The individuals who have been described in surviving Roman documents are most commonly Romans and particularly those who were members of powerful dynasties. There is a handful of individuals who fought against Rome and became responsible for significant defeats or caused great damage to Roman interests. One such individual was Viriathus who successfully led resistance to the Roman attempts to annex the Iberian Peninsular.
NAME: Viriathus, & The Lusitanian Resistance to Rome, 155-139 BC
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Luis Silva
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Roman Empire, Spain, Portugal, Iberia, guerrilla warfare, tactics, reward, betrayal, massacre
DESCRIPTION: The individuals who have been described in surviving Roman documents are most commonly Romans and particularly those who were members of powerful dynasties. There is a handful of individuals who fought against Rome and became responsible for significant defeats or caused great damage to Roman interests. One such individual was Viriathus who successfully led resistance to the Roman attempts to annex the Iberian Peninsular.
Viriathus was apparently of humble birth, but that may not have been the case because those Romans writing accounts of his actions may not have understood the society from which he came, or may simply have wished to downgrade him by suggesting his successes were accidental. What is clear is that he emerged as a leader after the Romans had massacred existing tribal chieftains. Ironically, the massacre may have proved counter productive because it cleared the way for an effective leader who was previously unknown to the Romans.
For eight years Viriathus frustrated the Roman plans to annex what is modern day Portugal and Spain. He inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on Rome and Roman generals were unable to bring him to battle and defeat him in the field. He fought a guerrilla war of hit and run, choosing the places of battle and removing the theoretical superiority of the Roman troops.
Eventually, Rome had to resort to bribery to persuade some of his own men to assassinate him. As was not uncommon, the Romans then refused to pay the bribe.
During his time, Viriathus was well-known to his own people and to Romans, including the Roman historians. He has not remained well-known because modern historians have ignored him. It is difficult to know why this has been the case, but it may simply be a result of having so much Roman history to debate and re-evaluate in the light of new information from archaeology that frequently contradicts established historical wisdom.
The author has provided an absorbing account from a Portuguese viewpoint and from his experience as a soldier. This is a stirring account that tells of heroic resistance against a theoretically superior force, where victories were won against the odds through brilliant tactical planning and leadership, to end in treachery. For those interested in ancient history, this is an important book that corrects the neglect by modern historians and provides new perspective of Roman expansion that is wider than the story of Viriathus and the campaigns in Iberia.