ANCIENT SPANISH (240 BCE - 20 AD)
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By Stephen Montague

Labeled after the modern nation-state for ease of reference, the Ancient Spanish list covers the tribal kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula, the region known as Iberia to the Ancient Greeks and Hispania to the Romans. The list begins in 240 BC, at the time of the initial Carthaginian expansion in Iberia, and runs to 20 BC when the last of the Cantabrian revolts was squashed by Rome. The list is broken up into three sub-lists, representing the Iberians, Lusitanians, and the Celtiberians.

The Iberians represent the Turdetani, Edetani, Ilergetes, Contestani and other tribes of the Mediterrean-influenced Andalusian region, who had roots in the fabled kingdom of Tartessos and engaged in trade with Phoenicia, the Greeks and Egypt. Although tribal based, they were large enough and well organised enough to build cities. They had strong contact with the classical world as both the Greeks and Phoenicians traded with them and had settlements in Spain. This lead to the creation of the city of Tartessus which became very rich and famous from trade. No trace of it has so far been found by archeologists leading some to think it may be a myth, however its name has been given to a period in Spanish history.

The Celts moved into Spain during the eighth to sixth century BC, blending in with the native Iberians. The Celtiberian tribes of central Iberia (e.g. Vettones, Vaccei, Carpetani, Arevaci, Pellendones) represented the fusion of Celtic and Iberian culture. One of the largest of the Celtiberian tribes, the Lusitani, lived in western Iberia, their territory extending to the Atlantic coast line. Not specifically represented in the Ancient Spanish list are the Indo-European Celtic tribes (e.g. Astures, Cantabri, Gallaeci) who lived in northern Iberia, in the mountains and forests beyond the river Duero and along the Cantabrian coast.

The Greeks were ejected from Spain after the being defeated at the battle of Aleria (circa 540 BC) on the isle of Corsica by a combined Carthaginian/Etruscan force. This seem to have lead to the collapse of Tartessus. It wasn't the end of the connections with Greek culture as Iberians also provided mercenaries to various countries around the Mediterranean by the fifth century BC, most notably Syracuse.

The historical period covered by the DBA army lists include:

Carthaginian Expansion

After Carthaginians had lost the first Punic war they were looking for a place to expand and Spain is where they chose.Hamilcar Barca lead a Carthaginian force into Spain in 237 BC and began the conquest of Spain by a mixture of force and diplomacy. The Carthaginians landed at Gadir (Cadiz) and gradually spread along the coast and northward. Hamilcar died in battle in 229 BC and was replaced by his son-in-law Hasdrubal. New Carthage (Cartagena) was founded in 228 BC as the capital of Carthage's new Spanish domains.

The expansion into the Celtiberian areas seems to have been done peacefully by diplomacy rather than force. During this period Carthage gained much wealth including the richest silver mines in the classical world which helped them recover their losses during the first Punic war.

The Romans inevitably noticed what was happening and sought to limit Carthaginian expansion. To that end they signed a treaty with Hasdrubal that limited Carthage to the area south of the Iberus (Ebro) river. The city of Saguntum which is well to the south of the Ebro was also declared neutral so being outside the area of possible Carthaginian expansion.

In 221 BC Hasdrubal was assassinated and replaced by Hannibal, who continued the expansion into Spain conquering all of Spain south of the Ebro by 220BC. The Romans warned Hannibal to leave Saguntum alone but he instead beseiged it in 219 BC starting the second Punic war.

The Second Punic War

Rome and Carthage fought each other in Spain. a campaign which saw many changes of fortune for both sides. It was the theatre of war where the Scipio's learned to command armies and where Hannibal's family provided most of the Carthaginian generals. Spaniards provided troops to both the Romans and Carthaginians including Celtiberian mercenaries fighting for the Romans. The Spanish provided Hannibal with a lot of his best troops who followed him into Italy. However the story of this conflict more properly belongs to the late Carthaginian or Polybian Roman army notes.

Following the departure of Hannibal to Italy, in 218 BC, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio landed two Roman legions and seized the city of Cesse, capital of the Cessetani, as a base to interrupt Carthaginian supplies. Scipio's brother, Publius Cornelius, arrived in 215 BC and seized Saguntum. Both brothers were killed in 212, Publius at Castulum when the Ilergetes joined forces with the Carthaginians, and Gnaeus at Ilorci to the Carthaginians. The pugnacious Romans sent a new army and with the support of the Ilergetes, Ilergavones, and Edentani, they managed to capture Cathago Nova in 209 BC and defeat Hasdrubal Barca at Baecula. Roman victories followed at Meseta and Auringis in 207 BC, which prompted the Accitani to switch their allegiance to Rome. In 206 BC, the Romans mopped up the Carthaginian remnants at Ilipa and then set about reducing their Iberian allies at Castulum, Astapa, and Gades.

The Roman Conquest

When the Romans had beaten the Carthaginians they claimed the Spanish territories including the great prize of the Spanish silver mines. They divided Spain into two provinces Hispania Citerior (South and East Spain) and Hispania Ulterior (North and West Spain), each ruled by its own governor. This was the start of the expansion of Roman power in Spain until they controlled the whole of the peninsula. The story of the Roman conquest of Spain is one of treachery,greed, broken promises and brutality by the Romans. It is also a great example of why it is a bad idea to put ambitious/greedy politicians in charge of your army.

The Spanish tribes soon realised that Rome was just replacing Carthage and took arms against them. Almost as soon as the Carthaginians in Spain were beaten (206 BC) the natives were at war with Rome. However this was quickly put down by Scipio Africanus. The next hostilities started in 197 BC in Hispania ulterior during which the Roman governor was killed. The Romans then started to pick off the tribes more or less one at a time until there was a general revolt right across the province in 192BC which lasted until 178BC.

It was more or peaceful from 178 BC until 154 BC. During this period (in 171 BC) the people of Spain sent ambassadors to the senate to complain about the treatment they received from the governors.

The Lusitanian War (155-138 BCE)

During this war at a meeting in 151 BC when the Romans had gathered together thousands ofLusitanians to redistribute land they turned on the unarmed host and massacred or enslaved thousands. Not surprisingly, this prompted the Lusitanians to fight all the harder.

The Numantine War (153-151 BCE, 143-133 BCE)

While that was going on, the Romans also got themselves involved in the first Numantine war (153-151 BCE) against the Celtiberians. They also fought a second from 143-133 BC.
During this period the Romans suffered many defeats and only bought an end to the second Numantine war by surrounding the city with a double line of fortifications to keep the people in and help out resulting in them starving the people out.

The Germanic Raid (104-103 BCE)

In 104-103 BC a large raid by the Cimbri and Teutones crossed the Roman frontier and swept across Gaul and into Spain, where they were defeated by the Spanish, much to the annoyance of the Romans who had been unsuccessful in stopping the raiders earlier.

The Sertorian War (82-72 BCE)

This was really an extension of the Roman Civil war and the army that Sertorious raised should really be viewed as a Roman one.

The Cantabrian Wars (61 BCE, 29-19 BCE)

Julius Ceasar arrived in Spain as governor of Hispania ulterior in 61 BC. Not surprisingly there was a war with the Cantabrians beyond the River Deuro that year.

The Cantabrians revolted again in 29 BCE. These were the last wars against Rome during which Augustus Ceasar took personal command and at the end of which Cantabrian prisoners who had been sold as slaves revolted in a bloody war.

The above is just a very brief outline of the events in Spain and does not do it justice. For a much more comprehensive coverage of the wars in Spain (and the Punic wars) try the following website.

Enemies

The enemies of the Ancient Spanish include the Gauls (II/11), Later Carthaginians (II/32), Romans (II/33 and II/49), the Early Germans (II/47a)(vs. Celtiberians and Iberians only), and other Ancient Spanish.

The Ancient Spanish can claim no Big Battle allies, although arguably the Spanish sublists should be able to ally with each other. The Later Carthaginians can call upon the Iberians and Lusitanians as allies, whereas the Polybian Romans can partner with Iberians and Celtiberians.

Army lists

Iberians Celtiberians Lusitani Description

1x 3Cv (Gen)

General with long shield cavalry

1x 2Lh

Light cavalry with round shields
6x 3Ax 6x 3Wb 3x 3Ax Scutarii. Large scutum shields with javelins and sidearms.
4x 2Ps 4x 2Ps 6x 2Ps Caetrati. Light armed troops with small round shields. One or more elements could be depicted as slingers, such as the famous slingers of the Balearic Isles
1x 3Wb, 4Bd or 2Ps. Celtiberian mercenaries, Sertorius' Roman cohorts, or more caetrati

DBA represents the Sertorian army as a Lusitanian army with a single Blade option. Although Sertorius began his rebellion in Lusitania, he quickly subdued most of Roman Hispania and incorporated both Celtiberian and Iberian elements into his army, as well as the 53 Italic legionary cohorts commanded by P. Vento. Unfortunately, the army of Sertorius, as described by Plutarch does not seem to match either the Polybian Roman or Lusitanian lists. For more information, see the Sertorian Romano-Hispanic variant.

Painting Tips

I will start by shamelessly plagiarising Jonathan Lim's Guide to Painting Carthaginians. A quote from Polybios:

The shields used by the Spaniards and Celts were very similar to one another, but their swords were quite different. The point of the Spanish sword was no less effective for wounding than the edge...the troops were drawn up in alternate companies, the Celts naked, the Spanish with their short linen tunics bordered with purple - their national dress - so their line presented a strange and terrifying appearance." (Penguin Translation 1979, p271)

There we have it. The only uniform army I know of that is confirmed by an ancient writer - and one of the few mentions of uniform colours in ANY ancient source. The Spanish wore white tunics with a ten centimetre purple border along the lower edge, long the sleeves, and along the tunic neck, which was not rounded but pointed, like a bathrobe. They wore a bronze helmet.

All I have to add to that is that Osprey's Armies of the Carthaginian wars claims that the borders were crimson notpurple. Helmets could be made of sinew which is a creamy off white to very light khaki colour. Helmet crests were probably black but could also have been purple, which again may mean crimson. Cavalry could have black or red cloaks.

Celtiberians, as the name suggests, sport a mixture of styles. According to WRG's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic wars, they dressed in Spanish style tunics and had Celtic style helmets and swords. They also favoured black cloaks and red helmet crests; the cloaks may have been Gallic stye not just black. The more important Spanish and Celtiberians could wear Celtic style mail armour. Lusitanians only used small round shields (caetrati).

What colours and designs were used on shields I don't know since none are mentioned in the sources I have used. The colours in the accompanying diagram was chosen for effect only. Note the grey represents iron and yellow bronze as these are the metal parts of the shields either metal could be used. Spaniards also used Celtic style patterns and repeating s shapes that had been turned on their sides along the edge of the shields.

In the Osprey book on the Spanish armies (MAA 180) It is suggested that the Spanish used fully armoured horses. Fortunately there is a sketch taken from the origional evidence for this included in the book. From which it seems clear that the hatching is being used to indicate colour not armour. Unless the horse has a chainmail plume attached to its head. Spanish catapharacts therefore are not needed.

Tactics

Since the Spanish armies have such a low aggression factor they will usually get to pick the terrain. The Iberian and Lusitanian armies both suggest using bad going since this is the natural home of Aux and Ps. Remember however you can only move in a single element column or each element individually so limit the number of elements in bad terrain to one or two. However don't be afraid to put your troops with their backs to bad terrain as if they are pushed back it is to their advantage. This works best against troops who have to follow up and will therefore happily get themselves into trouble.

Hills are good for all Spanish armies as they give you a benefit when you are fighting from up slope. If however the terrain is open don't despair against heavier infantry, use your Ps to pin them down while the Aux go for the flanks. You should try and combine your Ps and Aux against warband. Use the Ps to get the impetuous warband to advance after them they fall back through the Aux who now can attack the Wb and claim overlaps.

Against cavalry, Aux should be supported by Ps to get the +1 bonus, which will make it a even fight.

Since you have only one Cv and one LH, the best use for these may be flank guards. Alternatively you could anchor one of your flanks on bad going or a table edge and put them both on the other flank to give you a chance to use them more aggressively. I think the LH are perhaps wasted as flank guards and should be used to hover threateningly on your opponent's flanks to keep him off balance. However you can only do that if your opponent doesn't have much cavalry.

The Celtiberians should use typical Gallic tactics, i.e. form up and charge!

Minatures

Chris Brantley: 15mm ancient Spanish miniatures are available from numerous sources including Chariot, Essex, Irregular and others. More recent Spanish ranges released by Corvus Belli, MiniatureWars, Pass o' the North, and Xyston deserve particular note.

Resources

Ancient Spanish are highlighted in WRG's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars.

Useful Osprey guides (with color plates) include Osprey's Rome's Enemies: Spanish Armies 219-19 BCE (Men-at-Arms 180) and Armies of the Carthaginian Wars (Men-at-Arms 121). Rome's Enemies: Spanish Armies is also republished in a special compilation entitled Barbarians Against Rome: Rome's Celtic, Germanic, Spanish and Gallic Enemies.

Fanatici Galleries


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Last Updated: 18 Dec. 2004

My thanks to Stephen Montague for contributing these notes and allowing me to make additions. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.