3 – Carthage Continues to Hold Firm
Manilius was replaced by Calpurnius Piso Caesonius, but he didn’t fare any better than his predecessor as Carthage refused to fold. According to Appian, Manilius sent Scipio to Rome when he learned about Piso’s appointment. The army hoped that Scipio would return because it believed that he was the only man capable of leading it to victory. In Rome, Scipio was lauded by the Senate.
Piso arrived in Carthage in early spring 148 BC and failed in his attempts to take Aspis by land and sea. The angry commander moved on to another town which he captured and destroyed. Piso then tried to capture Hippagreta but was repulsed as the enemy burned Roman siege engines once again. The frustrated Piso returned to Utica where he set up his winter quarters.
Back in Rome, the people were growing anxious at the lack of progress and once again, all eyes turned towards Scipio who was a candidate for the aedileship because he was too young to become consul. Nonetheless, the Romans were desperate enough to break the rules to allow Scipio to be elected consul. He sailed first to Sicily, then to Utica as he looked to turn the tide of the siege.
Meanwhile, Manilius made a terrible blunder, and his men became trapped after an ill-timed attack on the Carthaginians. Fortunately for him, Scipio had arrived in Utica that very day and quickly came to the aid of his fellow commander. Scipio sent Manilius back to Rome because Serranus had arrived to help Scipio take control of the fleet. Scipio also noticed that Piso’s men showed ill-discipline and were prone to idleness and avarice. He made a stirring speech where he ordered the men to follow the example of him and his industry.
Scipio angrily pointed out the army’s excesses to that point and chastised them by saying they were more like robbers than soldiers. He told those who were not interested in being soldiers to leave and marched on with the remaining men in awe of him. Scipio immediately got to work by setting fire to the camp of the enemy. Then, he intercepted all supplies sent to Carthage from the interior so now; the Carthaginians had to rely on food sent from Africa alone. Hasdrubal was in an awkward position as he had to serve his men first and foremost, so he decided to share the provisions amongst the army while the non-combatants in the siege suffered. Scipio was starting to take control.