The Carthaginians, having thus been twice defeated, shorty before at sea and now on land, in both cases owing to no lack of bravery in their troops, but owing to the incompetence of their commanders, had now fallen into a thotoly difficult position. For, in addition to the misfortunes I have mentioned, the Numidians, attacking them at the same time as the Romans, inflicted not less but even more damage on the country than the latter. The terror-stricken inhabitants took refuge in the city of Carthage where utter despondency and extreme famine prevailed, the latter owing to overcrowding and the former owing to the expectation of a siege. Regulus, perceiving that the Carthaginians were utterly worsted both by land and sea and expecting to capture the city in a very short time, was yet apprehensive lest his successor in the Consulate should arrive from Rome before Carthage fell and receive the credit of the success, and he therefore invited the enemy to enter into negotiations. The Carthaginians gave a ready ear to these advances, and sent out an embassy of their leading citizens. On meeting Regulus, however, the envoys were so far from being inclined to yield to the conditions he proposed that they could not even bear listening to the severity of his demands. For, imagining himself to be complete master of the situation, he considered they ought to regard any concessions on his part as gifts and acts of grace. As it was evident to the Carthaginians that even if they became subject to the Romans, they could be in no worse case than if they yielded to the present demands, they returned not only dissatisfied with the conditions proposed but offended by Regulus's harshness. The attitude of the Carthaginian Senate on hearing the Roman general's proposals was, although they had almost abandoned all hope of safety, yet one of such manly dignity that rather than submit to anything ignoble or unworthy of their past they were willing to suffer anything and to face every exertion and every extremity.
Just about this time there arrived at Carthage one of the recruiting-officers they had formerly dispatched to Greece, bringing a considerable number of soldiers and among them a certain Xanthippus of Lacedaemon, a man who had been brought up in the Spartan discipline, and had had a fair amount of military experience. On hearing of the recent reverse and how and in what way it occurred, and on taking a comprehensive view of the remaining resources of the Carthaginians and their strength in cavalry and elephants, he at once reached the conclusion and communicated it to friends that the Carthaginians owed their defeat not to the Romans but to themselves, through the inexperience of their generals. Owing to the critical situation Xanthippus's remarks soon got abroad and reached the ears of the generals, whereupon the government decided to summon him before them and examine him. He presented himself before them and communicated to them his estimate of the situation, pointing out why they were now being worsted, and urging that if they would take his advice and avail themselves of the level country for marching, encamping and offering battle they could easily not only secure their own safety, but defeat the enemy. The generals, accepting what he said and resolving to follow his advice, at once entrusted their forces to him. Now even when the original utterance of Xanthippus got abroad, it had caused considerable rumour and more or less sanguine talk among the populace, but on his leading the army out and drawing it up in good order before the city and even beginning to manoeuvre some portions of it correctly and give the word of command in the orthodox military terms, the contrast to the incompetency of the former generals was so striking that the soldiery expressed their approval by cheers and were eager to engage the enemy, feeling sure that if Xanthippus was in command no disaster could befall them. Upon this the generals, seeing the extraordinary recovery of courage among the troops, addressed them in words suitable to the occasion and after a few days took the field with their forces. These consisted of twelve thousand foot, four thousand horse and very nearly a hundred elephants.
When the Romans saw that the Carthaginians were marching through the flat country and pitching their camps on level ground, they were surprised indeed and somewhat disturbed by this in particular, but yet were anxious on the whole to get into contact with the enemy. On coming into touch they encamped on the first day at a distance of about ten stades from him. On the following day the Carthaginian government held a council to discuss what should be done for the present and the means thereto. But the troops, eager as they were for a battle, collecting in groups and calling on Xanthippus by name, clearly indicated their opinion that he should lead them forward at once. The generals when they saw the enthusiasm and keenness of the soldiers, Xanthippus at the same time imploring them not to let the opportunity slip, ordered the troops to get ready and gave Xanthippus authority to conduct operations as he himself thought most advantageous. Acting on this authority, he sent the elephants forward and drew them up in a single line in front of the whole force, placing the Carthaginian phalanx at a suitable distance behind them. Some of the mercenaries he stationed on the right wing, while the most active he placed together with the cavalry in front of both wings. The Romans, seeing the enemy drawn up to offer battle, issued forth to meet them with alacrity. Alarmed at the prospect of the elephants' charge, they stationed the velites in the van and behind them the legions many maniples deep, dividing the cavalry between the two wings. In thus making their whole line shorter and deeper than before they had been correct enough in so far as concerned the coming encounter with the elephants, but as to that with the cavalry, which largely outnumbered theirs, they were very wide of the mark. When both sides had made that general and detailed disposition of their forces that best suited their plan, they remained drawn up in order, each awaiting a favourable opportunity to attack. No sooner had Xanthippus ordered the elephant-drivers to advance and break the enemy's line and the cavalry on each wing to execute a turning movement and charge, than the Roman army, clashing their shields and spears together, as is their custom and uttering their battle-cry, advanced against the foe. As for the Roman cavalry on both wings it was speedily put to flight owing to the superior numbers of the Carthaginians; while of the infantry, the left wing, partly to avoid the onset of the elephants, and partly owing to the contempt they felt for the mercenary force, fell upon the Carthaginian right wing, and having broken it, pressed on and pursued it as far as the camp. But the first ranks of those who were stationed opposite the elephants, pushed back when they encoutnered them and trodden under foot by the strength of the animals, fell in heaps in the mêlée, while the formation of the main body, owing to the depths of the ranks behind, remained for a time unbroken. At length, however, those in the rear were surrounded on all sides by the cavalry and obliged to face round and fight them, while those who had managed to force a passage through the elephants and collect in the rear of those beasts, encounted the Carthaginian phalanx quite fresh and in good order and were cut to pieces. Henceforth the Romans were in sore straits on all sides, the greater number were trampled to death by the vast weight of the elephants, while the remainder were shot down by the numerous cavalry in their ranks as they stood. Only quite a small body of these tried to effect their escape, and of these, as their line of retreat was over level ground, some were dispatched by the elephants and cavalry, and about five hundred who got away with their general Regulus shortly afterwards fell into the enemy's hands and were made prisoners, himself included. It resulted that in this battle the Carthaginians lost about eight hundred of the mercenaries, who had faced the Roman left wing, while of the Romans there were saved but about two thousand, whom the pursuit of the mercenaries I mentioned above carried out of the main battle. All the rest perished with the exception of the general Regulus and those who took to flight together with him. The maniples which escaped got through by extraordinary luck to Aspis. The Carthaginians stripped the dead, and taking with them the Consul and the other captives, returned to the city in high glee at the turn of affairs.
In these events there will be found by one who notes them aright much to contribute to the better conduct of human life. For the precept to distrust Fortune, and especially when we are enjoying success, was most clearly enforced on all by Regulus's misfortunes. He who so short a time previously had refused to pity or take mercy on those in distress was now, almost immediately afterwards, being led captive to implore pity and mercy in order to save his own life. And again Euripides' words, so long recognized as just, that "one wise counsel conquers many hands" were then confirmed by the actual facts. For one man and one brain laid low that host which seemed so invincible and efficient, and restored the fortunes of a state which in the eyes of all was utterly fallen and the deadened spirit of its soldiers. This I mention for the sake of the improvement of the readers of this history. For there are two ways by which all men can reform themselves, the one through their own mischances, the other through those of others, and of these the former is the more impressive, but the latter less hurtful. Therefore we should never choose the first method if we can help it, as it corrects by means of great pain and peril, but ever pursue the other, since by it we can discern what is best without suffering hurt. Reflecting on this we should regard as the best discipline for actual life the experience that accrues from serious history; for this alone makes us, without inflicting any harm on us, the most competent judges of what is best at every time and in every circumstance. Well, on this subject I have said enough.
All having now fallen out with the Carthaginians as they could best desire, there was no extravagance of rejoicing in which they did not indulge, paying thank-offerings to the gods and giving congratulatory entertainments. But Xanthippus, to whom this revolution and notable advance in the fortunes of Carthage was due, after a little time sailed again for home, and this was a very prudent and sensible decision on his part; for brilliant and exceptional achievements are wont to breed the deepest jealousy and most bitter slander. Natives of a place, supported as they are by their kinsmen and having many friends, may possibly be able to hold their own against those for some time, but foreigners when exposed to either speedily succumb and find themselves in peril. There is another account given of Xanthippus's departure which I will endeavour to set forth on an occasion more suitable than the present.
The Romans, who had never expected to receive such bad news from Libya, at once directed their efforts to fitting out their fleet and rescuing their surviving troops there. The Carthaginians after the battle encamped before Aspis and laid siege to it with the object of capturing these survivors, but as they had no success owing to the gallantry and daring of the defenders they at length abandoned the siege. When news reached them that the Romans were preparing their fleet and were about to sail again for Libya, they set to repairing the ships they had and building other entirely new ones, and having soon manned a fleet of two hundred sail, they put to sea and remained on the watch for an attack by the enemy.
In the early summer the Romans, having launched three hundred and fifty ships, sent them off under the command of Marcus Aemilius and Servius Fulvius, who proceeded along the coast of Sicily making for Libya. Encountering the Carthaginian fleet near the Hermaeum they fell on them and easily routed them, capturing one hundred and fourteen ships with their crews. Then having taken on board at Aspis the lads who remained in Libya they set sail again for Sicily. They had crossed the strait in safety and were off the territory of Camarina when they were overtaken by so fierce a storm and so terrible a disaster that it is difficult adequately to describe it owing to its surpassing magnitude. For of their three hundred and sixty-four ships only eighty were saved; the rest either foundered or were dashed by the waves against the rocks and headlands and broken to pieces, covering the shore with corpses and wreckage. History tells of no greater catastrophe at sea taking place at one time. The blame must be laid not so much on ill-fortune as on the commanders; for the captains had repeatedly urged them not to sail along the outer coast of Sicily, that turned towards the Libyan sea, as it was very rugged and had few safe anchorages: they also warned them that one of the dangerous astral periods was not over and another just approaching (for it was between the rising of Orion and that of Sirius that they undertook the voyage). The commanders, however, paid no attention to a single word they said, they took the outer course and there they were in the open sea thinking to strike terror into some of the cities they passed by the brilliancy of their recent success and thus win them over. But now, all for the sake of such meagre expectations, they exposed themselves to this great disaster, and were obliged to acknowledge their lack of judgement. The Romans, to speak generally, rely on force in all their enterprises, and think it is incumbent on them to carry out their projects in spite of all, and that nothing is impossible when they have once decided on it. They owe their success in many cases to this spirit, but sometimes they conspicuously fail by reason of it and especially at sea. For on land they are attacking men and the works of man and are usually successful, as there they are employing force against forces of the same nature, although even here they have in some rare instances failed. But when they come to encounter the sea and the atmosphere and choose to fight them by force they meet with signal defeats. It was so on this occasion and on many others, and it will always continue to be so, until they correct this fault of daring and violence which makes them think they can sail and travel where they will at no matter what season.
The Carthaginians, on hearing of the destruction of the Roman fleet, conceiving themselves to be now a match for the Romans both on land owing to their recent success and at sea owing to this disaster, were encouraged to make more extensive military and naval preparations. They at once dispatched Hasdrubal to Sicily, giving him the troops they previously had and a force which had joined them from Heraclea, together with a hundred and forty elephants. After dispatching him they began to get ready for sea two hundred ships and to make all other preparations for a naval expedition. Hasdrubal having crossed in safety to Lilybaeum occupied himself in drilling unopposed his elephants and the rest of his force, and plainly intended to dispute the possession of the open country.
The Romans, on receiving full information about the disaster from the survivors of the shipwreck, were deeply grieved, but being resolved on no account to give in, they decided to put on the stocks a fresh fleet of two hundred and twenty ships. In three months they were completed — a thing difficult to believe — and the new Consuls, Aulus Atilius and Gnaeus Cornelius, having fitted out the fleet, put to sea, and passing the straits picked up at Messene the ships that had escaped shipwreck. Descending with their total fleet of three hundred sail on Panormus, the most important city in the Carthaginian province, they undertook its siege. They threw up works in two places and after making the other necessary preparations brought up their battering-rams. The tower on the sea shore was easily knocked down, and, the soldiers pressing in through this breach, the so-called New Town was stormed, and the part known as the Old Town being now in imminent danger, its inhabitants soon surrendered it. Having taken possession of it the Consuls sailed back to Rome leaving a garrison in the town.
Their successors, Gnaeus Servilius and Gaius Sempronius, put to sea with their whole fleet as soon as it was summer and after crossing to Sicily proceeded thence to Libya, and sailing along the coast, made a number of descents in which they accomplished nothing of importance, and finally reached the isle of the Lotus-eaters, which is called Meninx and is not far distant from the lesser Syrtis. Here, owing to their ignorance of these seas, they ran on to some shoals, and, on the tide retreating and the ships grounding fast, they were in a most difficult position. However, as the tide unexpectedly rose again after some time, they managed with difficulty to lighten their ships by throwing overboard all heavy objects. Their departure now was so hasty as to resemble a flight, and having made Sicily and rounded Cape Lilybaeum they anchored at Panormus. As they were rashly crossing the open sea on the way hence to Rome they again encountered such a terrific storm that they lost more than a hundred and fifty ships.
The Roman Government upon this, although in all matters they are exceedingly ambitious of success, still on the present occasion, owing to the magnitude and frequency of the disasters they met with, were obliged by the force of circumstances to renounce the project of getting another fleet together. Relying now solely on their land forces, they dispatched to Sicily with some legions the Consuls Lucius Caecilius and Gaius Furius and only manned sixty ships to revictual the legions. The above disasters resulted in the prospects of the Carthaginians becoming once more brighter; for they had now undisturbed command of the sea, the Romans having retired from it, and they had great hopes of their army. These hopes were not unjustified, for the Romans, when the report circulated regarding the battle in Libya that the elephants had broken the Romans' ranks and killed most of their men, grew so afraid of the beasts that for the two years following this period, though often both in the district of Lilybaeum and in that of Selinus they were drawn up at a distance of five or six stades from the enemy, they never dared to begin a battle, and in fact never would come down at all to meet the enemy on flat ground, so much did they dread a charge of the elephants. During this period all they accomplished was the reduction by siege of Therma and Lipara, keeping as they did to mountainous and difficult country. Consequently the Government, observing the timidity and despondency that prevailed in their land forces, changed their minds and decided to try their fortunes at sea again. In the consulship of Gaius Atilius and Lucius Manlius we find them building fifty ships and actively enrolling sailors and getting a fleet together.