Life of Viriathus - timeline

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,453
Portugal
#11
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.
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”.

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.

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.
We are a bit deterministic here, John!

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.

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.
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.

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.
 
Jan 2015
3,536
Australia
#12
It's because we get all these threads on guys like Viriathus or Arminius who were trivial figures, yet to read the threads you'd never know it based on some of the people posting.
 
Feb 2019
316
Thrace
#13
It's because we get all these threads on guys like Viriathus or Arminius who were trivial figures, yet to read the threads you'd never know it based on some of the people posting.
Ancient and even modern writers would disagree. While nobody ever claimed they were great conquerors or anything of sorts, both are universally portrayed as heroes worthy of admiration in subsequent literature.
 
Jan 2015
3,536
Australia
#14
Ancient and even modern writers would disagree. While nobody ever claimed they were great conquerors or anything of sorts, both are universally portrayed as heroes worthy of admiration in subsequent literature.
Being heroic, or admirable, is not the same as being historically significant. Sometimes in history class you see these names getting mentioned disproportionately to anything they did, and you're wondering "why are we spending all this time on these trivial figures". Ned Kelly would be an Australian example. This guy is one of the ancient Roman examples. He's a stupendously unimportant person for the most part, but he is constantly brought up in these threads as some great enemy of Rome when he was a historical footnote.
 
Likes: macon
Feb 2019
316
Thrace
#15
Being heroic, or admirable, is not the same as being historically significant. Sometimes in history class you see these names getting mentioned disproportionately to anything they did, and you're wondering "why are we spending all this time on these trivial figures". Ned Kelly would be an Australian example. This guy is one of the ancient Roman examples. He's a stupendously unimportant person for the most part, but he is constantly brought up in these threads as some great enemy of Rome when he was a historical footnote.
You could argue that Arminius was indeed historically significant.
 
Oct 2015
5,222
Matosinhos Portugal
#16
It's because we get all these threads on guys like Viriathus or Arminius who were trivial figures, yet to read the threads you'd never know it based on some of the people posting.


Viriato is part of the history of the Iberian peninsula known as the Lusitania. Because we should not talk about Viriato why
You do not know the name of Lusitania is older than the name of Hispania.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,023
Canary Islands-Spain
#18
There were 20-30 enemy commanders, just in the lifetimes of Caesar and Pompey, who were bigger threats than this nobody.
Preposterous claim.

In times of Caesar and Pompey, only a handful of enemies punished the Romans as much as Viriathus did, just Cilicians came closer. But nobody knows about the famous Cilician leader that compete with Viriathus, right?
 
Likes: Tulius
Jan 2015
3,536
Australia
#19
Preposterous claim.

In times of Caesar and Pompey, only a handful of enemies punished the Romans as much as Viriathus did, just Cilicians came closer. But nobody knows about the famous Cilician leader that compete with Viriathus, right?
I think you're confused here. Viriathus lived in a time when Rome was barely an Empire, and was just starting to colonise greater Spain. He defeated relatively weak foes, and only actually fought a few battles of note, mostly against armies that were 2-3 legions strong at most. Do you have any idea how many enemies of Rome had defeated armies 2-3 legions strong in their history? It's not a small number. He himself had similar numbers to these armies, probably by the late stages of the war he had much more than the 10,000 men he started off with, so these weren't huge underdog victories either (and nor were most of these decisive victories, some were retreats or engagements that were followed by negotiations). If he had lived, nothing would have changed. Eventually Rome would have gotten serious and sent better generals with larger armies, and this guy would have been crushed. Rome fought wars in Spain for literal centuries against natives, ditto other places. Rome lost engagements to locals all the time. There is nothing to really mark this guy out except he was written about more.

You scoff at my claim, but the lives of Caesar and Pompey cover a 62 year period that includes Jugurtha, Mithridates, Cleopatra, Vercingetorix, Tigranes, Orgetorix, Ariovistus, the chief of the Cimbri, the chief of the Teutones, all the Italian generals of the Social War, Sertorius, the Parthian generals, along with may other notable Kings and Chiefs of different Gallic Kingdoms who rebelled and fought wars with some success during this period. Heck, even Spartacus, as overrated as he is, did more and was more of a threat to Rome. I don't doubt I could provide more names, but those names off the top of my head should highlight my point. Viriathus enters the scene when he is a member of a 10,000 strong army already opposing Rome. He just happened to be the new leader, and some writers have made him more famous than other troublesome rebel leaders in the centuries of Spanish resistance, whose names and specific deeds we simply don't know (but who also caused Rome problems for years in other minor revolts). We have very little evidence for his specialness, he was just lucky he faced a Rome that was still relatively inexperienced at empire building, and that he was richly cited by certain authors for moral purposes (and that those authors works survive to the present day, while others about unknown tribal leaders do not).
 
Likes: macon
Feb 2019
316
Thrace
#20
Ancient and modern historians who wrote about him actually made the distinction between his personal excellence and his historical significance. I think you're worked up for nothing. Viriathus and Arminius receive just the exact kind of praise they deserve.