While the Roman legions in the East were acquiring wealth and winning easy conquests, their less fortunate comrades in the West were carrying on a severe struggle with the warlike Gauls, Ligurians, and Spaniards. The Romans had hardly concluded the Second Punic War when they received intelligence that Hamilcar, a Carthaginian officer, had excited several tribes in Northern Italy to take up arms against Rome. These were the Gauls on both sides of the Po, and the Ligurians, a race of hardy mountaineers, inhabiting the upper Apennines and the Maritime Alps. They commenced the war in B.C. 200 by the capture and destruction of the Roman colony of Placentia, and by laying siege to that of Cremona, the two strong-holds of the Roman dominion in Northern Italy. The Romans now set themselves to work, with the characteristic stubbornness of their nation, to subdue thoroughly these tribes. The Insubres and the Cenomani, to the north of the Po, were the first to yield; but the Boii resisted for some years all the efforts of the Romans, and it was not till B.C. 191 that the Consul P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica received their final submission. He slaughtered the Boii without mercy, and made it one of the claims of his triumph that he had left only children and old men alive. This warlike people was now thoroughly subdued, and from henceforth Cisalpine Gaul became a Roman province, and gradually adopted the language and customs of Rome. The submission of the people was secured by the foundation of new colonies and the formation of military roads. In B.C. 190 a colony was established at Bononia, now Bologna, in the country of the Boii, and six years afterward others were also founded at Mutina (Modena) and Parma. A military road made by M. Æmilius Lepidus, Consul for B.C. 180, and called the Via Æmilia, was a continuation of the Via Flaminia, and ran from Ariminum past Placentia, Mutina, and Parma to Placentia. The subjugation of the Ligurians was a longer and more difficult task. These hardy mountaineers continued the war, with intermissions, for a period of eighty years. The Romans, after penetrating into the heart of Liguria, were seldom able to effect more than to compel the enemy to disperse, and take refuge in their villages and castles, of which the latter were mountain fastnesses, in which they were generally able to defy their pursuers. But into the details of these long-protracted and inglorious hostilities it is unnecessary to enter.
The conquests of Scipio Africanus had driven the Carthaginians out of Spain, and established the Roman supremacy in that country. Accordingly, soon after the end of the Second Punic War (about B.C. 198), the Romans proceeded to consolidate their dominion in Spain by dividing it into two provinces, each governed by a Prætor, which were called Hispania Citerior, or Hither Spain, and Hispania Ulterior, or Farther Spain, and divided from each other by the Iberus or the Ebro. But it was little more than the eastern part of the peninsula that was really subject to Rome. The powerful tribes of the Celtiberians in Central Spain, the Lusitanians in Portugal, and the Cantabrians and Gallæcians in the northwest, still maintained their independence. The division of the country into two provinces showed that the Romans intended to occupy it permanently, and occasioned a general insurrection.
The Consul M. Porcius Cato, of whom we shall speak more fully presently, was sent to put down this insurrection (B.C. 195). The whole country was in arms; but his military genius and indefatigable industry soon re-established the superiority of Rome. He gained several decisive victories, contrived to set tribe against tribe, and took native mercenaries into his pay. The details of his campaign are full of horrors. We read of the wholesale slaughter of men who had laid down their arms, of multitudes sold as slaves, and of many more who had put themselves to death to escape this fate. Cato was not the man to feel any compunctions of conscience in the performance of what he considered a rigorous public task. He boasted of having destroyed more towns in Spain than he had spent days in that country. When he had reduced the whole of Hither Spain to a hollow, sullen, and temporary submission, he returned to Rome, and was rewarded with a triumph.
The severe measures of Cato only exasperated the Spaniards. They again took up arms, and continued to resist the Roman Prætors for the next sixteen years, till Tib. Sempronius Gracchus, the father of the celebrated tribunes, after gaining several brilliant victories over the Celtiberians, granted them an honorable peace. By his wise measures and conciliatory conduct he won the affections of the natives, and induced them to submit to the Roman supremacy (B.C. 179).
It remains to mention two other wars in the West. The Sardinians and Corsicans revolted, and held out for two years against the Conqueror of Spain (B.C. 177-175). But Gracchus effected their complete subjugation, and brought to Rome so large a number of captives for sale as to give rise to the proverb "Sardi venales" for any thing that was cheap and worthless.
The Istrians, near the head of the Adriatic Gulf, had been conquered by the Romans just before the Second Punic War. But their complete subjugation was now necessary, on account of their proximity to the newly-formed province of Cisalpine Gaul. Accordingly, the Consuls invaded Istria in B.C. 178, and in the following year the whole people was reduced to submission.