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Ancient texts

Livius (29.27-38);
          (30.2-16);(29-39)
Polybius (14.1-10); 
            (15.1-19)

2nd Punic war in Africa
P. Cornelius Scipio



206-202bc

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Early raids on Africa

In the 2nd Punic war in 208 bc already M. Valerius Laevinus sailed with a fleet of 100 ships to the coasts of north Africa and raided the lands near the shore. When a Punic fleet of 83 ships neared he attacked and captured 18 ships.
In 205 bc Laelius returned for another raid and met Masinissa who urged him to make Scipio make haste with the invasion. This was the moment. In the meantime the alarmed Carthaginians started to prepare themselves for a war around the city

 

Stele with Tanith











Stele with picture of Tanith
Tophet at Carthago

Syphax chooses for Carthago

For Carthago the loss of their alliance with Masinissa would prove devastating. For he controlled many horse like the horse that had brought victory to Hannibal. Now they did everything to get king Syphax back in their camp. They had him marry to a beautiful Carthaginian princess Sophoniba. They also made him warn the Romans to stay away from Africa.

P. Cornelius Scipio sails to Africa

Scipio got that message and hastened his preparations. Notwithstanding the opposition by Q Fabius Maximus in 204, he was ready and sailed to Africa where he had planned to land south east from Carthago. But in fact he landed north west of Carthago, between Utica and Hippo Diarrhytus. From here he moved his army to what later became known as castra Cornelia and started to besiege Utica.

2nd punic war close to Carthago

Carthago urged it's commander, yet another Hasdrubal, to do something about it but failed to provided an adequate army. Hasdrubal enlarged his army and and moved it near Scipio. He built his camp in the city of Salaeca. From there he kept urging Syphax to come and help. Scipio had Masinissa lure the horse troops out of the city to a place where he attacked and defeated them with his foot. When Syphax at last arrived Hasdrubal moved his cam to close to Scipio's

P. Cornelius Scipio attacks Syphax's camp

At the start of the year 204 bc Scipio's proconsulship is prolonged. Not for one year as usual but to the end of the war. Scouts had discovered Hasdrubal's camp consisted mainly of wood, straw and other combustible materials. First he sent out men to seemingly negotiate with Syphax, but in fact were scouting his camp. That night Scipio has Syphax's camp set on fire and killed many who tried to escape the flames.

Sophoniba's suicide

P. Cornelius Scipio continued his victories over Carthago by defeating their forces in the battle of the Great Plains and capturing king Syphax. When Masinissa entered Syphax's palace (the place where he was born and chased away) he encountered Syphax's wife, the beautiful Sophoniba, who also was Hasdrubal's daughter. She begged him not to be extradited to the Romans. Massinissa, impressed by her beauty and wits, decided to marry her that same day. Scipio learning this, and fearing her influence over Masinissa, demanded her as a Roman prisoner. Masinissa sent her a messenger with poison. Sophoniba took the poison almost happily. Scipio wasn't happy about this, but was smart enough not to alienate Masinissa.

Carthago sues for peace

In an attempt to gain time and turn the tides in the 2n Punic war, while messengers were sent to Hannibal, demanding his return, a delegation is sent to Scipio asking for peace. Scipio wasn't unwilling and dictated his demands for peace. But it is the Roman people who had to decide and a delegation of Romans and a Carthaginian delegation were sent to Rome. The Roman senate rejected the peace, correctly supposing a victory was at hand.

Battle at Zama

Before the delegations returned from Rome, the Carthaginians assembled a, due to bad weather scattered, Roman fleet with supplies. They also seem to have attacked a ship with a Roman delegation. Enough for Scipio to declare the truce was broken. In the meantime Hannibal returned, with a part of his army, to Africa and moved to Zama. Here he was defeated in a battle by Scipio and negotiated for peace.

Fighting roosters

2 fighting roosters
Museo archeologico Napoli

Who belonged the victory

Now Scipio had become in a hurry if he wanted to claim the victory over the Carthaginians. Consul GN Servilius had followed the Carthaginian retreat and acted as he had driven out the enemy and was obviously trying to claim the victory. Had Scipio tried to besiege Cartago, which would have been a logical thing to do, he would be running the risk to be replaced and loosing the triumph.

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