Battle of Cornus
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|Battle of Cornus|
|Part of the Second Punic War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Hasdrubal the Bald, Hampsicora †||Titus Manlius Torquatus|
1,500 cavalry + Sardinians (?) + Elephants (?)
|20,000 infantry (2 Roman and 2 Allied Legions), 1,200 cavalry|
|Casualties and losses|
|13,500 casualties; 12,000 killed and 1,500 captured, including Hasdrubal the Bald.||unknown|
The Battle of Cornus, or Caralis, took place when a Carthaginian army sailed to Sardinia in support of a Sardinian revolt against Roman rule. The army, led by Hasdrubal the Bald, fought a similar size Roman army under the Praetor Titus Manlius Torquatus in the Fall of 215 BC somewhere between Cornus and Caralis. The Romans destroyed the Carthaginian army and then scattered their fleet in a sea battle south of Sardinia.
The Romans were hard pressed after the Battle of Cannae, with several South Italian cities deserting to Carthage. Hannibal Barca and his army were active in Campania, while a second Carthaginian army under Hanno the Elder had become active in Bruttium. The Romans fielded several armies, which avoided attacking Hannibal but struck at his allies whenever possible.
In Iberia, Hasdrubal Barca, brother of Hannibal, had been fighting skirmishes with the Scipio brothers since his defeat in the Battle of Ebro River. In 216 BC, the Carthaginian Senate sent him reinforcements with orders to march to Italy. In Africa, Mago Barca was put in command of an army of 12,000 infantry, 1,500 horse and 20 elephants with orders to join Hannibal.
The Romans had fought on and off with the natives ever since obtaining Sardinia through blackmail in 237 BC. By 216 BC, the situation in the island was ripe for revolt. The single Roman legion posted there was understrength from sickness. The praetor, Q. Mucius Scavola, was also sick. Payment and provisions from Rome were irregular. Hampsicora, a native Sardinian chieftain, had asked for aid from Carthage. Carthage sent an officer named Hanno to finance the revolt and then raised an army similar to that of Mago's for an expedition to Sardinia. Hasdrubal the Bald and another Mago was in charge of the expedition.
Before the Carthaginian expedition sailed for Sardinia, the strategic situation changed. Hanno the Elder was defeated by Titus Sempronius Longus in Lucania, and Hasdrubal Barca lost most of his field army in the Battle of Dertosa in Iberia. The Carthaginian senate ordered Mago to Iberia, but the Sardinian expedition sailed as planned. However, a storm blew the fleet off course to the Balearic islands, where many ships had to be hauled ashore and repaired (Livy xxiii 36, Lazenby J.F p96-98). This delayed the Carthaginian arrival in Sardinia.
Hampsicora was busy raising an army and collecting provisions near the city of Cornus (near Cuglieri on the western coast of Sardinia). The Carthaginian delay gave the Romans the opportunity to send fresh forces under the praetor Titus Manlius Torquatus, who had served as consul in Sardinia in 235 BC. Total Roman forces in Sardinia rose to 20,000 infantry and 1,200 horse with his arrival.
Manlius managed to draw Hiostus, the son of Hampsicora, into a rash attack on the Romans while Hampsicora was absent on a recruiting mission. In the ensuing battle, 5,700 Sardinians were killed and the rebel army was scattered. Hasdrubal the Bald arrived in Sardinia in the fall of 215. He landed near Cornus, and gathered what Sardinian forces he could find, and marched towards Caralis. In response, Manlius marched out with the army.
The opponents did not immediately engage with each other. They encamped close to each other and spent some days skirmishing. When neither sides gained any advantage, the respective commanders decided on battle.
The armies formed up traditionally, with cavalry on the wings and infantry in the center. It is not known if the Carthaginians had elephants with them. The battle was hotly contested for four hours, with neither side gaining an advantage. The decisive moment came when the Roman detachment facing the Sardinians on one of the wings of the Carthaginian line managed to drive them from the field. The victorious Roman wing then wheeled inward and attacked the Carthaginian line, which gave way and was slaughtered. Hasdrubal, Mago and Hanno were captured and Hiostus killed. Hampsicora fled the field, and then committed suicide. The survivors took refuge in Cornus, which was taken by assault a few days later. The Punic fleet managed to extricate some of the survivors.
Battle of Sardinia Sea
The expedition was carried by an unknown number of transports and escorted by 60 quinqueremes. These took the remnants of the expedition and sailed to Africa. On the way, they encountered the Sicilian contingent of the Roman fleet returning from a raiding mission in Africa. The Roman fleet, 100 quinquereme strong and commanded by Titus Ocatilius Crassus, attacked and captured seven Carthaginian ships, while the rest scattered and made for Africa. Roman losses are not known (Livy xiii 46).
Aftermath and Importance
- The Sardinian rebel cities surrendered to the Romans, enabling Manlius to send part of the Roman forces back to Italy.
- The grain supply from Sardinia remained uninterrupted and the Carthaginian navy was denied bases nearer to Italy. With the damage to Roman agriculture, the protection of the overseas grain supply was crucial.
- Aside from naval raids on Sardinia in 210 BC, Carthage did not threaten Roman domination in Sardinia again.
- While the Sicilian contingent of the Roman fleet was busy off Sardinia, the admiral of the main Punic fleet, Bomilcar, managed to sail to Locri in Bruttium and land a force of 4,000 Numidian horse and 40 elephants for Hannibal. Given the fact that the lack of proper support from Carthage was one of the reasons for Hannibal’s failure, the impact of this reinforcement has not been properly explained (Lazenby, J.F, “Hannibal’s War”, p98).
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