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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXXVIII Chapter 19: Treachery is punished: Iliturgi[206 BC]
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Spain was now quiet as far as war with Carthage was concerned, but it was quite evident that some communities conscious of wrong-doing were kept quiet more by their fears than by any feeling of loyalty to Rome. Amongst these Iliturgi and Castulo were foremost in importance and foremost in guilt. As long as Roman arms were successful Castulo remained true to her alliance; after the Scipios [Note 1] and their armies were destroyed they revolted to Carthage. Iliturgi had gone further, for the inhabitants had betrayed and put to death those who had sought refuge with them after those disasters, thus aggravating their treason by crime. To take action against these cities immediately on his arrival in Spain, whilst the issue was still undecided, might have been justifiable but hardly wise. Now, however, that matters were settled, it was felt that the hour of punishment had arrived. Scipio sent orders to Lucius Marcius to take a third part of his force to Castulo and at once invest the place, and with the remainder he himself marched to Iliturgi where he arrived after a five days' march. The gates were closed and every preparation had been made to repel an assault; the townsmen were quite conscious of the punishment they deserved, and any formal declaration of war was, therefore, unnecessary. Scipio made this the subject of his address to his soldiers. The Spaniards," he said, "by closing their gates have shown how well they deserve the punishment which they fear. We must treat them with much greater severity than we treated the Carthaginians; with the latter we contend for glory and dominion, with hardly any feeling of anger, but from the former we have to exact the penalty for cruelty, treachery and murder. The time has come for you to avenge the atrocious massacre of your fellow-soldiers and the treachery meditated against yourselves had you been carried there in your flight. You will make it clear for all time by this awful example that no one must ever consider a Roman citizen or a Roman soldier a fit subject for ill-treatment, whatever his condition may be." Roused by their general's words the men began to prepare for the assault, storming parties were picked out of all the maniples and supplied with ladders, and the army was formed into two divisions, one being placed under the command of Laelius, so that the town might be attacked from opposite sides and a twofold terror created. The defenders were stimulated to a determined and prolonged resistance not by their general or their chiefs but by the fear which came from a consciousness of guilt. With their past crime in mind they warned each other that the enemy was seeking not victory so much as vengeance. The question was not how to escape from death but where to meet it, whether, sword in hand, on the battle-field where the fortune of war often raises up the vanquished and flings the victor to the ground, or amidst the ashes of their city before the eyes of their captive wives and children after being torn with the lash and subjected to shameful and horrible tortures. With this prospect before them every man who could carry arms took his part in the fighting, and even the women and children working beyond their strength supplied missiles to the combatants, and carried stones up to the walls for those who were strengthening the defences. Not only was their liberty at stake that motive only inspires the brave but they had before their eyes the very extremity of torture and a shameful death. As they looked at each other and saw that each was trying to outdo all the rest in toil and danger, their courage was fired, and they offered such a furious resistance that the army which had conquered Spain was again and again repulsed from the walls of one solitary city, and fell back in confusion after a contest which brought it no honour. Scipio was afraid that the futile efforts of his troops might raise the enemies' courage and depress his own men, and he decided to take his part in the fighting and his share of the danger. Reproaching his soldiers for their cowardice he ordered the ladders to be brought up and threatened to mount himself if the rest hung back. He had already reached the foot of the wall and was in imminent danger when shouts arose on all sides from the soldiers who were anxious for their commander's safety, and the ladders were at once planted against the wall. Laelius now delivered his attack from the other side of the town. This broke the back of the resistance; the walls were cleared of their defenders and seized by the Romans, and in the tumult the citadel also was captured on that side where it was considered impregnable.
Actions in Spain in 206 BC
Event: Actions in Spain in 206 BC