Battle of the Bagradas River (255 BC)

The Battle of the Bagradas River (the ancient name of the Medjerda), also known as the Battle of Tunis, was a victory by a Carthaginian army led by Xanthippus over a Roman army led by Marcus Atilius Regulus in the spring of 255 BC, nine years into the First Punic War. The previous year, the newly constructed Roman navy established naval superiority over Carthage. The Romans used this advantage to invade Carthage's homeland, which roughly aligned with modern-day Tunisia in North Africa. After landing on the Cape Bon Peninsula and conducting a successful campaign, the fleet returned to Sicily, leaving Regulus with 15,500 men to hold the lodgement in Africa over the winter.

Battle of the Bagradas River
Part of the First Punic War

The campaign in North Africa of which this battle was a part; the approximate location of the battle is shown by "5"
DateSpring 255 BC
Location36.7975°N 10.1659°E / 36.7975; 10.1659
Result Carthaginian victory
Belligerents
Carthage Rome
Commanders and leaders
Xanthippus Marcus Atilius Regulus (POW)
Strength

16,000


12,000 infantry
4,000 cavalry
100 elephants

15,500


15,000 infantry
500 cavalry
Casualties and losses
At least 800 killed

13,500


13,000 killed
500 captured

Instead of holding his position, Regulus advanced towards the city of Carthage and defeated the Carthaginian army at the Battle of Adys. The Romans followed up and captured Tunis, only 16 kilometres (10 mi) from Carthage. Despairing, the Carthaginians sued for peace, but Regulus's proposed terms were so harsh the Carthaginians decided to fight on. They gave charge of the training of their army, and eventually operational control, to the Spartan mercenary general Xanthippus.

In the spring of 255 BC, Xanthippus led an army strong in cavalry and elephants against the Romans' infantry-based force. The Romans had no effective answer to the elephants. Their outnumbered cavalry were chased from the field and the Carthaginian cavalry then surrounded most of the Romans and wiped them out; 500 survived and were captured, including Regulus. A force of 2,000 Romans avoided being surrounded and retreated to Aspis. The war continued for another 14 years, mostly on Sicily or in nearby waters, before ending with a Roman victory; the terms offered to Carthage were more generous than those proposed by Regulus.