Aside from a brief campaign in Liguria, the Italian theatre is now effectively over. After a serious of disasters for Hannibal the Metaurus was the straw which broke the Carthaginian army’s back. In late 207 Hannibal fled into Bruttium where he would hide, doing nothing throughout 206 and meaning that when Scipio Africanus was elected consul in 205 the war was ready to move to Africa. But, this really is only half the story. Spain is where the real action in these years was happening, it is where Scipio gained his reputation before he was ready to face Hannibal. This is why I wanted to focus on the Italian theatre first. If anything, this podcast is covering overlooked aspects of a famous war which is often horrendously oversimplified. In this simplified narrative Hannibal wins his big battles, gets chased around Italy for a few years while Scipio goes to Spain, then there is the big finally in Africa. If you, dear listener, remember anything about this podcast in 10 years’ time, I hope it is that those years when Hannibal and the Romans are fighting in Italy are tremendously interesting. The slow grind the Romans fought against the Carthaginians, slowly pushing Hannibal further and further south, was what won them the war as much as any of the big battles. But, now we have covered this, it is time to get into the more famous stuff. So, just where were we when we left things in Spain back in episode 53.
Well, the two Roman commanders, Publius and Gnaeus Scipio, had just been killed. It looked very likely that the Carthaginians would sweep north, across the river Ebro and into Italy, being led by their trifecta of commanders, Hasdrubal Gisgo, Hasdrubal Barca and Mago Barca. To keep things simple these shall be known as Gisgo, Hasdrubal and Mago respectively. This would have happened were it not for Lucius Marcius. Marcius managed to regroup the shattered Roman forces and turn them back into an army. It was a small army, and a weak army, but it was an army, and was something that the Carthaginians were not expecting to face. Mancius was able to fend off the Carthaginian force and even launch a counter attack on the Carthaginian camp, capturing it while the Carthaginian command was divided. And so in 210 we rejoin the story.