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Battle of Cartagena (209 BC)

Battle of Cartagena
Part of the Second Punic War
Date 209 BC
Location Cartagena
Result Roman victory
Roman Republic Carthage
Commanders and leaders
Scipio Africanus Major
35,000 3,000
Casualties and losses
1,600 2,000

The Battle of Cartagena of 209 BC was a successful Roman assault on the Carthaginian stronghold New Carthage (Cartagena) in Iberia.


  • Geography 1
  • Strategic Background 2
  • The Attack 3
  • Results 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6


New Carthage was a town situated on a peninsula - joined to the mainland to the east by a narrow isthmus. On the north side the town was protected by a large lagoon, which fed into a canal which protected the west side of the town. On the south side of the town, there was the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of this geography, New Carthage took advantage of the terrain to be very difficult to assault.

Strategic Background

Scipio sailed to Spain (Iberia) in late 210 BC, and spent the winter organizing his army (the total force in Spain was approximately 30,000 men) and planning the assault on New Carthage. Opposing him were the three Carthaginian generals (Hasdrubal Barca, Mago and Hasdrubal Gisco), who were on bad terms with each other, geographically scattered (Hasdrubal Barca in central Spain, Mago near Gibraltar and Hasdrubal near the mouth of the Tagus river), and at least 10 days away from New Carthage.

Livy mentions the force guarding the city - one thousand Carthaginian soldiers under command of Mago, who picked out a further 2000 men from the city who defended the front gate, and an unspecified amount of townsmen to watch for sudden emergences[1]

The Attack

Setting up camp across the isthmus, Scipio isolated the town on the landward side, and with the Roman fleet (commanded by Gaius Laelius) blockading the town from the sea, the town was isolated from outside help. After beating back an attack from the towns defenders, Scipio then attacked over the isthmus, while the fleet attacked from the southern side. The first attack was a failure, however Scipio renewed the attack later in the day, with the addition of a party attacking through the lagoon on the northern side. Aided by an expected squall (which drained some of the lagoon into the Mediterranean, reducing the depth of the lagoon so the Roman troops could easily cross it), the party managed to scale the undefended northern wall and attacked the rear of the defenders defending the isthmus. At the same time, the naval forces managed to penetrate the town from the south.[2]

Polybius gives a description of how Scipio Africanus stormed New Carthage:


With the fall of New Carthage, the Romans forced the Carthaginians to surrender the entire eastern coast of Spain, as well as capturing a large amount of military stores and the silver mines located nearby.


  1. ^ Livy, 26.44
  2. ^ Livy 26.45
  3. ^ Keegan, p. 265


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