The Numantine War -- Pompeius Aulus lays Siege to Numantia -- Makes a Treaty with the Numantines -- The Senate repudiates it -- Mancinus makes a Fresh Treaty -- milius Lepidus makes War Contrary to Orders of the Senate -- The Senate repudiates the Treaty of Mancinus
Our history returns to the war against the Arevaci 263 and the Numantines, whom Viriathus stirred up to revolt. Ccilius Metellus was sent against them from Rome with a larger army and he subdued the Arevaci, falling upon them suddenly while they were gathering their crops. There still remained the two towns of Termantia and Numantia to engage his attention. Numantia was difficult of access by reason of two rivers and the ravines and dense woods that surrounded it. There was only one road to the open country and that had been blocked by ditches and palisades. The Numantines were first-rate soldiers, both horse and foot, there being about 8000 altogether. Although small in numbers, yet they gave the Romans great trouble by their bravery. At the end of winter Metellus surrendered to his successor, Quintus Pompeius Aulus, the command of the army, consisting of 30,000 foot and 2000 horse, admirably trained. While encamped against Numantia, Pompeius had occasion to go away somewhere. The Numantines made a sally against a body of his horse that was ranging after him and destroyed them. When he returned he drew up his army in the plain. The Numantines came down to meet him, but retired slowly as though intending flight, until they had drawn Pompeius to the ditches and palisades.264
When he saw his forces wasted day by day in skirmishes with an enemy much inferior in numbers, he moved against Termantia as being an easier task. Here he engaged the enemy and lost 700 men; and one of his tribunes, who was bringing provisions to his army, was put to flight by the Termantines. In a third engagement the same day they drove the Romans into a rocky place where many of their infantry and cavalry with their horses were forced down a precipice. The remainder, panic-stricken, passed the night 266 under arms. At daybreak the enemy came out and a regular battle was fought which lasted all day with equal fortune. Night put an end to the conflict. Thence Pompeius marched against a small town named Malia, which was garrisoned by Numantines. The inhabitants slew the garrison by treachery and delivered the town to Pompeius. He required them to surrender their arms and give hostages, after which he moved to Sedatania, which a robber chief named Tanginus was plundering. Pompeius overcame him and took many of his men prisoners. So high-spirited were these robbers that none of the captives would endure servitude. Some killed themselves, others killed those who had bought them, and others scuttled the ships that carried them away.
Pompeius, coming back to the siege of Numantia, endeavored to turn the course of a certain river in order to reduce the city by famine. The inhabitants harassed him while he was doing this work. They rushed out in crowds without giving any signal, and assaulted those who were working on the river, and hurled darts at those who came to their assistance from the camp, and finally shut the Romans up in their own fortification. They also attacked the foragers and killed many, and among them Oppius, a military tribune. They made an assault in another quarter on a party of Romans who were digging a ditch, and killed about 400 of them including their leader. About this time certain counsellors came to Pompeius from Rome, together with an army of new recruits, still raw and undisciplined, to take the places of the soldiers who had served their six years. Pompeius, being put to shame by so many disasters, and desiring to wipe out the disgrace, remained in camp in the winter time with these raw recruits. The soldiers, being exposed to severe cold without shelter, and unaccustomed to the water and climate of the country, fell sick with dysentery and many died. A detachment having gone out for forage, the Numantines laid an ambuscade near the Roman camp and provoked them to a skirmish. The latter, not enduring the affront, sallied out against them. Then those who were in ambush sprang up, and many of the common soldiers and many of the nobility lost their lives. Finally the Numantines encountered the foraging 268 party on its return and killed many of those also.
Pompeius, being cast down by so many misfortunes, marched away with his senatorial council to the towns to spend the rest of the winter, expecting a successor to come early in the spring. Fearing lest he should be called to account, he made overtures to the Numantines secretly for the purpose of bringing the war to an end. The Numantines themselves, being exhausted by the slaughter of so many of their bravest men, by the loss of their crops, by want of food, and by the length of the war, which had been protracted beyond expectation, sent legates to Pompeius. He publicly advised them to surrender at discretion, because no other kind of treaty seemed worthy of the dignity of the Roman people, but privately he told them what terms he should impose. When they had come to an agreement and the Numantines had given themselves up, he demanded and received from them hostages, together with the prisoners and deserters. He also demanded thirty talents of silver, a part of which they paid down and the rest he agreed to wait for. His successor, 269 Marcus Popillius Lna, had arrived when they brought the 270 last instalment. Pompeius being no longer under any apprehension concerning the war, since his successor was present, and knowing that he had made a disgraceful peace and without authority from Rome, began to deny that he had come to any understanding with the Numantines. The latter proved the contrary by witnesses who had taken part in the transaction, senators, and his own prefects of horse and military tribunes. Popillius sent them to Rome to carry on the controversy with Pompeius there. The case was brought before the Senate, and the Numantines and Pompeius debated it there. The Senate decided to continue the war. Thereupon Popillius attacked the Lusones who were neighbors of the Numantines, but he accomplished nothing, and on the arrival of his successor in office, Hostilius Mancinus, he returned to Rome.
Mancinus had frequent encounters with the Numantines in which he was worsted, and finally, after great loss, took refuge in his camp. On a false rumor that the Cantabri and Vacci were coming to the aid of the Numantines, he became alarmed, extinguished his fires, and fled in the darkness of night to a desert place where Nobilior once had a 272 camp. Being shut up in this place at daybreak without preparation or fortification and surrounded by Numantines, who threatened all with death unless he made peace, he agreed to terms like those previously made between the Romans and Numantines. To this agreement he bound himself by an oath. When these things were known at Rome there was great indignation at this most ignominious treaty, and the other consul, milius Lepidus, was sent to Spain, Mancinus being called home to stand trial. The Numantine ambassadors followed him thither. milius becoming tired of idleness while awaiting the decision from Rome (for some men sought the command, not for the advantage of the city, but for glory, or gain, or the honor of a triumph), falsely accused the Vacci of supplying the Numantines with provisions during the war. Accordingly he ravaged their country and laid siege to their principal city, Pallantia, which had in no way violated the treaty, and he persuaded Brutus, his brother-in-law, who had been sent to Farther Spain (as I have before related), to join him in this undertaking.
Here they were overtaken by Cinna and Ccilius, messengers from Rome, who said that the Senate was at a loss to know why, after so many disasters had befallen them in Spain, milius should be seeking a new war, and they placed in his hands a decree warning him not to attack the Vacci. But he, having actually begun the war, considered that the Senate was ignorant of that, and of the fact that Brutus was coperating with him, and that the Vacci had aided the Numantines with provisions, money, and men. Accordingly he made answer that it would be dangerous to abandon the war, since nearly all Spain would rebel if they should imagine that the Romans were afraid. He sent Cinna's party home without having accomplished their errand, and he wrote in this sense to the Senate. After this he began, in a fortified place, to construct engines and collect provisions. While he was thus engaged, Flaccus, who had been sent out on a foraging expedition, found himself in an ambuscade but he saved himself by a trick. He cunningly spread a rumor among his men that milius had captured Pallantia. The soldiers raised a shout of victory. The barbarians, hearing it and thinking that the report was true, withdrew. In this 274 way Flaccus rescued his convoy from danger.
The siege of Pallantia was long protracted, the food supply of the Romans failed, and they began to suffer from hunger. All their animals perished and many of the men died of want. The generals, milius and Brutus, kept heart for a long time. Being compelled to yield at last, they gave an order suddenly one night, about the last watch, to retreat. The tribunes and centurions ran hither and thither to hasten the movement, so as to get them all away before daylight. Such was the confusion that they left behind everything, and even the sick and wounded, who clung to them and besought them not to abandon them. Their retreat was disorderly and confused and much like a flight, the Pallantines hanging on their flanks and rear and doing great damage from early dawn till evening. When night came the Romans, worn with toil and hunger, threw themselves on the ground by companies just as it happened, and the Pallantines, moved by some divine interposition, went back to their own country. And this was what happened to milius.
When these things were known at Rome, milius was deprived of his command and consulship, and when he returned to Rome as a private citizen he was fined besides. The dispute before the Senate between Mancinus and the Numantine ambassadors was still going on. The latter exhibited the treaty they had made with Mancinus; he, on the other hand, put the blame on Pompeius, his predecessor in the command, who had turned over to him a worthless and ill-provided army, with which Pompeius himself had often been beaten, and so had made a similar treaty with the Numantines. He added that the war had been under bad omens, for it had been decreed by the Romans in violation of these agreements. The senators were equally incensed against both, but Pompeius escaped because he had been tried for this offence long before. They decided to deliver Mancinus to the Numantines for making a disgraceful treaty without their authorization. In this they followed the example of the fathers, who once delivered to the Samnites twenty generals who had made similar treaties without authority. Mancinus was taken to Spain by Furius, and delivered naked to the Numantines, but they 275 refused to receive him. Calpurnius Piso was chosen general 276 against them, but he did not march against Numantia. He made an incursion into the territory of Pallantia, and having collected a small amount of plunder, spent the rest of his term of office in winter quarters in Carpetania.