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Mago Barca

Posted January 25th, 2012 at 02:15 AM by markdienekes
Updated November 10th, 2013 at 03:54 AM by markdienekes

Mago Barca
240/39 BC - 203 BC

Hannibal's youngest brother, Mago, was born in 239-240 BC, and arrived in Spain at the age of thirteen. He probably accompanied Hannibal in his early Spanish campaigns between 221-219 BC, before setting off with his brother for the invasion of Italy in 218 BC.

Mago took part in Hannibal's early victories at the Ticinus, Victumulae, Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae, and it was only after Cannae that we get to see Mago in command of his own armies. First, I shall look at his actions in Hannibal's victories, as it does present a picture of a competent tactical commander using both infantry and cavalry. The first time he is mentioned by our principle source Polybius is during the winter of 218 BC, and just before Hannibal's first major conflict with the Roman army at the Battle of the Trebia. Livy gives us a little detail of actions beforehand, where Mago is the first to cross the river Po with a force of Spanish cavalry, proceeding towards Placentia ahead of the main body of Hannibal's army towards the enemy, no doubt to reconnoiter (Livy, 21.47). Polybius tells us that Mago was 'full of youthful enthusiasm, and had been trained from boyhood in the art of war' (3.71).

Mago was given an important task by his brother at Trebia, and during the night before the battle, he set out with 1000 handpicked infantry and 1000 cavalry with the task to conceal himself within a watercourse between the two camps, which had steep banks overgrown with brambles. Polybius tells us it was a perfect place for an ambush:

the place was admirably adapted for putting them off their guard; because the Romans were always suspicious of woods, from the fact of the Celts invariably choosing such places for their ambuscades, but felt no fear at all of places that were level and without trees...

Mago successfully concealed his force during the night and awaited the time to strike. The next day Hannibal successfully lured the Roman army from it's camp with his Numidian cavalry, who feigned a retreat drawing out the Romans across a cold river (and without breakfast) to the ground of Hannibal's choosing. The Roman army, led by T. Sempronius Longus, consisted of 16-18,000 Roman infantry, 20,000 allied Latin infantry, 4000 cavalry, and a contingent of Celts from the Cenomani. As the armies lined up and the infantry lines closed and locked in combat, Mago attacked. His timing was perfect, and the charge into the rear of the Roman lines threw the whole Roman army into confusion (Polybius, 3.74). By the end of the battle, most of the Roman army had been destroyed, save some 10,000 Romans who had managed to cut through Hannibal's lines and fled towards Placentia.

The following year, Hannibal broke winter quarters sometime around May 217 BC, and began his march further into Italy. Hannibal probably crossed the Appenines through the Porretta Pass towards Etruria, and we hear again of Mago in command of cavalry protecting the rear of Hannibal's column as they marched through the Arno marshes. Mago's job was also to deter any Celts from fleeing Hannibal's army (Polybius, 3.79, Livy, 22.2). Sadly, this is all we hear from Mago for that year in our principle sources of Polybius and Livy his actions at Lake Trasimene are not recorded, but he was there somewhere, perhaps in charge of some of the Spanish cavalry he appears to have commanded often to this point under the overall command of Maharbal, which blocked the Roman armies escape to the rear and pressed the attack, or maybe he was among the infantry with Hannibal as he would aid command in the centre with his brother at Cannae the following year? Either way, Mago would have helped in the victory that saw the destruction of another Roman army (unless of course, he had some sort of illness or wound that kept him from the battle!)

The year 216 BC saw Hannibal's greatest victory. With his own supplies dwindling, he captured the valuable supplies depot for the Roman army at Cannae. It would lead to the destruction as an army of the largest Roman force put into the field at that point, which was reportedly around 87,000 strong. A force this size was meant for one thing;to confront and overwhelm Hannibal by force, a change of strategy from Fabius' which was designed to cut off Hannibal's army from supplies, thus destroying it in a slow, but inevitable manner. Hannibal's own army consisted of 40,000 infantry, and 10,000 cavalry.

Mago played an important part in the victory, aiding his brother in commanding the weakest point of the Carthaginian battle line, a crescent-shaped thin line, and a most vital one needed to trap the Romans. Mago found himself in command (along with his brother Hannibal) of Spanish and Celtic infantry, drawing them back in an organised and planned retreat thus encouraging the Romans into a trap. The African infantry had been placed on the flanks of this curved line, and as the Roman centre pushed the tip of the curve back, Hannibal and Mago encouraged the troops not to break and the Africans moved into action. The African infantry attacked the flanks of the Roman army, halting it as the Romans turned to face battle from an unexpected direction. With their momentum stopped, Mago would have had time to reorganise his men to attack again. The Roman rear was then attacked by Hannibal's heavy Spanish and Celtic cavalry led by a Carthaginian officer called Hasdrubal. The enemy was surrounded, the fight long and bloody, supposedly the bloodiest battle in all of European history, and modern estimates place the casualties at over 50,000 men including both armies. Whatever the true figures, Cannae was a devastating defeat for the Romans.

Next we have to follow Livy as Polybius' work here is lost, and we get to see Mago as a general in command of his own army. After the victory and looting of the Roman camps at Cannae, Hannibal set off for Apulia, invited to the territory of the Hirpini in Samnium by Statius Trebius who put into Hannibal's hands the town of Compsa. Mago was given orders by Hannibal to take over the towns of that part of Italy as they seceded from Rome, and to use force with those who resisted (Livy 23.1). Sadly, we are not informed of his actives here further in detail, though we do know other towns in Samnium joined the Carthaginian course at this point, though whether willingly or through force is not reported. He is next reported having been sent back to Carthage and delivering a speech to the adirim (the Carthaginian senate) in which he urges them to support the war in Italy. The senate agrees and a force of 4000 cavalry, forty elephants and a large sum of money are sent to Italy (these reinforcements are the only ones recorded that ever reached Hannibal from Carthage). Mago then left for Spain to enlist a force of 20,000 foot and 4,000 horse.

Events in Spain thwarted Hannibal's hopes of reinforcement when Hasdrubal Barca was defeated in 215 BC by the Scipios at the mouth of the Ebro river. Mago was preparing an army of 12,000 foot, 1,500 horse, twenty elephants and 1000 talents of silver and an escort of sixty warships which were to invade Italy from Carthage, but due to his brother's defeat, Mago's army was diverted back to Spain (Livy, 23.32). Another army of similar size was sent on to invade Sardinia, and we can assume that had Mago successfully raised the 20,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry as reported earlier, some of these perhaps made up Hasdrubal's (not Hannibal's brother!) force that was sent there.

For Mago's recorded actions from 215 BC to 211 BC, see the last few paragraphs of post 3 Hannibal Barca's brothers and the first two of post 4 Hannibal Barca's brothers of this thread.

With the destruction of the brothers Scipios armies in Spain in 211 BC, the Roman armies retreated north of the Ebro, with one Lucius Marcius being unanimously elected by the remnants of the armies to take over as general until reinforcements from Rome arrived (Livy, 25.37). Marcius would go on to win some rather romantic and likely fictitious victories against the Carthaginians, preventing them from making headway north of the Ebro to link up with Hannibal in Italy. Marcius supposedly inflicted heavy casualties on Hasdrubal Gisgo's army in a sudden sortie from his camp, followed up by burning the two camps of the Carthaginian commanders (Gisgo and Mago), stating Carthaginian losses at 37,000 men, 1830 prisoners. According to Valerius Antias, it was only Mago's camp which was captured with the loss of 7000 men, while Gisgo was beaten in battle shortly afterwards with a loss of 10,000 killed, 4330 captured, whilst the most plausible (though still exaggerated) record of Piso holds that only 5000 men died from Mago's force as he was ambushed conducting a disorderly pursuit of the Romans as they withdrew (Livy, 25.39). Whatever the truth of these engagements, Marcius successfully held off the Carthaginians, and that named in his honour, a piece of armour, called the Marcian shield hung from the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol until the fire in 83 BC.

Next we hear of Mago is after Publius Cornelius Scipio had landed at Emporion and had marched to winter quarters at Tarraco sometime in the year 210/209 BC. In Scipio's plans over the winter, he discovered the three Carthaginian armies were separated and quarrelling across the peninsular, so Polybius reports at 10.7, in which we learn Mago 'was occupying an area east of the Pillars of Hercules in the country of the tribe known as the Conii' in southern Portugal. However, Lazenby (Hannibal's War, p.134) notes two possibilities here; that these people are thought to have lived in the extreme south of what is now Portugal, so they couldn't have been east of the Pillars, and suggests a copyists error, the other is that Polybius' Conii (Konioi in Greek) were the same as Appian's Kouneoi who lived near the lower Baetis (History of Spain, 57-8). As soon as it was possible to begin campaigning in 209 BC, Scipio made for the poorly defended and strategic location of the New Carthage, successfully capturing it and robbing the Carthaginians of vital war supplies and hostages.

A year later, and after another Roman success over Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Baecula, and Mago had failed to link up with his brother against Scipio, Mago marched his army to the Pyrennes where Hasdrubal had gone after his defeat, and so too did Hasdrubal Gisgo to consider the next step. It was decided that Hasdrubal Barca should march on to Italy to support Hannibal. Mago was to hand over his army to his brother, then recruit more men from the Balearic Islands and Hasdrubal Gisgo continued somewhere in Lusitania, with the aid of a replacement general for Hasdrubal, being an officer called Hanno (27.20, 28.1.) according to Livy. With all three armies to the north of Spain, leaving the rest of their territories undefended, this meeting seems suspicious to me, as this could have been decided beforehand, or by messengers. Also, Livy seems to have forgotten his mention of Mago being sent to the Balearic Islands, as he is back in Spain when next we hear him, apparently recruiting heavily from the Celtiberi with the new general, Hanno. This heavy recruitment caught the eye of the Romans, and Scipio quickly dispatched a force of 10,000 foot and 500 horse led by M. Iunius Silanius, who 'marched with the greatest of speed' and managed to arrive within ten miles of the enemy, 'outstripping even a rumour of his approach'. This is Livy's account of the following engagement:

When he was about ten miles distant he was informed by his guides that there were two camps near the road on which he was marching; the one on the left was occupied by the Celtiberians, a newly raised army about 9000 strong, the one on the right by the Carthaginians. The latter was carefully guarded by outposts, pickets and all the usual precautions against surprise; the Celtiberian camp was without any discipline, and all precautions were neglected as might be expected of barbarians and raw levies who felt all the less fear because they were in their own country. Silanus decided to attack that one first, and kept his men as much to the left as possible, so as not to be seen by the Carthaginian outposts. After sending on his scouts he advanced rapidly against the enemy.

He was now about three miles away and none of the enemy had yet noticed his advance, the rocks and thickets which covered the whole of this hilly district concealed his movements. Before making his final advance, he ordered his men to halt in a valley where they were effectually hidden and take food. The scouting parties resumed and confirmed the statements of the deserters, on which the Romans, after placing the baggage in the centre and arming themselves for the combat, advanced in order of battle. The enemy caught sight of these when they were a mile distant and hurriedly prepared to meet them. As soon as Mago heard the shouting and confusion he galloped across from his camp to take command. There were in the Celtiberian army 4000 men with shields and 200 cavalry, making up a regular legion. These were his main strength and he stationed them in the front; the rest who were lightly armed he posted in reserve. In this formation he led them out of the camp, but they had hardly crossed the rampart when the Romans hurled their javelins at them. The Spaniards stooped to avoid them, and then sprang up to discharge their own, which the Romans who were in their usual close order received on their overlapping shields; then they closed up foot to foot and fought with their swords. The Celtiberians, accustomed to rapid evolutions, found their agility useless on the broken ground, but the Romans, who were used to stationary fighting, found no inconvenience from it beyond the fact that their ranks were sometimes broken when moving through narrow places or patches of brushwood. Then they had to fight singly or in pairs, as if they were fighting duels.

These very obstacles, however, by impeding the enemy's flight, gave them up, as though bound hand and foot, to the sword. Almost all the heavy infantry of the Celtiberians had fallen when the Carthaginian light infantry, who had now come from the other camp, shared their fate. Not more than 2000 infantry escaped; the cavalry, which had hardly taken any part in the battle, together with Mago also got away. The other general, Hanno, was taken prisoner, together with those who were the last to appear in the field when the battle was already lost. Mago, with almost the whole of his cavalry and his veteran infantry, joined Hasdrubal at Gades ten days after the battle.
(Livy, 28.1-2)

Mago's recently recruited Celtiberian forces soon scattered into the surrounding woods and made their way home. With the loss of the recent raised forces, it was difficult for the Carthaginians to conduct any major campaign against Scipio. No doubt they had received news of the war in Italy, and that Hasdrubal Barca had been killed at the Metarus. The war in Italy was probably thought as lost. Instead, throughout 207 BC, the Carthaginian commanders in Spain tried to simply maintain the war. Hasdrubal Gisgo split up his army to protect the various walled towns in southern Baetica. Regardless of this strategy, something changed in 206 BC. Perhaps they thought there was an imminent invasion of Africa planned based on Roman naval activities off the coast of Africa between 208-207 BC which involved the defeat of two Carthaginian fleets by Valerius Laevinus, and prolonging the war in Spain was no longer an option. A decisive action would have to take place, and if they could break Roman power in Spain, perhaps Hannibal could get his much needed reinforcements.

Hasdrubal and Mago raised a large army for 206 BC. Polybius estimates the number at 70,000 foot and 4000 horse, while Livy gives a figure of 50,000 foot and 4500 horse. Whatever the figures, Scipio was likely outnumbered his force amounted to 45,000 infantry, and 3000 horse. In Spring 206 BC, Hasdrubal moved his army to Ilipa, while Scipio advanced to Castulo, sending out Silanus to collect promised troops from Spanish allies. Once Scipio received his Spanish contingent, he continued his advance towards the Carthaginians. The Carthaginians set up camp on a hill, and as Scipio did so on another, Mago led a cavalry attack with Masinissa against Scipio's forces, but was ambushed by Scipio's own cavalry he had hid behind a hill just in this event and Mago had to withdraw with some losses. After a few days of skirmishing and routine setup of the armies, Scipio attacked. The Carthaginian army was exhausted, having not eaten food on that particular day, and with only half of it engaged (Scipio held back his own Spanish force) and only the Carthaginian Spaniards against Scipio's Roman infantry, cavalry and skirmishers fought, the bulk of the Carthaginian army retreated back to camp unharmed, while the damaged Spanish flanks also managed to retreat accordingly, they escaped due to bad weather - perhaps a convenient Roman fiction to explain why Scipio failed to tie them down and destroy them on the field of battle - if true, the Carthaginians may likely of had a lucky escape. Over the night many soldiers deserted the army, and deeming it useless to attempt to defend the camp, Hasdrubal called a retreat the following evening. Scipio went in pursuit of the Carthaginian army and harassed them with his cavalry and skirmishers, eventually forcing them to fight a second battle and defeated them again. Some 6000 Carthaginians escaped and put up further stout resistance, but Hasdrubal, and some Carthaginian officers managed to escape by sea, abandoning their men on the hillock. Mago appears to have stayed with them as long as he could, but he too left the majority to their fate when Hasdrubal managed to get ships back to him. Mago escaped to the coast then sailed for Gades. Sadly, for these battles we have no indication for Mago's actions other than the cavalry attack, so it is almost impossible to consider his command here, other than the fact that his side lost.

This defeat broke Carthaginian power in Spain forever. Mago established himself at Gades and began recruiting a new force from what was left of Carthage's Spanish allies, and a force arrived from Africa led by an officer called Hanno. Scipio too was not one to rest on his laurels, and began to subdue the neighbouring cities, taking Castulo before marching back to New Carthage, leaving Marcius to continue operations in the area, who brought over a number of communities before he too retired back to New Carthage. Deserters from Gades came over to New Carthage and offered to betray Gades to Scipio, and Scipio decided to accept this offer. He sent Marcius by land with a force of infantry, while Laelius was to act in concert with him with a small fleet of seven triremes, and one quinquereme.

Mago had sent out Hanno to recruit from the Spanish tribes, who had successfully gathered a force 4000 strong, but Marcius assaulted his camp and annihilated them. Hanno managed to escape with but a handful of men.
Mago however, had discovered the plot to betray Gades to the Romans and rounded up and arrested the ring-leaders. He was determined to send them to Carthage as prisoners and handed them into the custody of the Carthaginian admiral, Abherbal, who put them on a quinquereme and left with a further eight triremes to Africa, and though Laelius' naval force attacked them as they left, most of the ships escaped to Africa. Laelius returned to Carteia where he learned that the plot had been foiled, and promptly returned to New Carthage along with Marcius' force. Livy tells us Mago's actions after their departure:

...and on receiving intelligence of the renewal of hostilities by the Ilergetes, (due to Scipio's sudden illness and mutiny among his own troops and some of the Spanish tribes) he once more entertained hopes of reconquering Spain. Messengers were dispatched to Carthage, to lay before the senate a highly coloured account of the mutiny in the Roman camp and the defection of the allies of Rome, and at the same time strongly urge that assistance should be sent to him in order that he might win back the heritage left him by his ancestors, the sovereignty of Spain. (28.31)

After the issue of the Roman mutiny and the Spanish revolt of the Ilergetes was crushed by Scipio at the Ebro, Mago began to lose hope for the recovery of Spain, and made preparations to leave for Africa with what forces he could. Before departing however, he received orders from Carthage to sail to Italy and recruit troops from the Ligures and Gauls and make an effort to join Hannibal. He received an unspecified amount of money in order to do this, and he also, according to Livy, 'wrung all he could could from the people of Gades, not only emptying their treasury but robbing temples and forcing every individual to contribute gold and silver as he possessed' (28.36). Before he left however, Mago made an attempt on New Carthage, sailing along the coast, first raiding the countryside and then making a further attempt on the town which is recorded by Livy as follows:

During the day he kept his men on board, and did not disembark them till night. He then took them to that part of the city wall where the Romans had effected the capture of the place; thinking that the city was held by a weak garrison and that there would be a movement amongst some of the townsmen who hoped for a change of masters. The country people, however, who were fleeing from their fields had brought news of the depredations and approach of the enemy. His fleet had also been seen during the day, and it was obvious that they would not have taken their station before the city without some special reason. An armed force was accordingly drawn up outside the gate which faced the sea. The enemy approached the walls in disorder, soldiers and seamen were mixed together, and there was much more noise and tumult than fighting strength. Suddenly the gate was thrown open and the Romans burst out with a cheer; the enemy were thrown into confusion, turned their backs at the very first discharge of missiles and were pursued with heavy loss down to the shore. If the ships had not been brought up close to the beach and so afforded a means of escape, not a single fugitive would have survived. On the ships, too, there was hurry and confusion; the crews drew up the ladders, lest the enemy should clamber on board with their comrades, and cut the cables and hawsers so as not to lose time in weighing anchor. Many who tried to swim to the ships could not see in the darkness what direction to take or what dangers to avoid, and perished miserably. The next day, after the fleet had regained the ocean, it was discovered that 800 men had been killed between the wall and the shore and as many as 2000 arms of different kinds picked up.(28.36)

This paints a fairly damning picture of the forces Mago had to work with at this point. With this failed effort, Mago sailed back to Gades, but discovered the gates were shut to him. He sailed to Cimbii not far from Gades, and sent representatives to the town with complaints about the gates being barred to a friend and ally. The reply he got was about people incensed at his soldiers recent property theft. Mago enticed them to a conference instead, inviting the sufetes of the town along with the treasurer and once they arrived at his location, had them scourged and crucified. He then left for the island of Pityusa (Ibiza) which was inhabited by a Carthaginian populace, where he was welcomed and was supplied generously, including men to supplement the ships crews. With this addition to his strength, Mago sailed for the Balearic Islands, but he did not receive a warm welcome and was thus forced to sail for Minorca, where Mago took possession of the town and adjacent lands, and sent 2000 troops back to Carthage before settling down for the winter. The main town of the island, according to tradition, still bears Mago's name Mahon.

Mago spent the months leading to summer 205 BC readying an army for an invasion of Italy, and had a force of 12,000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, along with 30 warships and a large number of transports. He left with this force and landed on the Ligurian coast unchallenged at sea by the Romans. His sudden appearance helped him capture Genoa. With Genoa now in his hands, he left to stir up more trouble in the hope of causing a rising against Rome, aiming at the coast at the foot of the maritime Alps, where he used the town of Savona as a base, forging an alliance with the Ingauni (a Ligurian tribe). He left ten warships to defend Savona, and sent the rest back to defend the African coast while he began hostilities with the Ingauni's northern Ligurian enemies, the Epanterii Montani. According to Livy, 'his strength grew daily, his name being sufficient to bring Gauls flocking to his standard from every side' (28.46). The Roman senate was alerted to the growing problems in northern Italy from despatches sent by Spurius Lucretius, and orders were given to Marcus Livius to march his slave volunteers from Etruria to Ariminum, whilst Marcus Valerius Laevinus marched the two City legions to Arretium.

Though Livy gives the reason for protecting the African coast for Mago sending his ships back, perhaps the real reason was to get more men, as Livy tells us in the same year (205 BC), Mago received Carthaginian envoys, twenty-five warships, 6000 infantry, 800 cavalrymen, seven elephants and a large sum of money in order to hire further mercenaries in order to meet up and support Hannibal (29.4). Livy reports his actions in trying to convince more of the Gauls and Ligurians to join him against rome at a conference he called after talking with the Carthaginian envoys:

When they were assembled he told them that his mission was to restore them to liberty, and as they could see for themselves reinforcements were being sent to him from home. But it depended upon them what numbers and strength would be available for the war. There were two Roman armies in the field, one in Gaul, the other in Etruria, and he knew as a matter of fact that Spurius Lucretius would unite his forces with M. Livius. A good many thousands of men must be armed if they were to offer an effectual resistance to two Roman generals and two armies. The Gauls assured him that they were perfectly willing to do their part, but as one Roman camp was on their territory and the other just within the frontier of Etruria, almost within sight of them, any attempt to assist the Carthaginians openly would subject their country to an invasion from both sides. Mago must ask from the Gauls only such assistance as they could furnish secretly. As for the Ligurians, the Roman camp was a long way from their cities, they were therefore free to act as they chose, it was right that they should arm their men and take their fair share in the war. The Ligurians raised no objection, they only asked for an interval of two months in which to raise their force. Mago in the meantime after sending the Gauls home began to hire mercenary troops secretly throughout their country, and clandestine supplies were sent to him from the different communities.(29.5)

The Romans meanwhile made preparations to oppose any movement by Mago, and Livius' force joined up with Lucretius' in Gaul. By 204 BC, Mago was clearly considered the main threat for the Romans, with four legions in Cisapline Gaul under the command of SP. Lucretius and Livius Salinator positioned against him, and Livy also reports much of Etruria was ready to switch sides (29.36). Mago advanced into Italy in 203 BC and was brought to battle in the territory of Insubrian Gaul. The following is Livy's account of the battle:

The praetor's legions formed the fighting line; Cornelius kept his in reserve, but rode to the front and took command of one wing, the praetor leading the other, and both of them exhorted the soldiers to make a furious charge on the enemy. When they failed to make any impression upon them, Quintilius said to Cornelius, "As you see, the battle is progressing too slowly; the enemy finding themselves offering an unhoped-for resistance have steeled themselves against fear, there is danger of this fear passing into audacity. We must let loose a hurricane of cavalry against them if we want to shake them and make them give ground. Either, then, you must keep up the fighting at the front and I will bring the cavalry into action, or I will remain here and direct the operations of the first line while you launch the cavalry of the four legions against the enemy." The proconsul left it to the praetor to decide what he would do. Quintilius, accordingly, accompanied by his son Marcus, an enterprising and energetic youth, rode off to the cavalry, ordered them to mount and sent them at once against the enemy. The effect of their charge was heightened by the battle-shout of the legions, and the hostile lines would not have stood their ground, had not Mago, at the first movement of the cavalry, promptly brought his elephants into action. The appearance of these animals, their trumpeting and smell so terrified the horses as to render the assistance of the cavalry futile. When engaged at close quarters and able to use sword and lance the Roman cavalryman was the better fighter, but when carried away by a frightened horse, he was a better target for the Numidian darts. As for the infantry, the twelfth legion had lost a large proportion of their men and were holding their ground more to avoid the disgrace of retreat than from any hope of offering effectual resistance. Nor would they have held it any longer if the thirteenth legion which was in reserve had not been brought up and taken part in the doubtful conflict. To oppose this fresh legion Mago brought up his reserves also. These were Gauls, and the hastati of the eleventh legion had not much trouble in putting them to rout. They then closed up and attacked the elephants who were creating confusion in the Roman infantry ranks. Showering their darts upon them as they crowded together, and hardly ever failing to hit, they drove them all back upon the Carthaginian lines, after four had fallen, severely wounded.

At last the enemy began to give ground, and the whole of the Roman infantry, when they saw the elephants turning against their own side, rushed forward to increase the confusion and panic. As long as Mago kept his station in front, his men retreated slowly and in good order, but when they saw him fall, seriously wounded and carried almost fainting from the field, there was a general flight. The losses of the enemy amounted to 5000 men, and 22 standards were taken. The victory was a far from bloodless one for the Romans, they lost 2300 men in the praetor's army, mostly from the twelfth legion, and amongst them two military tribunes, M. Cosconius and M. Maevius. The thirteenth legion, the last to take part in the action, also had its losses; C. Helvius, a military tribune, fell whilst restoring the battle, and twenty-two members of the cavalry corps, belonging to distinguished families, together with some of the centurions were trampled to death by the elephants. The battle would have lasted longer had not Mago's wound given the Romans the victory.

Mago appears to be fairly competent here despite the loss - making good tactical use of his elephants and reserve. It also looks like his infantry were more-or-less well trained, and kept their discipline, until Mago, doing what a good commander should, was wounded whilst rallying his men. Mago managed to retreat back to Genoa, breaking away from the Romans at night, and from there he met recently arrived envoys from Carthage, who now ordered him back to Africa. Probably sometime in the autumn of 203 BC, Mago set sail from Italy. He died on the voyage, finally succumbing to his wound just as the fleet passed Sardinia (30.19).
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  1. Old Comment
    Excellent review of Mago's activities during 2nd Punic War. I am indebted to you. I needed info on Mago for my 3rd book, "Legio XVII: Battle of Zama" and your article filled in many blanks. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a well researched and readable account. Sincerely appreciate it.

    Regards, Tom
    Posted January 1st, 2015 at 07:51 AM by Legio17 Legio17 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    markdienekes's Avatar
    No problem mate, I'm glad you liked it and have found some use out of it!
    Posted May 19th, 2015 at 06:36 AM by markdienekes markdienekes is offline

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