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Ancient texts

Liv. (23.29)

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War in Spain
Date: late 216 bc
Romans
Consul: bros Cornelius Scipio
Inf.: 2x 2 legions
Cav.: as usual ?
Casualties: ?
Remarks:  
Enemy: Carthaginians
Leader: Hasdrubal Barca
Inf.: ± equal to Romans
Cav.: 2x Roman strength
+eleph
Casualties: many
Remarks:  

Battle of Ibera

   
    

Phase I

 

Battle of Ibera phase I
True or not, the rumour, Hasdrubal was about to bring his army to Italy, was also known by the Roman proconsul P. Cornelius Scipio and his brother Gnaeus. This knowledge caused them to attack Hasdrubal directly. The armies met near the city of Ibera named after the river Ibero (Ebro).
As usual Livius doesn't tell us very much about the details, so we have to asume the armies were both pretty much as usual. Hasdrubal placed his Spanish troops in the centre and the Africans and Carthaginians at the wings. Next to those the cavalry and elephants.
Livius tells us Hasdrubal placed his strongest troops in the center, but as can be seen next, those were certainly not his most reliable troops.

Battle of Ibera phase II
The chosen method by the Carthaginians was a very defensive one, but could work if two conditions were met:

  • The enemy had to attack
  • The centre of the Carthaginian line had to be strong enough to withstand the attack as long as the horse needed to overpower the enemy's cavalry.

In Italy the Romans after the example of Fabius Maximus had chosen not to attack Hannibal in a pitched battle anymore.
Here the two proconsuls did attack, but Hasdrubal's Spanish warriors in the centre were not able to withstand the Roman attack and soon fled. (According to Livius they fled before there was physicle contact with the enemy, but this may be exaggerated).

   
    

Phase II

 
Battle of Ibera phase III
Seeing the Carthaginian center collapsing, the men on horseback decided the battle was lost and left. As did the elephants.The Carthaginian foot at the right wing and the Libyan foot at the other wing were good and reliable fighters and it took the Romans quite a while before they were really defeated.

Only once
In fact this (Carthaginian) formation worked well for just one occasion in the 2nd Punic war: The battle of Cannae



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