Celtiberian Wars

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The First Celtiberian War (181–179 BC) and Second Celtiberian War (154–151 BC) where two of the three major rebellions by the Celtiberians, against the presence of the Romans in Hispania. Hispania was the name the Romans gave to the Iberian Peninsula. In those days Spain and Portugal did not exist. The peninsula was inhabited by various ethnic groups and numerous tribes. The Celtiberians were a confederation of five tribes which lived in large area of east central Hispania, to the west of Hispania Citerior. The eastern part of their territory shared a stretch of the border of this Roman province. The Celtiberian tribes were the Pellendones, the Arevaci, the Lusones, the Titti and the Belli. The third major rebellion by the Celtiberians was the Numantine War (143–133 BC).

The Romans took over the territories of the Carthaginians in southern Hispania when they defeated them at the Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC during the Second Punic War (218–201 BC). After the war they remained and in 197 BC they established two Roman colonies: Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain) along most of the east coast, an area roughly corresponding to the modern autonomous communities of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, and Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain) in the south, roughly corresponding to modern Andalusia. There were numerous rebellions by many tribes of Hispania, including tribes both inside and outside Roman territory, in most years for 98 years, until the end of the First Celtiberian War (181–179 BC) in 179 BC. For details of these rebellions see the Roman conquest of Hispania article. The First Celtiberian War was one of the two major rebellions during this period. The Celtiberians were the major source of revolt. The Roman victory in this war and the peace treaties established by the Roman praetor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus with several tribes led to 24 years of relative peace until 154 BC, when the Second Celtiberian War (154–152 BC) broke out. This war broke out because the Roman senate objected to the Arevaci town of Segeda building a circuit of walls. The people of Segeda argued that this was in line with the treaty agreed with Tiberius Gracchus. The senate requested the fulfilment of other stipulations of this treaty the town had been previously exempted from and declared war. This war overlapped with the Lusitanian War of (154–150 BC). The Lusitanians, who lived in parts of today's Portugal and Extremadura (Spain), became the other major source of rebellion in Hispania.

The First Celtiberian War is covered in Livy's detailed History of Rome. The books of Livy's work which cover the period of the Second Celtiberian War have been lost. Only a few fragments of Polybius' writings about Hispania are extant. We only have four fragments on the Second Celtiberian War and these only cover the story of Celtiberian envoys who went to Rome. For this war were rely on Appian's books on the wars in Hispania.

The Second Celtiberian War involved the Belli towns of Segeda and Nertobriga, and the Averaci towns of Numantia, Axinum and Ocilis. Then the consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus made peace with the Celtiberians. The next consul, Lucius Licinius Lucullus, who according to Appian was 'greedy of fame and needing money because he was in straitened circumstances', attacked the Vaccaei (a tribe which lived further east) which was not at war with Rome and did so without the authorisation of the senate. He claimed that they had mistreated the Carpetani as an excuse. He attacked the Vacaei towns of Cauca, Itercatia and Pallantia.

The First Celtiberian War (181–179 BC)[edit]

As already mentioned, the First Celtiberian war was part of a period of 98 years of rebellions against the Roman presence in Hispania by various tribes in Hispania. The Celtiberians were a major source of revolt and this was the peak of this in this period. The military command the praetors Pulbius Manlius and Quintus Fulvius Flaccus had been given for Hispania Ulterior and Citerior respectively in 182 BC and this was extended to 181 BC. They received reinforcements of 3,000 Roman and 6,000 allied infantry and 200 Roman and 300 allied cavalry. The Celtiberians gathered 35,000 men. Livy wrote: ‘hardly ever before had they raised so large a force’. Quintus Fulvius Flaccus drew as many auxiliary troops form the friendly tribes as he could, but his numbers were inferior. He went to Carpetania (in south central Hispania, to the south Celtiberia) and encamped near Aebura (Talavera de la Reina, in western part of the modern province of Toledo; it was at the edge of the territory of the Vettones). He sent a small detachment to occupy the town. A few days later the Celtiberians encamped at the foot of a hill two miles from the Romans. The praetor sent his brother, Marcus Fulvius, with two squadrons of native cavalry for reconnaissance with instructions to get as close to the enemy rampant as possible to get an idea of the size of the camp. If enemy's cavalry spotted him he was to withdraw. For a few days nothing happened. Then the Celtiberian army drew up midway between the two camps, but the Romans did not respond. They did this for four days. After this they rested in their camp. Both cavalries went out on patrol. Both sides went out to collect wood at the rear of their camps without interfering with each other.[1]

When the praetor thought that the enemy would not expect action, he sent Lucius Acilius to go around the hill behind the enemy camp with a contingent of troops of Latin allies and 6,000 native auxiliaries. He was to charge down on the enemy camp. They marched at night to elude detection. At dawn Lucius Acilius sent Gaius Scribonius, the commander of the allies, to the enemy rampant with his cavalry. When the Celtiberians saw them they sent out their cavalry and signalled their infantry to advance. Gaius Scribonius tuned round and made for the Roman camp as per instructions. When Quintus Fulvius Flaccus thought that the Celtiberians were sufficiently drawn away from guarding their camp he came out of the camp with his army which had been drawn up in three separate corps behind the rampant. Meanwhile, the cavalry on the hill changed down, as instructed, on the enemy camp, which had no more than 5,000 guards. The camp was taken with little resistance. Acilius set fire to that part of it which could be seen from the battlefield. Word spread through the Celtiberian line that the camp was lost. For a while they were unsure about what to do. Then they resumed the fight as it was their only hope. The Celtiberian centre was hard pressed by the fifth legion. However, they advanced against the left flank of the Romans, which had native auxiliaries. This flank would have been repulsed had the seventh legion not come to the aid. The troops which were at Aebura turned up and, as Acilius was at the enemy's rear, the Celtiberians were sandwiched and cut to pieces; 23,000 died and 4,700 were captured. On the other side, 200 Romans, 800 allies and 2,400 native auxiliaries fell. Aebura was seized.[2]

Quintus Fulvius Flaccus then marched across Carpetania and went to Contrebia (near Botorrita, in the province of Zaragoza, Aragon). The townsfolk sent for Celtiberian assistance, but it did not come and they surrendered. The Celtiberians had been delayed by incessant winter rain which caused floods and made the roads impassable and the rivers difficult to cross. Heavy storms forced Flaccus to move his army into the city. When the rain stopped the Celtiberians went on the march without knowing about the city's surrender. They saw no Roman camp and thought that it had been moved elsewhere or that the Romans had withdrawn. They approached the city without taking precautions and without proper formation. The Romans made a sortie from the two city gates. Caught by surprise the Celtiberians were routed. Not being in formation made resistance impossible, but it helped the majority to escape. Still, 12,000 men died and 5,000 men and 400 horses were captured. The fugitives bumped into another body of Celtiberians on its way to Contrebia which, on being told about the defeat, dispersed. Quintus Fulvius marched through Celtiberian territory, ravaged the countryside and stormed many forts until the Celtiberians surrendered.[3]

In 180 BC the praetors Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was assigned the command Hispania Citerior and thus was responsible for the war with the Celtiberians. Messengers arrived in Rome. They brought news of the Celtiberian surrender, told the senate that there was no need to send subsidies for the army as the Hispania Citerior was now able to sustain itself and requested that Flaccus be allowed to bring back his army. Livy wrote that this was a must because the soldiers were determined to go back home and it seemed impossible to keep them in Hispania any longer. It was possible that they might mutiny. Tiberius Gracchus objected to this because he did not want to lose the veterans and have an army of raw and undisciplined recruits. A compromise was reached. Gracchus was ordered to levy two legions (5,200 infantry but only 400 cavalry instead of the usual 600) and an additional 1,000 infantry and 50 cavalry plus 7,000 Latin infantry and 300 cavalry (a total of 13,200 infantry and 750 cavalry). Flaccus was allowed to bring back home veterans who had been sent to Hispania before 186 BC, while those who arrived after that date were to remain. He could bring back the number which was in excess of 14,000 infantry and 600 cavalry.[4]

Since his successor was late, Flaccus started a third campaign against the Celtiberians who had not surrendered, ravaging the more distant parts of Celtiberia. This caused them to secretly gathered an army. They planned to strike at the Manlian Pass, which the Romans would have needed to pass through. However, Tiberius Gracchus told his colleague, Lucius Postumius, who was on his way to Hispania to inform him that he was to bring his army to Tarraco (Tarragona), where Gracchus was to disband the old army and incorporate the new troops, and that he was due to arrive soon. Flaccus had to abandon his campaign and withdraw from Celtiberia. The Celtiberians thought that Flaccus was fleeing because he had become aware of their rebellion and continued to prepare their trap at the Manlian pass. When the Romans entered the pass they were attacked on both sides. Quintus Fulvius ordered his men to hold their ground. The pack animals and the baggage were piled up in one place. The battle was desperate. The native auxiliaries could not hold their ground against men who were armed in the same way but were a better class of soldiers. Seeing that they were no match for the Roman legions, the Celtiberians bore down on them in wedge formation and almost broke their line. Flaccus ordered the cavalry to close ranks and charge the enemy wedge with loose reigns. The men dropped the reins and charged. The wedge was scattered and suffered heavy losses. This inspired the native auxiliary cavalry which also let their horses loose on the enemy. The wedge broke and the enemy scattered through the whole defile. The Celtiberians lost 17,000 men; 4,000 men and 600 horses were captured; 472 Romans, 1,019 Latin allies and 3,000 native auxiliaries died. The Romans encamped outside the pass and marched to Tarraco the next day.[5] Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus had landed two days earlier. The two commanders selected the soldiers who were to be discharged and those who were to remain. Flaccus returned to Rome with his veterans and Gracchus went to Celtiberia.[6]

In his account of this war, Appian wrote that the rebellion was by the tribes which lived along the River Iberus (the Greek name for the Ebro), including the Lusones (a small Celtiberian tribe in the north of Celtiberia, in the high Tajuña River valley, northeast of Guadalajara). He held that the rebellion was caused by the tribes having insufficient land. Whether this was the actual cause of the war is uncertain. He wrote that Quintus Fulvius defeated these tribes. Most of them scattered but those which were destitute and were nomadic fled to Complega, a newly built and fortified city which had grown rapidly. They sent messengers who demanded Flaccus to compensate them with a sagos (a Celtic word for cloak), a horse and a sword for every man who was killed in the battle and that the Romans leave Hispania or suffer the consequences. Flaccus said that he would give them plenty of cloaks, followed the messengers and encamped in front of the city. The inhabitants, feeling intimidated, fled and plundered the fields of the neighbouring tribes along their way.[7]

In 179 BC Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Lucius Postumius Albinus, who was in charge of the other Roman province (Hispania Ulterior), had their commands extended. They were reinforced with 3,000 Roman and 5,000 Latin infantry and 300 Roman and 400 Latin cavalry. They planned a joint operation. Lucius Postumius Albinus, whose province had been quiet, was to march against the Vaccaei (a people who lived to the east of Celtiberia) via eastern Lusitania and, return to Celtiberia if there was a greater war there. Tiberius Gracchus was to head into the furthest part of Celtiberia. He first took the city of Munda [8] by storm with an unexpected attack at night. He took hostages, left a garrison and burned the countryside until he reached the powerful town which the Celtiberian called Certima. A delegation from the town arrived while he was preparing the siege machines. They did not disguise the fact that they would fight to the end if they had the strength as they asked to be allowed to go to the Celtiberian camp to ask for help. If this was rejected they would consult among themselves. Gracchus gave them permission. After a few days they returned with ten other envoys. They asked for something to drink. Then they asked for a second cup. Livy wrote that this caused 'laughter at such uncultured ignorance of all etiquette’. Then the oldest man said that they had been sent to enquire what the Romans relied on to attack them. Gracchus replied that he relied on an excellent army and invited them to see it for themselves. He ordered the entire army to march in review under arms. The envoys left and discouraged their people from sending aid to the besieged city. The townsfolk surrendered. An indemnity was imposed on them and they had to give forty young nobles to serve in the Roman army as a pledge of loyalty.[9]

After Certima, Tiberius Gracchus went to Alce,[10] where the Celtiberian camp the envoys had come from was. For a few days he just harassed the enemy by sending larger and larger contingents of skirmishers against their outposts, hoping to draw the enemy out. When the enemy responded he ordered the native auxiliaries to offer only slight resistance and then retreat hastily to the camp, pretending that they had been overwhelmed. He placed his men behind the gates of the rampant of the camp. When the enemy pursued the retreating units in a disorderly manner and came to close range, the Romans came out from all the gates. Caught by surprise, the enemy was routed and lost 9,000 men and 320 men and 112 horses where captured; 109 Romans fell. Gracchus then marched further into Celtiberia, which he plundered. The tribes submitted. In a few days 103 towns surrendered. He then returned to Alce and begun to besiege the city. The townsfolk resisted the first assaults, but when the siege engines were deployed they withdrew to the citadel and then sent envoys to offer their surrender. Many nobles were taken, including the two sons and the daughter of Thurru, a Celtiberian chief. According to Livy he was by far the most powerful man in Hispania. Thurru asked for safe conduct to visit Tiberius Gracchus. He asked him whether he and his family would be allowed to live. When Gracchus replied affirmatively he asked if he was allowed to serve with the Romans. Gracchus granted this. From then on Thurru followed and helped the Romans in many places.[11]

Ergavica, another powerful Celtiberian city, was alarmed about the defeats of its neighbours and opened its gates to the Romans. Livy noted that some of his sources held that these surrenders were in bad faith because whenever Gracchus left hostilities resumed and there was also a major battle near Mons Chaunus (probably Moncayo Massif), which lasted from dawn to midday with many casualties on both sides. They also held that three days later there was a bigger battle which cost the defeated Celtiberians 22,000 casualties and the capture of 300 men and 300 horses. This was a decisive defeat which ended the war for real and the peace now was not insincere. Livy also noted that according to these sources Lucius Postumius Albinus won a great battle against the Vaccaei, killing 35,000. Livy thought that ‘it would be nearer the truth to say that he arrived in his province too late in the summer to undertake a campaign’.[12] Livy did not give any explanation for his doubts about this information about Lucius Postumius Albinus. He did not write anything about his campaigns on his authority either. Lucius Postumius went to Hispania the previous year. Moreover, in earlier passage Livy wrote that he arrived in Hispania before Tiberius Gracchus, who gave him a message with instructions for his predecessor, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus.[13]

Appian wrote about two more episodes about the campaign of Tiberius Gracchus. He wrote that the city of Caravis (Magallon, in north-western Aragon), an ally of Rome, was besieged by 20,000 Celtiberians. Gracchus was informed that it would fall soon. He hurried there, but he could not alert them that he was nearby. The commander of the cavalry, Cominius had the idea of wearing a Hispanic sagum (a military cloak), mingle in the enemy camp and make his way to the town. He informed the townsfolk that Gracchus was nearby and told them to hold out a bit longer. Three days later Gracchus attacked the besiegers, who fled.[14] At about the same time, the people of the town of Complega (location is unknown) which, had 20,000 inhabitants, went to Tiberius Grachus’ camp pretending to be peace negotiators. They attacked unexpectedly. This threw the Romans in disarray. Gracchus quickly abandoned the camp in a feigned retreat. Then he turned on them while they were plundering the camp and killed most of them. He went on to seize Complega. He then allocated land to the poor and made carefully defined treaties with the surrounding tribes and the surrounding country, binding them to be friends of Rome.[15]

Gracchus founded the colony (settlement) of Gracchurris (Alfaro, in La Rioja, northern Hispania) in the Upper Ebro Valley. This marked the beginning of Roman influence in northern Hispania. It was thought that this was the only colony he founded. However, in the 1950s an inscription was found near Mangibar, on the banks of the River Baetis (Guadalquivir) which attests that he founded another one. It was Iliturgi, a mining town and a frontier outpost. Gracchus therefore established a colony outside his province as it was in Hispania Ulterior.[16]


It is unlikely that the First Celtiberian War was a full-scale war. Despite its short duration duration, Gracchus had time to found settlements. Appian wrote that his ‘treaties were longed for in subsequent wars’.[17] Unlike previous praetors he spent time to negotiate and cultivate personal relations with tribal leaders. This was reminiscent of the friendly relations established by Scio Africanus during the Second Punic War.[18][19] Gracchus imposed the vicensima, the requisition 5% of the grain harvest, a form of tax which was more efficient and less vulnerable to abuse than the usual Roman practice of tendering tax collection to private ‘tax farmers.’ Silva notes this is the first reference to a regulatory collection of revenue.[20] His treaties stipulated that the allies were to provide the Romans with auxiliary troops. They also established that the natives could fortify existing cities, but not found new ones.[21] There is some evidence that he introduced civilian administrative measures, such the issuing of rights for mining to mint coins and the construction of roads.[22] Gracchus is remembered for his administrative arrangements which ensured peace in the conquered territory for the next quarter of a century.[23]

Apart from a few minor episodes, Hispania remained quiet until the outbreak of the Lusitanian War (155–150 BC) and the Second Celtiberian War (154–151 BC).

Second Celtiberian War[edit]

Appian wrote that this war broke out because Segeda (near Zaragoza), a powerful city of the Celtiberian tribe of the Belli, persuaded the people of some smaller towns to settle there and was building a circuit of walls seven kilometres long. It also forced the neighbouring Titti to join in. The Belli had agreed to the treaties Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus had made with tribes in Hispania at the end of the First Celtiberian War. Rome considered that Segeda was breaking the treaty. It forbade the building of the wall, demanded the tribute and the provision of a contingent for the Roman army in accordance with the stipulations of Gracchus' treaty. The Segedans replied that the treaty forbade the construction of new towns, but did not forbid the fortification existing ones. They also said that they had been they had been subsequently released from the tribute and the military contingent by the Romans. This was true, but the senate argued that when it granted such exemptions it always specified that they were to continue only during its pleasure.[24] The senate must have decided to withdraw the exemptions because it was worried about the development of Segeda into a powerful city in the land of the Celtiberians, who had a history of rebellions. Rome prepared for war.

In 153 BC the praetor Quintus Fabius Nobilitor arrived in Hispania with a force of nearly 30,000 men. The people of Segeda, whose wall had not been completed, fled and sought refuge among the Arevaci. These welcomed them and chose a Segedan, Carus, as their commander. He prepared 20,000 infantry and 500 cavalry for an ambush in a thick forest and attacked the Romans as they were passing through. It was a long battle, which he won; 6,000 Romans were killed. Carus was killed together with 6,000 of his men by the Roman cavalry which was guarding the Roman baggage while he was pursuing the fugitives from the battle in a disorderly manner. Nevertheless, the battle was a disaster for the Romans and from then on they would not engage in battle on the day of the festival of the god Vulcan because this defeat occurred on that day.[25]

The Arevaci assembled at the town of Numantia which had strong natural defences, and chose Ambo and Leuco as their leaders. Numantia was seven kilometres north of today's Soria, on a hill known as Cerro de la Muela near Garray. Three days later Nobilitor encamped four kilometres from the town. He was joined by 300 cavalry and ten elephants sent by Masinissa, the king of Numidia, a Roman ally in Africa. Before the ensuing battle Nobilitor placed the elephants at the rear so that they would not be seen and then divided the army into two. During the battle he brought them into view. This frightened the enemy, who had never seen these animals. They fled inside the town. Nobilitor attacked the city walls and there was a fierce battle. Then an elephant was hit by a large falling stone and made a loud noise which frightened the other elephants. They went on the rampage, trampling over the Romans, who took to disorderly flight. The Numantines made a sortie and killed 4,000 Romans and three elephants. Nobilitor then attacked the town of Axinium which stored the enemy supplies, but did not achieve anything. He lost many men and returned to his camp at night. He sent his cavalry commander to pursue an alliance with a neighbouring tribe and ask for cavalry assistance. He was given some horsemen, but an ambush was prepared against him when he was on his way back. It was discovered. The allied horsemen fled and the Roman commander and many of his troops were killed. These Roman disasters encouraged the town of Ocilis (Medinaceli), also in the modern province of Soria) to defect to the Celtiberians. The Roman provisions were kept in this town. Nobilitor withdrew to his winter camp and suffered food shortages. Because of this, heavy snowstorms and frost many of his men died.[26]

In 152 BC Marcus Claudius Marcellus, consul for the third time, took over the command, bringing 8,000 infantry and 500 cavalry to Hispania. An ambush against him was prepared, but he avoided it by moving cautiously and he encamped in front of Ocilis. He seized the town, granted it pardon, took hostages and imposed a fine of thirty talents. His moderation encouraged the people of Nertobriga (a town of the Belli, in the modern province of Zaragoza) to ask for peace. Marcellus asked for 100 cavalry and they agreed. However, in the meantime the Roman rear guard was attacked and a lot of booty was taken. When the promised cavalry arrived its leaders said that this had been done by some people who did not know about the agreement with the Romans. Marcellus chained the horsemen, sold their horses, plundered the countryside and begun to besiege the town, which sent a herald to ask for peace again. Appian wrote that Marcellus said that he would not grant peace unless the Arevaci, Belli, and Titti asked for it together. The Nertobriges sent ambassadors to these tribes and asked Marcellus for leniency and for the renewal of the treaty made with Gracchus. This was opposed by some rural people who had been incited to war. Marcellus sent envoys from each party to Rome to carry on their dispute there and sent private letters to the senate letters urging peace. He wanted to bring the war to an end himself and gain glory this way.[27]

Appian wrote that the envoys of friendly faction were treated as guest in the city, whereas those of the hostile faction were lodged outside the city walls as customary. Polybius specified that it was the Belli and Titti who had taken the side of Rome. Because of this their envoys were admitted into the city, while those of the Averaci, as they were enemies, were ordered to encamp on the other side of the River Tiber. The Senate heard the friendly envoys first. They said that if the rebels were not punished properly they would soon take up arms again and make the whole of Hispania inclined to rebel. They asked either that the Roman army should remain in Hispania and that it should be commanded by a consul to check the malpractices of the Averaci or, if the troops were to be withdrawn, that Rome should inflict an exemplary punishment on them. According to Polybius, when the envoys of the Arevaci were heard they came across as not being willing to submit or to accept defeat and gave the impression that they thought that they had fought more brilliantly than the Romans. They said that they would pay a penalty, should it be imposed on them, but demanded that the Romans should revert to the terms of the treaty of Tiberius Gracchus. The officers of Marcus Claudius Marcellus were then heard. It seemed that they were inclined towards peace and the senate thought that the consul was more disposed towards the enemy than the allies.[28] Appian wrote that the senate was not happy that these people had refused the terms put forward earlier by Nobilitor. However, when he described the campaign by Nobilitor he did not mention him making any terms with the Celtiberians.[29] The senate replied that Marcellus would communicate its decision to them.

Polybius wrote that the private opinion of the senate was that what the allies said was true and to the advantage of Rome, that the Averaci had a high opinion of themselves and that Marcellus was afraid of war. It secretly ordered the officers Marcellus had sent to continue to fight. It mistrusted Marcellus and it was minded to send one of the new consuls to replace him. It made preparations for the campaign as if the future of Hispania depended in this, assuming that if the enemy was defeated all the other tribes would submit to Rome and that if the Averaci could avoid further war they and all others tribes would be encouraged to resist. Quintus Fulvius Nobilitor spread rumours of continuous battles and great Roman losses and about the valour of the Celtiberians, as well as claims that Marcellus was afraid of continuing the war. The young recruits panicked and found excuses to avoid recruitment which could not be verified. Competent officers were not willing to serve. Then, the young Pulbius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus spoke in the senate and asked to be allowed to be sent to Hispania as an officer or a junior commander and that he was ready to assume such role. He was willing to do so even though he had been given the safer task of going to Macedon where he had been invited to go to settle disputes there. All were surprised because of his youth and cautious disposition. He became popular and made those who had been avoiding military service feel ashamed. The young men enlisted and the officers volunteered.[30] Appian wrote that the army to be sent to Hispania was chosen by lot instead of the customary levy. It was the first time this happened. This was because ‘many had complained that they had been treated unfairly by the consuls in the enrolment, while others had been chosen for easy service’.[31]

In 151 BC the new consul, Lucius Licinius Lucullus, was assigned Hispania. While he was on his way, Marcellus told the Celtiberians about the impending war and returned the hostages. He had a long conversation with the chief of the embassy which had gone to Rome. He sought to persuade the Celtiberians to put matters in his hands because he wanted to bring the war to an end before the arrival of Lucullus. After this 5,000 Arevaci took possession of the city of Nertobriga and Marcellus encamped near Numantia. While he was driving the inhabitants inside the wall, their leader asked for a meeting with Marcellus. He said that the Arevaci, Belli and Titti would put themselves in his hands. He demanded and received hostages and money and let them go free. Thus, Marcellus managed to bring the war to an end before the arrival of Lucullus.[32]

Appian wrote that Lucius Licinius Lucullus was greedy for fame and money and attacked the Vaccaei (a tribe which was probably related to the Celtiberians and lived to the east of the Arevaci) because he was ‘in straitened circumstances'. This was despite the fact that the senate had not declared war on them and this tribe had never attacked the Romans. He crossed the River Tagus and encamped near the town of Cauca (Coca in the province of Segovia) The inhabitants asked him what he had come for and what the reason for war was. He replied that they had mistreated the Carpetani and that he had come to their aid. The Caucaei attacked a party of Roman wood cutters and forages, killed many of them and pursued the fugitives to their camp. In the ensuing battle, being more like a light infantry, they had the advantage at first. However, when they run out of darts they fled and 3,000 of them were killed while they were forcing their way through the gates. The town elders sought peace. Lucullus demanded hostages, 100 talents of silver and a contingent of cavalry for his army. When these were provided, he also demanded that the town be garrisoned by the Romans. This was agreed and Lucullus ordered 2,000 picked soldiers to seize the city. Then the rest of the Roman army, which had been ordered to kill all adult males, was let in. Only a few out of 20,000 managed to escape. Some of them went to other towns. They burnt what they could not take with them to deprive Lucullus of booty.[33]

Lucullus marched on the town of Itercatia (location uncertain), where more than 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry had taken refuge. He called for peace talks. The inhabitants reproached him for the slaughter of the Caucaei and asked him if he intended to do the same to them. Appian wrote: "he, like all guilty souls, being angry with his accusers instead of reproaching himself, laid waste their fields". He then begun a siege and repeatedly lined up his men for battle to provoke a fight. The enemy did not respond. One man often rode into the gaps between the Roman armies and challenged for single fight. Nobody accepted and he went back making insulting gestures. Then the young Scipio Aemilianus accepted and luckily defeated this big man even though he was small. This lifted the spirit of the Romans. However, the next night an enemy cavalry contingent which had gone out foraging before Lucullus had arrived run about shouting and those inside the city also shouted. This caused terror in the Roman camp. The soldiers were sick due to lack of sleep and dysentery caused by the local food they were not used to. Many died of the latter. When some of the siege works were completed the Romans knocked down a section of the city walls, but they were quickly overpowered. They fled and not knowing the area many fell into a reservoir and died. The enemy repaired the wall. As both sides suffered famine, Scipio Aemilianus proposed peace and promised that it would not be violated. The Itercalati trusted him and gave Lucullus 10,000 cloaks, some cattle and fifty hostages as part of the terms.[34]

Next Lucullus went to Pallantia (Pelencia). This town was hosting a large number of refugees and was renowned for its bravery. He was advised to avoid it, but he heard that it was a rich town. He encamped there and did not leave until constant harassment of the Roman foragers by the Pallantian cavalry prevented him from getting supplies. The Romans withdrew and were pursued by the enemy until they reached the River Durius (Douro). Then they went back home at night. Lucullus went to the territory of the Tudretani and went into winter camps This was the end of his illegal war against the Vaccaei. He was never called to account for it.[35]

Appian commented: "As for the gold and silver that Lucullus was after (and for the sake of which he had waged this war, thinking that all of Hispania abounded with gold and silver), he got nothing. Not only did they have none, but these particular [tribes] did not set any value on those metals.[36]

In his account of the Lusitanian War, Appian wrote that Lucullus and Servius Sulpicius Galba, a praetor who was in charge of the troops in Hispania Ulterior and was campaigning against a Lusitanian rebellion, conducted a joint pincer operation against Lusitania. According to Appian they gradually depopulated it. Appian described Galba as being even more Greedy than Lucullus. He killed many Lusitanians by treachery.[37]


In 147 BC, four years after the end of the Second Celtiberian War, the Lusitanians, who had rebelled between 15 BC and 150 BC, rebelled again in the Viriathic War (147–139 BC). In 144 BC, the fourth year of this war, Viriathus, the Lusitanian leader, incited the Celtiberians to rebel. This led to the Numantine War (143–133 BC), which was the longest war of resistance against the Romans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.30
  2. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.31, 32.
  3. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.33
  4. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.35.8-13; 40.36.7-10
  5. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.39.1-8; 40.1-13
  6. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.40.14-15
  7. ^ Appian, Roman History, The Foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 42
  8. ^ This must be an unknown town as the well-known town of Munda, near which Julius Caesar fought the last battle of his civil war, was in Baetica (Andalusia), in the south
  9. ^ Livy, The History of Rome,; 40.47
  10. ^ It was probably the Alces which the Antonine itinerary placed between Augusta Emerita (Mérida) and Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza)
  11. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.48, 49.
  12. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.50
  13. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.39.3; 41.3.1
  14. ^ Appian, Roman History, The Foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 43
  15. ^ Appian, Roman History, The Foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 43
  16. ^ Knapp, R. C., Aspects of The Roman Experience in Iberia 206 BC-100 BC, p. 110, n. 18
  17. ^ Appian, Roman History, The Foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 43
  18. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 40.47.3-10; 40.49.4-7
  19. ^ Silva, L., Viriathus and the Lusitanian Resistance to Rome, p. 58
  20. ^ Silva, L., Viriathus and the Lusitanian Resistance to Rome, p. 263 n. 75
  21. ^ Curchin, L., A., A Roman Spain, pp. 32-33
  22. ^ Richardson, J., R., Hispaniae, Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, pp. 112-123
  23. ^ Silva, L., Viriathus and the Lusitanian Resistance to Rome, p. 58
  24. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 44
  25. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 45
  26. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 46-7
  27. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 47-8
  28. ^ Polybius, The Histories, 35.2, 3.1-2
  29. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars,49
  30. ^ Polybius, The Histories, 35.3.4-9; 4
  31. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 49
  32. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 48-50
  33. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 51-2
  34. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 53-4
  35. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 54
  36. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 54
  37. ^ Appian, Roman History, The foreign Wars, Book 6, The Spanish wars, 59


  • Appian's History of Rome.
  • Curchin, L. A., Roman Spain: Conquest and Assimilation, Barnes & Nobles, 1995; ISBN 978-0415740319
  • Encyclopaedia Romana: The Celtiberian War and Numantia.
  • Livy, History of Rome from Its Foundation: Rome and the Mediterranean (Books XXXI to XLV)Penguin Classics; Reprint edition, 1976: ISBN 978-0140443189 - See books 21+24, 26, 28-29 and 31-40
  • Richardson, J. S, Hispaniae, Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, Cambridge University Press, 1986; ISBN 978-0521521345
  • Sliva, L., Viriathus and the Lusitanian Resistance to Rome, Pen & Sword Books, 2013; IBSN: 97817815915284- Includes an outline of rebellions in Hispania since 197 BC and First Celtiberian War.
  • Wintle, Justin. The Rough Guide History of Spain, Rough Guides, 1st edition, 2003; ISBN 978-1858289366