196 BC2016-11-01T10:47:24+00:00

Insurrection in Iberia

A general insurrection breaks out in the Iberian Peninsula. The Roman forces in Nearer Spain (Hispania Citerior) are completely defeated. The Roman forces in Further Spain (Hispania Ulterior) are hard pressed by native forces (Lusitani and Celtiberi fighting as mercenaries for the Turdetani). While the praetor Quintus Minucius held his own, the senate sent reinforcements under the command of Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the elder). He landed in Emporiae in 195 BC and found the whole of Hither Spain (Hispania Citerior) overrun by insurgents. Cato suppressed the rebellion and reestablished control over the province. As he prepared to depart for Rome, the Lusitani rose up again and Cato had to put the rebellion down. This time the consequences for the Lusitani were much more severe; with the instigators sold into slavery and the taking of a large amount of plunder—11,000 kilograms of sliver, 600 kg of gold, 123,000 denarii and 540,000 silver coins. The results of the war yielded the phrase coined by Cato: “bellum se ipsum alit” meaning; war nourishes itself.
Livius, T. The History of Rome, Books 9-to-26. Trans. D. Spillman. London. Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. 1853. John Childs and Son, Bungay. Project Gutenberg. Produced by Ted Garvin, Taavi Kalju and the Online Distributed Proofreading team at http://www.pgdp,net. November 6, 2006. EBook #19725. Page


Insurrection in Iberia

Marcus Porcius Cato; Cato the Elder (234-149 BC)

Referred to also as Cato Censorius (Cato the Censor), Cato Sapiens (Cato the Wise), Cato Priscus (Cato the Ancient), Cato Major. In fact, the name “Cato” implies experience and wisdom.

Cato came from an ancient plebeian Roman family noted for military service. He was born in Tusculum. He was noticed by Lucius Valerius Flaccus and brought to Rome, where he climbed the Cursus Honorum; military tribune, Quaestor, Aedile, Praetor, Consul and Censor. Like Cicero after him, Cato was known as a new man, a homo novus. That is, he was the first in his family to achieve political distinction and membership in the Senate. His policies were conservative. He opposed the cultural influence of Hellenism and fought to preserve the mos maiorum (ancestral custom). He was an outstanding orator. Cato was an implacable foe of Carthage, ending each of his speeches with the phrase Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed).



Cato began his career in the military during the First Punic War. He had made himself physically hard through work on his father’s property, sharing the same labor and food as the slaves and workers on the farm. He found a small cottage where Manius Curius Dentatus, the general who fought Pyrrhus to a draw at Malventum (Later renamed Beneventum) had lived after retirement. This man had been awarded 2 triumphs and 1 ovation for his victories in battle. The very old still remembered him and the simplicity of the way he lived. Cato was able to learn much about him and he imagined how this Manius Curius Dentatus had lived his life; emphasizing service to the state, selfless patriotism, simplicity in manner and, conversely, avoidance of ostentation.

Cato came to the notice of a neighbor, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, a well-connected patrician of Senatorial rank, who having heard glowing reports on Cato’s behavior and character, took him under his protection and advanced his career. He procured for Cato a position as military tribune, serving under Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator (280 BC – 203 BC), the Roman general whose strategy—an asymmetrical approach to battling Hannibal by constant harassment and the cutting of lines of communication and supply rather than direct battle—seemed to be the only one that had generated any sustained success against the Carthaginians up until that time. Cato and Fabius developed a strong relationship and Fabius extended amicitia (a formal offer of friendship, especially a reciprocal political relationship) to Cato. In exchange for loyalty, Fabius would advance Cato’s political career.

Plutarch’s Lives Volume 1. The Dryden Translation. Ed. Arthur Hugh Clough. The Modern Library, Random House, Inc. New York. 1992. Page 457.

When Cato was a very young man, the death of his father put him in possession of a small hereditary property in the Sabine territory, at a distance from his native town. It was here that he passed the greater part of his childhood, hardening his body by exercise, overseeing and sharing the operations of the farm, learning the way in which business was conducted, and studying the rules of rural economy. Near his lands was a modest hut which had been inhabited, after three triumphs, by its owner Manius Curius Dentatus, whose military feats and rigidly simple character were fresh in the memory of the old, and were often talked of with admiration in the neighborhood. The memory of this hero inspired Cato, who decided to imitate the character, and hoped to match the glory of Dentatus. Soon an opportunity came for a military campaign in 217 BC, during the Second Punic War against Hannibal Barca. There is some discrepancy among experts as to the events of Cato’s early military life. In 214 BC he served at Capua, and the historian Wilhelm Drumann[13] imagines that already, at the age of 20, he was a military tribune. Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus had the command in Campania, during the year of his fourth consulship, and admitted the young soldier to the honour of intimate friendship. While Fabius communicated the valued results of military experience, he opted not to inculcate his own personal and political partialities and dislikes into the ear of his attached follower. At the siege of Tarentum, 209 BC, Cato was again at the side of Fabius. Two years later, Cato was one of the select group who went with the consul Claudius Nero on his northern march from Lucania to check the progress of Hasdrubal Barca. It is recorded that the services of Cato contributed to the decisive victory of Sena on the Metaurus, where Hasdrubal was slain. He later gave several vehement speeches which he frequently ended by saying “Carthago delenda est”, or “Carthage must be destroyed”.