Second Punic War Battles > Battle of Cartagena (209 BC)

Battle of Cartagena (209 BC)

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The Battle of Cartagena, also known as the Siege of Cartagena or the Second Battle of Cartagena, occurred in 209 BC during the Second Punic War. It was a naval engagement between the fleets of Rome and Carthage near the city of Cartagena (Carthago Nova) in Hispania (modern-day Spain). Following the Roman victory at the Battle of the Metaurus in 207 BC, which resulted in the death of the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal Barca, the Romans gained the upper hand in the war and sought to expand their control over Carthaginian territories in Hispania. In 209 BC, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, later known as Scipio Africanus, launched a campaign to capture the Carthaginian stronghold of Cartagena, a crucial naval base and supply depot for the Carthaginian forces in Hispania.

Scipio's fleet, consisting of Roman warships and vessels provided by allied states, approached Cartagena with the intent of blockading the harbor and launching an amphibious assault on the city. The Carthaginian fleet, under the command of Hasdrubal Gisco, was tasked with defending Cartagena and preventing the Romans from establishing control over the city and its harbor.


The battle began with a naval engagement between the Roman and Carthaginian fleets off the coast of Cartagena. Both sides maneuvered their ships and engaged in ship-to-ship combat using projectiles such as arrows, javelins, and catapults. The Carthaginian fleet, despite being outnumbered, put up a determined defense and inflicted heavy casualties on the Roman ships. The Roman fleet, however, managed to maintain its formation and press the attack. The Romans eventually succeeded in breaking through the Carthaginian line and gaining control of the harbor, allowing them to begin the amphibious assault on the city.

Polybius gives a description of how Scipio Africanus stormed New Carthage:

“...directed [his soldiers], according to the Roman custom, against the people in the city, telling them to kill everyone they met and to spare no one, and not to start looting until they received the order. The purpose of this custom is to strike terror. Accordingly one can see in cities captured by the Romans not only humans who have been slaughtered, but even dogs sliced in two and the limbs of other animals cut off. On this occasion the amount of such slaughter was very great.”


The Battle of Cartagena ended in a decisive victory for the Romans. The Carthaginian fleet was defeated, and Cartagena fell to Roman control after a brief siege. The capture of Cartagena was a significant strategic achievement for the Romans, as it deprived the Carthaginians of a vital naval base and disrupted their supply lines in Hispania. The Battle of Cartagena further enhanced Scipio's reputation as a brilliant military commander and contributed to the eventual Roman victory in the Second Punic War. The defeat at Cartagena weakened Carthaginian control over Hispania and paved the way for Scipio's subsequent campaigns in the region, culminating in the decisive Roman victory at the Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC.

Second Punic War

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Primary Sources

Livy, 26.44.

Livy 26.45.

Titus Livy, Ab urbe condita libri, Book XXVI, Chapters 41 through 51.

Secondary Sources

Keegan, p. 265

Howard Hayes Scullard (2003-01-01). A History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-30504-4.

John Keegan (1993-09-16). A history of warfare. Vintage. ISBN 0-09-174527-6.

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