This is an interesting book on a topic that is often little-known outside of Spain and Portugal: the conquest of Iberia by Rome (or, as the Romans would have had it, its "pacification") after having won the Second Punic War. More narrowly, the book deals with the difficult wars that Rome had to wage to put an end to the devastating raids of the mountain tribes of the West and North West of the peninsula against the richer and settled cities located on the coasts, the plains and the valleys controlled by the Romans. Even more specifically, it is about "Viriathus", who, for about a decade, fought successfully against Rome before being murdered at the Romans' instigation.
Unfortunately, despite this interesting topic and the author's in-depth research, the book is problematic in two main ways. Perhaps the worst of the two is a lack of any decent editing. This feature, which tends to be common to quite a few of Pen & Sword publications, is even more critical in this volume to the extent that the author is not writing in his native language. So you get a fair amount of endless sentences, non-English sentence structures, inadequate terms and a large number of repetitions. The latter are perhaps the worse feature, because you get (or at least I got) the impression that the author is somewhat belabouring the points he is trying to make. These inadequacies and repetitions can also, at times, somewhat confuse the reader.
Another consequence of the lack of editing is that the book is not as interesting as it could have been. The first part of the book, and the first fifty pages, in particular, is almost boring to read and rather dry as the author essentially paraphrases Titus-Livius. So you get a rather endless series of campaigns and battles - almost all Roman victories as can be expected from Titus-Livius - with high numbers of "barbarians" killed or captured, and sometimes ridiculously low casualties on the Roman side. None of these campaigns and battles are discussed or analysed.
A further consequence, which also relates to the author's choice to focus on the "Lusitanian resistance to Rome", is that while the First Celtiberian War gets a full chapter, to the extent the it is a bit of a prequel to the story, the second war, which takes place at around the same time as Viriathus' struggle against Rome, is mentioned only in passing. In particular, the inter-play between the two conflicts - or the lack of inter-play, as the case may be - is hardly explained, although the author does mention the numerous "non-Lusitanians" (including Celtiberians) which fought in the forces of Viriathus against the Romans.
A further difficulty is that Viariathus has become a legendary hero in both Spain and Portugal, and was already shown up as an "exempla" of a highly moral character by authors in Antiquity writing several centuries latter under the Romans. Interestingly, these are mostly Greek authors, such as Diodoros and Appian, rather than Romans. Finally, the historical character became a "national hero" in both Spain and Portugal from the 16th century onwards, and even more so when both countries' regime were dictatorial during the 20th century. All this is shown rather well by the author, especially in the last section of his book.
Unfortunately, Luis Silva, while aware of all of these difficulties, flaws and biaises, seems to fall for them to some extent. This is where the story-telling gets rather slanted and sometimes potentially misleading. It also becomes even a bit naïve and anachronistic to some extent, and riddled with (at least apparent) contradictions. The author makes some excellent points, such as Viriathus' talent in using the terrain and leading a large-scale and successful guerrilla warfare which allowed him to defeat time and time again Roman forces unaccustomed to such warfare and outmanoeuvred by his fast-marching and lightly equipped troops. However, he then portrays Viriathus (but neither his three predecessors, nor his successors) as some kind of "hero" in some kind of "national resistance" against the Romans, while simultaneously showing that raiding of the (Roman-occupied or allied) lowland cities by war bands from the mountains was the "way of life" of these mountain tribes which lacked sufficient fertile lands to make a living. While this does not exactly make Viriathus into a bandit chief, it is certainly hard to see him as a "hero" struggling for "freedom" against "Roman opression". Although there is no denying the later, Viriathus' motivations seem to have been more mixed than the author cares to admit.
More importantly perhaps is the author's misperception of Rome's ambitions and drive when he gives the impression that Viriathus could have won in the long-run. As Luis Silva also mentions (another of his contradictions), Rome never accepted anything than peace on its own terms. This generally meant the unconditional surrender of the enemy or, for allies, a kind of vassal status that, with time, would lead to absorption. Rome had never accepted peace after having been defeated, unless forced to, and, in such cases, the so-called "peace" would be no more than the breathing space needed to regroup, reorganize and start the war afresh until final victory.
While carping on the theme of Rome's oligarchic, ambitious, competitive and greedy Senators, the author tends to forget the Roman ideology of victory underpinning (and justifying) these behaviours. The expansion of Republican (and imperialistic) Rome (and Imperial Rome to a large extent) was driven by this ideology of victory, meaning that predatory Rome could only be victorious and that war would continue until it could declare victory. Simply put, and just like the Samnites, Pyrrhus or Hannibal had discovered to their cost before, Rome could simply not accept anything else than peace on its own terms, which meant victory for her, and a clear defeat of the enemy. It also had the means to carry out these conquests as it was able to harness and mobilise the whole demographic potential of Italy from the third century onwards. If Viriathus ever believed he could win, as the author suggests, then he was rather delusional and underestimated his enemy at least as much as the Romans may have (initially) underestimated him.
A related point that the author does not make clearly is that regardless of their ideology, the Romans simply could not let Viriathus and his army of raiders get away with it and carry on. In part, this was because Rome needed to be seen as protecting its allies. To the extent that Rome had taken over the lucrative territory and mines exploited by Carthage, which both Pompey and Caesar would use to build up their respective power bases in the near future, it could simply not accept to see them disrupted by mountaineer raiders.
The parallel with Pyrrhus and Hannibal, which the author never makes, can even be prolonged. Both were deemed to be exceptional commanders and rightly feared by the Romans. So was Viriathus, it seems. All three, however, were finally vanquished by a more relentless enemy capable of sending one army after another against them. While not explaining to what extent Viriathus' war with Rome was ultimately doomed to failure, the author in a number of instances comes very close to admitting it, in particular when trying to explain the reasons for the "Lusitanian" warlord to seek peace and spare a Roman army that he had trapped and cornered. Just like the Caudine Forks and the Samnites before, such a peace would not last because it was clearly unacceptable for the Romans. In the case of Viriathus, and as with their previous ennemies, the Romans clearly seem to have learned their lesson overtime. In the case of Viriathus, they used subversion and assassinated the gifted and charismatic leader instead of their more usual military aggressions that had not worked as well as expected.
Finally, the last but one section of the book which is about Romanization is also worth commenting on. The section is one of the better ones except for the fact that it fails to draw parallels with Romanization in other conquered territories in Western Europe, including Italy itself and Cisalpine Gaul, which was finally subdued by the Romans as a result of the Second Punic War. To be fair, however, the discussion of the Roman techniques of "Romanizing" the cities and the elites, of introducing Roman and Latin landholders made of veterans, whether from Italy or whether local auxiliaries, and colonists alongside the local populations, partly reduced to slavery and largely disposed of their lands, is rather good. The other just fails to mention that these techniques were carried over from Italy and gives the impression that they were originated in Spain.
Three stars for a relatively good book but which could have been better if it had benefited from adequate editing...