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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§56-60)


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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The Lusitanian War

[§56] [155] At this time another part of autonomous Spain called Lusitania, under Punicus as leader, was ravaging the fields of the Roman subjects and having put to flight their praetors (first Manilius and then Calpurnius Piso), killed 6,000 Romans and among them Terentius Varro, the quaestor. Elated by this success Punicus swept the country as far as the ocean, and joining the Vettones to his army he laid siege to the Blastophoenicae, who were Roman subjects. It is said that Hannibal, the Carthaginian, brought among these people settlers from Africa, from whence they derived their name. Here Punicus was struck on the head with a stone and killed.

[153] He was succeeded by a man named Caesarus. The latter joined battle with [the praetorLucius] Mummius, who came from Rome with another army, was defeated and put to flight, but as Mummius was pursuing him in a disorderly way, he rallied and slew about 9,000 Romans, recaptured the plunder they had taken from him as well as his own camp, and took that of the Romans also, together with many arms and standards which the barbarians in derision carried throughout all Celtiberia.

[§57] Mummius took his 5,000 remaining soldiers and drilled them in camp, not daring to go out into the plain until they should have recovered their courage. While he was watching his opportunity the barbarians passed by, carrying a part of the booty they had captured. He fell upon them suddenly, slew a large number, and recaptured the plunder and the standards.

Some of the Lusitanians on the other side of the Tagus, under the leadership of Caucenus, being incensed against the Romans, invaded the Cunei, who were Roman subjects, and captured their large city, Conistorgis, and near the Pillars of Hercules they crossed over the straits, and some of them overran part of Africa, while others laid siege to the city of Ocile.

Mummius followed them with 9,000 foot and 500 horse, and slew about 15,000 of them who were engaged in plundering, and a few of the others, and raised the siege of Ocile. Falling in with a party who were carrying off booty he slew all of them, so that not one was left to bear the tidings of the disaster. All the booty that it was possible to carry he divided among the soldiers. The rest he devoted to the gods of war and burned. Having accomplished these results, Mummius returned to Rome and was awarded a triumph.

[§58] [152] He was succeeded in the command by Marcus Atilius, who made an incursion among the Lusitanians and killed about 700 of them and took their largest city, called Oxthracae. This so terrified the neighboring tribes that they all made terms of surrender. Among these were some of the Vettones, a nation adjoining the Lusitanians. But when he went away into winter quarters they all forthwith revolted and besieged some of the Roman subjects.

[151] Servius [Sulpicius] Galba, the successor of Atilius, hastened to relieve them. Having marched ninety kilometers in one day and night, he came in sight of the Lusitanians and sent his tired army into battle instantly. Fortunately he broke the enemy's ranks, but he imprudently followed the fugitives, the pursuit being feeble and disorderly on account of the fatigue of his men. When the barbarians saw them scattered, and by turns stopping to rest, they rallied and fell upon them and killed about 7,000. Galba, with the cavalry he had about him, fled to the city of Carmo. There he received the fugitives, and having collected allies to the number of 20,000 he moved to the territory of the Cunei, and wintered at Conistorgis.

[§59] [151/150] [The consul Lucius Licinius] Lucullus, who had made war on the Vaccaei without authority, was wintering in Turditania. When he discovered that the Lusitanians were making incursions in his neighborhood he sent out some of his best lieutenants and slew about 4,000 of them. He killed 1,500 others while they were crossing the straits near Gades. The remainder took refuge on a hill and he drew a line of circumvallation around it and captured an immense number of them.

[150] Then he invaded Lusitania and gradually depopulated it. Galba did the same on the other side. When some of their ambassadors came to him desiring to renew the treaty made with Atilius, his predecessor in the command, though they had transgressed this treaty, he received them favorably, and made a truce and pretended to sympathize with them because they had been compelled by poverty to rob, make war, and break their engagements. "For, of course," said he, "poorness of soil and penury forced you to do these things. If you wish to be friendly, I will give you good land for your poor people and settle them in three divisions, in a fertile country."

[§60] Beguiled by these promises they left their own habitations and came together at the place where Galba directed. He divided them into three parts, and showing to each division a certain plain, he commanded them to remain in this open country until he should assign them their places.

Then he came to the first division and told them as friends to lay down their arms. When they had done so he surrounded them with a ditch and sent in soldiers with swords who slew them all, they, meanwhile, crying aloud and invoking the names and faith of the gods. In like manner he hastened to the second and third divisions and destroyed them while they were still ignorant of the fate of the first. Thus he avenged treachery with treachery in a manner unworthy of a Roman, but imitating barbarians.

A few escaped, among them Viriathus, who not long afterward became the leader of the Lusitanians and killed many Romans and performed the greatest exploits, which I shall relate hereafter.

Galba, being even more greedy than Lucullus, distributed a little of the plunder to the army and a little to his friends and kept the rest himself, although he was already one of the richest of the Romans. Not even in time of peace, they say, did he abstain from lying and perjury in order to get gain. Although generally hated, and called to account for his rascalities, he escaped punishment by means of his wealth.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 13
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