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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§21-25)


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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  21] [210] [Publius Cornelius] Scipio suffered severely. The 10,000 Carthaginians who were at the gates made sallies with drawn swords and fell upon those who were working the engines. Although they fought bravely, they suffered in their turn no less, until finally the perseverance and endurance of the Romans began to prevail. With the change of fortune, those who were on the walls began to be distressed. When the ladders were put in place, the Carthaginian swordsmen, who had sallied out, ran back through the gates, closed them, and mounted the walls.

This gave new and severe labor to the Romans. Scipio, who, as commanding general, was everywhere, giving orders and cheering on his men, had noticed that, at the place where the wall was low and washed by the lagoon, the sea retired about midday. That was the daily ebb tide, for at one time of day the waves were up to one's breast; at another they were not knee high. When Scipio observed this, after ascertaining the nature of the tidal movement and that it would be low water for the rest of the day, he darted hither and thither, exclaiming: "Now, soldiers, now is our chance. Now the deity comes to my aid. Attack that part of the wall where the sea has made way for us. Bring the ladders. I will lead you."

22] He was the first to seize a ladder and carry it into the lagoon, and he began to mount where nobody else had yet attempted to do so. But his armor-bearers and other soldiers surrounded him and held him back, while they brought a great number of ladders together, planted them against the wall, and began to mount. Amid shouts and clamor on all sides, giving and receiving blows, the Romans finally prevailed and succeeded in occupying some of the towers, where Scipio placed trumpeters and ordered them to sound a blast as though the city were already taken. This brought others to their assistance and created consternation among the enemy. Some of the Romans jumped down and opened the gates to Scipio, who rushed in with his army. Some of the inhabitants took refuge in their houses, but Mago drew up his 10,000 in the market-place. After most of these were cut down he fled with the remainder to the citadel, which Scipio immediately invested. When Mago saw that he could do nothing with his beaten and cowering force, he surrendered.

23] Having taken this rich and powerful city by audacity and good fortune in one day (the fourth after his arrival), he was greatly elated and it seemed more than ever that he was divinely inspired. He began to think so himself and to give it out to others, not only then, but all the rest of his life. At all events, he frequently went into the Capitol alone and closed the doors as though he were receiving counsel from the god. Even now in public processions they [the Romans] bring the image of Scipio alone out of the Capitol, all the others being taken from the Forum.

In the captured city he obtained great stores of goods, useful in peace and war, many arms, darts, engines, dockyards containing thirty-three warships, corn, and provisions of various kinds, ivory, gold, and silver, some in the form of plate, some coined and some uncoined, also Spanish hostages and prisoners, and everything that had previously been captured from the Romans themselves.

On the following day he sacrificed to the gods, celebrated the victory, praised the soldiers for their bravery, and after his words to his army made a speech to the townspeople in which he admonished them not to forget the name of the Scipios. He dismissed all the Spanish prisoners to their homes in order to conciliate the towns. He gave rewards to his soldiers for bravery, the largest to the one who first scaled the wall, half as much to the next, one third as much to the next, and to the others according to their merit. The rest of the gold, silver, and ivory he sent to Rome in the captured ships. The city held a three days' thanksgiving, because after so many trials their ancestral good fortune had shown itself once more. All Spain, and the Carthaginians who were there, were astounded at the magnitude and suddenness of this exploit. 

24] Scipio placed a garrison in New Carthage and ordered that the wall which was washed by the tide should be raised to the proper height.

He then moved against the rest of Spain, sending friends to conciliate where he could, and subduing the others. There were two Carthaginian generals still remaining, both named Hasdrubal. One of these, the son of Hamilcar, was recruiting an army of mercenaries far away among the Celtiberians. The other, the son of Gesco, sent messengers to the towns that were still faithful, urging them to maintain their Carthaginian allegiance, because an army of countless numbers would soon come to their assistance. He sent another Mago into the neighboring country to recruit mercenaries wherever he could, while he made an incursion into the territory of Lersa which had revolted, intending to lay siege to some town there. On the approach of Scipio he retreated to Baetica [1] and encamped before that city. On the following day he was defeated by Scipio, who captured his camp and Baetica also.

25] [209 or 208] Now this Hasdrubal ordered all the remaining Carthaginian forces in Spain to be collected at the city of Carmo [2] to fight Scipio with their united strength. Hither came a great number of Spaniards under the lead of Mago, and of Numidians under Massinissa. Hasdrubal had the infantry in a fortified camp, Masinissa and Mago, who commanded the cavalry, bivouacking in front of it. Scipio divided his own horse so that [his friend] Laelius should attack Mago while he himself should be opposed to Masinissa.

This fight was for some time doubtful and severe to Scipio, since the Numidians discharged their darts at his men, then suddenly retreated, and then wheeled and returned to the charge. But when Scipio ordered his men to hurl their javelins and then pursue without intermission, the Numidians, having no chance to turn around, retreated to their camp. Here Scipio desisted from the pursuit and encamped in a strong position, which he had chosen, about two kilometers from the enemy. The total strength of the enemy was 70,000 foot, 5,000 horse, and thirty-six elephants. That of Scipio was not one third of the number. For some time, therefore, he hesitated and did not venture a fight, except some light skirmishes.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   :   part 6
Note 1:
Andalusia. The battle was fought at Castulo.

Note 2:
The battle that, according to Appian, was fought at Carmo, can be identified with the battle at Baecula. It appears that the historian has confused the Carthaginian supply base with the battlefield.

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