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Viriathus statue at Zamora , Spain

Viriathus (* around 180 BC; † 139 BC ; Viriato in Portuguese and Spanish ) was an important leader of the Celtiberian tribe of the Lusitans in the fight against the Romans .

Life and struggle against Rome

Viriathus was presumably born in what is now Cabanas de Viriato and is said to have been of lower origin. The histories of Cassius Dios and Diodors also mention that he was initially a shepherd. It is disputed whether he then became a robber and a gang of like-minded people gathered around him. Due to his high resilience, his ascetic way of life and his high list of lists, which he nevertheless knew how to apply moderately, he later quickly achieved high fame as a commander. Under his leadership, the Lusitans won between 147 BC. BC and 139 BC Several victories over the Romans and led extensive areas of the provinces of Western Hispania to independence or successfully opposed the establishment of the planned Roman province of Lusitania . Cassius Dio emphasizes Viriathus' leadership qualities, in which he sees the ideal of stoic foresight realized. 139 BC Viriathus died as a result of an assassination attempt that came from within his own ranks.

Contemporary history background

Viriathus statue near Viseu, Portugal

After the Second Punic War , the Romans had established themselves on the Iberian Peninsula , there in 197 BC. Two provinces established and incorporated into the Roman Empire . From the beginning there was resistance from the Celtiberian tribes living there. A first uprising ( Celtiberian War , 197-179 BC) failed. 154 BC Then another uprising began, the so-called Spanish War . As part of this uprising, the Lusitan tribe rose up. 150 BC The Roman praetor Servius Sulpicius Galba deceived the leaders of the Lusitans and carried out a massacre among them, to which the majority of the people fell victim.

The 180 BC Viriathus, born in BC, was one of the few to survive this slaughter. He then became the undisputed leader of the Lusitans. His army could 147 BC BC defeated the Romans and conquered the Baetistal in the same year. Until 146 BC He controlled large parts of the Hispania ulterior province , but had to give up the Baetistal again two years later. After a devastating defeat of the Roman proconsul Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus in 140 BC. The Romans had to recognize Viriathus as an independent ruler. He was even given the honorary title of Friend of the Roman People .

As early as 139 BC The new Roman commander, Quintus Servilius Caepio, broke the negotiated peace. The messengers sent by Viriathus to Caepio were bribed by this and murdered Viriathus. After his death, the Celtiberian uprising quickly collapsed.


The name Viriathus can be derived from different roots. It consists of the elements Viri and Athus . The spelling follows that of Cassius Dio.

Viri means:

The Celtoiberian elite called themselves uiros uerams in German the highest man , in Latin summus vir . The historian Adolf Schulten assumes that the name Viriathus comes from the Celtic language.


Web links

Commons : Viriato  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. , accessed November 20, 2012
  2. a b c Benedict Simons: Cassius Dio and the Roman Republic. 2009, pp. 273-279
  3. Armando Silva: O nome de Viriato. (PDF; 84 kB).
  4. Douglas Hyde: The Glories of Ireland, Irish Language and Letters.
  5. ^ Marco V. Garcia Quintela: Celtic Elements in Northwestern Spain in Pre-Roman times. In: e-Keltoi. Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies. Vol. 6, Article 10, ( online ).
  6. Leonard A. Curchin: The romanization of central Spain. Complexity, diversity, and change in a provincial hinterland. Routledge, London et al. 2004, ISBN 0-203-63371-7 .
  7. ^ Henri Hubert : The greatness and decline of the Celts. (PDF; 110 kB).