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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish 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. 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.


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A beardless Hannibal on a coin by Hannibal.
A beardless Melqart on a coin
of Hannibal  (©!!)
[§11] [219] The Saguntines, oppressed by this sudden and unheralded attack, sent an embassy to Rome. The Senate commissioned its own ambassadors to go with them. They were instructed first to remind Hannibal of the agreement and -if he should not obey- to proceed to Carthage and complain against him. When they arrived in Spain and were approaching his camp from the sea, Hannibal forbade their coming.

Accordingly they sailed for Carthage with the Saguntine ambassadors, and reminded the Carthaginians of the agreement. The latter accused the Saguntines of committing many wrongs on their subjects. When the Saguntines offered to submit the whole question to the Romans as arbitrators, the Carthaginians replied that there was no use of an arbitration because they were able to avenge themselves.

When this reply was brought to Rome some advised sending aid to the Saguntines. Others favored delay, saying that the Saguntines were not inscribed as allies in the agreement with them, but merely as free and autonomous, and that they were still free although besieged. The latter opinion prevailed.

[§12] The Saguntines, when they despaired of help from Rome, and when famine weighed heavily upon them, and Hannibal kept up the siege without intermission (for he had heard that the city was very prosperous and wealthy, and for this reason relaxed not the siege), issued an edict to bring all the silver and gold, public and private, to the forum, where they melted it with lead and brass, so that it should be useless to Hannibal. Then, thinking that it was better to die fighting than starve to death, they made a sally by night upon the besiegers while they were asleep and not expecting an attack, and killed some as they were getting out of bed, others as they were clumsily arming themselves, and still others who were actually fighting. The battle continued until many of the Africans and all the Saguntines were slain. When the women witnessed the slaughter of their husbands from the walls, some of them threw themselves from the housetops, others hanged themselves, and others slew their children and then themselves. Such was the end of Saguntum, once a great and powerful city.

When Hannibal learned what had been done with the gold he was angry, and put all the surviving adults to death with torture. Observing that the city was not far from Carthage [1] and with good land about it situated on the sea, he rebuilt it and made it a Carthaginian colony, and I think it is now called Spartarian Carthage.


[§13] [218] The Romans now sent ambassadors to Carthage to demand that Hannibal should be delivered up to them as a violator of the treaty unless they wished to assume the responsibility. If they would not give him up, war was to be declared forthwith. The ambassadors obeyed their instructions, and when the Carthaginians refused to give up Hannibal they declared war. It is said that it was done in the following manner. The chief of the embassy, pointing to the fold of his toga and smiling, said: "Here, Carthaginians, I bring you peace or war, you may take whichever you choose." The latter replied: "You may give us whichever you like." When the Romans offered war they all cried out: "We accept it."

Then they wrote at once to Hannibal that he was free to overrun all Spain, as the treaty was at an end. Accordingly he marched against all the neighboring tribes and brought them under subjection, persuading some, terrifying others, and subduing the rest. Then he collected a large army, telling nobody what it was for, but intending to hurl it against Italy. He also sent out ambassadors among the Gauls, and caused an examination to be made of the passes of the Alps, which he traversed later, leaving his brother Hasdrubal [Barca] in command in Spain.

[§14] When the Romans saw that war must be waged against the Carthaginians in Spain and Africa (for they never dreamed of an incursion of Africans into Italy), they sent [consul] Tiberius Sempronius Longus with 160 ships and two legions into Africa. What Longus and the other Roman generals did in Africa has been related in my Punic history.

They also ordered [consul] Publius Cornelius Scipio to Spain with sixty ships, 10,000 foot, and 700 horse, and sent his brother Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio with him as a legate. The former, learning from Massilian merchants that Hannibal had crossed the Alps and entered Italy, and fearing lest he should fall upon the Italians unawares, turned over to his brother the command in Spain and sailed with his quinqueremes to Etruria. What he and the other Roman generals after him did in Italy, until, at the end of sixteen years and with exceeding difficulty, they drove Hannibal out of the country, will be shown in the following book, which will contain all the exploits of Hannibal in Italy, and is called the Hannibalic book of my Roman History.

[§15] Gnaeus did nothing in Spain worthy of mention before his brother Publius returned thither. [217] When the latter's term of office expired, the Romans, having dispatched the new consuls against Hannibal in Italy, appointed him proconsul, and sent him again into Spain. From this time the two Scipios managed the war in Spain, Hasdrubal being the general opposed to them [214] until the Carthaginians recalled him and a part of his army to ward off an attack of Syphax, the ruler of the Numidians. The Scipios easily overcame the remainder. Many towns also came over to them voluntarily, for they were as persuasive in inducing subjects as in leading armies.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 4
Note 1:
Appian means the town that is known in Latin sources as Carthago Nova, "new Carthage", the capital of the Carthaginian European possessions. The historian is aware of the existence of New Carthage, which he identifies with Saguntum.
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