First Punic War > Battles > Battle of Bagradas

Battle of Bagradas

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Battle of Badradas

Combatants

Military Forces

  • 15,000 Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • 12,000 Infantry
  • 4,000 Cavalry
  • 100 Elephants

Aftermath

  • 12,000 Dead
  • 500 Captured
  • 800 Dead

Background

The Battle of Bagradas, also known as the Battle of Tunis was a major battle of the First Punic War that occurred between the Carthaginians and the Roman Republic in 255 BC. The battle was a great success for the Carthaginians, owing to the expertise supplied by the mercenary Spartan general named Xanthippus who engaged the Romans on an open-field to utilize the strengths of the Numidian cavalry and the war elephants.

The Roman army would be commanded by the consul Marcus Atilius Regulus based near Tunis who wanted to crush the Carthaginians before his year long term was up. The Romans would have overall 15,000 infantry and 500 cavalry deployed in the typical legion formation of the time which had the infantry in the center and the cavalry on the flanks.

The Carthaginians deployed their military with a phalanx in the center and with mercenary infantry on the right. The 100 war elephants were placed in front of the 12,000 total infantry and distributed the 4,000 Numidian cavalry along the flanks.

Battle

The Carthaginians began the engagement by moving to attack with their war elephants. The successful use of these greatly interfered with the Roman infantry and the Roman cavalry was likewise crushed when they were outnumbered nearly eight to one. The left flank of the Romans had some level of success however, where 2,000 troops managed to push the Carthaginian mercenaries back into their camp.

In the center of the formation the war elephant attack had been withstood by the Romans, but only a few of the infantry managed to get past them to engage the Carthaginian center phalanx. Any troops that did were quickly destroyed. The remaining Roman troops left were quickly decimated by the returning Carthaginian cavalry. The 2,000 troops that were victorious were the only ones that managed to escape to the Roman ships.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the battle the Romans would lose 12,000 men and have 500 more captured including the consul Regulus himself. The Carthaginians on the other hand would only lose 800 men. According to the account by Polybius,

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.

- Polybios: Histories, Book 1 9.

His story is disputed, with some later Roman writers saying he had his eyelids cut off and was trampled by a war elephant but no other sources such as Diodorus and Polybius. Following this defeat along with a few disasters at sea meant the last of the Roman forays into North Africa for the rest of the First Punic War.

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First Punic War

MessanaAgrigentum SiegeAgrigentum BattleLipari IslandsMylaeSulciTyndarisCape EcnomusAspisAdisTunisPanormus1st DrepanaLilybaeum2nd DrepanaBattle of Mount ErcteBattle of Mount Eryx (1)Battle of Mount Eryx (2)Aegates IslandsTreaty of Lutatius

Mercenary War

Utica Bagradas River Hamilcar's victory with Naravas Carthage "The Saw" Tunis

Second Punic War

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Third Punic War

Lake Tunis 1st Nepheris Port of Carthage 2nd Nepheris Carthage

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Polybios: Histories, Book 1 9.

Secondary Sources

Lost Battles, Philip Sabin p174

Lost Battles, Philip Sabin p175

Kistler, John M. War Elephants. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006. p.100.

Carthage and the Carthaginians, R Bosworth Smith.