Builds a Wall around the City -- Stops Communication by the River Numantia Closely Invested -- The Exploit of Rhetogenes -- Negotiations with Scipio -- Numantia surrenders -- Heroism of the Numantines -- Scipio razes Numantia to the Ground
Not long afterwards he established two camps very near to Numantia and placed his brother Maximus in charge of one while he commanded the other. The Numantines came out in large numbers and offered battle, but he disregarded their challenge, not thinking it wise to engage in battle with men who were fighting in sheer desperation, but rather to shut them up and reduce them by famine. Placing seven towers around the city, he began the siege and wrote letters to each of the allied tribes, telling them what forces he desired them to send. When they came he divided them into several parts and afterwards subdivided his own army. Then he appointed a commander for each division and ordered them to surround the city with a ditch and palisade. The circumference of Numantia itself was twenty-four stades, that of the enclosing works more than twice as great. All of this space was carefully allotted to the several divisions, and he had given orders that if the enemy should make a sally anywhere they should signal to him by raising a red flag on a tall spear in the daytime or by a fire at night, so that he or Maximus might hasten to the aid of those who needed it. When this work was completed and he could effectually repel any assaults, he dug another ditch not far behind this one and fortified it with palisades and built a wall eight feet wide and ten feet high, exclusive of the parapets. He built towers along the whole 281 of this wall at intervals of 100 feet. As it was not possible 282 to carry the wall around the adjoining marsh he threw an embankment around it of the same height and thickness as the wall, to serve in place of it.
Thus Scipio was the first general, as I think, to throw a wall around a city which did not shun a battle in the open field. However, the river Durius, which took its course through the fortifications, was very useful to the Numantines for bringing provisions and sending men back and forth, some diving and others concealing themselves in small boats, some making their way with sail-boats when a strong wind was blowing, or with oars aided by the current. As he was not able to span it on account of its breadth and swiftness, Scipio built two towers in place of a bridge. To each of these towers he moored large timbers with ropes and set them floating across the river. The timbers were stuck full of knives and spear-heads, which were kept constantly in motion by the force of the stream dashing against them, so that the enemy were prevented from passing covertly, either by swimming, or diving, or sailing in boats. Thus was accomplished what Scipio especially desired, namely, that nobody could have any dealings with them, nobody could come in, and they could have no knowledge of what was going on outside. Thus they would be in want of provisions and apparatus of every kind.
When everything was ready and the catapults, ballist, and other engines were placed on the towers, the stones, darts, and javelins collected on the parapets, and the archers and slingers in their places, he stationed messengers at frequent intervals along the entire wall to pass the word from one to another by day or night to let him know what was taking place. He gave orders to each tower that in any emergency the one that was first attacked should hoist a signal and that the others when they saw it should do the same, in order that he might be advised of the commotion quickly by signal, and learn the particulars afterward by messengers. The army, together with the native forces, now numbering some 60,000 men, he arranged so that one-half should guard the wall and in case of necessity go to any place where they should be wanted, 20,000 were to fight from the top of the wall when necessary, and the remaining 10,000 were kept in reserve. Each division had its place assigned, and it was not permitted to any to change without orders. Each man was to spring to the place assigned to him when any signal of an attack was given. So carefully was everything arranged by Scipio.
The Numantines made several attacks here and there upon those guarding the walls. Swift and terrible was the appearance of the defenders, the signals being everywhere hoisted, the messengers running, the defenders of the walls springing to their places in crowds, and the trumpets sounding on every tower, so that the whole circuit of fifty stades presented to all beholders a most formidable aspect. This circuit Scipio traversed each day and night for the purpose of inspection. He was convinced that the enemy thus enclosed, and unable to obtain food, arms, or succor from without, could not hold out very long.
In the meantime Rhetogenes, a Numantine, surnamed Caraunius, a man of the greatest valor, induced five of his friends to take an equal number of servants and horses, and cross the space between the two armies secretly, on a cloudy night, carrying a bridge made in sections. Arriving at the wall he and his friends sprang upon it, slew the guards on either side, sent back the servants, drew the horses up the bridge, and rode off to the towns of the Arevaci, bearing olive-branches and entreating them, as blood relations, to help the Numantines. The chiefs of the Arevaci, fearing the Romans, would not even listen to them, but sent them away immediately. There was a rich town named Lutia, distant 300 stades from Numantia, whose young men sympathized with the Numantines and urged their city to send them aid. The older citizens secretly communicated this fact to Scipio. Receiving this intelligence about the eighth hour, he marched thither at once with a numerous and well-equipped force. Surrounding the place about daylight, he demanded that the leaders of the young men should be delivered up to him. When the citizens replied that they had fled from the place, he sent a herald to tell them that if these men were not surrendered to him he would sack the city. Being terrified by this threat, they delivered them up, to the number of about 400. Scipio cut off their hands, withdrew his force, rode away, and was back in his own camp the next morning.
The Numantines, being oppressed by hunger, sent five men to Scipio to ask whether he would treat them with moderation if they would surrender. Their leader, Avarus, discoursed much about the prestige and bravery of the Numantines, and said that even now they had done no wrong, but had fallen into their present misery for the sake of their wives and children, and for the freedom of their country. "Wherefore, O Scipio," he said, "it is worthy of you, as a man renowned for virtue, to spare a brave and honorable race and to extend to us terms dictated by humanity, which we shall be able to bear, now that we have at last experienced a change of fortune. It rests not with us but with you whether you receive the surrender of our city on fair terms, or allow it to perish in a last struggle." When Avarus had thus spoken, Scipio (who knew from prisoners the state of affairs inside) said merely that they must surrender their arms and place themselves and their city in his hands. When this answer was made known, the Numantines, who were previously savage in temper because of their absolute freedom and quite unaccustomed to obey the orders of others, and were now wilder than ever and beside themselves by reason of their hardships, slew Avarus and the five ambassadors who had accompanied him, as bearers of evil tidings, and perhaps thinking that they had made private terms for themselves with Scipio.
Soon after this, all their eatables being consumed, having neither grain, nor flocks, nor grass, they began, as is frequently necessary in wars, to lick boiled hides. When these also failed, they boiled and ate the bodies of human beings, first of those who had died a natural death, chopping them in small bits for cooking. Afterwards being nauseated by the flesh of the sick, the stronger laid violent hands upon the weaker. No form of misery was absent. They were rendered savage in mind by their food, and their bodies were reduced to the semblance of wild beasts by famine, plague, long hair, and neglect. In this condition they surrendered themselves to Scipio. He commanded them the same day to bring their arms to a place designated by him, and on the following day to assemble at another place. But they put off the day, declaring that many of them still clung to liberty and desired to take their own lives. Wherefore they asked for a day to arrange for death.
Such was the love of liberty and of valor which existed in this small barbarian town. With only 8000 fighting men before the war began, how many and what terrible reverses did they bring upon the Romans! How many treaties did they make on equal terms with the Romans, which the latter would not consent to make with any other people! How often did they challenge to open battle the last general sent against them, who had an army of 60,000 men! But he showed himself more experienced in war than themselves, by refusing to join battle with wild beasts when he could reduce them by that invincible enemy, hunger. In this way alone was it possible to capture the Numantines, and in this way alone were they captured. Reflecting upon their small numbers and great sufferings, their valiant deeds and long endurance, it has occurred to me to narrate these particulars of the Numantine history. Many, directly after the surrender, killed themselves in whatever way they chose, some in one way and some in another. The remainder congregated on the third day at the appointed place, a strange and shocking spectacle. Their bodies were foul, their hair and nails long, and they were smeared with dirt. They smelt most horribly, and the clothes they wore were likewise squalid and emitted an equally foul odor. For these reasons they appeared pitiable even to their enemies. At the same time there was something fearful to the beholders in the expression of their eyes--an expression of anger, grief, toil, and the consciousness of having eaten human flesh.
Having reserved fifty of them for his triumph, Scipio sold the rest and razed the city to the ground. So this Roman general overthrew two most powerful cities, -- Carthage, by decree of the Senate, on account of its greatness, its power, and its advantages by land and sea; Numantia, small and with a sparse population, the Romans knowing nothing about the transaction as yet. He destroyed the latter either because he thought that it would be for the advantage of the Romans, or because he was in a violent rage against the captives, or, as some think, in order to acquire the glory of two surnames from two great calamities. At any rate, the Romans to this day call him Africanus and Numantinus from the ruin he brought upon those two places. Having divided the territory of the Numantines among their near neighbors and transacted certain business in the other cities, threatening or fining any whom he suspected, he sailed for home.