logo for the-romans.eu
logo for the-romans.eu

Ancient texts

Liv. (27.18-20)
Pol. (10.38-40)

Quick facts

Date: 209 or early 208 bc
Proconsul: P. Cornelius Scipio
Inf.: 2x2 legions (20,000?)
Cav.: 3000 ?
Casualties: ?
Enemy: Carthago
Leader: Hasdrubal Barca
Inf.: 20,000?
Cav.: 6000?
Casualties: 8000-10000?

Battle of Baecula


Battlefield of Baecula


Battle of Baecula phase 0
Hasdrubal was clearly not really interested in a battle. He already had planned his move to Italy, where he wanted to reinforce his brother's army. With these things in mind he chose a hilly terrain and a spot where an enemy attack was at least unlikely.

Battle of Baecula phase I
Cornelius Scipio marched out with his enlarged army. Since the sea was fully under Roman control he didn't need the ships and added the crews to his land army. He left Tarraco and marched south to meet Hasdrubal's army.. When he neared that army Hasdrubal retreated into the hills and built a camp high up near the river Tagus.
Scipio immediately approached his camp and and attacked Hasdrubal's outposts, He pursued them to the gates of the camp. Then he built his camp at a safe distance from Hasdrubal's


Phase 1


Phase II


Battle of Baecula phase II
Here Livius and Polybius tell us different stories. According to Livius Hasdrubal formed his line of battle during the first night and awaited Scipio there. According to Polybius Scipio waited for 2 days and then attacked and Hasdrubal tried to form his battle line but was too late.
Polybius' report is somewhat strange: Attacking a well built and positioned camp is very difficult and would have cost Scipio a lot of his men. So if Hasdrubal's army was still in the camp when Scipio made his move, he would have stayed there.
More likely he was preparing to leave this theatre, but wasn't fast enough and now he had to defend himself against Scipio. As a kind of protection he moved his light troops and Numidian horse to a lower plateau in front of his main force.

Battle of Baecula phase III
These light armed forces were clearly there to buy Hasdrubal time, while he was moving out and over the river as many troops and means as he could. Scipio sent some manipels to Hasdrubal's troops at the lower plateau and conquered it at quite a loss of lives.


Phase III


Phase IV


Battle of Baecula phase IV
Now Scipio divided his main forces in 2. He himself attacked Hasdrubal's right wing and Laelius, commanding the other half, swung around Hasdrubal's left wing and attacked there. These attacks and rounding up the prisoners gave Hasdrubal time enough to save 2 thirds of his army and make his move to Italy. Scipio simply was too late for a pursuit.

footer for Romans  page