home   :    index    :    ancient Rome    :    Appian of Alexandria's Roman History

Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§6-10)


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. His account of the Spanish Wars is fortunately among these better preserved parts. It describes all Roman conflicts on the Iberian peninsula from the moment on which they conquered the Mediterranean coast during the war against Hannibal Barca until the final pacification by the emperor Augustus.

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


Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
[§6] The Carthaginians, enjoying the gains they had received from Spain, sent another army thither and appointed Hasdrubal [the Fair], the son-in-law of Hamilcar, who was still in Spain, commander of all their forces there. He had with him in Spain Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar and brother of his own wife, a young man zealous in war, beloved by the army, and who soon after became famous for his military exploits. Him he appointed lieutenant-general. Hasdrubal brought many Spanish tribes to his support by persuasion, for he was attractive in personal intercourse, and where force was needed he made use of the young man. In this way he pushed forward from the Western ocean to the interior as far as the river Iberus [Ebro], which divides Spain about in the center, and at a distance of about five days' journey from the Pyrenees flows down to the Northern ocean.

[§7] The Saguntines, a colony of the island of Zacynthus, who lived about midway between the Pyrenees and the river Iberus, and other Greeks who dwelt in the neighborhood of Emporia and other Spanish towns, having apprehensions for their safety, sent ambassadors to Rome. The Senate, who were unwilling to see the Carthaginian power augmented, sent an embassy to Carthage. It was agreed between them that the limit of the Carthaginian power in Spain should be the river Iberus; that beyond that river the Romans should not carry war against the subjects of Carthage, nor should the Carthaginians cross it for a similar purpose; and that the Saguntines and the other Greeks in Spain should remain free and autonomous. So these agreements were added to the treaties between Rome and Carthage.

A beardless Hannibal on a coin by Hannibal.
A beardless Melqart on a coin
of Hannibal  (©!!)

[§8] [220] Some time later, while Hasdrubal was governing that part of Spain belonging to Carthage, a slave whose master he had cruelly put to death killed him secretly in a hunting expedition. Hannibal convicted him of this crime and put him to death with dreadful tortures. Now the army proclaimed Hannibal, although still very young, yet greatly beloved by the soldiers, their general, and the Carthaginian Senate confirmed the appointment. Those of the opposite faction, who had feared the power of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal, when they learned of their death, despised Hannibal on account of his youth and prosecuted their friends and partisans with the old charges. The people took sides with the accusers, bearing a grudge against those now prosecuted, because they remembered the old severities of the times of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal, and ordered them to turn into the public treasury the large gifts that Hamilcar and Hasdrubal had bestowed upon them, as being enemy's spoils. The prosecuted parties sent messengers to Hannibal asking him to assist them, and admonished him that, if he should neglect those who were able to assist him at home, he would be thoroughly despised by his father's enemies.
 
[§9] He had foreseen all this and he knew that the persecution of his friends was the beginning of a plot against himself. He determined that he would not endure this enmity as a perpetual menace, as his father and brother-in-law had done, nor put up forever with the fickleness of the Carthaginians, who usually repaid benefits with ingratitude. It was said also that when he was a boy he had taken an oath upon the altar, at his father's instance, that when he should arrive at man's estate he would be the implacable enemy of Rome. For these reasons he thought that, if he could involve his country in arduous and protracted undertakings and plunge it into doubts and fears, he would place his own affairs and those of his friends in a secure position. He beheld Africa, however, and the subject parts of Spain in peace. But if he could stir up a war with Rome, which he strongly desired, he thought that the Carthaginians would have enough to think about and to be afraid of, and that if he should be successful, he would reap immortal glory by gaining for his country the government of the habitable world (for when the Romans were conquered there would be no other rivals), and if he should fail, the attempt itself would bring him great renown.

The Second Punic War

[§10] [219]Conceiving that if he should cross the Iberus that would constitute a brilliant beginning, he suborned the Turbuletes, neighbors of the Saguntines, that they should complain to him that the latter were overrunning their country and doing them many other wrongs. They made this complaint. Then Hannibal sent their ambassadors to Carthage, and wrote private letters saying that the Romans were inciting Carthaginian Spain to revolt, and that the Saguntines were cooperating with the Romans for this purpose. Nor did he desist from this deception, but kept sending messages of this kind until the Carthaginian Senate authorized him to deal with the Saguntines as he saw fit. Since he had a pretext, he arranged that the Turbuletes should come again to make complaints against the Saguntines, and that the latter should send legates also. When Hannibal commanded them to explain their differences to him, they replied that they should refer the matter to Rome. Hannibal thereupon ordered them out of his camp, and the next night crossed the Iberus with his whole army [1], laid waste the Saguntine territory, and planted engines against their city. Not being able to take it, he surrounded it with a wall and ditch, stationed plenty of guards, and pushed the siege at intervals.
Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 3
Note 1:
An error: Saguntum is south of the river Ebro. The point is important, because Appian clearly believes that Hannibal was wrong when he attacked Saguntum, and is using a source that is hostile to the Carthaginian general.
 home   :    index    :    ancient Rome