Battle of Hippo Regius, summer 46 BC

The battle of Hippo Regius (Summer 46 BC) was a naval victory for the Roman adventurer P. Sittius in which several of the Republican leaders fleeing in the aftermath of their defeat at Thapsus were killed.

P. Sittius was a Roman who had been serving under Bogud, the brother of the king of Mauritania. Earlier in the Civil War they had successfully besieged Cirta, the capital of Numidia, forcing King Juba of Numidia to withdraw his troops from the Republican forces at a key moment. He was now about to play an even more major part in affairs.

Battles of the Great Roman Civil War, 49-45 BC
Battles of the
Great Roman Civil War,
49-45 BC

The Republican forces had been commanded by the ex-consul Metellus Scipio. For some time he had avoided a direct clash with Caesar’s legions, but he was eventually forced to try and act to save the city of Thapsus. The resulting battle of Thapsus was a major victory for Caesar, and the Republican army effectively dissolved.

Metellus Scipio managed to reach the coast and get onboard some of the Republican warships, along with several other senior leaders. They included Lucius Manlius Torquatus, Publius Damasippus and Plaetorius Rustianus.

Their small fleet attempted to escape to Spain, where there were still some opponents of Caesar, and where Pompey’s sons would fight the last campaign of the civil war. Unfortunately for them they never reached Spain. A head wind drove their ships back onto the Africa coast, and they ended up running into Sittius’s larger fleet at Hippo Regius.

According to the African Wars, Scipio’s fleet was surrounded and sunk, and all of the senior leaders onboard died. Just how much fighting was involved isn’t clear, but it would seem unlikely that Scipio would give up without some sort of fight.

Seneca provided more details of Scipio’s death. After his ship fell into his enemy’s power, he stabbed himself with his sword. This must have happened in his cabin, for his men asked where he was, and he famously answered ‘All is well with the commander’, before dying, giving him the nobility in death that he had failed to achieve in life.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 November 2018), Battle of Hippo Regius, summer 46 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_hippo_regius.html

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