he heard it, the Roman general at once sent fresh envoys to inform Syphax that Scipio was quite satisfied and was anxious for the peace; but that the members of his council differed from him, and held that they should remain as they were. The ambassadors duly arrived and informed the Numidians of this.
Scipio's ruse to deceive Syphax.
Scipio sent this mission to avoid the appearance of a breach of truce, if he should perform any act of hostility while negotiations for peace were still going on between the parties. He considered that, by making this statement, he would be free to act in whatever way he chose without laying himself open to blame.

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203 BC (1)
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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), UTICA
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