While the Romans were thus planning and deliberating, the siege of Saguntum was already being pressed with the greatest vigour.
This city was much the wealthiest of those beyond the Ebro and was situated about a mile from the sea. Its inhabitants are said to have come originally from the island of Zacynthus,1
and to have included also a strain from the Ardeate Rutulians.2
Be this as it may, they had attained quickly to their great prosperity, whether owing to the produce of the sea or the [p. 21]
to the growth of their population, or to the4
integrity of their discipline, which caused
them to keep faith with their allies even to their own undoing.
Crossing their borders with a hostile army Hannibal laid waste their country far and wide and advanced in three divisions against their city. There was an angle of the wall that gave on a valley more open and more level than the other ground about the town.
Against this he determined to bring up pent-houses, that under their cover the battering-rams might be brought into contact with the walls.
But though the ground at some distance from the wall was smooth enough for moving the pent-houses, the attempt succeeded very ill when it came to the final execution of it. There was a great overhanging tower, and the wall —as was natural in a suspected place —had been carried up to a greater height than elsewhere, and the pick of the fighting men having been stationed there, where the greatest danger threatened, offered a more strenuous resistance.
At first they drove the assailants off with missiles and left no spot safe for their pioneers;
afterwards not only did their javelins dart from wall and tower, but they even had the hardihood to sally out against the pickets and earthworks of their enemies, and in these rough-and-tumble fights hardly more Saguntines fell than Phoenicians.
But when Hannibal himself, who had somewhat incautiously ventured up under the wall, was severely wounded in the front of his thigh with a heavy javelin and sank to the ground, those about him fell into such confusion and dismay as almost to abandon their works and pent-houses.