The Importance of Conquering New Carthage

The Carthaginians controlled southern Spain before the Second Punic war and had alliances with some of the tribes of northern Spain. They had highly productive gold and silver mines in southern Spain which helped finance the war.
The Second Punic War began as a result of Hannibal’s destruction of Saguntum, a Roman ally, and Spain became a major theater of the war, with Proconsul Gneius Cornelius Scipio Calvus and eventually his brother, Publius Cornelius Scipio (father of Scipio Africanus) leading armies in northern Spain and trying to wrest territories from Carthage. It is likely that they wanted to capture the rich gold and silver mines of southern Spain.
The Scipios were fairly successful until they were both killed in the Battles of the Upper Baetis in 211 B.C. Two years later, Publius Scipio’s son, also named Publius, got himself elected commander of Roman forces in Spain. He was twenty-five years old. He recognized the importance of the Carthaginian stronghold New Carthage to the Carthaginian war effort: “Soldiers, what we are about to do is attack a city, but not just any city. Our conquest of New Carthage will have profound advantages to our cause. The conquest of this city holds the key to the conquest of Hispania and, ultimately, to Roman victory in this war against Carthage!
“Here in New Carthage are the hostages from the most distinguished kings and states of Hispania. As soon as you shall have gained possession of these, they will immediately deliver into your hands everything which is now subject to the Carthaginians.
“Here is the whole of the enemy’s treasure, without which they cannot carry on the war, and which will be most serviceable to us in conciliating the affections of the barbarians. Here are their engines, their arms, their tackle and every requisite in war, which will at once supply you, and leave the enemy destitute.
“Besides, we shall gain possession of a city, not only of the greatest beauty and wealth, but also the most convenient in having an excellent harbor by means of which we may be supplied with every requisite for carrying on the war both by sea and land.
“Great as are these advantages we shall thus gain, we shall deprive our enemies of much greater. This is their citadel, their granary, their treasury, their magazine, their receptacle for everything. Hence there is a direct passage into Africa. This is the only station for a fleet between the Pyrenees and Gades. This gives to Africa the command of all of Hispania. But as I perceive that you are arrayed and marshaled, let us pass on to the assault of New Carthage with our whole strength and undaunted courage.”
It was reflective of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus’ genius that not only did he realize the importance of beating his foe on the battlefield, but he realized the importance of destroying the logistics of the enemy.

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