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Appian's History of Rome: The Illyrian Wars §§26-30


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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[§26] [34]Augustus surrounded the town, and two hills which were still held by the enemy, with a wall 7¼ kilometers in length. When Testimus, another Dalmatian general, brought an army to the relief of the place Augustus met him and drove him back to the mountains, and while Testimus was still looking on he took Promona before the line of circumvallation was finished. For when the citizens made a sally and were sharply repulsed, the Romans pursued them and entered the town with them, where they killed a third part of them.

The remainder took refuge in the citadel, at the gates of which a Roman cohort was placed to keep watch. On the fourth night the barbarians assaulted them, and they fled terror-stricken from the gates. Augustus repulsed the enemy's assault, and the following day received their surrender. The cohort that had abandoned its position was obliged to cast lots, and every tenth man suffered death.[1] The lot fell upon two centurions among others. It was ordered, as a further punishment, that the surviving members of the cohort should subsist on barley instead of wheat for that summer.

[§27] Promona being thus taken, Testimus, who was still looking on, disbanded his army, telling them to scatter in all directions. For this reason the Romans were not able to pursue them long, as they feared to divide themselves into small bands, being ignorant of the roads, and the foot-prints of the fugitives being much confused.

They took the town of Sunodium at the edge of the forest in which the army of [Aulus] Gabinius had been entrapped by the Dalmatians in a long and deep gorge between two mountains. There also they laid an ambuscade for Augustus, but after he had burned Sunodium he sent soldiers around by the summits of the mountains to keep even pace with him on either side while he passed through the gorge. He cut down trees and captured and burned all the towns he found on his way.

While he was besieging the city of Setovia a force of barbarians came to its assistance, which he met and prevented from entering the place. In this conflict he was struck by a stone on the knee and was confined for several days. [33] When he recovered, he returned to Rome to perform the duties of the consulship with [Lucius] Volcatius Tullus, his colleague, leaving [Titus] Statilius Taurus to finish the war.

[§28] Entering upon his new consulship on the first of January [33 BCE], and delivering the government to [Lucius] Autronius Paetus the same day, he started back to Dalmatia at once, the triumvirate still existing; for two years remained of the second five-year period which the triumvirs themselves had ordained and the people confirmed.

And now the Dalmatians, oppressed by hunger and cut off from foreign supplies, met him on the road and delivered themselves up with supplications, giving 700 of their children as hostages, as Augustus demanded, and also the Roman standards taken from Gabinius. They also promised to pay the tribute that had been in arrears since the time of Gaius [Julius]Caesar and to be obedient henceforth.

Augustus deposited the standards in the portico called the Octavia.[2

After the Dalmatians were prostrated Augustus advanced against the Derbani, who likewise begged pardon with supplications, gave hostages, and promised to pay the past due tribute. In like manner other tribes at his approach gave hostages for observing the treaties that he made with them. Some, however, he was prevented by sickness from reaching. These gave no hostages and made no treaties. It appears, however, that they were subjugated later. Thus Augustus subdued the whole Illyrian country, not only the parts that had revolted from the Romans, but those that had never before been under their rule. Wherefore the Senate awarded him an Illyrian triumph, which he enjoyed later, together with one for his victory over [Marc] Antony.

Bust of Tiberius. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
Tiberius (British Museum)

[§29] The remaining peoples, who are considered by the Romans to be parts of Illyria, are the Rhaetians and the Noricans, on this side of Pannonia, and the Mysians on the other side as far as the Euxine Sea. I think that the Rhaetians and Noricans were subdued by Gaius [Julius] Caesar during the Gallic war or by Augustus during the Pannonian war, as they lie between the two. I have found no mention of any war against them separately, whence I infer that they were conquered along with other neighboring tribes.

[§30] Marcus [Licinius] Lucullus, brother of that Licinius Lucullus who conducted the war against Mithridates[king of Pontus], advanced against the Mysians and arrived at the river where six Greek cities lie adjacent to the Mysian territory, namely, Istrus, Dionysopolis, Odessus, Mesembria, Catalis, and Apollonia; from which he brought to Rome the great statue of Apollo which was afterward set up on the Palatine Hill.

I have found nothing further done by the Roman republic as to the Mysians. They were not subjected to tribute by Augustus, but by Tiberius, who succeeded him as Roman emperor. 


All the things done by command of the people before the taking of Egypt have been written by me for each country separately. Those countries that the emperors themselves pacified after Egypt was taken, or annexed as their own work, will be mentioned after the affairs of the commonwealth. There I shall tell more about the Mysians. For the present, since the Romans consider the Mysians a part of Illyria and this is my Illyrian history, in order that it may be complete it seems proper to premise that Lucullus invaded Mysia as a general of the republic and that Tiberius took it in the time of the empire. 
Appian   :   Roman History   :   Illyrian wars
:   Book 11, Syrian war
Note 1:
A punishment known as decimation.

Note 2:
The Porticus of Octavia, near the Theater of Marcellus, named after the emperor's sister.

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