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Defeat of Hasdrubal Son of Gesco

On this occasion Scipio appears to have employed a
Scipio resolves on a general engagement, and alters his disposition so as to make the battle depend upon the Italians rather than the Spaniards.
two-fold stratagem. Hasdrubal had been accustomed to make his demonstrations in force somewhat late in the day, with the Libyans in his centre, and the elephants on either wing; while his own practice had been to make his counter-movements somewhat later still, with the Roman soldiers on his centre opposite the Libyans, and the Iberians on his two wings; but the day on which he resolved upon a general engagement, by reversing this arrangement, he greatly contributed to secure the victory for his own men, and succeeded in putting the enemy at a considerable disadvantage. For directly it was light he sent his aides with orders to the tribunes and men to arm, as soon as they had got their breakfasts, and parade outside the camp. The order was obeyed with alacrity because the men suspected what was going to take place. He then sent the cavalry and light-armed forward, with orders to advance close to the enemy's camp, and skirmish boldly up to it; while he himself marched out with the infantry, just as the sun was appearing above the horizon; and on reaching the middle of the plain, made his dispositions in the reverse order to his usual arrangement, placing the Iberians in the centre and the Roman legionaries on the two wings.

The sudden approach of the cavalry to their camp, and the simultaneous appearance of the rest of the army getting into order, left the Carthaginians barely time to get under arms. Hasdrubal was therefore obliged, without waiting for the men to get breakfast, or making any preparations, to despatch his cavalry and light-armed troops at once against the enemy's cavalry on the plain, and to get his infantry into order on some level ground not far from the skirts of the mountains, as was their custom. For a time the Romans remained quiet; but when the morning was getting on, and the engagement between the light-armed troops still continued undecided, because such of them as were forced from their ground retired on their own heavy infantry and then formed again for attack, Scipio at length thought that the time was come. He withdrew his skirmishers through the intervals of the maniples, and then distributed them equally between the two wings on rear of his line, first the velites and behind them the cavalry. He then advanced, at first in line direct; but when he was about a stade1 from the enemy, he ordered the Iberians to continue the advance in the same order, while he commanded the maniples and squadrons on the right wing to turn outwards to the right, and those on the left wing to the left.

1 Or, according to another reading "five stades." Livy, 28, 14, says “quingentos passus.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 14
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