Yet the bitter lesson seemed utterly lost on the successor of Mancinus, his colleague in the consulship, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. While the discussions as to the treaty with Mancinus were pending in Rome, he attacked the free people of the Vaccaei under frivolous pretexts just as Lucullus had done sixteen years before, and began in concert with the general of the Further province to besiege Pallantia (618). A decree of the senate enjoined him to desist from the war; nevertheless, under the pretext that the circumstances had meanwhile changed, he continued the siege. In doing so he showed himself as bad a soldier as he was a bad citizen. After lying so long before the large and strong city that his supplies in that rugged and hostile country failed, he was obliged to leave behind all the sick and wounded and to undertake a retreat, in which the pursuing Pallantines destroyed half of his soldiers, and, if they had not broken off the pursuit too early, would probably have utterly annihilated the Roman army, which was already in full course of dissolution. For this conduct a fine was imposed on the high-born general at his return. His successors Lucius Furius Philus (618) and Gaius Calpurnius Piso (619) had again to wage war against the Numantines; and, inasmuch as they did nothing at all, they fortunately came home without defeat.

Scipio Aemilianus

Even the Roman government began at length to perceive that matters could no longer continue on this footing; they resolved to entrust the subjugation of the small Spanish country-town, as an extraordinary measure, to the first general of Rome, Scipio Aemilianus. The pecuniary means for carrying on the war were indeed doled out to him with preposterous parsimony, and the permission to levy soldiers, which he asked, was even directly refused--a result towards which coterie- intrigues and the fear of being burdensome to the sovereign people may have co-operated. But a great number of friends and clients voluntarily accompanied him; among them was his brother Maximus Aemilianus, whosome years before had commanded with distinction against Viriathus. Supported by this trusty band, which was formed into a guard for the general, Scipio began to reorganize the deeply disordered army (620). First of all, the camp-followers had to take their departure--there were found as many as 2000 courtesans, and an endless number of soothsayers and priests of all sorts--and, if the soldier was not available for fighting, he had at least to work in the trenches and to march. During the first summer the general avoided any conflict with the Numantines; he contented himself with destroying the stores in the surrounding country, and with chastising the Vaccaei who sold corn to the Numantines, and compelling them to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome. It was only towards winter that Scipio drew together his army round Numantia. Besides the Numidian contingent of horsemen, infantry, and twelve elephants led by the prince Jugurtha, and the numerous Spanish contingents, there were four legions, in all a force of 60,000 men investing a city whose citizens capable of bearing arms did not exceed 8000 at the most. Nevertheless the besieged frequently offered battle; but Scipio, perceiving clearly that the disorganization of many years was not to be repaired all at once, refused to accept it, and, when conflicts did occur in connection with the sallies of the besieged, the cowardly flight of the legionaries, checked with difficulty by the appearance of the general in person, justified such tactics only too forcibly. Never did a general treat his soldiers more contemptuously than Scipio treated the Numantine army; and he showed his opinion of it not only by bitter speeches, but above all by his course of action. For the first time the Romans waged war by means of mattock and spade, where it depended on themselves alone whether they should use the sword. Around the whole circuit of the city wall, which was nearly three miles in length, there was constructed a double line of circumvallation of twice that extent, provided with walls, towers, and ditches; and the river Douro, by which at first some supplies had reached the besieged through the efforts of bold boatmen and divers, was at length closed. Thus the town, which they did not venture to assault, could not well fail to be reduced through famine; the more so, as it had not been possible for the citizens to lay in provisions during the last summer. The Numantines soon suffered from want of everything. One of their boldest men, Retogenes, cut his way with a few companions through the lines of the enemy, and his touching entreaty that kinsmen should not be allowed to perish without help produced a great effect in Lutia at least, one of the towns of the Arevacae. But before the citizens of Lutia had come to a decision, Scipio, having received information from the partisans of Rome in the town, appeared with a superior force before its walls, and compelled the authorities to deliver up to him the leaders of the movement, 400 of the flower of the youth, whose hands were all cut off by order of the Roman general. The Numantines, thus deprived of their last hope, sent to Scipio to negotiate as to their submission and called on the brave man to spare the brave; but when the envoys on their return announced that Scipio required unconditional surrender, they were torn in pieces by the furious multitude, and a fresh term elapsed before famine and pestilence had completed their work. At length a second message was sent to the Roman headquarters, that the town was now ready to submit at discretion. When the citizens were accordingly instructed to appear on the following day before the gates, they asked for some days delay, to allow those of their number who had determined not to survive the loss of liberty time to die. It was granted, and not a few took advantage of it. At last the miserable remnant appeared before the gates. Scipio chose fifty of the most eminent to form part of his triumphal procession; the rest were sold into slavery, the city was levelled with the ground, and its territory was distributed among the neighbouring towns.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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