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Quote of the day: The one hope of Rome, Lucius Quinctius,
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXXVIII Chapter 33: Mandonius and Indibilis defeated[206 BC]
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The men were then dismissed with orders to make their preparations for the next day's departure. Ten days after leaving New Carthage he reached the Ebro, and within four days of his passage of the river he came within view of the enemy. In front of his camp there was a level stretch of ground shut in on either side by mountains. Scipio ordered some cattle taken mostly from the enemy's fields to be driven towards the hostile camp in order to rouse the savagery of the barbarians. Laelius was instructed to remain with his cavalry in concealment behind a projecting mountain spur, and when the light infantry who went to guard the cattle had drawn the enemy into a skirmish he was to charge from his hiding-place. The battle soon began, the Spaniards on catching sight of the cattle rushed out to secure them, and the skirmishers attacked them while occupied with their plunder. At first the two sides harassed one another with missiles, then they discharged light darts, which are more likely to provoke than to decide a battle, and at last they drew their swords. It would have been a steady hand-to-hand fight if the cavalry had not come up. They not only made a frontal attack, riding down all in their way, but some galloped round the foot of the mountain so as to cut off the retreat of the enemy. There was more slaughter than usually occurs in skirmishes of this kind, and the barbarians were infuriated rather than disheartened at their want of success. In order, therefore, to show that they were not defeated, they marched out to battle the next morning at daybreak. There was not room for them all in the narrow valley, described above; two divisions of their infantry and the whole of their cavalry occupied the plain and the rest of their infantry were posted on the slope of a hill. Scipio saw that the confined space would give him an advantage. Fighting on a narrow front was more adapted to Roman than to Spanish tactics, and as the enemy had brought his line into a position where he could not employ all his strength, Scipio adopted a novel stratagem. As there was no room for him to outflank the enemy with his own cavalry, and as the enemy's cavalry which was massed with the infantry would be useless where it was, he gave Laelius orders to make a detour along the hills, escaping observation as far as possible, and keep the cavalry action distinct from the infantry battle. Scipio led the whole of his infantry against the enemy with a front of four cohorts, as it was impossible to extend further. He did not lose a moment in beginning the fight, for he hoped that in the heat of battle his cavalry might execute their maneuver unnoticed. Nor were the enemy aware of their movements till they heard the sounds of battle in their rear. So two separate contests were going on through the whole length of the valley, one between the infantry and the other between the cavalry, and the narrow width of the valley prevented the two armies from assisting each other or acting in concert. The Spanish infantry, who had gone into action trusting to the support of their cavalry, were cut to pieces and the cavalry, unable to stand the attack of the Roman infantry after their own had all fallen, and taken in rear by Laelius and his cavalry, closed up and for a time stood their ground and kept up their resistance, but at last all were killed to a man. Not a single combatant out of the cavalry and infantry which fought in the valley remained alive. The third division which had been standing on the mountain side, looking on in safety instead of participating in the fight, had room and time enough to make good their retreat. Amongst them were the two chieftains [Note 1], who escaped in the confusion before the entire army was surrounded.

Actions in Spain in 206 BC

Note 1: chieftains = Mandonius and Indibilis

Event: Actions in Spain in 206 BC