The Punic Wars: Africa
by: Q. Claudius Locatus Barbatus
PARS I | PARS II | PARS III | PARS IV | PARS V | PARS VI | PARS VII | PARS VIII | PARS IX | PARS X | PARS XI
Scipio finally sailed to Africa with 30 000 men and 400 ships. He landed near Utica (about 20 miles from Carthago), an old Greek-Phoenician city. But Utica had a strong defence and Scipio had to besiege an enemy city in enemy lands. Soon Masinissa showed up, but only with 200 Numidian Cavalry. He accompanied the message that a Carthaginian army was heading towards Utica, under the rule of Hasdrubal (yes, another Hasdrubal) and Syphax. Scipio built a camp called Castra Cornelia. The coming winter brought with him bad weather and thus protected Scipio from attacks from the Carthaginian fleet. In Italy, Hannibal went to Croton, a port, and started worrying about the Roman invasion in Spain.
When Spring came Scipio sent out his spies. Suddenly at night fire broke out in the Carthaginian camps. When the soldiers tried to flee they ran into the swords of the Romans. Hasdrubal and Syphax only just managed to flee to their homelands. Scipio didn't waste time and pursued them. Syphax and Hasdrubal quickly raised an army and even got help from Spain, 4000 Celtic Iberians came to support the Carthaginian army (how and why is not known). This army was fatally beaten by the Romans, but they needed all their force to kill the Iberians, who rather wanted to die than to surrender. Scipio marched on towards Tunis. But his spies brought him the news that Scipio was afraid of; that the Carthaginian navy was leaving the ports.
Scipio quickly returned to Castra Cornelia. The Roman fleet was not ready for a fight. The Carthaginians stayed outside the port. When they entered the next day, they were countered by a wall of ships manned by soldiers and siege equipment. Nevertheless the battle at Utica ended in a Roman defeat, the Carthaginians took home 60 Roman ships. Scipio became more prudent. The war in the South was more successful, Laelius and Masinissa conquered Cirta, the capital of Syphax his country. Syphax was captured and his wife Sophonisbe died in suspicious circumstances. Masinissa was granted this kingdom by Scipio as reward for his courageous behaviour during the war. Thus Masinissa became the first Roman vassal in the South. Hasdrubal had committed suicide.
The Carthaginian army was almost completely wiped out. Roman armies were taking control of all roads. No more food came into the city of Carthago. The (triple) walls were loaded with defenders and the Carthaginian navy protected the port. The council of Carthago didn't know what to do; some wanted a treaty, others wanted to attack the Romans with a new army (although it was almost impossible to quickly raise a new army) but the most were thinking of calling Hannibal back to his city. The people in the streets were supporting this and spoke loud about Hannibal's return. The council finally gave the supreme command to Hanno (who led the cavalry at the battle of Cannae), replaced the (too prudent) admiral Bomilcar by another admiral called, yes... Hasdrubal; but most important, they called for Mago and Hannibal, and asked them to return to their homelands with most possible speed. Mago sailed to Croton to get Hannibal and the 60 captured Roman ships were a welcome help.
In July 203BC Mago sailed to Italy. In October he's on the shores of Africa. The Roman legions surrounding Hannibal in Italy suddenly notice that he wasn't there anymore. What happened? All Roman sources are silent about this topic, but modern historians suspect the following happened: Hannibal's army wasn't that big anymore (12 000 -15 000 men). He took his strongest men with him, and left (the in the meanwhile necessary part of the army) women and children behind. Small companies were still defending Croton where Hannibal was suspected to be. All horses were killed (there was no place on the ships for them) and the elephants were left behind. The Roman Navy was patrolling between Croton and Carthago, but Hannibal didn't go to Carthago, he went to 90 miles more South, on the eastern shores of nowadays Tunisia, close to the city of Hadrumetum (Sousse). The Romans did intercept some ships and Mago was killed, but they didn't suspect it was Hannibal and his army sailing to Africa. After 34 years, from which 17 in Italy, Hannibal was back in Africa.