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Hamilcar's Tactical Superiority

The assistance thus obtained from these allies encouraged the Carthaginians to maintain their resistance: while Mathōs and Spendius found themselves quite as much in the position of besieged as in that of besiegers; for Hamilcar's force reduced them to such distress for provisions that they were at last compelled to raise the siege.
B. C. 238. Hamilcar, with assistance from Sicily, surrounds Mathōs and Spendius.
However, after a short interval, they managed to muster the most effective of the mercenaries and Libyans, to the number in all of fifty thousand, among whom, besides others, was Zarzas the Libyan, with his division, and commenced once more to watch and follow on the flank of Hamilcar's march. Their method was to keep away from the level country, for fear of the elephants and the cavalry of Narávas; but to seize in advance of him all points of vantage, whether it were rising ground or narrow pass. In these operations they showed themselves quite a match for their opponents in the fury of their assault and the gallantry of their attempts; but their ignorance of military tactics frequently placed them at a disadvantage. It was, in fact, a real and practical illustration of the difference between scientific and unscientific warfare: between the art of a general and the mechanical movements of a soldier. Like a good draught-player, by isolating and surrounding them, he destroyed large numbers in detail without coming to a general engagement at all; and in movements of more importance he cut off many without resistance by enticing them into ambushes; while he threw others into utter dismay by suddenly appearing where they least expected him, sometimes by day and sometimes by night: and all whom he took alive he threw to the elephants. Finally, he managed unexpectedly to beleaguer them on ground highly unfavourable to them and convenient for his own force; and reduced them to such a pitch of distress that, neither venturing to risk an engagement nor being able to run away, because they were entirely surrounded by a trench and stockade, they were at last compelled by starvation to feed on each other: a fitting retribution at the hands of Providence for their violation of all laws human and divine in their conduct to their enemies. To sally forth to an engagement they did not dare, for certain defeat stared them in the face, and they knew what vengeance awaited them if they were taken; and as to making terms, it never occurred to them to mention it, they were conscious that they had gone too far for that. They still hoped for the arrival of relief from Tunes, of which their officers assured them, and accordingly shrank from no suffering however terrible.

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