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Appian's History of Rome: The Spanish Wars (§§96-102)

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.


Two Roman legionaries.  Museo arqueológico, Sevilla (Spain). Photo Jan van Vliet.
Two Roman legionaries; relief found in Osuna (Museo arqueológico, Seville)
[§96] [133] Soon after this, all their eatables being consumed, having neither grain, nor flocks, nor grass, they began, as is frequently necessary in wars, to lick boiled hides. When these also failed, they boiled and ate the bodies of human beings, first of those who had died a natural death, chopping them in small bits for cooking. Afterwards being nauseated by the flesh of the sick, the stronger laid violent hands upon the weaker. No form of misery was absent. They were rendered savage in mind by their food, and their bodies were reduced to the semblance of wild beasts by famine, plague, long hair, and neglect.

In this condition they surrendered themselves to [Publius Cornelius] Scipio [Aemilianus]. He commanded them the same day to bring their arms to a place designated by him, and on the following day to assemble at another place. But they put off the day, declaring that many of them still clung to liberty and desired to take their own lives. Wherefore they asked for a day to arrange for death.

[§97] Such was the love of liberty and of valor which existed in this small barbarian town. With only 8,000 fighting men before the war began, how many and what terrible reverses did they bring upon the Romans! How many treaties did they make on equal terms with the Romans, which the latter would not consent to make with any other people! How often did they challenge to open battle the last general sent against them, who had an army of 60,000 men! But he showed himself more experienced in war than themselves, by refusing to join battle with wild beasts when he could reduce them by that invincible enemy, hunger. In this way alone was it possible to capture the Numantines, and in this way alone were they captured. Reflecting upon their small numbers and great sufferings, their valiant deeds and long endurance, it has occurred to me to narrate these particulars of the Numantine history. Many, directly after the surrender, killed themselves in whatever way they chose, some in one way and some in another.

The remainder congregated on the third day at the appointed place, a strange and shocking spectacle. Their bodies were foul, their hair and nails long, and they were smeared with dirt. They smelt most horribly, and the clothes they wore were likewise squalid and emitted an equally foul odor. For these reasons they appeared pitiable even to their enemies. At the same time there was something fearful to the beholders in the expression of their eyes - an expression of anger, grief, toil, and the consciousness of having eaten human flesh.

[§98] Having reserved fifty of them for his triumph, Scipio sold the rest and razed the city to the ground. So this Roman general overthrew two most powerful cities - Carthage, by decree of the Senate, on account of its greatness, its power, and its advantages by land and sea; Numantia, small and with a sparse population, the Romans knowing nothing about the transaction as yet. He destroyed the latter either because he thought that it would be for the advantage of the Romans, or because he was in a violent rage against the captives, or, as some think, in order to acquire the glory of two surnames from two great calamities. At any rate, the Romans to this day call him Africanus and Numantinus from the ruin he brought upon those two places. Having divided the territory of the Numantines among their near neighbors and transacted certain business in the other cities, threatening or fining any whom he suspected, he sailed for home. 
 

Later conflicts

[§99] The Romans, according to their custom, sent ten senators to the newly acquired provinces of Spain, which Scipio, or Brutus before him, had received in surrender, or had taken by force, to settle their affairs on a peace basis.

At a later time, other revolts having taken place in Spain, Calpurnius Piso was chosen as commander. He was succeeded by Servius Galba. When the Cimbri invaded Italy, and Sicily was torn by the second servile war, the Romans were too much preoccupied to send soldiers to Spain, but sent legates who endeavored to settle affairs without war as far as they could. When the Cimbri were driven out Titus Didius was sent to Spain, and he slew about 20,000 of the Arevaci. He also removed Termesum, a large city always insubordinate to the Romans, from a place of security into the plain, and ordered the inhabitants to live without walls. [98] He also besieged the city of Colenda and captured it nine months after he had invested it, and sold the inhabitants with their wives and children.

[§100] There was another city near Colenda inhabited by mixed tribes of Celtiberians who had been the allies of Marcus Marius in a war against the Lusitanians, and whom he had settled there five years before with the approval of the Senate. They were living by robbery on account of their poverty. Didius, with the concurrence of the ten legates who were still present, resolved to destroy them. Accordingly, he told their principal men that he would allot the land of Colenda to them because they were poor. Finding them very much pleased with this offer, he told them to communicate it to their people, and to come with their wives and children to the parceling out of the land. When they had done so he ordered his soldiers to vacate their camp, and these people, whom he wanted to ensnare, to go inside, so that he might make a list of their names, the men on one register and the women and children on another, in order to know how much land should be set apart for them. When they had gone inside the ditch and palisade, Didius surrounded them with his army and killed them all, and for this he was honored with a triumph.

At a later period, the Celtiberians having revolted again, Flaccus was sent against them and slew 20,000. The people of the town of Belgida were eager for revolt, and when their senate hesitated they set fire to the senate house and burned the senators. When Flaccus arrived there he put the authors of this crime to death.

[§101] These are the events which I have found most worthy of mention in the relations of the Romans with the Spaniards until that time. [82] At a later period, when the dissensions of Sulla and Cinna arose in Rome, and the country was torn with civil wars and hostile camps, Quintus Sertorius, one of Cinna's party, who had been chosen to the command in Spain, stirred up that country against the Romans. He raised a large army, created a Senate of his own friends after the manner of the Roman Senate, and marched towards Rome full of confidence and high courage, for he had been renowned for valor elsewhere.

The Senate in great alarm sent against him their most famous generals, first Caecilius Metellus with a large army, and then Pompey with another army, in order to repel if possible this war from Italy, which was terribly distracted with civil strife. [72] But Sertorius was murdered by Perpenna, one of his own partisans, who proclaimed himself general of the faction in place of Sertorius. Pompey slew Perpenna in battle, and so this war, which had greatly alarmed the Romans, came to an end; but I shall speak of this more particularly in my account of the Civil wars of Sulla.

[§102] [61] After the death of Sulla, Gaius [Julius] Caesar was sent as praetor into Spain with power to make war wherever it was needful. All of those Spaniards who were doubtful in their allegiance, or had not yet submitted to the Romans, he brought under subjection by force and arms.

[25] Some, who afterwards rebelled, were subdued by Caesar's adopted son Octavius, surnamed Augustus. From that time it appears that the Romans have divided Iberia (which they now call Hispania) into three parts and sent a praetor to govern each, two being chosen annually by the Senate, and the third appointed by the emperor to hold office during his pleasure.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Spanish wars
Book 7, War against Hannibal
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