Augustus invades Illyria -- Subjugation of the Salassi and of the Iapydes -- Hard Fighting at Metulus -- Destruction of the City -- War against the Segestani -- Their City Captured
When Augustus had made himself master of everything, he informed the Senate, by way of contrast with Antony's slothfulness, that he had freed Italy from the savage tribes that had so often raided it. He overcame the Oxyi, the Perthoneat, the Bathiat, the Taulantii, the Cambi, the Cinambri, the Meromenni, and the Pyrissi in one campaign. By more prolonged effort he also over-came the Docleat, the Carui, the Interphrurini, the Naresii, the Glintidiones, and the Taurisci. From these tribes he exacted the tributes they had been failing to pay. When these were conquered, the Hippasini and the Bessi, neighboring tribes, were overcome by fear and surrendered themselves to him. Others which had revolted, the Meliteni and the Corcyreans, who inhabited islands and practised piracy, he destroyed utterly, putting the young men to death and selling the rest as slaves. He deprived the Liburnians of their ships because they also practised piracy. 465 The Mntini and the Avendeat,two tribes of the Iapydes, 466 dwelling within the Alps, surrendered themselves to him at his approach. The Arrepini, who are the most numerous and warlike of the Iapydes, betook themselves from their villages to their city, but when he arrived there they fled to the woods. Augustus took the city, but did not burn it, hoping that they would deliver themselves up, and when they did so he allowed them to occupy it.
Those who gave him the most trouble were the Salassi, the transalpine Iapydes, the Segestani, the Dalmatians, the Dsitiat, and the Pannonians, far distant from the Salassi, who occupy the higher Alpine mountains, difficult of access, the paths being narrow and hard to climb. For this reason they had not only preserved their independence, but had levied tolls on those who passed through their country. Vetus assaulted them unexpectedly, seized the passes by stratagem, and besieged them for two years. They were driven to surrender for want of salt, which they use largely, and they received a Roman garrison; but when Vetus went away they expelled the garrison forthwith, and, possessing themselves of the mountain passes, they mocked at the forces that Augustus sent against them, as unable to accomplish anything of importance. Thereupon Augustus, anticipating a war with Antony, acknowledged their independence and allowed them to go unpunished for their offences against Vetus. But as they were suspicious of what might happen, they laid in large supplies of salt and made 467 incursions into the Roman territory until Messala Corvinus 468 was sent against them and reduced them by hunger. In this way were the Salassi subjugated.
The transalpine Iapydes, a strong and savage tribe, drove back the Romans twice within the space of about twenty years, overran Aquileia, and plundered the Roman colony of Tergestus. When Augustus advanced against them by a steep and rugged road, they made it still harder for him by felling trees. As he advanced farther they took refuge in another forest, where they lay in ambush for the approaching foe. Augustus, who was always suspecting something of this kind, sent forces to occupy certain ridges which flanked both sides of his advance through the flat country and the fallen timber. The Iapydes darted out from their ambush and wounded many of the soldiers, but 470 the greater part of their own forces were killed by the Romans who fell upon them from the heights above. The remainder again took refuge in the thickets, abandoning their town, the name of which was Terponus. Augustus took this town, but did not burn it, hoping that they also would give themselves up, and they did so.
Thence he advanced to another place called Metulus, which is the chief town of the Iapydes. It is situated on a heavily timbered mountain, on two ridges with a narrow valley between them. Here were about 3000 warlike and well-armed youth, who easily beat off the Romans who surrounded their walls. The latter raised a mound. The Metulians interrupted the work by assaults by day and by night, and harassed the soldiers from the walls with engines which they had obtained from the war which Decimus Brutus471 had waged there with Antony and Augustus. When their wall began to crumble they built another inside, abandoned the ruined one, and took shelter behind the other. The Romans captured the abandoned one and burned it. Against the new fortification they raised two mounds and from these threw four bridges to the top of the wall. Then, in order to distract their attention, Augustus sent a part of his force around to the rear of the town and ordered the others to dash across the bridges to the walls. He ascended to the top of a high tower to see the result.
Some of the barbarians ran from the parapet to meet the Romans who were crossing, while others, unseen, sought to undermine the bridges with their long spears. They were much encouraged at seeing one bridge fall and a second one follow on top of it. When a third one went down a regular panic overtook the Romans, so that no one ventured on the fourth bridge until Augustus leaped down from the tower and reproached them. As they were not roused to their duty by his words, he seized a shield and sprang upon the bridge himself. Agrippa and Hiero, two of the generals, and one of his bodyguard, Lucius, and Volas ran with him, only these four with a few armor-bearers. He had almost crossed the bridge when the soldiers, overcome by shame, rushed after him in crowds. Then this bridge, being overweighted, fell also, and the men on it went down in a heap. Some were killed and others were carried away with broken bones. Augustus was injured in the right leg and in both arms. Nevertheless, he ascended the tower with his signals forthwith and showed himself safe and sound, lest dismay should arise from a report of his death. In order that the enemy might not fancy that he was going to give in and retire he began to construct new bridges; by which means he struck terror into the Metulians, who thought that they were contending against an unconquerable will.
The next day they sent messengers to Augustus offering to give fifty hostages whom he might select, and promising to receive a garrison and to assign to them the highest hill while they themselves would occupy the other. When the garrison entered and he ordered them to lay down their arms they were very angry. They shut their wives and children up in their council-chamber and stationed guards there with orders to set fire to the building in case things went wrong with them, and then they attacked the Romans with desperation. Since, however, they made the attack from a lower position upon those occupying higher ground, they were completely overpowered. Then the guards set fire to the council-chamber and many of the women killed their children and themselves. Others, holding in their arms their children still alive, leaped into the flames. Thus all the Metulian youth perished in battle and the greater part of the non-combatants by fire. Their city was entirely consumed, and, large as it was, not a trace of it now remains. After the destruction of Metulus the remainder of the Iapydes, being terror-stricken, surrendered to Augustus. The transalpine Iapydes were then for the first time brought in subjection to the Romans. After Augustus departed the Poseni 472 rebelled and Marcus Helvius was sent against them. He 473 conquered them and after punishing the leaders of the revolt with death sold the rest as slaves.
At an earlier time the Romans twice attacked the 475 country of the Segestani, but obtained no hostages nor anything else, for which reason the Segestani became very arrogant. Augustus advanced against them through the Pannonian territory, which was not yet under subjection to the Romans. Pannonia is a wooded country extending from the Iapydes to the Dardani. The inhabitants do not live in cities, but scattered through the country or in villages according to relationship. They have no common council and no rulers over the whole nation. They number 100,000 fighting men, but they do not assemble in one body, because they have no common government. When Augustus advanced against them they took to the woods, from which they darted out and slew the stragglers of the army. As long as Augustus hoped that they would surrender voluntarily he spared their fields and villages. As none of them came in he devastated the country with fire and sword for eight days, until he came to the Segestani. Theirs is also Pannonian territory, on the river Save, on which is situated a city strongly fortified by the river and by a very large ditch encircling it. For this reason Augustus greatly desired to possess it as a magazine convenient for a war against the Dacians and the Bastarn on the other side of the Ister, which is there called the Danube, but a little lower down is called the Ister. The Save flows into it, and Augustus caused ships to be built in the latter stream to bring provisions to the Danube for him.
For these reasons he desired to obtain possession of Segesta. As he was approaching, the Segestani sent to inquire what he wanted. He replied that he desired to station a garrison there and to have them give him 100 hostages in order that he might use the town safely as a base of operations in his war against the Dacians. He also asked for as much food as they were able to supply. The chief men of the town acquiesced, but the common people were furious, yet consented to the giving of the hostages, perhaps because they were not their children, but those of the notables. When the garrison came up, however, they could not bear the sight of them, but shut the gates in a mad fury and stationed themselves on the walls. Thereupon Augustus bridged the river and surrounded the place with ditch and palisade, and, having blockaded them, raised two mounds. Upon these the Segestani made frequent assaults and, being unable to capture them, endeavored to destroy them with torches and fire thrown from above. When aid was sent to them by the other Pannonians Augustus met and ambuscaded this renforcement, destroyed a part of their force, and put the rest to flight. After this they got no more help from the Pannonians.
Thus the Segestani, after enduring all the evils of a siege, were taken by force on the thirtieth day, and then for the first time they began to beg. Augustus, admiring them for their bravery and yielding to their prayers, neither killed nor banished them, but contented himself with a fine. He caused a part of the city to be separated from the rest by a wall, and in this he placed a garrison of twenty-five cohorts. Having accomplished this he went back to Rome, intending to return to Illyria in the spring. But a rumor becoming current that the Segestani had massacred the garrison, he set forth hastily in the winter. However, he found that the rumor was false, yet not without cause. They had been in danger from a sudden uprising of the Segestani and had lost many men by reason of its unexpectedness, but on the next day they rallied and put down the insurgents. Augustus turned his forces to Dalmatia, another Illyrian country bordering on Taulantia.