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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§66-70)


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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  [§66] [143] Now Viriathus, being not so confident as before, detached the Arevaci, Titthi, and Belli, very warlike peoples, from their allegiance to the Romans, and these began to wage another war on their own account which was long and tedious to the Romans, and which was called the Numantine war from one of their cities. I shall give an account of this after finishing the war with Viriathus.

The latter coming to an engagement in another part of Spain with Quintus, another Roman general, and being worsted, returned to the Venus mountain. From this he sallied and slew 1,000 of Quintus' men and captured some standards from them and drove the rest into their camp. He also drove out the garrison of Itucca and ravaged the country of the Bastitani. Quintus was unable to render them aid by reason of his timidity and inexperience, but went into winter quarters at Corduba in the middle of autumn, and frequently sent Gaius Marcius, a Spaniard from the city of Italica, against him.

[§67] At the end of the year, [consul Quintus] Fabius Maximus Servilianus, the brother of Aemilianus, came to succeed Quintus in the command, bringing two new legions from Rome and some allies, so that his forces altogether amounted to about 18,000 foot and 1,600 horse. [142] He wrote to Micipsa, king of the Numidians, to send him some elephants as speedily as possible. As he was hastening to Itucca with his army in divisions, Viriathus attacked him with 6,000 troops with great noise and barbaric clamor, and wearing the long hair which in battles they are accustomed to shake in order to terrify their enemies, but he was not dismayed. He stood his ground bravely, and the enemy was driven off without accomplishing anything.

When the rest of Servilianus' army arrived, together with ten elephants and 300 horse from Africa, he established a large camp, advanced against Viriathus, defeated and pursued him. The pursuit became disorderly, and when Viriathus observed this as he fled he rallied, slew about 3,000 of the Romans, and drove the rest to their camp. He attacked the camp also where only a few made a stand about the gates, the greater part hiding under their tents from fear, and being with difficulty brought back to their duty by the general and the tribunes. Here Fannius, the brother-in-law of Laelius, showed splendid bravery. The Romans were saved by the approach of darkness.

But Viriathus continued to make incursions by night or in the heat of the day, appearing at every unexpected time with his light-armed troops and his swift horses to annoy the enemy, until he forced Servilianus back to Itucca.

[§68] Then at length Viriathus, being in want of provisions, and his army much reduced, burnt his camp in the night and returned to Lusitania. Servilianus did not overtake him, but fell upon the country of Baeturia and plundered five towns that had sided with Viriathus. After this he marched against the Cunaei, and thence to Lusitania once more, against Viriathus.

While he was on the march two captains of robbers, Curius and Apuleius, with 10,000 men attacked the Romans, threw them into confusion, and captured some booty. Curius was killed in the fight, and Servilianus not long afterward recovered the booty and took the towns of Escadia, Gemella, and Obolcola, which had been garrisoned by Viriathus. Others he plundered and still others he spared. Having captured about 10,000 prisoners, he beheaded 500 of them and sold the rest as slaves.

Then he went into winter quarters, having already been two years in the command. Having performed these labors, Servilianus returned to Rome and was succeeded in the command by Quintus Pompeius Aulus. The brother of the former, [Quintus Fabius] Maximus Aemilianus, having received the surrender of a captain of robbers, named Connoba, released him but cut off the hands of all of his men.

[§69] While following Viriathus, Servilianus laid siege to Erisana, one of his towns. Viriathus entered the town by night, and at daybreak fell upon those who were working in the trenches, compelling them to throw away their spades and run. In like manner he defeated the rest of the army, which was drawn up in order of battle by Servilianus, pursued it, and drove the Romans among some cliffs from which there was no chance of escape.

Viriathus was not arrogant in the hour of victory, but considering this a favorable opportunity to bring the war to an end and win the great gratitude of the Romans, he made an agreement with them, and this agreement was ratified at Rome. Viriathus was declared to be a friend of the Roman people, and it was decreed that all of his followers should have the land which they then occupied. Thus the Viriathic war, which had been so extremely tedious to the Romans, seemed to have been settled satisfactorily and brought to an end.

[§70] [141] The peace was not of long duration, for [Quintus Servilius] Caepio, brother of the Servilianus who had concluded it, and his successor in the command, complained of the treaty, and wrote home that it was most unworthy of the dignity of the Roman people. The Senate at first authorized him to annoy Viriathus according to his own discretion, provided it were done secretly. By persisting and continually sending letters he procured the breaking of the treaty and a renewal of open hostilities against Viriathus. 

[140] When war was publicly declared, Caepio took the town of Arsa, which Viriathus abandoned, and followed Viriathus himself (who fled and destroyed everything in his path) as far as Carpetania, the Roman forces being much stronger than his. Viriathus, deeming it unwise to engage in battle, on account of the smallness of his army, ordered the greater part of it to retreat through a hidden defile, while he drew up the remainder on a hill as though he intended to fight. When he judged that those who had been sent before had reached a place of safety, he darted after them with such disregard of the enemy and such swiftness that his pursuers did not know whither he had gone. Caepio turned against the Vettones and the Callaici and wasted their fields.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 15
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