The Battle of Castulo 211B.C. 2nd Punic War

The Situation leading up to Castulo 211 B.C. from c3i Magazine.

[i]Publius and Gnaeus Scipio knew that Hasdrubal Barca was encamped north of New Carthage near Amtorgis with about 15,000 men. Mago and Hasdrubal Gisgo, with about 10,000 troops each, were some distance away in the Baetis River valley. The Scipios decided to split their forces and defeat both Carthaginian bodies simultaneously. Publius would take 20,000 men (twothirds of the original army) against Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisgo.

Gnaeus would confront Hasdrubal Barca with a double legion (10,000 men) and the 20,000 Celt-Iberians. It was a bold plan, even rash. Their motivation appears to have been based on three factors:

•• The numerical superiority they enjoyed with their new mercenaries;

•• The superior quality of their legions, probably the finest in the Roman army; and,

•• Overconfidence bred from seven years of campaigning without a serious defeat.

Had the Scipios actually faced only 35,000 Carthaginians with over 50,000 legionnaires and mercenaries as they believed, their chances for success would have been good. But Hasdrubal Barca had two additional detachments: 3,000 Numidian cavalry under Masinissa and 7,500 warriors under Indibilis. And Hasdrubal Barca also had a trick up his sleeve that was to throw the entire balance over in the favor of Carthage.

While Hasdrubal Barca observed the Romans from his position at Amtorgis, he ordered the forces of Hasdrubal Gisgo, Masinissa and Indibilis to concentrate at Mago Barca’s camp near Castulo. Once these forces were united, it appears he intended to move north against the Romans with his combined forces.

But the Romans struck first. Their entire force moved up to confront Hasdrubal Barca, and then Publius split off with his army to advance into the interior. Hasdrubal, through heavily outnumbered by Gnaeus’ Romans and Celt- Iberians, held his ground. Hasdrubal Barca had been raised on the battlefields of Spain and he knew the Celt-Iberians very well. Having some of these warriors in his own army, he was able to arrange secret conferences with the mercenary commanders from Gnaeus’ army. For a large sum of silver,  Hasdrubal Barca persuaded the Celt- Iberians to abandon the Romans and return to their homeland. The Romans, outnumbered two-to-one by their  mercenaries, could do nothing to prevent their departure.

With this bribe, Hasdrubal Barca eliminated two fifths of the Roman forces without striking a blow.

Meanwhile, Publius Scipio had run into difficulty soon after separating from his brother. Hasdrubal Gisgo and Masinissa had already arrived at Castulo to join Mago Barca. Masinissa and his light cavalry were unleashed to harass the Roman column on the march. As Publius advanced towards Castulo, foragers were ambushed and stragglers were cut off. The Numidians struck without warning, by day and by night.

As he neared Castulo, Publius feared that his column would soon be under a complete blockade. Then his scouts brought word that Indibilis with a band of Iberians was across his line of retreat and advancing on his rear. Publius realized that his entire command was in danger of annihilation….

[scenario notes- I randomized the entry points, for Carthage to keep me guessing.  Each of the Carthaginian armies has its own low RP level 34 for Indibilis, 40 for Mago, and 38 for Gisgo, there is a slim chance the Scipio can fight his way out of this. Rome has about 120-30 RPs to lose. Lets see what happened

Scipio could see the enemy line ahead of his column, they were marching to block his movement and hold him up so that bastard Mago or his relative Hasdrubal could ensnare him he thought.

He ordered the Triarii and Mercs to split up and form a line holding his immediate rear.  That was the most imminent threat. Or so he thought.

He motioned to the Signifier of the Xth to sound the double time. The Centurions picked the pace., their silvered cuirass and greaves glinted thru the dust on the road.  The Maniple advanced in open order. On Scipios Left he sees Manissa’s Numdian Cavalry take up position  waiting for a flanking opportunity.

As his troops close to combat with the Iberians, he hears a tumult from the right….

He sees the Pennants and standards of Magos Heavy Infantry and hears the Elephants trumpeting thru the narrow opening in the woods to his right.   He shakes his head, now his blocking line in the rear is out of position.  Without direction the seasoned Trarii and their Praefectus castorum and Tribunes quickly re orient their line to meet the rush of Horse, Elephant and infantry.

The lead element of his Legion close order and lock shields, at 75 yards away they veer away from the heavy infantry units, release their javelins and slam into the lighter armoured units where possible.   Indibilis’s light troops and even some heavies recoil from the Praetorians heavy charge. The Hastati quickly follow up, eager to follow up on the crushing attack.

Mago has seen his enemy charge into his allies.  His men stream from the woods in a somewhat disorderly fashion, Elephants crowd the horses who shy into the edges of his formations, worsening their loosened form as the run down the slope.  As the Heavy Infantry hits the Triarii they do little damage (3 1’s ugh)

R:16 C: 6

Now Masinissa presses his cavalry forward seeking to engage the rear of Scipios occupied Legion. 2 stalwart Cohorts block the way.

Scipio urges the Hastati and Prinicpies forward into battle, seeking to break the weakening line in front of them.  We need time he thinks.  Spurring his horse forward he personally leads the charge. Buoyed the Hastati kill 3 units.

C:11 R:16

Horns sound, the ground trembles…..Behind Publius to his rear left, the ranks of Phalanxes appear, along with Elephants and Cavalry.  “where the hell are they all coming from?” Says Scipio “We have underestimated our foe”.

The Hastati and Principies know that their only hope is to break thru this line in front of them and run for it, Manissas cavalry supporting them cannot stand and fight the whole Xth.  Scipio looks carefully at the crowded troops rushing into battle, the large Phalanxes are struggling to maneuver around the Skirmishers and light infantry who are too eager to engage him.   It may take the some time to fall on our rear he thinks.   Scipio rides the front of his line, “Men of Rome” he cries, “With me, forward to sanctuary” . [If Rome exits a 165 TQ points they win]

He turns his horse and leads his men , who all hack, slash and batter at Indibilis’s shrinking force. Suddenly enemy breaks and runs! Only a half dozen squadrons of Numidians stand between the X Legion and respite.

C:27 R: 16

Scipios death

No! Scipio falls a lance protruding from his leg, even as the Iberians flee the field his blood pumps from his leg, unstoppable. “No dam dam, Gnaeus avenge my death, I am lost” Are his final words.



Gisgo’s men here the cheers of the Numdian cavalry and surge forward in a mess of men and animals.

The Triarii, have disengaged from Magos men, to re connect with their leader. But they cannot see his standard? They fear the worst.

The Velites turn to face Mago’s heavy infantry, sure in the knowledge that they will die where they stand.  The Triarii stream past, some turn to fight beside the Velites, others rush to support the rear, but they are slow compared to the fleet of foot enemy.   Magos men hound the backs of the Triarii.

R:76 C :41

With the loss of their leader the Xth falls into disarray. No longer are the Hastati and Principies fighting in concert. Their momentum is lost. Turning to face the rear a Centurion sees Magos Heavies crunch 2 Triarii units and 3 Velites are cut down where they stand. “time to die he mutters” .

The field is lost R95, R102, men fall, the noose tightens. Grimly the Romans fight to the end. Rome concedes.

R 108

C 51

What would have happened if Scipio had not fallen?

End Note:

This is the third time I think that a leader has died historically in this campaign….is it me or is that eerie?

One thought on “The Battle of Castulo 211B.C. 2nd Punic War

  1. Pingback: Battle for Sardinia 2nd Punic War 215 B.C. « thebigboard0710

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