The plan projected by the latter for wresting Saguntum from the Romans was sufficiently bold; but the new general possessed neither the wise moderation nor the military skill of his predecessor. The expedition utterly broke down, and the army on its return was attacked in crossing the Baetis and compelled to surrender unconditionally. Thus was Lusitania subdued, far more by treachery and assassination on the part of foreigners and natives than by honourable war.
While the southern province was scourged by Viriathus and the Lusitanians, a second and not less serious war had, not without their help, broken out in the northern province among the Celtiberian nations. The brilliant successes of Viriathus induced the Arevacae likewise in 610 to rise against the Romans; and for this reason the consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus, who was sent to Spain to relieve Maximus Aemilianus, did hot proceed to the southern province, but turned against the Celtiberians. In the contest with them, and more especially during the siege of the town of Contrebia which was deemed impregnable, he showed the same ability which he had displayed in vanquishing the Macedonian pretender; after his two years' administration (611, 612) the northern province was reduced to obedience. The two towns of Termantia and Numantia alone had not yet opened their gates to the Romans; but in their case also a capitulation had been almost concluded, and the greater part of the conditions had been fulfilled by the Spaniards. When required, however, to deliver up their arms, they were restrained like Viriathus by their genuine Spanish pride in the possession of a well- wielded sword, and they resolved to continue the war under the daring Megaravicus. It seemed folly: the consular army, the command of which was taken up in 613 by the consul Quintus Pompeius, was four times as numerous as the whole population capable of bearing arms in Numantia. But the general, who was wholly unacquainted with war, sustained defeats so severe under the walls of the two cities (613, 614), that he preferred at length to procure by means of negotiations the peace which he could not compel. With Termantia a definitive agreement must have taken place. In the case of the Numantines the Roman general liberated their captives, and summoned the community under the secret promise of favourable treatment to surrender to him at discretion. The Numantines, weary of the war, consented, and the general actually limited his demands to the smallest possible measure. Prisoners of war, deserters, and hostages were delivered up, and the stipulated sum of money was mostly paid, when in 615 the new general Marcus Popillius Laenas arrived in the camp. As soon as Pompeius saw the burden of command devolve on other shoulders, he, with a view to escape from the reckoning that awaited him at Rome for a peace which was according to Roman ideas disgraceful, lighted on the expedient of not merely breaking, but of disowning his word; and when the Numantines came to make their last payment, in the presence of their officers and his own he flatly denied the conclusion of the agreement. The matter was referred for judicial decision to the senate at Rome. While it was discussed there, the war before Numantia was suspended, and Laenas occupied himself with an expedition to Lusitania where he helped to accelerate the catastrophe of Viriathus, and with a foray against the Lusones, neighbours of the Numantines. When at length the decision of the senate arrived, its purport was that the war should be continued--the state became thus a party to the knavery of Pompeius.
With unimpaired courage and increased resentment the Numantines resumed the struggle; Laenas fought against them unsuccessfully, nor was his successor Gaius Hostilius Mancinus more fortunate (617). But the catastrophe was brought about not so much by the arms of the Numantines, as by the lax and wretched military discipline of the Roman generals and by--what was its natural consequence--the annually- increasing dissoluteness, insubordination, and cowardice of the Roman soldiers. The mere rumour, which moreover was false, that the Cantabri and Vaccaei were advancing to the relief of Numantia, induced the Roman army to evacuate the camp by night without orders, and to seek shelter in the entrenchments constructed sixteen years before by Nobilior.(5) The Numantines, informed of their sudden departure, hotly pursued the fugitive army, and surrounded it: there remained to it no choice save to fight its way with sword in hand through the enemy, or to conclude peace on the terms laid down by the Numantines. Although the consul was personally a man of honour, he was weak and little known. Tiberius Gracchus, who served in the army as quaestor, had more influence with the Celtiberians from the hereditary respect in which he was held on account of his father who had so wisely organized the province of the Ebro, and induced the Numantines to be content with an equitable treaty of peace sworn to by all the staff-officers. But the senate not only recalled the general immediately, but after long deliberation caused a proposal to be submitted to the burgesses that the convention should be treated as they had formerly treated that of Caudium, in other words, that they should refuse to ratify it and should devolve the responsibility for it on those by whom it had been concluded. By right this category ought to have included all the officers who had sworn to the treaty; but Gracchus and the others were saved by their connections. Mancinus alone, who did not belong to the circles of the highest aristocracy, was destined to pay the penalty for his own and others' guilt. Stripped of his insignia, the Roman consular was conducted to the enemy's outposts, and, when the Numantines refused to receive him that they might not on their part acknowledge the treaty as null, the late commander-in-chief stood in his shirt and with his hands tied behind his back for a whole day before the gates of Numantia, a pitiful spectacle to friend and foe.