During the same period an equal terror and a greater danger pressed upon Publius Scipio.
Masinissa was a young man at that time an ally of the Carthaginians, whom afterwards the friendship of the Romans rendered illustrious and powerful.
He not only opposed himself with his Numidian cavalry to Scipio on his approach, but afterwards harassed him incessantly day and night, so as both to cut off his stragglers, who had gone out
to a distance from the camp in search of wood and forage, and riding up to the very gates of his camp, and charging into the midst of his advanced guards, to fill every quarter with the utmost confusion.
By night also alarm was frequently occasioned in the gates and rampart by his sudden attacks. Nor was there any time or place at which the Romans were exempt from fear and anxiety;
and driven within their rampart, and deprived of every necessary, they suffered in a manner a regular siege; and it appeared that it would have been still straiter, if Indibilis, who it was reported was approaching with seven thousand five hundred Suessetani, should form a junction with the Carthaginians.
Scipio, though a wary and provident general, overpowered by difficulties, adopted the rash measure of going to meet Indibilis by night, with the intention of fighting him wherever he [p. 1005]
should meet him.
Leaving, therefore, a small force in his camp, under the command of Titus Fonteius, lieutenant-general, he set out at midnight, and meeting with the enemy, came to battle with him. The troops fought in the order of march rather than of battle.
The Romans, however, had the advantage, though in an irregular fight; but the Numidian cavalry, whose observation the general supposed that he had escaped, suddenly spreading themselves round his flanks, occasioned great terror.
After a new contest had been entered into with the Numidians, a third enemy came up in addition to the rest, the Carthaginian generals having come up with their rear when they were now engaged in fighting. Thus the Romans were surrounded on every side by enemies; nor could they make up their minds which they should attack first, or in what part, forming themselves into a close body, they should force their way through.
The general, while fighting and encouraging his men, exposing himself wherever the strife was the hottest, was run through the right side with a lance; and when the party of the enemy, which, formed into a wedge, had charged the troops collected round the general, perceived Scipio falling lifeless from his horse, elated with joy, they ran shouting through the whole line with the news that the Roman general had fallen.
These words spreading in every direction, caused the enemy to be considered as victors, and the Romans as vanquished.
On the loss of the general the troops immediately began to fly from the field; but though it was not difficult to force their way through the Numidians and the other light-armed auxiliaries, yet it was scarcely possible for them to escape so large a body of cavalry, and infantry equal to horses in speed.
Almost more were slain in the flight than in the battle; nor would a man have survived, had not night put a stop to the carnage, the day by this time rapidly drawing to a close.