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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§41-45)


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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  [§41] [195] Now envoys came to him [Marcus Porcius Cato] from all sides, from whom he required hostages. To each of their towns he sent sealed letters, and he charged the bearers that they should all deliver the letters on one and the same day, for he had fixed the day by calculating how long it would take to reach the farthest town. The letters commanded the magistrates of all the towns to demolish their walls on the very day they received the order. If there was a day's delay he threatened to sell them into slavery.

They, having been lately vanquished in a great battle, and not knowing whether these orders had been sent to them alone or to all, were much perplexed, for if it were to them alone they felt that they were but weak objects of scorn, but if it were to the others also, they feared to be the only ones to delay. Wherefore, as they had no time to send to each other, and the officers who brought the letters urged them to obey, they decided to do so, each town consulting its own safety. And so they threw down their walls with all speed, for when they had once decided to obey they thought that those who did the work most expeditiously would receive most favor. Thus the towns along the river Iberus in one day, and by one act of generalship, leveled their own walls. Being less able to resist the Romans thereafter, they remained longer at peace.
 

The First Celtiberian War

[§42] [181] Four Olympiads later -that is, about the 150th Olympiad- many Spanish tribes, having insufficient land, including the Lusones and others who dwelt along the river Iberus, revolted from the Roman rule. These being overcome in battle by the consul [Quintus] Fulvius Flaccus, the greater part of them scattered among their towns. The rest, being destitute of land and living a vagabond life, collected at Complega, a city newly built and fortified, and which had grown rapidly. Sallying out from this place they demanded that Flaccus should deliver to each of them a cloak, a horse, and a sword as recompense for their dead in the late war, and take himself out of Spain or suffer the consequences. Flaccus replied that he would bring them plenty of cloaks, and following closely after their messengers, he encamped before the city. Far from making good their threats, they took to their heels, plundering the neighboring barbarians on the road. These people wore a thick outer garment with a double fold which they fastened with a clasp after the manner of the military cloak, and they called it the sagum.

[§43] [179] Flaccus was succeeded in the command by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, at which time the city of Caravis, which was in alliance with Rome, was besieged by 20,000 Celtiberians. As it was reported that the place was about to be taken Gracchus hastened all the more to relieve it. He could but circle about the besiegers, and had no means of communicating to the town his own nearness.

Cominius, a prefect of horse, having considered the matter carefully and having communicated his plan to Gracchus, donned a Spanish sagum and secretly mingled with the enemy's foragers. In this way he gained entrance to their camp as a Spaniard, and passed through it into Caravis and told the people that Gracchus was approaching. Wherefore they endured the siege patiently and were saved, for Gracchus arrived three days later, and the besiegers fled.

About the same time the inhabitants of Complega, to the number of 20,000, came to Gracchus' camp in the guise of petitioners bearing olive branches, and when they arrived they attacked him unexpectedly, and threw everything into confusion. Gracchus adroitly abandoned his camp to them and simulated flight; then suddenly turning he fell upon them while they were plundering, killed most of them, and captured Complega and the surrounding country.

Then he divided the land among the poor and settled them on it, and made carefully defined treaties with all the tribes, binding them to be the friends of Rome, and giving and receiving oaths to that effect. These treaties were often longed for in the subsequent wars. In this way Gracchus became celebrated both in Spain and in Rome, and was awarded a splendid triumph.
 

The Second Celtiberian War

[§44] [154] Some years later another serious war broke out in Spain for the following reason: Segeda, a large and powerful city of a Celtiberian tribe called the Belli, was included in the treaties made by Gracchus. It persuaded some of the smaller towns to settle in its own borders, and then surrounded itself with a wall seven kilometers in circumference. It also forced the Titthi, a neighboring tribe, to join in the undertaking.

When the Senate learned this, it forbade the building of the wall, demanded the tribute imposed by Gracchus, and ordered the inhabitants to furnish a contingent for the Roman army, for this was one of the stipulations of the treaty made with Gracchus. As to the wall the Celtiberians replied that they were forbidden by Gracchus to build new cities, but not forbidden to fortify existing ones. As to the tribute and the military contingent they said that they had been released from these requirements by the Romans themselves subsequently. This was true, but the Senate, when granting these exemptions, always added that they should continue only during the pleasure of the Roman people.

[§45] [153] Accordingly the praetor [Quintus Fulvius] Nobilior was sent against them with an army of nearly 30,000 men. When the Segedians learned of his coming, their wall not being yet finished, they fled with their wives and children to the Arevaci and begged that the latter would receive them. The Arevaci did so, and also chose a Segedian named Carus, whom they considered skillful in war, as their general. On the third day after his election he placed 20,000 foot and 500 horse in ambush in a dense forest and fell upon the Romans as they were passing through. The battle was for a long time doubtful, but in the end he gained a splendid victory, 6,000 Roman citizens being slain. So great a disaster befell the city on that day.

But while he was engaged in a disorderly pursuit after the victory, the Roman horsemen, who were guarding the baggage, fell upon him and killed Carus himself, who was performing prodigies of valor, and not less than 6,000 others with him. Finally night put an end to the conflict. This disaster happened on the day on which the Romans are accustomed to celebrate the festival of Vulcan [23 August 153]. For which reason, from that time on, no general will begin a battle on that day unless compelled to do so.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 10
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