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Roman Victory at Panormus

Meanwhile Hasdrubal noticed the terror displayed by
B. C. 251.
the Romans whenever they had lately found themselves in the presence of the enemy. He learnt also that one of the Consuls had departed and gone to Italy, and that Caecilius was lingering in Panormus with the other half of the army, with the view of protecting the corn-crops of the allies just then ripe for the harvest.
Skirmishing at Panormus.
He therefore got his troops in motion, marched out, and encamped on the frontier of the territory of Panormus. Caecilius saw well enough that the enemy had become supremely confident, and he was anxious to draw him on; he therefore kept his men within the walls. Hasdrubal imagined that Caecilius dared not come out to give him battle. Elated with this idea, he pushed boldly forward with his whole army and marched over the pass into the territory of Panormus. But though he was destroying all the standing crops up to the very walls of the town, Caecilius was not shaken from his resolution, but kept persistently to it, until he had induced him to cross the river which lay between him and the town. But no sooner had the Carthaginians got their elephants and men across, than Caecilius commenced sending out his light-armed troops to harass them, until be had forced them to get their whole army into fighting order. When he saw that everything was happening as he designed it, he placed some of his light troops to line the wall and moat, with instructions that if the elephants came within range they should pour volleys of their missiles upon them; but that whenever they found themselves being forced from their ground by them, they should retreat into the moat, rush out of it again, and hurl darts at the elephants which happened to be nearest. At the same time he gave orders to the armourers in the market-place to carry the missiles and heap them up outside at the foot of the wall. Meanwhile he took up his own position with his maniples at the gate which was opposite the enemy's left wing, and kept despatching detachment after detachment to reinforce his skirmishers. The engagement commenced by them becoming more and more general, a feeling of emulation took possession of the officers in charge of the elephants. They wished to distinguish themselves in the eyes of Hasdrubal, and they desired that the credit of the victory should be theirs: they therefore, with one accord, charged the advanced skirmishing parties of the enemy, routed them with ease, and pursued them up to the moat. But no sooner did the elephants thus come to close quarters than they were wounded by the archers on the wall, and overwhelmed with volleys of pila and javelins which poured thick and fast upon them from the men stationed on the outer edge of the moat, and who had not yet been engaged,—and thus, studded all over with darts, and wounded past all bearing, they soon got beyond control. They turned and bore down upon their own masters, trampling men to death, and throwing their own lines into utter disorder and confusion. When Caecilius saw this he led out his men with promptitude. His troops were fresh; the enemy were in disorder; and he charged them diagonally on the flank: the result was that he inflicted a severe defeat upon them, killed a large number, and forced the rest into precipitate flight. Of the elephants he captured ten along with their Indian riders: the rest which had thrown their Indians he managed to drive into a herd after the battle, and secured every one of them. This achievement gained him the credit on all hands of having substantially benefited the Roman cause, by once more restoring confidence to the army, and giving them the command of the open country.

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  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), HASTA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PANORMUS
    • Smith's Bio, Hasdrubal
    • Smith's Bio, Metellus
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