Roman Conquest In The West Following The Second Punic War
With Carthage transformed into a pathetic shadow of its former self, Rome was free to turn its machine of conquest to other areas, which in the west included Gaul, and Liguria in northern Italy. Within ten years of the last Punic battle of Zama in 202 B.C., the formerly independent Gauls and Ligurians had become subjugated to Rome in the new province of Gallia Cisalpina.
In Greece too, conflict was brewing. Members of the Achaean League called for a “war of liberation” against the Romans, when Sparta drew Rome into its quarrels with its neighbours’ attempt at domination over the Peloponnesian island. In accordance with its image as the protector of the Greek cities, Rome had made demands at the council of the League that convened in Corinth, which had culminated in the League’s defiant (and perhaps foolish) call for war in 146 B.C. Thus, in the same year that Carthage irreversibly fell in the third Punic War (described below), Corinth was sacked thoroughly, and the Greek states too were absorbed into the Roman Empire.
In Spain, Rome had set up a provincial government in 197 B.C., partitioning the region into northern and southern provinces. This initial attempt at subjugating the Spanish population was, not surprisingly, met with rebellion from the tribes. The charge of subduing the independent-spirited Spanish tribes came upon the Roman Marcus Porcius Cato (also called Cato the Elder), who dealt with them strongly. Cato’s tough measures combined with the dogged independent streak of the Spanish tribes resulted in years of conflict, which only ceased for an interval during the administration of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, who followed more moderate policies. After Gracchus, however, Roman rule in Spain returned to hardline policies once more, inflaming the Spanish with such a fierce resistance that the Roman officials in Spain could only hang on to power through unscrupulous atrocities.
The Spanish resistance remained strong throughout the years, and the conflict lasted beyond the final fall of Carthage in the last Punic War. Two tribes who came close to success against Roman conquest, but were nonetheless crushed, were the Lusitanians and the Celtiberians. The Lusitanians found a shrewd leader during the second century B.C. by the name of Viriathus, who wormed his way into a Roman alliance. This did not, however, stop the Romans from engineering Viriathus’ assassination, and thus the Lusitanians fell.
The Celtiberians could hardly compare to the might of the Roman Empire, but they were so determined and relentless in their quest for independence from the Romans, that in 137 B.C. (roughly a decade after Carthage’s ultimate fall) the Romans were forced to surrender to terms drawn up by Tiberus Gracchus (the son of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, and therefore trusted by the Spanish tribes). The Roman Senate, however, would not hear of the terms proposed, and instead once again threw the Roman fighting machine into action. As the leader of the Roman troops, they called upon Scipio Aemilianus (called Scipio the Younger, and adopted grandson to Scipio the Elder), who had distinguished himself during the Third Punic War (described below). In 133 B.C., Scipio led the Romans to Numantia, the stronghold of the Celtiberians. Scipio did not crush the Celtiberians with ease, but crush them he did. Numantia was levelled to the ground, and like the Lusitanians, the Celtiberians were suffocated beneath the sheer might of Rome.