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War in Spain

Date: spring 206 bc
Proconsul: P. Cornelius Scipio
Inf.: 45,000
Cav.: 3000
Casualties: ?
Remarks: 50% Spaniards
Leader: Hasdrubal s/o Gisgo
Inf.: 50,000 (70,000?)
Cav.: 4000 (4500?)
Casualties: ?
Remarks: 32 elephants

Battle of Ilipa

In the spring of 206 bc Hasdrubal (son of Gisgo) assemble a large army, with the clear intention to attack and destroy the Roman army of P.Cornelius Scipio. He moved the army to the neighborhood of Ilia (near the modern Alcala del rio?). Scipio succeeded in composing a standard consular army, but was very careful with his Spanish allies. He remembered well how his father and uncle were betrayed and defeated. Then he moved from Tarraco to Ilipa.

Ancient texts

Livius (28.12-15)
Polybius (11.20-24)

battle of Ilipa Battlefield Ilipa
battle of Ilipa click to enlarge
battle of Ilipa Battlefield Ilipa
Battle of Ilipa phase 0a

Near Ilipa perfect battle ground
Shortly after his arrival Scipio chose a position opposite of Hasdrubal's camp to build his own. As still can been seen (at the pictures above) the terrain between the two camps was flat and open. Ideal for maneuvering infantry and cavalry.

First strike in the battle of Ilipa
Hasdrubal decided not to wait and immediately dispatched his cavalry, commanded by Massinissa, for a mass attack at the builders (unarmed soldiers) of the camp. They almost overrun the legionnaires who were guarding and protecting the workers.

Battle of Illipa phase 0b

Pupil Scipio becomes the master
Now P. Cornelius Scipio, who had been present at the battle at the Ticinus as well as at the battle of Cannae, showed what he had learned from Hannibal's tactics.
He had hidden a detachment cavalry behind a hill and now he had them attack the attackers, while he withdrew the workers and sent out armed soldiers. The Carthaginian attack was repelled and the Carthaginians returned to their camp

Battle of Ilipa phase 0c

Scipio waits and tests Hasdrubal
The next day Hasdrubal marched his troops out and arranged them as shown in the picture. Soon also Scipio took position and both waited. There was some skirmishing between the light armed troops, but nothing much happened. If there had to be a battle with these formations Scipio had a fair chance to loose since he had considerable less troops and horse than Hasdrubal. He had to come up with a plan..... and he did.

These shows of strength and muscle flexing were repeated for several days. Every time Hasdrubal came out first followed by Scipio. Hasdrubal was also the first to retreat.

Battle of Ilipa phase 1

P. Cornelius Scipio take the initiative and starts the battle of Ilipa
After a few days where things repeated itself, Hasdrubal was counting they wouldn't change and stayed defensive. That morning, before anything had happened in the Cathaginian camp, Scipio sent out his prepared horse and velites to attack the Carthaginian outposts. Directly after them followed his heavy infantry; with an important change. The Romans were marching at the flanks and the Spanish in the middle.
Hasdrubal's reaction was understandable, but wrong. He sent out his complete cavalry to attack Scipio's horse and velites, who would keep them busy while Scipio's main forces approached.

Battle of Ilipa phase 2

Hasdrubal closed in
With the Carthaginian cavalry out of the way Scipio widened his wings by moving 3 manipels (probably principes) + 3 turmae cavalry to the outside of the wings. Now he made the Roman legions run, while the Spaniards kept their pace. When his foot was close enough Scipio recalled his cavalry and Velites. They passed through the lines and hasted from their to their original places at the wings.

Battle of Ilipa phase 3

Scipio's last victory in Spain
Meanwhile Hasdrubal moved his troops out as fast as possible, assuming the same positions as the days before. Now the weaker (Carthaginians) Spanish troops were confronted with the experienced Romans, those were, to make things worse, attacked from their flanks. The strong Carthaginians still had nobody to fight with, because the (Roman) Spanish kept their distance until the Carthaginians panicked and the whole army started to run. The elephants were attacked by special trained velites, who would throw their javelins in the knees of the poor giants.

The battle of Ilipa vs. the battle of Cannae
This battle shows, as the battle of Cannae, how a cunning commander can make the difference, even when the numbers are against him.
In the battle of Cannae Hannibal had far less infantry and a superior cavalry in numbers and quality. In the battle of ilipa Scipio had less infantry as well as cavalry.
Hannibal's tactics were depending on the Romans eager to attack; Had they not attacked Hannibal could not have won that battle. Scipio's tactics were more agressive, but as always in the ancient days still depending on his oponent will to fight (Had Hasdrubal stayed in the camp that day, he would not have been defeated, that day).
Hannibal's superior cavalry gave him the opportunity to attack from 4 sides, where Scipio did not and the enemy could flee.

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