And now there were, in a manner, two contests going on together, the Carthaginians being compelled to fight at once with the enemy and with their own party.
Continuing Scipio Africanus Crushes Hannibal at Zama and Subjugates Carthage,
our selection from History of Rome, Book XII by Livy published in between 27 BC and 9 BC. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Scipio Africanus Crushes Hannibal at Zama and Subjugates Carthage.
Time: 202 BC
Place: Zama, Tunisia
On the side of the enemy, the second line, consisting of the Africans and Carthaginians, were so far from supporting the first line when giving ground, that on the contrary they even retired, lest their enemy, by slaying those who made a firm resistance, should penetrate to themselves also. Accordingly the auxiliaries suddenly turned their backs, and facing about upon their own party, fled, some of them into the second line, while others slew those who did not receive them into their ranks, since before they did not support them, and now refused to receive them. And now there were, in a manner, two contests going on together, the Carthaginians being compelled to fight at once with the enemy and with their own party. Not even then, however, did they receive into their line the terrified and exasperated troops, but, closing their ranks, drove them out of the scene of action to the wings and the surrounding plain, lest they should mingle these soldiers, terrified with defeat and wounds, with that part of their line which was firm and fresh.
But such a heap of men and arms had filled the space in which the auxiliaries a little while ago had stood that it was almost more difficult to pass through it than through a close line of troops. The spearmen, therefore, who formed the front line, pursuing the enemy as each could find a way through the heap of arms and men and streams of blood, threw into complete disorder the battalions and companies. The standards also of the principes had begun to waver when they saw the line before them driven from their ground. Scipio, perceiving this, promptly ordered the signal to be given for the spearmen to retreat, and having taken his wounded into the rear, brought the principes and triarii to the wings in order that the line of spearmen in the centre might be more strong and secure. Thus a fresh and renewed battle commenced, inasmuch as they had penetrated to their real antagonists, men equal to them in the nature of their arms, in their experience in war, in the fame of their achievements, and the greatness of their hopes and fears. But the Romans were superior both in numbers and courage, for they had now routed both the cavalry and the elephants, and, having already defeated the front line, were fighting against the second.
Laelius and Masinissa, who had pursued the routed cavalry through a considerable space, returning very opportunely, charged the rear of the enemy’s line. This attack of the cavalry at length routed them. Many of them, being surrounded, were slain in the field; and many, dispersed in flight through the open plain around, were slain on all hands, as the cavalry were in possession of every part. Of the Carthaginians and their allies, above twenty thousand were slain on that day; about an equal number were captured, with a hundred and thirty-three military standards and eleven elephants. Of the victors as many as two thousand fell.
Hannibal, slipping off during the confusion, with a few horsemen, came to Adrumetum, not quitting the field till he had tried every expedient both in the battle and before the engagement; having, according to the admission of Scipio and everyone skilled in military science, acquired the fame of having marshalled his troops on that day with singular judgment. He placed his elephants in the front, in order that their desultory attack and insupportable violence might prevent the Romans from following their standards and preserving their ranks, on which they placed their principal dependence. Then he posted his auxiliaries before the line of Carthaginians, in order that men who were made up of the refuse of all nations, and who were not bound by honor but by gain, might not have any retreat open to them in case they fled; at the same time that the first ardor and impetuosity might be exhausted upon them, and, if they could render no other service, that the weapons of the enemy might be blunted in wounding them. Next he placed the Carthaginian and African soldiers, on whom he placed all his hopes, in order that, being equal to the enemy in every other respect, they might have the advantage of them inasmuch as, being fresh and unimpaired in strength themselves, they would fight with those who were fatigued and wounded. The Italians he removed into the rear, separating them also by an intervening space, as he knew not with certainty whether they were friends or enemies. Hannibal, after performing this as it were his last work of valor, fled to Adrumetum, whence, having been summoned to Carthage, he returned thither in the sixth and thirtieth year after he had left it when a boy, and confessed in the senate house that he was defeated, not only in the battle, but in the war, and that there was no hope of safety in anything but in obtaining peace.
Immediately after the battle, Scipio, having taken and plundered the enemy’s camp, returned to the sea and his ships with an immense booty, news having reached him that Publius Lentulus had arrived at Utica with fifty men-of-war, and a hundred transports laden with every kind of stores. Concluding that he ought to bring before Carthage everything which could increase the consternation already existing there, after sending Laelius to Rome to report his victory, he ordered Cneius Octavius to conduct the legions thither by land, and setting out himself from Utica with the fresh fleet of Lentulus added to his former one, made for the harbor of Carthage. When he had arrived within a short distance he was met by a Carthaginian ship decked with fillets and branches of olive. There were ten deputies, the leading men in the State, sent at the instance of Hannibal to solicit peace, to whom, when they had come up to the stern of the general’s ship, holding out the badges of suppliants, entreating and imploring the protection and compassion of Scipio, the only answer given was that they must come to Tunis, to which place he would move his camp. After taking a view of the site of Carthage, not so much for the sake of acquainting himself with it for any present object as to dispirit the enemy, he returned to Utica, having recalled Octavius to the same place.
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