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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§51-55)


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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Lucullus' raid 

[§51] [151] [The consul Lucius Licinius] Lucullus being greedy of fame and needing money, because he was in straitened circumstances, invaded the territory of the Vaccaei, another Celtiberian tribe, neighbors of the Arevaci, against whom war had not been declared by the Senate, nor had they ever attacked the Romans, or offended Lucullus himself. Crossing the river Tagus he came to the city of Cauca, and pitched his camp near it. The citizens asked him what he had come for and what occasion there was for war, and when he replied that he had come to aid the Carpetani whom the Vaccaei had maltreated they retired inside their walls, from which they sallied out and fell upon his wood-cutters and foragers, killing many and pursuing the remainder to the camp. When battle was joined the Caucaei, who resembled light-armed troops, had the advantage at first, but when they had expended all their darts they were obliged to fly, not being accustomed to a standing fight, and while forcing their way through the gates about 3,000 of them were slain.

[§52] The next day the elders of the city came out wearing crowns on their heads and bearing olive-branches,[1] and asked Lucullus what they should do to establish friendly relations. He replied that they must give hostages and 100 talents of silver, and furnish a contingent of horse to the Roman army. When all these demands had been complied with, he asked that a Roman garrison should be admitted to the city. When the Caucaei assented to this he brought in 2,000 soldiers carefully chosen, to whom he gave orders that when they were admitted they should occupy the walls. When this was done, Lucullus introduced the rest of his army and ordered them at the sound of the trumpet to kill all the adult males of the Caucaei. The latter, invoking the gods who preside over promises and oaths, and upbraiding the perfidy of the Romans, were cruelly slain, only a few out of 20,000 escaping by leaping down the sheer walls at the gates. Lucullus sacked the city and brought infamy upon the Roman name. The rest of the barbarians collecting together from the fields took refuge among inaccessible rocks or in the most strongly fortified towns, carrying away what they could, and burning what they were obliged to leave, so that Lucullus should not find any plunder.

[§53] The latter, having traversed a long stretch of deserted country, came to the city of Intercatia where more than 20,000 foot and 2000 horse had taken refuge together. Lucullus very foolishly invited them to enter into a treaty. They reproached him with the slaughter of the Caucaei, and asked him whether he invited them to the same kind of a pledge that he had given to that people. He, like all guilty souls, being angry with his accusers instead of reproaching himself, laid waste their fields. Then he drew a line of siege around the city, threw up several mounds, and repeatedly set his forces in order of battle to provoke a fight. The enemy did not respond but fought with projectiles only.

There was a certain barbarian distinguished by his splendid armor, who frequently rode into the space between the armies and challenged the Romans to single combat, and when nobody accepted the challenge he jeered at them, made insulting gestures, and went back. After he had done this several times, [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus], who was still a youth, felt very much aggrieved, and springing forward accepted the challenge. Fortunately he won the victory over this giant although he was himself a man of small size.

[§54] This victory raised the spirits of the Romans, but the next night they were seized with panic. A body of the enemy's horse who had gone out foraging before Lucullus arrived, returned and not finding any entrance to the city because it was surrounded by the besiegers, ran about shouting and creating disturbance while those inside the walls shouted back. These noises caused strange terror in the Roman camp. Their soldiers were sick from want of sleep, and because of the unaccustomed food which the country afforded. They had no wine, no salt, no vinegar, no oil, but lived on wheat and barley, and the flesh of deer and rabbits boiled without salt, which caused dysentery, from which many died.

Finally when a mound was completed so that they could batter the enemy's walls, they knocked down a section and rushed into the city, but they were speedily overpowered. Being compelled to retreat and being unacquainted with the ground, they fell into a reservoir where many perished.

The following night the barbarians repaired their broken wall. As both sides were now suffering severely (for famine had fastened upon both), Scipio promised the barbarians that if they would make a treaty it should not be violated. They had so much confidence in his word that the war was brought to an end on these conditions: The Intercatii were to give to Lucullus 10,000 cloaks, a certain number of cattle, and fifty hostages.

As for the gold and silver that Lucullus was after (and for the sake of which he had waged this war, thinking that all Spain abounded with gold and silver), he got nothing. Not only did they have none, but these particular Celtiberians did not set any value on those metals.

[§55] He went next to Pallantia, a city more renowned for bravery, where many refugees had congregated, for which reason he was advised by some to pass by without making an attempt upon it. But, having heard that it was a rich place, he would not go away until the Pallantian horse, by incessantly harassing his foragers, prevented him from getting supplies. When his food was exhausted Lucullus withdrew his army, marching in the form of a square, and pursued by the Pallantians as far as the river Durius. From that place the Pallantians returned by night to their own country. Lucullus passed into the territory of the Turditani, and went into winter quarters. This was the end of the war with the Vaccaei, which was waged by Lucullus without the authority of the Roman people, but he was never called to account for it.[2]

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 12
Note 1:
A sign that one wanted peace.

Note 2:
It is doubtful whether Lucullus' raid to the Upper Ebro was really not planned.  One year before, in 152, a similar campaign had taken place in the southwest of the Iberian peninsula, as Appian indicates in §58.

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