4 – The Battle of Nepheris 147 BC
Before the timely arrival of Scipio, there was a danger that the Third Punic War could become an extremely long and drawn out affair. As well as offering stiff resistance in the countryside, the Carthaginians were showing no signs of succumbing to hunger thanks to their steady supply chain. However, Scipio’s commitment to blockading the city completely changed the course of the war. He ordered the creation of a siege wall around the city and a giant structure was built to block access to Carthage’s mercantile harbor.
Nonetheless, the Carthaginians refused to concede defeat and bravely fought to protect their very existence. The Battle of Port Carthage in 147 BC was the last notable Carthaginian victory over the Romans. They found an escape route to the sea that the Roman navy had not yet blocked and sent a fleet of 50 triremes and other smaller vessels to face the enemy ships. The Romans suffered heavy casualties, but the Carthaginians were forced to return to port. Although it was an impressive act of defiance, it wasn’t enough to break the Roman blockade, and a decisive defeat wasn’t far away.
Scipio decided to face the enemy army at Nepheris, the scene of a Roman defeat only a year or so before. Once again, he used the power of the blockade to cut off the supplies to the enemy defenders, led by Diogenes of Carthage. The Carthaginian camp was surrounded so they had to face the Romans in an open battle. Although the size of the Roman army is unknown, it was certainly larger than the 7,000-10,000 Carthaginians. Also, the Romans had the enemy surrounded on all sides. Diogenes and his army suffered a heavy defeat, and only a couple of thousand Carthaginians avoided death or imprisonment.
The defeat at Nepheris was practically the final nail in the Carthaginian coffin as their army was too small to sustain many more losses. The blockade was weakening their remaining members and morale was at an all-time low. Up until that point, the people within the city retained hope as long as the army of Diogenes was out in the field providing resistance. The 22-day siege ultimately broke the Carthaginian spirit, and Scipio was able to take the rest of the area surrounding the city without much resistance. The end was near.