Spain: History for Young Readers - Frederick Ober

Spain a Roman Province

It is not within the scope of our inquiry to follow the mighty Carthaginian throughout his marvellous campaign against Rome, during which he came so close to final success that he rode up to one of its gates and threw his spear into the city; but we must not fail to note that it was planned in Spain, carried out from that country as a base, and at first was mainly fought by Celtiberian soldiers. Meanwhile, though Hannibal had carried out his scheme of war on a magnificent scale, and in the end all but brought Rome to terms, yet in Spain, the country he had left, affairs had not progressed well with the Carthaginians.

They had been left with Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal in charge, who, after defeating a Roman army under Cneaus' Scipio, in the year 212, four years later marched through Gaul to the assistance of the Africans. He made the perilous passage of the. Alps successfully, but was surprised and defeated by the Roman consul Nero, by whose brutal orders his head was cut off and thrown into Hannibal's camp.

The first actual reverses to the Carthaginians in Spain came through Publius Cornelius Scipio, who, a Roman aedile of noble appearance, eloquent and popular, was sent thither by acclamation to attack them in the rear. He had already felt the might of Hannibal, first at the battle of Ticinus—where he had saved his father's life—at Trebia, and at Canna, where the Romans suffered such terrible defeats. He met and checked Hasdrubal, but could not prevent him from crossing the Pyrenees, and so turned his attention to Cartagena, the wealthy city on the southern coast. So well timed were his movements that his fleet and army arrived there the same day, and leading his soldiers through a shallow lake, where the fortifications were the weakest, after fierce fighting he drove the defenders from the citadel, took the city, and put every warrior to the sword. The plunder of this Carthaginian stronghold was immense, for besides the five war ships and one hundred and thirteen merchant vessels in the harbour, there were brought to him two hundred and seventy-six golden bowls weighing a pound apiece, and eighteen thousand pounds of silver, wrought and coined. Ten thousand prisoners fell into his hands, including many hostages of Spanish tribes left as pledges to Hannibal and Hasdrubal for the fidelity of native soldiers. These, by a conciliatory policy, Scipio soon secured as allies, and with their aid eventually drove the last of the Carthaginians out of the peninsula. The last city to fall was Cadiz, in 206 B.C., and in 205 Scipio returned to Rome, and was elected consul in recognition of his great achievements.

All this time Hannibal was waging desperate war against Rome, but in the year 203 he, was recalled to Africa, on account of the threatened invasion by the Romans under Scipio, who, although he had brought all Carthaginian Spain under Roman dominion, had yet failed of the original object of his invasion, which had been the diversion of Hannibal from the conquest of Italy. So he resolved to "carry the war into Africa," and so successful was he that Hannibal was utterly defeated at the battle of Zama, 19th October, 202 B.C. left Peace was concluded between Rome and Carthage the following year, but the African city was shorn of all her colonial possessions, and in such pitiable condition as to be no longer a menace to her foes.

For this great victory Scipio received the surname of "Africanus," by which he is known to history, and brought to a close the second Punic War, which has been called "the war of one man (Hannibal) with a nation." The first, as we have seen, resulted in the occupation of Spain by Hamilcar Barca; the second was the outcome of the destruction of Saguntum by his son Hannibal; the third and last Punic War was brought about by the protests of humiliated Carthage against Roman aggressions, and ended in its siege, capture, and total destruction in the year 146 B.C.

Both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus died in the year 183 B.C., the former an exile, the latter in retirement at his country seat in Campania. It was another Scipio, Aemilianus, who thirty-seven years later acquired the surname of "Africanus Minor" for his capture of Carthage; and it was he who carried out the Roman senate's orders to raze the walls, drive the ploughshare over its site, and sow it with salt.

Three years before the final destruction of Carthage, died another Roman, Cato, whose reiterated "Delenda est Carthago"  ("Carthage must be destroyed") doubtless nursed the sentiment of revenge that resulted at last in its fall. Cato also had experience in Spain, for he was at the defeat of Hasdrubal in 207, and in Africa, with the proconsul Scipio Africanus, whose luxurious mode of living he denounced. Appointed to a position in Spain, in the year 195 B.C. he crushed a rising of the Celtiberi, in which his military genius shone so conspicuously that he was given a "triumph" when he returned to Rome the next year.

The Celtiberi were those brave and powerful people of ancient Spain to whom we have already alluded. At the time of the Carthaginian expulsion from the peninsula the Romans had not conquered the whole of Spain, for the Celtiberians held all the vast interior region, where they were firmly entrenched; and besides these there were yet unknown and unsubjugated peoples in the northwest. Scipio's rule, though brief, was on the whole salutary, and at this time the Roman soldiery began to look upon Spain as a desirable country to settle in after their terms of service had expired. Many of them married Spanish women, proconsuls were appointed from Rome, cities were built, colonies planted, military roads constructed, and through these means the Latin language gradually took the place of native dialects. In this manner was the Iberian peninsula Romanized—which in those days meant civilized. It became a province of the Roman Empire, and was divided into Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior, or Hither and Farther Spain. Still, Spain yet required praetors who were invested with consular power, and some twenty thousand Roman legionaries, to keep it in order, as the turbulent Celtiberians, intrenched in their mountain fastnesses, were constantly threatening an outbreak.

The elder Gracchus, and after him his two more famous sons, served as governors of Hither Spain, and captured more than one hundred Celtiberian towns. They were eminently successful, but in or about 154 the Romans under Mummius suffered a defeat, and many were massacred by the Lusitanians.

These defeats were avenged and Roman supremacy restored by a grandson of the great Marcellus Claudius, who had met and checked Hannibal after the disaster of Cannae, when the Romans lost sixty thousand men. He founded the city of Cordoba as a Roman colony, and it soon became a seat of learning and the home of men eminent in literature and in the arts of peace. Rome was now mistress of the Mediterranean, which from Spain to Syria was "hardly more than A Roman lake."

During the years 147 to 150 B.C. the Lusitanians were in revolt, led by the gallant Viriathus, a simple herdsman, who, having seen his people treacherously massacred, vowed vengeance against the emissaries of Rome. He cut to pieces army after army, and at last penned a famous Roman general and his entire command in a deep defile, and extracted terms by which Lusitanian independence was recognised. For that alone had Viriathus been fighting, and he was content with that; but the treaty was repudiated by the Roman senate, and once more he took the field, only to fall a victim to treachery and assassination.

The Lusitanian revolt was brought to a close by the taking of Numantia (134 B.C.), after a siege of fifteen months, during which its inhabitants performed prodigies of valour, and nearly all of its eight thousand defenders fell by famine and the sword. The Roman army, said to have been sixty thousand strong, was led by no less a personage than the younger Scipio, Africanus Minor, who served Numantia as he had unhappy Carthage twelve years before, and utterly destroyed it. His work was carried on by others, notably by Junius Brutus, until all signs of revolution were extinguished, and the peninsula was again at peace.

But for the invasion of the Cimbri about 105 B.C., and the turbulent factions of Rome, Spain would probably have remained quiet and prosperous; but there came to this country as an exile one Quintus Sertorius, who had been a soldier under Marius when he was opposing Sulla, and espoused his cause. Upon the downfall of Marius he fled to Spain and gained a refuge with the Lusitanians among which barbarous but brave people he acquired immense influence. He trained them in the arts of war, and when the Roman soldiers came against them, defeated five of their generals in succession, including the veteran Metellus. He aimed at establishing an independent republic in Spain, and perhaps might have succeeded had not some of his followers, probably bribed by Roman gold, treacherously stabbed him at a banquet.

About the time that Sertorius was fighting the barbarous Cimbri in defence of his native country, there was born a child who became known in after years as Pompey. It came about that, when he had grown to manhood, he was sent to Spain to defeat and capture the older soldier, then leader of the revolted Lusitanians. He was several times defeated by the wily Sertorius, but after his assassination he found the matter of pacifying Spain comparatively easy. He gained repeated victories . . .

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. . . hundred years is mainly uneventful. But although Hispania had been freed from participation in Roman feuds, yet the barbaric population of the far north was not entirely subjugated until the time of Augustus, who finally completed the work begun by the Scipios and continued by Pompey and Caesar. Ten years later, under Marcus Agrippa, Spain had become completely Latinized, and finally was considered "more completely Roman than any other province beyond the limits of Italy."

During the Roman occupation cities were founded, notably Cordova, Saragossa, and Italica (the latter now in ruins, near Seville); magnificent public works were constructed, such as roads, aqueducts, bridges, and amphitheatres. The best examples of Roman engineering and architecture may now be found and studied in Spain, such as an amphitheatre at Merida, another at Saguntum, the Roman bridges at Cuenca, Salamanca, and Cordova, and that splendid bridge over the Guadiana built by Trajan, which is half a mile long, thirty-three feet above the river, on eighty-one arches of granite; the aqueducts of Tarragona, Evora, and Seville, and that surpassing piece of engineering work which has commanded the admiration of centuries, the aqueduct bridge of Segovia, twenty-six hundred feet long and one hundred feed height.

These material evidences of Roman occupation may be seen to-day, and besides these, the finest of Roman coins are frequently dicovered. But more than in mere mechanic, works Rome has left her impress upon Hispania: in the language spoken there, in the illustrious names of Roman citizens born there, such as Trajan and Hadrian, her great rulers; Lucan, Martial, the two Senecas, Quintilian, Columella, Pomponius Mela, Silius Italicus, Florus—most of whose works are classics in the Latin tongue.

Thus, while the names of Rome's greatest soldiers are written across Spain's page of history, in the years of her peace and prosperity other Romans appeared equally famous in the realms of literature.