- May 2016
In the 19th century Viriathus was raised to the status of Portuguese national hero, and that status was heavily underlined during the Portuguese dictatorship of the Estado Novo, so his references in the Portuguese historiography are plenty. But most of my comments will be based on the biography “Viriato” by the Spanish professor Mauricio Pastor Muñoz of the University of Granada, mostly by practical reasons. The book as the curious subtitle “The fight for Freedom”.I constantly see different dates for various events of his life. So we know the massacre of flos iuventutis happened in 150 BC.
But then on wikipedia it says "Two years after the massacre, in 148 BC, Viriatus became the leader of a Lusitanian army."
Further down the same article it says "Nothing is known about Viriatus until his first feat of war in 149 BC. He was with an army of ten thousand men that invaded southern Turdetania."
But then again, in the bellow article the first event documented after the massacre is a battle in 147 BC, which coincides with wikipedia's date of his rise as the the leader of a Lusitanian army.
Viriathus Timeline - Ancient History Encyclopedia
Appian says "Not long afterward those who had escaped the villainy of Lucullus and Galba, having collected together to the number of 10,000, overran Turditania"
Not long after could indeed mean 149 BC, but I see that in most cases, 147 BC seems to be the date when he became the leader of the Lusitans.
A main source is Apian that you already mentioned the other is Diodorus of Sicily (that based himself on Posidonius, that according to Pastor could also be based on Polybius). More scares are the references in the “Annales” of Titus Livius and even more isolated are the references in many other sources from Cicero to Cassius Dio. But all have one thing in common, all are from his foes, the Romans, or Greeks under Roman rule. The wide references that we find in the Roman sources attest that Viriathus and the Wars against him, or generalizing against the Lusitanians, had a significant political impact in Rome.
Some notes to the timeline:
218 – Lusitanian Mercenaries fight in the Armies of Hannibal, during the Second Punic War;
150 – Galba’s massacre. Viriathus is one of the survivors.
149 – Galba goes to trial in Rome and buys his absolution;
147 – 10000 Lusitanians invade the Turdetania and are defeated by the praetor Caius Vetilius, Hispania Ulterior governor. Viriathus is elected their leader and defeats Caius Vetilius at Tríbola.
140 – After a long war, and one victory over Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus, the peace is signed and Viriathus receive the title “amicus populi romani” (friend of Rome).
139 – The Roman senate breaks the peace. Viriathus is assassinated;
133 – Fall of Numancia;
94 – End of the Wars against the Lusitanian.
We are a bit deterministic here, John!Well he was betrayed by his own people - fed up with war probably - and all Hispania became Roman. So in retrospect one might ask - was it worth it? And he lost.
The problem is that we don’t really know his objectives. He achieved peace in 140. Today we see the Romanization as a historical process. For those populations it was often a question of survival, collective but often personal survival. So for many maybe it was worth it. For Viriathus, probably not.
I really don’t understand in serious history this “overrating” or “downrating” thing. Who rated it? Maybe in pop history is a thing. Maybe predominantly in the English pop history publishing world and in the net. I don't see that trend in other languages. But history is not exactly a rating agency like Moody's or Standard & Poor's.He's in the running for most overrated Roman enemy ever, along with Arminius, etc. The guy beat some relatively small Roman armies, poorly led, when Rome was in the relative infancy of it's Empire building days. His cause was doomed, and he was never a plausible threat in the long term once Rome got serious (which they did). If he hadn't been written about extensively to provide weird moral lessons then he'd be a footnote in Roman history, which he still basically is (just an overly large entry). There were 20-30 enemy commanders, just in the lifetimes of Caesar and Pompey, who were bigger threats than this nobody. If he'd opposed Rome later on in their history, once they'd gotten used to dealing with having a de facto Empire, he'd have been crushed even faster than he was. Nothing about his tactics or strategy suggest a serious general who would stand up to a real Roman army in the centuries that were the hey day of Rome's military might.
Viriathus defeated some armies, maybe small, maybe poorly led, and he was never a plausible threat to Roman’s existence in the peninsula, but Rome was not “in the relative infancy of it's Empire building days”. Rome was already the major Mediterranean power since the end of the Punic Wars, the second ended in 201 and Carthage was destroyed in 146, a year after Viriathus became the leader of the Lusitanians. The wars in the Iberian Peninsula had a profound impact in Rome. The rest (“If he'd opposed Rome…”) is a big “if” of alternate history, better to comment in a wargame or alternate history forum than in history forum.