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Appian's History of Rome: The Illyrian Wars 11-15


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. The Illyrian wars, which were part of the book on the Macedonian wars, belong to these better preserved parts. They are a valuable source for the history of the western Balkan peninsula.

The translation was made by Horace White; additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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Figulus' Dalmatian campaign

[11] [156] The Dalmatians, another Illyrian tribe, made an attack on the Illyrian subjects of Rome, and when ambassadors were sent to them to remonstrate they were not received. The Romans accordingly sent an army against them, with [Gaius] Marcius Figulus as consul and commander.

While Figulus was laying out his camp, the Dalmatians overpowered the guard, defeated him, and drove him out of the camp in headlong flight to the plain as far as the river Naro. As the Dalmatians were returning home (for winter was now approaching), Figulus hoped to fall upon them unawares, but he found them reassembled from their towns at the news of his approach. Nevertheless, he drove them into the city of Delminium, from which place they first got the name of Delmatenses, which was afterward changed to Dalmatians.

As he was not able to attack this strongly defended town from the road, nor to use the engines that he had, on account of the height of the place, he attacked and captured some other towns that were partially deserted on account of the concentration of forces at Delminium. Then, returning to Delminium, he hurled sticks of wood, two cubits long, covered with flax and smeared with pitch and sulfur, from catapults into the town. These caught fire from friction and, flying in the air like torches, wherever they fell caused a conflagration, so that the greater part of the town was burned. This was the end of the war waged by Figulus against the Dalmatians.

[119] At a later period, in the consulship of [Lucius] CaeciliusMetellus [Delmaticus], war was declared against the Dalmatians, although they had been guilty of no offense, because he desired a triumph. They received him as a friend and he wintered among them at the town of Salona, after which he returned to Rome and was awarded a triumph.


Bust of Julius Caesar. Musei Vaticani, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Julius Caesar
(Musei Vaticani)

[12] [58] At the time when [Gaius Julius] Caesar held the command in Gaul these same Dalmatians and other Illyrians, who were then in a very prosperous condition, took the city of Promona from the Liburni, another Illyrian tribe. The latter put themselves in the hands of the Romans and appealed to Caesar, who was nearby.

Caesar sent word to those who were holding Promona that they should give it up to the Liburni, and when they refused, he sent against them a strong detachment of his army who were totally destroyed by the Illyrians. Nor did Caesar renew the attempt, for he had no leisure then, on account of the civil strife with Pompey.

[49/48] When the civil strife burst forth in war Caesar crossed the Adriatic from Brundusium in the winter, with what forces he had, and opened his campaign against Pompey in Macedonia. [Marc] Antony brought another army to Caesar's aid in Macedonia, he also crossing the Adriatic in mid-winter. [Aulus] Gabinius led fifteen cohorts of foot and 3,000 horse for him by way of Illyria, passing around the Adriatic. The Illyrians, fearing punishment for what they had done to Caesar not long before, and thinking that his victory would be their destruction, attacked and slew the whole army under Gabinius, except Gabinius himself and a few who escaped. Among the spoils captured was a large amount of money and war material.




[13] Caesar was preoccupied by the necessity of coming to a conclusion with Pompey, and, after Pompey's death, with the numerous parts of his faction still remaining. When he had settled everything he returned to Rome and made preparations for war with the Getae and the Parthians.

[45] The Illyrians began to fear lest he should attack them, as they were on his intended line of march. So they sent ambassadors to Rome to crave pardon for what they had done and to offer their friendship and alliance, vaunting themselves as a very brave race. Caesar was hastening his preparations against the Parthians; nevertheless, he gave them the dignified answer that he could not make friends of those who had done what they had, but that he would grant them pardon if they would subject themselves to tribute and give him hostages. They promised to do both, and accordingly he sent [Publius] Vatinius thither with three legions and a large cavalry force to impose a light tribute on them and receive the hostages.

[44] When Caesar was slain, the Dalmatians, thinking that the Roman power resided in him and had perished with him, would not listen to Vatinius on the subject of the tribute or anything else. When he attempted to use force they attacked and destroyed five of his cohorts, including their commanding officer, Baebius, a man of senatorial rank. Vatinius took refuge with the remainder of his force in Epidamnus.

The Roman Senate transferred this army, together with the province of Macedonia and Roman Illyria, to [Marcus Junius] Brutus Caepio, one of Caesar's murderers, and at the same time assigned Syria to Cassius, another of the assassins. But they also, being involved in war with Antony and the second Caesar, surnamed Augustus, had no time to attend to the Illyrians.

[14] The Paeones are a great nation on the Danube, extending from the Iapydes to the Dardani. They are called Paeones by the Greeks, but Pannonians by the Romans. They are counted by the Romans as a part of Illyria, as I have previously said, for which reason it seems proper that I should include them in my Illyrian history. They have been renowned from the Macedonian period through the Agrianes, who rendered very important aid to Philip and Alexander and are Paeones of Lower Pannonia bordering on Illyria.

When the expedition of Cornelius against the Pannonians resulted disastrously, so great a fear of those people came over all the Italians that for a long time afterwards none of the consuls ventured to march against them. Concerning the early history of the Illyrians and Pannonians, I have not been able to discover anything further, nor have I found in the Commentaries of Augustus anything earlier in the chapters treating of the Pannonians.

[15] I think that other Illyrian tribes besides those mentioned had previously come under Roman rule, but how, I do not know. Augustus did not describe the transactions of others so much as his own, telling how he brought back those who had revolted and compelled them again to pay tribute, how he subjugated others that had been independent from the beginning, and how he mastered all the tribes that inhabit the summits of the Alps, barbarous and warlike peoples, who often plundered the neighboring parts of Italy.

It is a wonder to me that so many great Roman armies traversing the Alps to conquer the Gauls and Spaniards, should have overlooked these tribes, and that even Gaius [Julius] Caesar, that most successful man of war, did not dispatch them during the ten years that he was fighting the Gauls and wintering in that very country. But the Romans seem to have been intent only upon getting through the Alpine region on the business they were bestirring themselves about, and Caesar seems to have delayed putting an end to the Illyrian troubles on account of the Gallic war and the strife with Pompey, which closely followed it. It appears that he was chosen commander of Illyria as well as of Gaul - not the whole of it, but as much as was then under Roman rule.






Appian   :   Roman History   :   Illyrian wars   :   part 4




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