John C. Yardley and Dexter Hoyos (eds), Oxford World's Classics: Livy: Hannibal's War: Books Twenty-One to Thirty

Find Location in text

Main Text


There is wide discrepancy in the sources on the number of troops taken over to Africa. In one I find 10,000 infantry and 2,200 cavalry; in another 16,000 infantry and 1,600 cavalry; in a third I find more than double this number—that 35,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry were put aboard the ships. Some authors have not given a figure, and I would prefer to be in their company since the question is moot.* While he avoids a precise figure, Coelius still exaggerates and gives the impression of huge numbers. He says that birds fell to the ground when the soldiers' shout went up, and that the numbers boarding the ships were so great that it appeared that no mortal was being left behind in either Italy or Sicily!

Scipio took personal responsibility for ensuring that his men boarded the ships in a disciplined and orderly manner. Gaius Laelius, admiral of the fleet, made the seamen embark first, and kept them on board. The praetor Marcus Pomponius was given responsibility for loading supplies; he had forty-five days' worth of rations, including fifteen days' worth of cooked provisions, put aboard. When all were now embarked on the vessels, Scipio sent some boats around them with instructions for helmsmen and captains, along with two soldiers from each ship, to come to a meeting in the forum to receive their orders. When these had gathered together, Scipio first asked them if they had put on board water for men and animals that would last as many days as would the grain. When they replied that there was a forty-five-day supply of water on the ships, he directed the fighting men to remain calm and obey their orders, providing the seamen with the silence they needed to go about their duties without interruption. He added that he and Lucius Scipio would, with twenty warships, offer the freighters protection on the right wing, and the same number of warships under Gaius Laelius, commander of the fleet, and Marcus Porcius Cato,* quaestor at the time, would protect them on the left. He then issued orders about lights on the ships: men-of-war were to have one each and freighters two, while the identifying feature of the flagship, in the dark, would be three lights.

Scipio told the helmsmen to steer a course for Emporia.* This was very fertile farmland, and so the area abounded in produce of all kinds, and also had a native population with little aptitude for war, as so often happens when the soil is rich. It therefore seemed likely these pg 547people could be crushed before help could be brought from Carthage. After issuing these instructions, Scipio ordered the men to return to their ships and, with a prayer for heaven's blessing on the enterprise, bade them set sail the following day when given the signal.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
25 the question is moot: L., working with a number of sources, is trying unsuccessfully to make sense of all of them. Which, if any, of the three totals he gives might be Polybius' is unknown, as the latter's account does not survive. That each of the 'Cannae legions' had as many as 6,200 infantry (ch. 24) has been doubted, but is conceivable given the importance of the expedition, even though similarly sized legions are not heard of again until the Third Macedonian War of 171–167. If so, their total of 13,000 Roman infantry and cavalry would imply, in turn, at least as many Latin and Italian troops and probably more. An army totalling around 30,000 men made sense, especially as Scipio could not now be sure of strong Numidian help. How L.'s various sources arrived at their varying totals can only be guessed.
Editor’s Note
Cato: see ch. 20 note.
Editor’s Note
a course for Emporia: Emporia (to be distinguished from Emporiae in north-east Spain) was the name for a fertile coastal district, later named Byzacena, south-east of Carthage and on the western shore of the Gulf of Sirte. Whether Scipio really meant this as his destination, or used it as disinformation, is debated.
logo-footer Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.
Access is brought to you by Log out