Viriathus (Second Punic War)

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Native name
Viriato, Viriathus
Years of service218-216 BC
Battles/warsSecond Punic War

Viriathus (died 216 BC) was a leader of Gallaecian and Lusitanian mercenaries in the Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War.[1]


Viriathus is mentioned only by Silius Italicus in his poem Punica, he appears first in Silius's list of the Carthaginian forces, being described as the young commander of both the Gallaeci and the Lusitanians in Hannibal's army. He is then compared to the posterior, more famous Viriathus, by stating that his name "was to win fame from Roman disasters at a later day".[1] Later in the work, he is described as a noble ruler of his peoples, who goes to battle armed with sword and caetra.[2]

His relationship with his namesake has not been fully understood; some believe the Carthaginian Viriathus could have been an invention by Silius in order to embellish his work, inserting by parachronism the true Viriathus in the Second Punic War despite chronological impossibilities.[3][4] By this approach, attributing to him the death of a Roman from the Servilia gens in Punica could be a reference to the historical Viriathus being murdered by order of Quintus Servilius Caepio.[3] However, others have argued that this Viriathus might have been a true historical character with the same name, given that the latter could be actually a title used by chieftains of Celtic peoples.[5]

According to the poem, his Lusitanian forces scored a feat in the poem by taking down Roman officer Mamercus at the Battle of Lake Trasimene.[2] Afterwards, Viriathus got his own individual participation in the Battle of Cannae, he and his contingent attacked the positions nearby to the consul Gaius Terentius Varro, where Viriathus killed the proconsul Gnaeus Servilius Geminus by capitalizing on his battle fatigue. This attracted the attention of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, Servilius's superior, who charged at the Spaniards and killed Viriathus while the latter was shouting a song of victory. However, Lucius would be immediately disabled by a slinger and later killed by surrounding Carthaginian soldiers.[2]

In film and television[edit]

In the 2016 series Barbarians Rising, the character of Cumelios (played by Clive Russell) mirrors Viriathus, he is portrayed as the leader of the Lusitanians allied to Hannibal and is similarly killed while distracted in the Battle of Cannae.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Silius Italicus, Punica, 3, 354
  2. ^ a b c Silius Italicus, Punica, 5, 219-233
  3. ^ a b Luciano Pérez Vilatela (2000). Lusitania: historia y etnología (in Spanish). Real Academia de Historia. ISBN 978-84-895126-8-9.
  4. ^ Martín Sarmiento (2008). Obra de 660 pliegos, Volumen 4 (in Spanish). CSIC Press. ISBN 978-84-965303-8-6.
  5. ^ Luís de Camões, Os Lusíadas, Canto III