Although the Spanish provinces were having a respite from a Carthaginian war, still it was evident that on account of a guilty conscience certain states were quiet out of fear rather than because of loyalty. Most conspicuous both for size and guilt among these were Iliturgi1
Although in favourable times its citizens had been allies, Castulo, after the Scipios had been slain with their armies, had revolted to the Carthaginians. The men of Iliturgi, by betraying and slaying those who from that disaster had fled to them for refuge, had added a crime also to their revolt.
On Scipio's first coming, when the Spanish provinces were wavering, vengeance upon those states would have been deserved but not politic.
Now, however, since in a time of peace the moment for exacting the penalty seemed to have arrived, he summoned Lucius Marcius from Tarraco and sent him with a third of his forces to lay siege to Castulo. He himself with the rest of the army reached Iliturgi in about five stages.
The gates had been closed and [p. 81]
everything disposed and prepared to resist an attack.3
So true was it that consciousness of what they knew they had deserved had meant as much for them as a declaration of war.
With this point also Scipio opened his speech of encouragement to his soldiers, saying that the Spaniards by closing their gates had themselves shown what they had deserved to fear. Consequently, he said, they must wage war against them with much more animosity than against the Carthaginians.
With these it was a contest almost devoid of anger in pursuit of power and glory; from the Iliturgians they must exact the penalty for treachery and cruelty and crime.
The time had come for them to avenge the atrocious slaughter of their comrades and the perfidy which would have been brought to bear against themselves if in flight they had reached the same city. It was time also for them by a severe example to ordain that no one should ever account a Roman citizen or soldier in any misfortune as fair game for ill treatment.
Immediately after this exhortation from their general the officers, thoroughly aroused, issued ladders to men picked out of one maniple after another, and dividing the army so that Laelius as lieutenant should command one half, they attacked the city in two places at the same time, causing a double alarm.
It was not a single commander or a number of leading men that urged the citizens gallantly to defend the city, but their own fear due to consciousness of guilt.
They remembered and reminded one another also that the aim was their punishment, not victory; that when every man perished what mattered most was whether he did so in battle and in the line, where the fortune of the fray, [p. 83]
making no distinctions, often lifted up the defeated4
and dashed down the victor, or whether later, when their city was in
ashes and ruins, there before the faces of their captured wives and children, after enduring every outrage and indignity, they breathed their last under the scourge and in chains.
Accordingly not merely those of military age or men alone, but women and children also helped beyond their powers of mind and body, bringing up weapons for the fighting men and carrying stones for the builders up to the wall.
The stake was not freedom only, which whets the courage of brave men alone, but all had before their eyes extreme penalties and a hideous death. Bravery was kindled by emulation in toil and danger and by the mere sight of one another.
And so the battle was begun with such heat that that famous army, the conqueror of all Spain, was repeatedly beaten back from the walls by the young men of a single town and thrown into disorder in an inglorious battle. When Scipio saw this, he was afraid that, owing to so many vain attempts made by his men, the enemy's spirits might be cheered and his own soldiers lose heart.
Thinking that he must himself make the attempt and claim a share in the danger, he berated the soldiers for their cowardice, ordered ladders to be brought up, and threatened that if the rest hesitated he would climb up himself.
Already at no small risk5
he had come close to the walls when from all sides an outcry was made by the soldiers, who were concerned for their commander and began to set up ladders in many places at the same time; and on the other side Laelius pressed the attack.
Then the resistance of [p. 85]
the townsmen was broken and, once the defenders6
had been dislodged, the walls were occupied.
The citadel also in the midst of the confusion was captured from the side on which it appeared to be impregnable.