Battle of Cartagena (209 BC)
|Battle of Cartagena|
|Part of the Second Punic War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Scipio Africanus Major|
|Casualties and losses|
New Carthage was a town situated on a peninsula - joined to the mainland to the east by a narrow isthmus. On the north side the town was protected by a large lagoon, which fed into a canal which protected the west side of the town. On the south side of the town, there was the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of this geography, New Carthage took advantage of the terrain to be very difficult to assault.
Scipio sailed to Spain (Iberia) in late 210 BC, and spent the winter organizing his army (the total force in Spain was approximately 30,000 men) and planning the assault on New Carthage. Opposing him were the three Carthaginian generals (Hasdrubal Barca, Mago and Hasdrubal Gisco), who were on bad terms with each other, geographically scattered (Hasdrubal Barca in central Spain, Mago near Gibraltar and Hasdrubal near the mouth of the Tagus river), and at least 10 days away from New Carthage.
Livy mentions the force guarding the city - one thousand Carthaginian soldiers under command of Mago, who picked out a further 2000 men from the city who defended the front gate, and an unspecified amount of townsmen to watch for sudden emergences
Setting up camp across the isthmus, Scipio isolated the town on the landward side, and with the Roman fleet (commanded by Gaius Laelius) blockading the town from the sea, the town was isolated from outside help. After beating back an attack from the towns defenders, Scipio then attacked over the isthmus, while the fleet attacked from the southern side. The first attack was a failure, however Scipio renewed the attack later in the day, with the addition of a party attacking through the lagoon on the northern side. Aided by an expected squall (which drained some of the lagoon into the Mediterranean, reducing the depth of the lagoon so the Roman troops could easily cross it), the party managed to scale the undefended northern wall and attacked the rear of the defenders defending the isthmus. At the same time, the naval forces managed to penetrate the town from the south.
Polybius gives a description of how Scipio Africanus stormed New Carthage:
|“||...directed [his soldiers], according to the Roman custom, against the people in the city, telling them to kill everyone they met and to spare no one, and not to start looting until they received the order. The purpose of this custom is to strike terror. Accordingly one can see in cities captured by the Romans not only humans who have been slaughtered, but even dogs sliced in two and the limbs of other animals cut off. On this occasion the amount of such slaughter was very great. ||”|
With the fall of New Carthage, the Romans forced the Carthaginians to surrender the entire eastern coast of Spain, as well as capturing a large amount of military stores and the silver mines located nearby.
- Livy, 26.44
- Livy 26.45
- Keegan, p. 265
- Howard Hayes Scullard (2003-01-01). A History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-30504-4.
- John Keegan (1993-09-16). A history of warfare. Vintage. ISBN 0-09-174527-6.
- Titus Livy, Ab urbe condita libri, Book XXVI, Chapters 41 through 51