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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§76-80)

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.


 

The Numantine War

[§76] [143] Our history returns to the war against the Arevaci and the Numantines, whom Viriathus stirred up to revolt. [Consul Quintus] Caecilius Metellus was sent against them from Rome with a larger army and he subdued the Arevaci, falling upon them suddenly while they were gathering their crops.

There still remained the two towns of Termantia and Numantia to engage his attention. Numantia was difficult of access by reason of two rivers and the ravines and dense woods that surrounded it. There was only one road to the open country and that had been blocked by ditches and palisades. The Numantines were first-rate soldiers, both horse and foot, there being about 8,000 altogether. Although small in numbers, yet they gave the Romans great trouble by their bravery.

[142 or 141] At the end of winter Metellus surrendered to his successor, Quintus Pompeius Aulus, the command of the army, consisting of 30,000 foot and 2,000 horse, admirably trained. While encamped against Numantia, Pompeius had occasion to go away somewhere. The Numantines made a sally against a body of his horse that was ranging after him and destroyed them. When he returned, he drew up his army in the plain. The Numantines came down to meet him, but retired slowly as though intending flight, until they had drawn Pompeius to the ditches and palisades.

[§77] When he saw his forces wasted day by day in skirmishes with an enemy much inferior in numbers, he moved against Termantia as being an easier task. Here he engaged the enemy and lost 700 men; and one of his tribunes, who was bringing provisions to his army, was put to flight by the Termantines. In a third engagement the same day they drove the Romans into a rocky place where many of their infantry and cavalry with their horses were forced down a precipice. The remainder, panic-stricken, passed the night under arms. At daybreak the enemy came out and a regular battle was fought which lasted all day with equal fortune. Night put an end to the conflict.

Thence Pompeius marched against a small town named Malia, which was garrisoned by Numantines. The inhabitants slew the garrison by treachery and delivered the town to Pompeius. He required them to surrender their arms and give hostages, after which he moved to Sedatania, which a robber chief named Tanginus was plundering. Pompeius overcame him and took many of his men prisoners. So high-spirited were these robbers that none of the captives would endure servitude. Some killed themselves, others killed those who had bought them, and others scuttled the ships that carried them away.

[§78] Pompeius, coming back to the siege of Numantia, endeavored to turn the course of a certain river in order to reduce the city by famine. The inhabitants harassed him while he was doing this work. They rushed out in crowds without giving any signal, and assaulted those who were working on the river, and hurled darts at those who came to their assistance from the camp, and finally shut the Romans up in their own fortification. They also attacked the foragers and killed many, and among them Oppius, a military tribune. They made an assault in another quarter on a party of Romans who were digging a ditch, and killed about 400 of them including their leader.

About this time certain counsellors came to Pompeius from Rome, together with an army of new recruits, still raw and undisciplined, to take the places of the soldiers who had served their six years. Pompeius, being put to shame by so many disasters, and desiring to wipe out the disgrace, remained in camp in the winter time with these raw recruits. The soldiers, being exposed to severe cold without shelter, and unaccustomed to the water and climate of the country, fell sick with dysentery and many died.

[140] A detachment having gone out for forage, the Numantines laid an ambuscade near the Roman camp and provoked them to a skirmish. The latter, not enduring the affront, sallied out against them. Then those who were in ambush sprang up, and many of the common soldiers and many of the nobility lost their lives. Finally the Numantines encountered the foraging party on its return and killed many of those also.

[§79] Pompeius, being cast down by so many misfortunes, marched away with his senatorial council to the towns to spend the rest of the winter, expecting a successor to come early in the spring. Fearing lest he should be called to account, he made overtures to the Numantines secretly for the purpose of bringing the war to an end. The Numantines themselves, being exhausted by the slaughter of so many of their bravest men, by the loss of their crops, by want of food, and by the length of the war, which had been protracted beyond expectation, sent legates to Pompeius. He publicly advised them to surrender at discretion, because no other kind of treaty seemed worthy of the dignity of the Roman people, but privately he told them what terms he should impose. When they had come to an agreement and the Numantines had given themselves up, he demanded and received from them hostages, together with the prisoners and deserters. He also demanded thirty talents of silver, a part of which they paid down and the rest he agreed to wait for.

[139] His successor, Marcus Popillius Laenas, had arrived when they brought the last instalment. Pompeius being no longer under any apprehension concerning the war, since his successor was present, and knowing that he had made a disgraceful peace and without authority from Rome, began to deny that he had come to any understanding with the Numantines. The latter proved the contrary by witnesses who had taken part in the transaction, senators, and his own prefects of horse and military tribunes. Popillius sent them to Rome to carry on the controversy with Pompeius there. The case was brought before the Senate, and the Numantines and Pompeius debated it there. The Senate decided to continue the war. Thereupon Popillius attacked the Lusones who were neighbors of the Numantines, but he accomplished nothing, and [137] on the arrival of his successor in office, [Gaius] Hostilius Mancinus, he returned to Rome.

[§80] Mancinus had frequent encounters with the Numantines in which he was worsted, and finally, after great loss, took refuge in his camp. On a false rumor that the Cantabri and Vaccaei were coming to the aid of the Numantines, he became alarmed, extinguished his fires, and fled in the darkness of night to a desert place where Nobilior once had a camp. Being shut up in this place at daybreak without preparation or fortification and surrounded by Numantines, who threatened all with death unless he made peace, he agreed to terms like those previously made between the Romans and Numantines. To this agreement he bound himself by an oath.

When these things were known at Rome there was great indignation at this most ignominious treaty, and the other consul, [Marcus] Aemilius Lepidus, was sent to Spain, Mancinus being called home to stand trial. The Numantine ambassadors followed him thither. 

Aemilius becoming tired of idleness while awaiting the decision from Rome (for some men sought the command, not for the advantage of the city, but for glory, or gain, or the honor of a triumph), falsely accused the Vaccaei of supplying the Numantines with provisions during the war. Accordingly he ravaged their country and laid siege to their principal city, Pallantia, which had in no way violated the treaty, and he persuaded [Decimus Junius] Brutus, his brother-in-law, who had been sent to Farther Spain (as I have before related), to join him in this undertaking.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 17
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