Spanish War

In Spain, where the spirit of Hamilcar and Hannibal was powerful, the struggle was more earnest. Its progress was marked by the singular vicissitudes incidental to the peculiar nature of the country and the habits of the people. The farmers and shepherds, who inhabited the beautiful valley of the Ebro and the luxuriantly fertile Andalusia as well as the rough intervening highland region traversed by numerous wooded mountain ranges, could easily be assembled in arms as a general levy; but it was difficult to lead them against the enemy or even to keep them together at all. The towns could just as little be combined for steady and united action, obstinately as in each case they bade defiance to the oppressor behind their walls. They all appear to have made little distinction between the Romans and the Carthaginians; whether the troublesome guests who had established themselves in the valley of the Ebro, or those who had established themselves on the Guadalquivir, possessed a larger or smaller portion of the peninsula, was probably to the natives very much a matter of indifference; and for that reason the tenacity of partisanship so characteristic of Spain was but little prominent in this war, with isolated exceptions such as Saguntum on the Roman and Astapa on the Carthaginian side. But, as neither the Romans nor the Africans had brought with them sufficient forces of their own, the war necessarily became on both sides a struggle to gain partisans, which was decided rarely by solid attachment, more usually by fear, money, or accident, and which, when it seemed about to end, resolved itself into an endless series of fortress-sieges and guerilla conflicts, whence it soon revived with fresh fury. Armies appeared and disappeared like sandhills on the seashore; on the spot where a hill stood yesterday, not a trace of it remains today. In general the superiority was on the side of the Romans, partly because they at first appeared in Spain as the deliverers of the land from Phoenician despotism, partly because of the fortunate selection of their leaders and of the stronger nucleus of trustworthy troops which these brought along with them. It is hardly possible, however, with the very imperfect and--in point of chronology especially--very confused accounts which have been handed down to us, to give a satisfactory view of a war so conducted.

Successes Of The Scipios Syphax Against Carthage

The two lieutenant-governors of the Romans in the peninsula, Gnaeus and Publius Scipio--both of them, but especially Gnaeus, good generals and excellent administrators--accomplished their task with the most brilliant success. Not only was the barrier of the Pyrenees steadfastly maintained, and the attempt to re-establish the interrupted communication by land between the commander-in-chief of the enemy and his head-quarters sternly repulsed; not only had a Spanish New Rome been created, after the model of the Spanish New Carthage, by means of the comprehensive fortifications and harbour works of Tarraco, but the Roman armies had already in 539 fought with success in Andalusia.(2) Their expedition thither was repeated in the following year (540) with still greater success. The Romans carried their arms almost to the Pillars of Hercules, extended their protectorate in South Spain, and lastly by regaining and restoring Saguntum secured for themselves an important station on the line from the Ebro to Cartagena, repaying at the same time as far as possible an old debt which the nation owed. While the Scipios thus almost dislodged the Carthaginians from Spain, they knew how to raise up a dangerous enemy to them in western Africa itself in the person of the powerful west African prince Syphax, ruling in the modern provinces of Oran and Algiers, who entered into connections with the Romans (about 541). Had it been possible to supply him with a Roman army, great results might have been expected; but at that time not a man could be spared from Italy, and the Spanish army was too weak to be divided. Nevertheless the troops belonging to Syphax himself, trained and led by Roman officers, excited so serious a ferment among the Libyan subjects of Carthage that the lieutenant-commander of Spain and Africa, Hasdrubal Barcas, went in person to Africa with the flower of his Spanish troops. His arrival in all likelihood gave another turn to the matter; the king Gala--in what is now the province of Constantine--who had long been the rival of Syphax, declared for Carthage, and his brave son Massinissa defeated Syphax, and compelled him to make peace. Little more is related of this Libyan war than the story of the cruel vengeance which Carthage, according to her wont, inflicted on the rebels after the victory of Massinissa.

The Scipios Defeated And Killed Spain South Of The Ebro Lost To The Romans Nero Sent To Spain

This turn of affairs in Africa had an important effect on the war in Spain. Hasdrubal was able once more to turn to that country (543), whither he was soon followed by considerable reinforcements and by Massinissa himself. The Scipios, who during the absence of the enemy's general (541, 542) had continued to plunder and to gain partisans in the Carthaginian territory, found themselves unexpectedly assailed by forces so superior that they were under the necessity of either retreating behind the Ebro or calling out the Spaniards. They chose the latter course, and took into their pay 20,000 Celtiberians; and then, in order the better to encounter the three armies of the enemy under Hasdrubal Barcas, Hasdrubal the son of Gisgo, and Mago, they divided their army and did not even keep their Roman troops together. They thus prepared the way for their own destruction. While Gnaeus with his corps, containing a third of the Roman and all the Spanish troops, lay encamped opposite to Hasdrubal Barcas, the latter had no difficulty in inducing the Spaniards in the Roman army by means of a sum of money to withdraw--which perhaps to their free- lance ideas of morals did not even seem a breach of fidelity, seeing that they did not pass over to the enemies of their paymaster. Nothing was left to the Roman general but hastily to begin his retreat, in which the enemy closely followed him.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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