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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§91-95)

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.


  [§91] [133] Thus [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus] was the first general, as I think, to throw a wall around a city which did not shun a battle in the open field. However, the river Durius, which took its course through the fortifications, was very useful to the Numantines for bringing provisions and sending men back and forth, some diving and others concealing themselves in small boats, some making their way with sail-boats when a strong wind was blowing, or with oars aided by the current.

As he was not able to span it on account of its breadth and swiftness, Scipio built two towers in place of a bridge. To each of these towers he moored large timbers with ropes and set them floating across the river. The timbers were stuck full of knives and spear-heads, which were kept constantly in motion by the force of the stream dashing against them, so that the enemy were prevented from passing covertly, either by swimming, or diving, or sailing in boats. Thus was accomplished what Scipio especially desired, namely, that nobody could have any dealings with them, nobody could come in, and they could have no knowledge of what was going on outside. Thus they would be in want of provisions and apparatus of every kind.

[§92] When everything was ready and the catapults, ballistae, and other engines were placed on the towers, the stones, darts, and javelins collected on the parapets, and the archers and slingers in their places, he stationed messengers at frequent intervals along the entire wall to pass the word from one to another by day or night to let him know what was taking place. He gave orders to each tower that in any emergency the one that was first attacked should hoist a signal and that the others when they saw it should do the same, in order that he might be advised of the commotion quickly by signal, and learn the particulars afterward by messengers. The army, together with the native forces, now numbering some 60,000 men, he arranged so that one half should guard the wall and in case of necessity go to any place where they should be wanted, 20,000 were to fight from the top of the wall when necessary, and the remaining 10,000 were kept in reserve. Each division had its place assigned, and it was not permitted to any to change without orders. Each man was to spring to the place assigned to him when any signal of an attack was given. So carefully was everything arranged by Scipio.

[§93] The Numantines made several attacks here and there upon those guarding the walls. Swift and terrible was the appearance of the defenders, the signals being everywhere hoisted, the messengers running, the defenders of the walls springing to their places in crowds, and the trumpets sounding on every tower, so that the whole circuit of 9 kilometers presented to all beholders a most formidable aspect. This circuit Scipio traversed each day and night for the purpose of inspection. He was convinced that the enemy thus enclosed, and unable to obtain food, arms, or succor from without, could not hold out very long.

[§94] In the meantime Rhetogenes, a Numantine, surnamed Caraunius, a man of the greatest valor, induced five of his friends to take an equal number of servants and horses, and cross the space between the two armies secretly, on a cloudy night, carrying a bridge made in sections. Arriving at the wall he and his friends sprang upon it, slew the guards on either side, sent back the servants, drew the horses up the bridge, and rode off to the towns of the Arevaci, bearing olive-branches [1] and entreating them, as blood relations, to help the Numantines.

The chiefs of the Arevaci, fearing the Romans, would not even listen to them, but sent them away immediately. There was a rich town named Lutia, distant 55 kilometers from Numantia, whose young men sympathized with the Numantines and urged their city to send them aid. The older citizens secretly communicated this fact to Scipio.

Receiving this intelligence about the eighth hour [2], he marched thither at once with a numerous and well-equipped force. Surrounding the place about daylight, he demanded that the leaders of the young men should be delivered up to him. When the citizens replied that they had fled from the place, he sent a herald to tell them that if these men were not surrendered to him he would sack the city. Being terrified by this threat, they delivered them up, to the number of about 400. Scipio cut off their hands, withdrew his force, rode away, and was back in his own camp the next morning.

[§95] The Numantines, being oppressed by hunger, sent five men to Scipio to ask whether he would treat them with moderation if they would surrender. Their leader, Avarus, discoursed much about the prestige and bravery of the Numantines, and said that even now they had done no wrong, but had fallen into their present misery for the sake of their wives and children, and for the freedom of their country. "Wherefore, Scipio," he said, "it is worthy of you, as a man renowned for virtue, to spare a brave and honorable race and to extend to us terms dictated by humanity, which we shall be able to bear, now that we have at last experienced a change of fortune. It rests not with us but with you whether you receive the surrender of our city on fair terms, or allow it to perish in a last struggle."

When Avarus had thus spoken, Scipio (who knew from prisoners the state of affairs inside) said merely that they must surrender their arms and place themselves and their city in his hands. When this answer was made known, the Numantines, who were previously savage in temper because of their absolute freedom and quite unaccustomed to obey the orders of others, and were now wilder than ever and beside themselves by reason of their hardships, slew Avarus and the five ambassadors who had accompanied him, as bearers of evil tidings, and perhaps thinking that they had made private terms for themselves with Scipio.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars   : part 20
Note 1:
A sign that one came in peace.

Note 2:
Early in the afternoon.

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