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Ancient texts

Polybius (1.32-34)

Atilius Regulus

Date: autumn 257 bc
Consul: M. Atilius Regulus
Inf.: 2 legions (+auxiliares?)
Cav.: 600
Casualties: ± 5000
Enemy: Carthago
Leader: Xanthippos
Inf.: 12,000
Cav.: 4000+ 100 elephants
Casualties: 500

Battle of Carthago

  Battle of Carthago phase 1  

Phase I


Phase I

Carthaginian formation
Xanthippos was a Spartan so he used the phalanx as his infantry formation. He had chosen flat terrain, where a phalanx works best, one long block of men with spears. In front of this phalanx he placed his 100 elephants.
Polybius states, he placed them spread over the full army. I doubt that. Depending on how deep he had made his phalanx, the phalanx will have been 1200 to 1500 meters wide, that means one elephant every 12 to 15 meters. It would be quite easy to evade these elephants. My guess is he pulled them closer together and have an elephant line of about 500 m wide. This would also explain how a complete legion could evade the elephants.
At his flanks he divided his horse; 2000 each.

Roman formation
A Roman legion in battle formation stretched for about 400 m; a Roman army without the alae 800 m. Roman authors seem to have had the habit of not mentioning the 2 legions from the Latin cities. To mirror the 1200 meters of the Carthaginian phalanx he only needed only one ala legion. The other legion he probably added to the legion facing the elephants, thus 'many manipels deep' as Polybius writes. He also writes Atilius placed spear thowers in front. Standard equipment of the hastati as well as the principes were 2 javelins (pila), so maybe the velites were provided with more pila than usual.
Provided the Latins were there, he would have placed 1200 horse on each flank

Phase II
At the moment the hostilities opened Xanthippos sent his horse and elephants to the Romans. The cavalry to destroy the Roman horse, which didn't take long, because of the difference in numbers. The Roman line facing the elephants turned into a mess, but because of the depth didn't break instantly. Those who survived then faced the Carthaginian phalanx.
The legion on the left wing managed to evaded the elephants (or weren't attacked by them) attacked the Carthaginian right wing. Polybius writes they attacked the mercenaries, whom they despised, as opposed the the Carthaginian warriors. This is remarkable, because if there were Carthaginian soldiers, they must have been quickly drafted and inexperienced and more vulnerable than the mostly experienced mercenaries. Normally Carthago didn't levy Carthaginians, but rented mercenaries.

  battle of Carthago phase 2

Phase II

  Battle of Carthago phase 3  

Phase III


Phase III
After the Roman horse was defeated Xanthippos cavalry now turned to the back of the Roman infantry, that now quickly collapsed.
The Roman left wing chased the Punic left wing back to their camp, but that didn't change the outcome of the battle. Atilius was captured together with 500 men. All the others were killed.

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