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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§31-35)


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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  [§31] [209 or 208] At this time certain of the Celtiberians and Spaniards were still serving under Mago as mercenaries, although their towns had gone over to the Romans. [Lucius] Marcius [Septimius] set upon them, slew 1500, and scattered the rest of them among their towns. He corralled 700 horse and 6,000 foot of the same force, of whom Hanno was in command, on a hill.

When they were reduced to extremities by hunger they sent messengers to Marcius to obtain terms. He told them first to surrender Hanno and the deserters, and then he would treat. Accordingly they seized Hanno, although he was their general and was listening to the conversation, and they delivered up the deserters. Then Marcius demanded the prisoners also. When he had received these he ordered them to bring a specified sum of money down to a certain point in the plain, because the high ground was not a suitable place for suppliants. When they had come down to the plain he said: "You deserve to be put to death for adhering to the enemy and waging war against us after your country has espoused our side. Nevertheless, if you will lay down your arms, I will allow you to go unpunished."

At this they were very angry and exclaimed with one voice that they would not lay down their arms. A severe engagement ensued in which about half of the Celtiberians fell, not unavenged, the other half escaping to Mago, who had arrived a little before at the camp of Hanno with sixty warships. When he learned of Hanno's disaster he sailed to Gades and awaited the turn of events, meanwhile suffering from want of provisions.

[§32] While Mago lay here inert, Silanus was sent by [Publius Cornelius] Scipio to receive the submission of the city of Castulo. When the inhabitants received him in a hostile manner, he encamped before it, and communicated the fact to Scipio. The latter sent him some siege engines and prepared to follow, but turned aside to attack the town of Iliturgi. This place had been an ally of the Romans in the time of the elder [Publius Cornelius] Scipio, but at his death changed sides secretly, and having given shelter to the Roman soldiers who had fled thither supposing it to be friendly, had delivered them up to the Carthaginians.

To avenge this crime Scipio in his indignation took the place in four hours, and, although wounded in the neck, did not desist from the fight until he had conquered. The soldiers, for his sake, in their fury even forgot to plunder the town, but slew the whole population, including women and children, although nobody gave them any orders to do so, and did not desist until the whole place was razed to the ground.

When he arrived at Castulo, Scipio divided his army into three parts and invested the city. He did not press the siege, however, but gave the inhabitants time to repent, having heard that they were so disposed. The latter, having slain those of the garrison who objected and put down all opposition, surrendered the place to Scipio, who stationed a new garrison there and placed the town under the government of one of its own citizens, a man of high reputation. He then returned to New Carthage, and sent [Marcus Junius] Silanus and Marcius to the straits to devastate the country as much as they could.

[§33] There was a town named Astapa which had been always and wholly of the Carthaginian party. Marcius laid siege to it, and the inhabitants foresaw that, if they were captured by the Romans, they would be reduced to slavery. Accordingly they brought all their valuables into the marketplace, piled wood around them, and put their wives and children on the heap. They made fifty of their principal men take an oath that whenever they should see that the city must fall, they would kill the women and children, set fire to the pile, and slay themselves thereon. Then calling the gods to witness what they had done, they sallied out against Marcius, who did not anticipate anything of the kind. For this reason they easily repulsed the light armed troops and cavalry whom they met. When they became engaged with the legionaries, they still had the best of it, because they fought with desperation. Finally the Romans overpowered them by sheer numbers, for the Astapians certainly were not inferior to them in bravery. When they had all fallen, the fifty who remained behind slew the women and children, kindled the fire, and flung themselves on it, thus leaving the enemy a barren victory. Marcius, in admiration of the bravery of the Astapians, spared the houses.

[§34] After this Scipio fell sick, and the command of the army devolved on Marcius. Some of the soldiers, who had squandered their means in riotous living, and who thought that because they had nothing they had found no fit compensation for their toils, but that Scipio was appropriating all the glory of their deeds, seceded from Marcius and went off and encamped by themselves. Many from the garrisons joined them. Messengers came to them from Mago, bringing money and inviting them to revolt to him. They took the money, chose generals and centurions from their own number, made other arrangements to their liking, put themselves under military discipline, and exchanged oaths with each other.

When Scipio learned this, he sent word to the seceders separately that on account of his sickness he had not yet been able to remunerate them for their services. He urged others to try and win back their erring comrades. He also sent a letter to all the soldiers in common, as though they had already been reconciled, saying that he was about ready to discharge his debt to them, and telling them to come to New Carthage and get their provisions.

[§35] Upon reading these letters, some thought that they were not to be trusted. Others put faith in them. Finally they came to an agreement that all should go to New Carthage together. When they were coming, Scipio enjoined upon those senators who were with him that each one should attach himself to some one of the leaders of the sedition as they came in, as if to admonish him in a friendly way, should then make him his guest, and quietly secure him. He also ordered the military tribunes that each should have his most faithful soldiers in readiness at daylight unobserved, with their swords, and station them at intervals in convenient places about the assembly, and if any tumult should arise, to draw their weapons and kill at once, without waiting for orders.

Shortly after daybreak, Scipio was conveyed to the tribunal, and he sent the heralds around to summon the soldiers to the place of meeting. The call was unexpected to them and they were ashamed to keep their sick general waiting. They thought also that they were only called to get their rewards. So they came running together from all sides, some without their swords others dressed only in their tunics, not having had time to put on all their clothing, by reason of their haste.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 8
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