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This webpage reproduces a Book of
The Histories


published in Vol. VI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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(Vol. VI) Polybius
The Histories

 p343  Fragments of Book XXXV

I. The Celtiberian War

(From Suidas)

1 1 The war between the Romans and the Celtiberians was called the "fiery war," so remarkable was the uninterrupted character of the engagements. 2 For while wars in Greece and Asia are as a rule decided by one battle, or more rarely two, and while the battles themselves are decided in a brief space of time by the result of the first attack and encounter, 3 in this war it was just the opposite. 4 The engagements as a rule were only stopped by darkness, the combatants refusing either to let their courage flag or to yield to bodily fatigue, and ever rallying, recovering confidence and beginning afresh. 5 Winter indeed alone put a certain check on the progress of the whole war and on the continuous character of the regular battles, 6 so that on the whole if we can conceive a war to be fiery it would be this and no other one.

2 1 After the Celtiberians had made a truce with Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the Roman commander, and had sent embassies to Rome, they remained inactive awaiting the decision of the senate, 2 while  p345 Marcus after an expedition into Lusitania, in which he took by assault the city of Nercobrica, retired into winter quarters at Cordova. 3 When the embassies arrived in Rome those from the Belli and Titti who had taken the side of Rome were all admitted into the city, 4 but those from the Aravacae, as they were enemies, were ordered to encamp on the other side of the Tiber until a decision was arrived at about the whole question. 5 When the time for their audience came the Praetor Urbanus first introduced the allies. 6 Although foreigners they spoke at length and attempted to lay before the senate a clear statement of all the points in dispute, 7 pointing out that if those who had taken up arms did not meet with proper chastisement they would at once take vengeance on themselves as having betrayed the cause, and if their former fault remained unpunished, 8 very soon again commence disturbances and make the whole of Spain disposed to rebel, under the idea that they had proved themselves more than a match for the Romans. 9 They therefore demanded either that the legions should remain in Spain and that a consul should proceed there every year to protect the allies and check the malpractices of the Aravacae, 10 or if the senate desired to withdraw their forces, the revolt of the Aravacae should be punished in such an exemplary fashion that no one would dare do the like again. 11 Such was the substance of the speeches made by the Belli and Titti, the allies  p347 of the Romans. 12 The envoys of the hostile tribes were then introduced. 13 The Aravacae when they presented themselves assumed in their speech a humble and submissive attitude, but made it evident that at heart they were neither disposed to make complete submission nor to accept defeat. 14 For they more than once hinted at the uncertainty of Fortune, and by making out that the engagements that had taken place were hotly contested left the impression that in all of them they thought they themselves had fought more brilliantly than the Romans. 15 The gist of the speeches was that if a fixed penalty were to be imposed on them for their error they would consent to pay it; but when they had complied with this they demanded that the Romans should revert to the terms of their convention with the senate in the time of Tiberius Gracchus.

3 1 After the senate had heard both parties, the legates from Marcellus were introduced. 2 When the house saw that these also were pacifically inclined, and that the general himself was more disposed to favour the enemy than the allies, they replied to the Aravacae and to the allies, 3 that Marcellus would inform both parties in Spain of the decision of the senate. 4 But their private opinion being that what the allies said was both true and to the advantage of Rome, that the Aravacae still had a high opinion of themselves, and that the general was afraid of the war, 5 they gave secret orders to the legates he had sent to continue to fight bravely and worthily of their country. 6 Having thus determined to pursue the war, they first of all, as they distrusted Marcellus, were minded to send another general to Spain — 7 for Aulus Postumius Albinus and Lucius Licinius  p349 Lucullus had already been designated as consuls and had entered on their office — 8 and in the next place began to make energetic and lavish preparations for the campaign, thinking that the future of Spain depended on its issue. 9 For they supposed that if this enemy were vanquished, all others would submit to their authority, but that if the enemy could avert their present peril, not only would the Aravacae be encouraged to resist, but all the other tribes also.

4 1 But the more eager the senate was to pursue the war, the more alarming did they find the state of affairs. 2 For since Quintus Fulvius Nobilior, their former commander in Spain, and the members of his force had spread the report in Rome of the constant succession of pitched battles, the great losses suffered by the Romans and the valour of the Celtiberians, 3 and as Marcellus was evidently afraid of continuing the war, such an extraordinary panic took hold of the young recruits as their elders said they never remembered before. 4 This fit of cowardice went so far, that neither did competent officers present themselves as military tribunes, but their posts were not filled, although formerly many more than the required number of qualified officers used to apply, 5 nor were the legates, nominated by the consuls, who should have accompanied the general, willing to serve; 6 but the worst of all was that the young men avoided enrolment, finding such excuses as it was disgraceful to allege, unseemly to examine, and impossible to check. 7 Finally, when both the senate and the magistrates were at a loss to know what would be  p351 the end of this shameless conduct on the part of the young men — for so they were compelled by circumstances to describe it — 8 Publius Cornelius Scipio, who was still young and was thought to have advised the prosecution of the war, having now attained an unquestioned reputation for nobility of conduct and temperance of life, 9 but being desirous of gaining the like for courage, when he saw the difficulty that faced the senate, rose and asked to be allowed to be sent to Spain either as tribune or as legate with the consuls; for he was ready to go in either capacity. 10 Although, he said, as far as concerned himself personally, it was both safer and more agreeable for him to proceed to Macedonia — 11 for at this time he had been specially invited by the Macedonians to go there and settle their domestic quarrels, 12 yet the voice of their country at this critical time summoned more urgently to Spain all true devotees of glory. 13 All were surprised at this offer owing to Scipio's youth and his cautiousness in general, and Scipio became very popular both at the moment and still more on the following days. 14 For those who previously shirked their duty, ashamed now of being shown up by a comparison of their conduct with his, began some of them to volunteer for the post of legate and the rest to flock in groups to enrol themselves as soldiers.

(Suidas; cp. Liv. Epit. XLVIII)

5 1 Scipio was assailed at the same time by an eager impulse to meet the barbarian in single combat and by doubt whether he should do so.


2 Scipio's horse was disabled by the blow, but did  p353 not entirely collapse, so that in losing his seat he fell on his feet.

II. Liberation of the Achaean exiles

(From Plutarch, Cato Mai. 9)

6 1 Cato was approached by Scipio on behalf of the Achaean exiles through the influence of Polybius, and when there was a long debate in the senate, some advocating their return and others opposing it, 2 Cato rose and said: "Just as if we had nothing to do we sit here all day disputing about some wretched old Greeks whether they shall be carried to their graves by bearers from Rome or from Achaea." 3 And when their restitution was voted, and a few days afterwards Polybius intended to enter the house to demand that the exiles should recover the honours they had previously enjoyed in Achaea, and asked Cato's advice, 4 Cato smiled and said that Polybius, like Ulysses, wanted to enter the cave of the Cyclops again, because he had forgotten his cap and belt.

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