2nd Punic war in Spain

Date: 210 bc
ProConsul?: P. Cornelius Scipio (jr)
Inf.: 25000
Cav.: 2500
Casualties: ?
Remarks: ? ships
Leader: Mago (not Barca)
Inf.: 2000 + 2000civ
Cav.: ?
Casualties: ?

Battle of Carthago Nova (Cartagena)

A strategic decision
The situation when the young Scipio had arrived in Spain was like this:
The three Carthaginian armies in Spain combined were certainly stronger than his forces. Attacking one of them would bring the other two to approach and defeat the Romans in a combined battle. Since it was easy to to evade an unwanted battle, it would be almost impossible to defeat one of the Carhaginian armies before the others had joined the battle. This had caused a stale mate like situation.
Until Scipio arrived. He immediately recognized the importance of the city of Cartagena as a capital and main port for the Carthaginians in Spain.

Ancient texts

Liv. (26.41-48)
Pol. (10.9-19)

ancient  harborCartagena (New Carthago)
was situated on a peninsula that stretched between a bay and a lake. At the landside was a passage of about 300m wide. In this bottleneck the Carthaginians had built their wall. High and strong. Punic wall in Cartagena

The plan to conquer Cartago Nova (Cartagena)
Though Scipio's trusty Gaius laelius would block the harbor with the fleet, a long siege was very unwanted, because of the expected arrival of the Carthaginian armies that would cerrtainly siege the Romans in turn or at least drive them to their ships.Storming the wall was possible but would cost many lives and would take time, but Scipio had important information.

Battle of cartagena phase 1Safety first
Scipio built his camp about 500m from the walls of the city and had a wall built from the lake to the sea inclosing his camp to the city. Bteween the camp and the city he had built no wall. battle of Cartagena phase 2

The attack begins
As soon as Scipio sent his men out to attack the walls, the Carthaginian commander Maga (not Hannibal's brother) sent his men out to attack the attackers in the hope to drive them off. Considering his force's strength (2000 men) this Battle of Cartagen ohase 3was not a very wise move since 25000 foot were waiting for them. It is not a surprise they were driven back with heavy losses.

Storming Carthago nova
With the enemy's troops in front ofthe city gone, Scipio ordered to attack the walls. The walls proved to be too high for the ladders they brought and after a long struggle the Romans were repelled. battle of Cartagena phas 4

Scipio's information
Scipio had prepared this attack very thoroughly. He had been informed by some local fishermen the lake , connected to the sea, was to fall all but dry at low tide. If one knew where to go it could be crossed on foot. It was now about low tide.Scipio now sent 500 men to cross the lake with the help of some local guides. Shortly after their departure, he oredred a new attack, in order to get and keep the attention of the defenders

Battle of cartagena phase

Carthago Nova taken by surprise
The exacte route the surprise party took is unknown other than they crossed the lake and not the bay. Once they passed the unprotected walls at the waterfront they moved to the gate where they attacked the defenders and opened the gate. Now the other Romans poured in and conquered the city.Polybius claims the ships of the Roman fleet were fitted with all kind of siege instruments. I doubt that. There was very little time between the start of the expedition and the attack.

Surrender of cartagen to Scipio Scipio a noble Roman
Polybius a close friend of the Scipios now grabs the opportunity to demonstrate the goodness of the Romans and especially Scipio's when he tells us of how Scipio treated the prisoners and how he reunited women with their families.

footer for Romans  page