Swarthy, longhaired and armed with their trademark machete swords, these warrior-bandits called the mountains of Portugal home.
Tribe: Iberian Celt
Viriathus hailed from Lusitania, which occupied parts of modern-day Portugal and western Spain. It is not known precisely when he was born, but the ancient authors describe him as an inhabitant of the coast, a shepherd who in childhood lived in the mountains. Accounts recall his great strength and agility, the result of a spare diet and hard physical labor.
The Roman conquest of Spain began during the Second Punic War against Carthage and its famed general, Hannibal. Some Lusitanians tried to avoid war by requesting a peace treaty with Rome, but the alliance was in name only. In 151 B.C., Rome betrayed them and systematically killed or enslaved all the males of fighting age, a reported 30,000 people.
Viriathus was one of the few men to escape this massacre. In the aftermath, he persuaded his fellow survivors to refuse any peace terms offered to them. In time, he became the leader of a growing Lusitanian rebel army, determined to resist the vastly superior Roman forces.