|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE CAPTURE OF NEW CARTHAGE
 FROM the time that Hannibal entered Italy, it seemed as
though the Romans needed all their strength to meet so
powerful a foe. They did, indeed, have as many as
eight legions on the battlefield of Cannæ. Yet, at
the same time, they had sent officers and soldiers to
Spain, and were fighting against the Carthaginians in
that country, as well as in Italy.
Publius Scipio had, you remember, been ordered to march
to Spain in 218 B.C. to punish Hannibal for defying the
demands of Rome. But as he found that Hannibal was
crossing the Alps, he awaited him in the valley of the
Po, sending his brother Gnæus to Spain in his stead.
In about twelve months Publius was able to join his
brother, and for four years they fought together
against the Carthaginians. Then in 213 B.C. the Romans
found that the enemy was making a determined effort to
push their possessions beyond the river Ebro.
Such presumption must be punished, and Publius with an
army set out to repulse the enemy. But in the battle
that followed he fell, mortally wounded. Gnæus also
was slain about three weeks later.
The loss of the Scipios was a serious blow to Rome, for
their influence in Spain had made the Roman name
powerful. Nor was it easy to find an officer to send
to Spain in the place of the brothers, for every
soldier wished to stay in Italy to fight against
Hannibal, the arch enemy.
 At length Cornelius, the son of Publius Scipio, offered
to take up the work that had fallen from his father's
Cornelius Scipio was only twenty-four years of age, but
he had already shown that he was brave and skilful. On
the battlefield of Ticinus he had by his prompt action
saved his father's life, and after the slaughter at
Cannæ he had prevented a band of young knights from
forsaking their country.
In Rome, Scipio was a favourite with the people,
partly, perhaps, because of his good looks, and partly
because, although he was so young, he was grave and
dignified, and his serious ways became him well.
His offer to serve in Spain was accepted, the people
electing him for the post with goodwill. The few who
were anxious lest he was too young for so great a
charge were soon reassured, for his speech, when he
addressed them, was wise as well as confident. And the
trust of the people was justified.
Scipio arrived in Spain about 210 B.C., and finding
that a town, which the enemy had named New Carthage,
was of great importance, he determined to attack it.
Although the Carthaginians had three armies in Spain,
each of their camps was at some distance from new
So confident, too, were the Punic generals of the
strength of the town, that it was guarded by a garrison
of only one thousand men. As for the inhabitants, they
knew little of the use of arms, being for the most part
fishermen and mechanics.
Yet New Carthage was supremely important. She was the
nearest port to Carthage, and it was at her harbour
that reinforcements and stores from Africa were landed.
Here, too, the Carthaginians kept their magazines,
their money, and their Spanish hostages.
The city was surrounded by high, strong walls, save at
one place, where it was protected by an inland sea or
 Here the walls were low and guarded less vigilantly,
for the sea was believed to make the city secure from
But Scipio had been talking in his grave and pleasant
way with the fishermen of New Carthage, and he had
learned quite simply what he wished to know—that the
sea was shallow enough at times to make it possible to
reach the low and well-nigh unguarded wall.
When Scipio, his plan determined, ordered his soldiers
to march, they knew nothing of what their young leader
meant to attempt. Only to Lælius, his most trusted
friend, did he confide his scheme, bidding him take the
Roman fleet to the harbour of New Carthage on a certain
Lælius was to join in the assault upon the city; if
it failed, he was to be ready to carry off the troops
in his ships.
Scipio's orders were obeyed. The fleet reached the
harbour at the same time that the Roman army encamped
without the city walls.
Mago, who was in command of the garrison, was surprised
when he saw the Roman fleet in the harbour, the Roman
army close to his gates. He at once ordered the walls
to be manned, and about two thousand of the citizens to
A party of soldiers then sallied out to drive off the
enemy, the armed citizens joining in the attack. They
were, however, beaten back by the Romans. In a panic
the citizens crowded together in the narrow gateway,
each trying to regain the safety of the streets. So
foolish was their haste, that many of them were
trampled underfoot and wounded, if not killed.
The Roman soldiers all but succeeded in pushing their
way into the city, along with the desperate citizens.
They did not quite succeed, but they managed to fix the
scaling ladders against the walls. This proved,
however, of little use, for the ladders, they found,
were too short for the height
 of the walls, while they suffered greatly from the
arrows and missiles which fell in their midst.
It was afternoon when the Romans withdrew, and the
garrison believed that they were safe for another day.
But a few hours later the besiegers again attacked the
This second attack was only a ruse to distract the
defenders of the city from a more serious undertaking.
Scipio had seen that the water in the lagoon was
ebbing, and would soon be shallow. So he now ordered
his men to step boldly into the water and carry their
ladders to the low and carelessly guarded wall.
His order was speedily carried out. The ladders were
soon in position, and the next moment the Roman
soldiers were climbing up into the city.
Meanwhile the garrison was busy repulsing the attack
upon her high and strongly guarded walls.
But the Roman soldiers, having scaled their ladders,
leaped into the city, killing the few guards whom they
encountered. Quickly they made their way toward the
gate, which was being assaulted from without. When
they reached it they flung it open, and their comrades
poured into the city, the garrison was overcome, and
New Carthage was in the hands of Scipio.
The young general was modest, and refused to claim all
the glory of the victory. Part of it, at least, was
due to Neptune, the god of the sea, for he, said
Scipio, had come to him as he slept and bidden him
enter the city by the lagoon.
There was much booty to be gathered in the conquered
city, and in the harbour a fleet of both warships and
merchant vessels was captured.
But the chief value of the victory was that the Romans
had now possession of a town in the very centre of the
enemy's country, as well as of its best port.
In 206 B.C. Scipio returned to Rome, able to say that
he had left no Carthaginian soldier in Spain.
 But Scipio had done more than drive the enemy out of
Spain. He had tried to win two powerful allies for his
country, in Africa, and he had succeeded in gaining
Syphax, King of Western Numidia, had been now on the
side of Rome, now on that of Carthage. Scipio sailed
to Africa to visit Syphax, and before he left him he
believed that he had secured his fidelity to Rome.
But although the king was charmed with the Roman, and
said of him that he was "even more admirable in
conversation than in war," when Scipio's influence was
removed he proved fickle as ever. In the end he went
over to, and remained on, the side of the
The ally whom Scipio gained was an African prince named
Masinissa. He had come to Spain with a body of
Numidian cavalry, and promised that it should be at the
service of Scipio when he landed in Africa.
For this was now the young general's great ambition—to
carry the war with the Carthaginians into their own
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