Part 1 Invasion and Resistance

The defeat of the Carthaginian forces by the Roman army in 202 BCE was swiftly followed by the elimination of the colonies and trading posts which they had established on the east and south coasts of the Iberian peninsular. The phalanx of legions advancing from east to west met little resistance and conquered a swathe of territory which extended for 50 to 100 km into the interior. At that time the Algarve and lower Alentejo were inhabited by the tribes of the Conii (Cynetes) and also provided the winter quarters for the remnants of the Carthaginian army at Portus Hannibalis (near Portimão) . Military resistance was negligible and the army dispersed while the Conii , who had not enjoyed the years of Carthaginian rule, welcomed the arrival of the Romans. In the ensuing years they assimilated the Roman way of life and, with their neighbours the Turduli , provided militias and auxiliaries to the new occupiers.

When the Romans turned their attention northwards they found much stouter tribal resistance from the Lusitani which was a collective name for a federation of Celtic migrants of the 5th and 3rd centuries who had miscegenated with autochthones of the central plains stretching from the Douro to the Tagus. They proved to be fearsome and fearless warriors (described by some as bandits) who allied with the Celtici , Vettones and CeltiIberi to form raiding groups which plundered the southern tribes and defeated the Roman military in a series of ambushes. So serious was their campaign that Rome was forced to send some of its best generals and reinforcements of both Italian cavalry and infantry to counter the incursions but these continued as annual events from 194 to 155 BCE with both sides incurring heavy losses. In year 154 Praetor Manius Manillius defeated the Lusitani but was lured into an ambush and was routed losing 9,000 men. The following year the Lusitani attacked the Conii and then crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to lay siege to the city of Ocilis but they were pursued by Manillius who killed 15,000 of their warriors.

But the Lusitani and their allies persisted in their resistance and in year 150 Praetor Servius Sulpicious Galba was appointed to end the debacle and (with the aid of Lucius Lucullus) defeated the divided allies. sacked their homelands and slaughtered vast numbers of unarmed citizens. Four years later, when a demoralised populace was about to finally surrender, there appeared on the scene an unknown but dynamic character named Viriatus. He was described by Livy as being an ascetic Celtic shepherd from the Herminius Mons region (Serra da Estrela) who became a warrior and fought for the honour and glory of his people and not for the spoils of war. Siculos tells us that he was a valiant soldier of impressive stature with an astute and prudent mind much beloved by his followers.

Viriatus had previously escaped the massacre of year 150 and now devised a plan whereby the major part of the Lusitanian force was able to escape by night and regroup. He then employed guerrilla tactics by sending raiding parties deep into Roman occupied territory . One of such forays occupied the Celtic stronghold of Ronda and resulted in the killing of 4,000 legionnaires sent in their pursuit . This marked the beginning of a series of daring expeditions which harassed the Romans to the point where the senate sent a delegation to negotiate terms for a truce which would recognise the governance of Viriatus who would be granted the title of “amicus populi Romani” – an ally of the Roman people. But the agreement was fragile and enabled the Romans to engage in a campaign of subterfuge which sought to persuade the defection and division of allies and resulted in the retreat of the Lusitanian forces to their homeland of central Portugal. The treachery culminated in year 139 when three of the most trusted lieutenants of Viriatus were bribed to assassinate him by cutting his throat while he slumbered.

Without the leadership of Viriatus, the whole aspect of the resistance changed and in 137 his successor, Tautulus, was forced to accept the new terms of the Proconsul Decimus Junius Brutus. These forced the surrender and relocation of the Lusitanian people so that Rome gained complete military control of the entire territory from the Algarve to the River Douro. The following year, Brutus led an expeditionary force across the rivers Lima and Minho to quell the Galicians in their mountainous strongholds and thus completed the conquest of all the territory now known as Portugal.

Part 2 Consolidation :- to follow.