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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§81-85)

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.


  [§81] [137] Here they [Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Decimus Junius Brutus] were overtaken by Cinna and Caecilius, messengers from Rome, who said that the Senate was at a loss to know why, after so many disasters had befallen them in Spain, Aemilius should be seeking a new war, and they placed in his hands a decree warning him not to attack the Vaccaei. But he, having actually begun the war, considered that the Senate was ignorant of that, and of the fact that Brutus was cooperating with him, and that the Vaccaei had aided the Numantines with provisions, money, and men. Accordingly he made answer that it would be dangerous to abandon the war, since nearly all Spain would rebel if they should imagine that the Romans were afraid.

He sent Cinna's party home without having accomplished their errand, and he wrote in this sense to the Senate. After this he began, in a fortified place, to construct engines and collect provisions. While he was thus engaged, Flaccus, who had been sent out on a foraging expedition, found himself in an ambuscade but he saved himself by a trick. He cunningly spread a rumor among his men that Aemilius had captured Pallantia. The soldiers raised a shout of victory. The barbarians, hearing it and thinking that the report was true, withdrew. In this way Flaccus rescued his convoy from danger.

[§82] The siege of Pallantia was long protracted, the food supply of the Romans failed, and they began to suffer from hunger. All their animals perished and many of the men died of want. The generals, Aemilius and Brutus, kept heart for a long time. Being compelled to yield at last, they gave an order suddenly one night, about the last watch, to retreat. The tribunes and centurions ran hither and thither to hasten the movement, so as to get them all away before daylight. Such was the confusion that they left behind everything, and even the sick and wounded, who clung to them and besought them not to abandon them. Their retreat was disorderly and confused and much like a flight, the Pallantines hanging on their flanks and rear and doing great damage from early dawn till evening. When night came, the Romans, worn with toil and hunger, threw themselves on the ground by companies just as it happened, and the Pallantines, moved by some divine interposition, went back to their own country. And this was what happened to Aemilius.

[§83] When these things were known at Rome, Aemilius was deprived of his command and consulship, and when he returned to Rome as a private citizen he was fined besides. The dispute before the Senate between [Gaius Hostilius] Mancinus and the Numantine ambassadors was still going on. The latter exhibited the treaty they had made with Mancinus; he, on the other hand, put the blame on [Quintus] Pompeius [Aulus], his predecessor in the command, who had turned over to him a worthless and ill-provided army, with which Pompeius himself had often been beaten, and so had made a similar treaty with the Numantines. He added that the war had been under bad omens, for it had been decreed by the Romans in violation of these agreements.

The senators were equally incensed against both, but Pompeius escaped because he had been tried for this offense long before. They decided to deliver Mancinus to the Numantines for making a disgraceful treaty without their authorization. (In this they followed the example of the fathers, who once delivered to the Samnites twenty generals who had made similar treaties without authority.) Mancinus was taken to Spain by Furius, and delivered naked to the Numantines, but they refused to receive him.

[135] [Quintus] Calpurnius Piso was chosen general against them, but he did not march against Numantia. He made an incursion into the territory of Pallantia, and having collected a small amount of plunder, spent the rest of his term of office in winter quarters in Carpetania. 

[§84] [134] The Roman people being tired of this Numantine war, which was protracted and severe beyond expectation, elected [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus], the conqueror of Carthage, consul again, believing that he was the only man who could subdue the Numantines. As he was still under the consular age, the Senate voted, as was done when Scipio was appointed general against the Carthaginians, that the tribunes of the people should repeal the law respecting the age limit, and reenact it for the following year. Thus Scipio was made consul a second time and hastened to Numantia.

He did not take any army by levy because the city was exhausted by so many wars, and because there were plenty of soldiers in Spain. With the Senate's consent he took a certain number of volunteers sent to him by cities and kings on the score of private friendship. To these were added 500 of his clients and friends whom he joined in one body and called it the troop of friends. All these, about 4,000 in number, he put under marching orders in charge of Buteo, his nephew, while he went in advance with a small escort to the army in Spain, having heard that it was full of idleness, discord, and luxury, and well knowing that he could never overcome the enemy unless he should first bring his own men under strict discipline.

[§85] When he arrived he expelled all traders and harlots; also the soothsayers and diviners, whom the soldiers were continually consulting because they were demoralized by defeat. For the future he forbade the bringing in of anything not necessary, or any victims for purposes of divination. He ordered all wagons and their superfluous contents to be sold, and all pack animals, except such as he designated, to remain. For cooking utensils it was permitted to have only a spit, a brass kettle, and one cup. Their food was limited to plain boiled and roasted meats. They were forbidden to have beds, and Scipio was the first one to sleep on straw. He forbade them to ride on mules when on the march; "for what can you expect in a war," said he, "from a man who is not able to walk?" Those who had servants to bathe and anoint them were ridiculed by Scipio, who said that only mules, having no hands, needed others to rub them.

Thus in a short time he brought them back to good order. He accustomed them also to respect and fear himself by being difficult of access and sparing of favors, especially favors contrary to regulations. He often said that those generals who were severe and strict in the observance of law were serviceable to their own men, while those who were easy-going and bountiful were useful only to the enemy. The soldiers of the latter, he said, might be joyous but insubordinate, while the others, although downcast, would be obedient and ready for all emergencies.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 18
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