Lusitania

Lusitania, an ancient Roman province approximately including current Portugal and part of western current Spain, named after the Lusitani people. The Lusitani were strong warriors whose origins are uncertain; some authors presume they may have descended from the central Spanish Lusoni.

The first colonized by the Lusitani was probably the Douro valley and the region of Beira Alta; in Beira they stayed until they defeated the Celts and other tribes, then they expanded to cover a territory that reached Estremadura before the arrival of the Romanss.

The Lusitani are mentioned for the first time in Livy (218 BC) and are described as Carthaginian mercenaries; they are reported as fighting against Rome in 194 BC, sometimes allied with the Celtiberians.

In 179 BC the praetor Lucius Postumius Albinus celebrated a triumph over the Lusitani, but in 155 BC, on the command of Punicus (perhaps a Carthaginian general) first and Cesarus after, the Lusitani reached Gibraltar. Here they were defeated by the praetor Lucius Mummius.

Servius Sulpicius Galba organized a false armistice, but while the Lusitani celebrated this new alliance, he massacred them, selling the survivors as slaves; this caused a new rebellion led by Viriathus (who was soon killed by traitors). Romans scored other victories with proconsul Decimus Junius Brutus and Marius (113 BC), but still the Lusitani resisted with a long guerrilla war; they later joined Sertorius' troops and were finally exterminated by Augustus.

With Lusitania (and Asturia and Gallecia), Rome had completed the conquest of the Iberian peninsula, which was then divided by Augustus (25-20 BC) into the southwestern Provincia Betica and the western Provincia Lusitana. Originally Lusitania included the territories of Asturia and Gallecia, but these were later ceded to the jurisdiction of new Provincia Tarraconensis and the former remained as Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. Its northern border was along the Douro, while on its eastern side its border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.

The capital of Lusitania was Augusta Emerita (currently Mérida).

Under Diocletian, Lusitania kept its borders and was ruled by a praeses, later by a consularis; finally, it was united with the other provinces to form the Diocesis Hispaniarum.

See also: RMS Lusitania




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