Hamilcar Barcas Becomes Commander in Chief
The Carthaginians, therefore, when they saw his mismanagement of the campaign, once more placed
Hamilcar Barcas takes the command.
Hamilcar Barcas at the head of affairs; and despatched him to the war as commander-in-chief,
with seventy elephants, the newly-collected mercenaries, and
the deserters from the enemy; and along with them the
cavalry and infantry enrolled from the citizens themselves,
amounting in all to ten thousand men. His appearance from
the first produced an immediate impression. The expedition
was unexpected; and he was thus able, by the dismay which it
produced, to lower the courage of the enemy. He succeeded
in raising the siege of Utica
, and showed himself worthy of
his former achievements, and of the confidence felt in him by
the people. What he accomplished on this service was this.
A chain of hills runs along the isthmus connecting Carthage
He gets his men across the Macaras.
with the mainland, which are difficult of access, and are crossed
by artificial passes into the mainland; of these hills Mathōs
had occupied all the available points and posted guards there.
Besides these there is a river called Macaras (Bagradas), which
at certain points interrupts the passage of travellers from the
city to the mainland, and though for the most
part impassable, owing to the strength of its
stream, is only crossed by one bridge. This
means of egress also Mathōs was guarding securely, and had
built a town on it. The result was that, to say nothing of
the Carthaginians entering the mainland with an army, it was
rendered exceedingly difficult even for private individuals, who
might wish to make their way through, to elude the vigilance
of the enemy. This did not escape the observation and care
of Hamilcar; and while revolving every means and every
chance of putting an end to this difficulty about a passage, he
at length hit upon the following. He observed that where
the river discharges itself into the sea its mouth got silted up
in certain positions of the wind, and that then the passage
over the river at its mouth became like that over a marsh.
He accordingly got everything ready in the camp for the
expedition, without telling any one what he was going to do;
and then watched for this state of things to occur. When the
right moment arrived, he started under cover of night; and by
daybreak had, without being observed by any one, got his army
across this place, to the surprise of the citizens of Utica
as of the enemy. Marching across the plain, he led his men
straight against the enemy who were guarding the bridge.