You are on page 1of 5

Romans.

However, Gnaeus Scipio


reinforced his fleet with picked legion-
naires, caught the Carthaginian fleet by
surprise, and crushed it at the Battle of
the Ebro. In the fall of 217 BC, Publius
Cornelius Scipio, now a pro-consul,
finally arrived in his allotted province
with 8,000 reinforcements.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Hannibal won three


spectacular victories over the Romans at
Trebbia, Trasimene, and Cannae by the
summer of 216 BC. The Carthaginian
government resolved that the time had
come to reinforce Hannibal in Italy with
an army from Spain and bring the war
to a conclusion. Carthage sent
Hasdrubal 4,000 foot and 500 horse as
reinforcements, along with orders to
march for Italy. A rebellion among the
Tartesii tribe in southern Spain, how-
ever, delayed his invasion until the
following year. In the meantime, the
Historical Background As the Second Punic War opened,
Scipio brothers consolidated their
Carthage held all of southern and
control north of the Ebro and prepared
At the onset of the Second Punic War in eastern Spain, up to the Ebro River.
to meet Hasbrubal's onslaught.
218 BC, Rome dispatched one of its When Hannibal departed for Italy, he
consular armies, under Publius Cornelius left his brother, Hasdrubal Barca, with
Scipio, to invade northern Spain. Arriv- 12,650 infantry, 2,550 cavalry, 21
elephants, and a small fleet to hold the
The Battle of Dertosa
ing at Massilia (modern Marseille), the In the spring of 215 BC, Hasdrubal
Romans were stunned to discover that province. After a swift conquest of
moved north with some 25,000 foot,
Hannibal was already on the east bank of northeastern Spain, Hannibal left Hanno
4,000 horse and 21 elephants. The
the Rhone, headed for Italy. In what was with another 11,000 troops to control the
Scipio brothers masses 30,000 infantry
possibly the key strategic decision of the newly-won territory. Hannibal took
and 3,000 cavalry to bar his path at the
war, Publius opted to continue with the with him all the veteran troops and
Ebro River. Hasdrubal's objective was
invasion of Spain. He sent his army on experienced officers of Carthage's
to defeat the main Roman field army so
under the command of his older brother Iberian army. He had also bypassed the
that he could cross into Italy while still
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, while Publius coastal Greek cities of northern Spain,
maintaining Carthaginian control of
himself returned to Italy to face allies of Rome.
Spain. The Scipio brothers likewise
Hannibal. This move resulted in a 13- aimed to defeat Hasdrubal in open
year duel for supremacy between Rome Gnaeus Scipio had 22,000 infantry, 2,200
battle to prevent his crossing into Italy
and Carthage for control of the Iberian cavalry and a small fleet with which to
and to break his grip on the Iberian
Peninsula. undertake the invasion of Spain. With
Peninsula.
these troops, and friendly bases at
Following the loss of Sicily, Sardinia, and Emporiae and Tarraco, Gnaeus easily
Hasdrubal's army was comprised
Corsica to Rome during the First Punic crushed Hanno's army and took control
mainly of African and mercenary
War (264-241 BC) and its aftermath, of northern Spain in the fall of 218 BC.
regulars augmented by Iberian levies.
Hamilcar Barca ((Hannibal's father) The following spring, Hasdrubal, his
forces augmented by Iberian levies, His infantry consisted of around 15,000
carved out an extensive Spanish province Libyan spearmen, 1,000 mercenaries
for Carthage between 238 and 229 BC. advanced north to challenge the
(Ligurians and other unspeci-
fied soldiers of fortune), 8,000
Iberians, and 1,000 Balearic
slingers. His mounted force
included 2,300 Numidian light
cavalry, 450 Liby-Phoenician
heavy cavalry, 1,200 Spanish
horse, and 21 elephants.
Reportedly, his Spanish levies
were none too anxious to
make the trek to Italy that
would follow a victory.

The Scipio brothers' forces


included two reinforced
Roman legions, consisting of
10,000 foot and 600 horse, and
allied Italian troops number-
ing nearly 18,000 infantry and
1,800 cavalry. Their auxiliary
Iberian forces probably
included about 2,000 foot and
400 horse.

The Roman command was


exercised jointly by the Scipio
brothers. Although Publius
had initially been the supreme
commander, with Gnaeus as
his deputy, the command by this
point
was largely shared. Gnaeus was the
elder brother, and he had served a coming down onto a nearby plain to wing was also reinforced with about ten
consulship with distinction against the face them. The two camps were about African war elephants (the same
Insubrian Gauls in 222 BC. Gnaeus has five miles apart, and the two armies felt disposition Hannibal had employed at
also served as the sole commander in each other out during five days of the Battle of Trebbia). The Balearic
Spain for over a year before Publius skirmishing. The stage was set for the slingers formed an extended skirmish
arrived. The Senate appears to have climactic showdown. line. The remaining infantry, 2,000 to
vested both brothers with pro-consular 3,000 in number, guarded his camp.
authority. Hasdrubal, on the other The Scipio brothers deployed their army
hand, was the unquestioned sole in standard fashion, with the two The Roman battle plan appears to have
Carthaginian commander. This was legions in the center and the allied
mainly because he had no subordinate been typically straightforwarda
infantry divided evenly between the frontal assault, weighted in the center.
commanders of note. Himilco, his wings. The Roman cavalry, reinforced
deputy, remained behind in southern The Scipio brothers, like Hasdrubal,
with the Spanish horse, formed on the were well aware of what had occurred
Spain to maintain control of the vast extreme right. On the far left were
Carthaginian province. at Cannae. They apparently believed
posted all the Italian cavalry. About the appropriate counter to envelopment
2,000 roman and Italian infantry and the was to rupture the enemy center. For
Since both sides sought to fight a Spanish auxiliary foot remained behind
decisive battle, the maneuvering was his part, Hasdrubal knew that the
as a camp guard. circumstances he faced were signifi-
limited and straightforward. In the
early spring of 215 BC, the Romans cantly different from those at Cannae.
Hasdrubal, who by now had received a His infantry was much closer in
crossed the Ebro and laid siege to the full account of the action at Cannae,
Carthaginian allied city of Ibera (the numbers to his Roman opponent's than
posted his sturdy African phalanxes on Hannibal's had been, but he lacked the
Battle of Dertosa is also known as the the wings of his infantry line. The right
Battle of Ibera). Hasdrubal in turn laid decisive cavalry superiority his brother
wing was purely African, while the left had exploited to such good effect.
siege to a small Roman allied city, also wing was reinforced by his mercenaries.
on the south bank of the Ebro, across Hasdrubal could only hope that his
The center was composed entirely of elephant corps would provide the
from the city of Dertosa (modern Iberian tribal levies. He stationed his
Tortosa). The Romans then moved quick victory he needed from his
Liby-Phoenician heavy cavalry and cavalry on the flanks, and that his
against Hasdrubal and he obliged by Iberian horsemen on his far left, unenthusiastic Iberian infantry could
opposite the Roman cavalry. Against hold in the center long enough for the
the Italian horse he posted his superb envelopment to unfold.
Numidian light cavalry. Each cavalry
The action began in the center with the Italy with a second Carthaginian army. The Final Analysis
charge of the two Roman legions into He would not accomplish this for Why did Hasdrubal fail at Dertosa
Hasdrubal's Iberian infantry; the another eight years (208-207 BC). while his brother Hannibal had suc-
Spanish troops immediately gave ceeded at Cannae against a far larger
ground. The African phalanxes and Although the failed invasion attempt of Roman army? Many have assumed
mercenaries on the wings now came 215 BC has been historically eclipsed by that Hasdrubal was simply inferior to
into play and forced the allied Italian the Metaurus campaign of 207 BC, his older brother in command ability.
foot back. Meanwhile, on the extreme Hasdrubal's earlier effort actually posed While this charge may have some merit,
flanks, the elephant charges proved a far greater threat to Rome's survival. Hasdrubal undeniably suffered from a
ineffectual, and neither side's mounted In 215 BC, Rome, still reeling from number of serious disadvantages.
troops gained a quick advantage. At Cannae, would most likely have been First of all, he lacked the cavalry
this critical juncture, the Carthaginian overwhelmed by the combined forces of superiority (10,000 to 6,000) that
center broke in the face of the aggressive the two eldest sons of Hamilcar Barca. proved decisive at Cannae. He lacked
Roman assault. Although Hasdrubal By 207 BC, Rome was far better pre- the disciplined troops that Hannibal
had thus lost his chance for scoring a pared to handle a second invasion, as commanded, veterans of 20 years of
"Cannae," he could still win a "Trebbia" the resulting Battle of Metaurus demon- continuous warfare in Spain. Even
at this point. For just as in that earlier strated. more important, he lacked the cadre of
battle, the Carthaginian infantry wings highly trained, professional staff officers
were victorious even as their center The Roman victory at Dertosa also that accompanied Hannibal into Italy.
faltered. In fact, the Italian infantry was brought the Scipio brothers new Iberian This was particularly evident in the
hard pressed and effectively outflanked allies and the opportunity to carry the failure of the Carthaginian cavalry to
by the African phalanxes. war into Punic Spain. In fact, the Scipio press home its attacks on the extreme
brothers carried on the war in Spain flanks. In addition, Hasdrubal faced
But at the Trebbia, the Carthaginian with great success for the next four two very competent Roman command-
cavalry had won a decisive victoryat years. However, in 211 BC, Hasdrubal ers in the Scipio brothers, whereas
Dertosa, they skirmished indecisively, Barca, along with his brother Mago and Hannibal had been matched against the
then lost their nerve when they ob- Hasdrubal Gisgo, defeated and slew inept Gaius Terentius Varro. But most
served the rout of the center. The Punic them both in the twin Battles of Castulo important, a double envelopment is
cavalry joined in the flight, thereby and Ilorca. Of course, Hasdrubal was probably the riskiest of battle plans,
also destined to die in a losing battle, at promising total, annihilating victory or
dooming the heretofore victorious
the Metaurus. It was left to Publius overwhelming defeat. Chance, or fate,
African and mercenary infantry on the
Scipio's son, the great Africanus, to had its role as well. Hasdrubal tossed
wings. After putting up a stubborn
avenge the deaths of his father and his the dice, and lost.
fight and both inflicting and suffering
heavy losses, Hasdrubal's wings joined uncle by decisively crushing the
in the rout. Cannae had been avenged. Carthaginian Spanish armies at Ilipa in
206 BC. This battle would spell the end
The Aftermath of Carthaginian domination and the
The immediate result of this battle was beginning of Roman control of the
to prevent Hasdrubal from crossing into Iberian Peninsula.
Hasdrubal is killed, there is no substi- Optional Rules totaling 188 have been eliminated.
tute OC. Tychaeus may only command The following rules from Consul for
Numidian cavalry. Rome are recommended, if you have Carthage: Army routs when units with
the module: TQ totaling 110 have been eliminated.
Roman Leadership Triarii Tactical Doctrine
Publius and Gnaeus Scipio are both Roman Line Replacement Sources
Roman OCs, but only over the following The sources for Dertosa are generally
units: From SPQR's Zama scenario, you may the same as those listed for SPQR.
Gnaeus Scipio is OC for the III Double use the Special Rule: "Blow, Scipio, However, the primary source is Livy,
Legion, VII Ala Sociorum Legion, and Blow." Either Africanus' father or uncle rather than Polybius, as the latter's
all AS Cavalry. may issue the command for the sonic account of this battle has not survived.
Publius Scipio is OC for the V Double anti-elephant blast in this scenario.
Legion, XIV Ala Sociorum Legion, and (Surus is not affected.) Additional sources:
the Roman and Iberian cavalry. Head, Duncan,
Victory Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars,
Both Scipio brothers can command The army which routs loses the Wargamers Research Group,
any Roman unit which is outside its scenarios. If both armies rout Sussex, 1982
normal command chain by using simultaneously, the Carthaginians win.
individual orders. If either brother is Lazenby, J. F.,
killed, the other becomes OC for the Army Rout Hannibal's War,
entire Roman army. Rome: Army routs when units with TQ Warminster, 1978

Retreat Edges
The Carthaginians use the Southwest
edge as their Retreat Edge.

The Romans use the Northeast edge as


their Retreat Edge.