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Portugal             the ancient lands of the Lusitanians                 Galiza




Warrior-Chieftain of the Lusitanians 




the First Portuguese Hero




        A collection of  known-works about Viriato and the Lusitanians. 



Here's hoping that this site enlightens and educates all that find it.

Contributions of  images, literature, stories, credits, links, comments or ideas? 


Contents ©2000 by John de Jesus Goncalves III.  

   E-mail webmaster:  email for Viriato 






Viriato ?

pronounced Vi-rah-'ta

is a male Portuguese first name,

which comes from the male Latin first name Viriathus or Viriatus

derived from the Latin noun viriae,

derived from the Continental Celtic noun word for arm ornament or bracelet.



viriae: n, Latin derived from Celtic, for a kind of ornament for the arm, armlets, bracelets. 1

viriâtus: a, um, adj. [viriae], adorned with bracelets. 2

Viriâthus or Viriâtus: i, m., a celebrated leader of the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  in the war against the Romans. 3 





       Bronze statue in Viseu, Portugal.                                                                                                               Artwork by Carlos Alberto Santos.


Biography of Viriato  

For nearly 200 years, the Roman Empire waged an episodic war attempting to colonize the Iberian peninsula in western Europe. The most difficult fighting was encountered in the western areas of the peninsula - the home of the tribal confederation known as the Lusitans (Lusitanians) . 4


Viriato lived in the Mons Herminus hills (modern day eastern Portugal). He was famous for his physical prowess and stamina, his sobriety and his disregard for personal wealth. The historian, Diodorus writes of Viriato's wedding, to the daughter of a rich landowner whom he regarded with some reserve because of his father-in-law's support of Roman ways. Remaining unmoved by the display of gold, silver and expensive fabrics at his wedding feast, Viriato refused pressing invitations to take a place of honor. He remained standing, leaning on his spear and took only a little bread and meat, which he shared with his companions. When the bride was brought before him, he offered sacrifice in the Lusitan manner, set her on the cropper of his horse and rode away into the hills to his hideout. 5

Pre-dating the birth of Viriato, the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  had traditionally raided lands to their east and south, taking livestock from their neighboring tribes. The Lusitans (Lusitanians)  had seen the Roman presence (started around 198 b.c.), become progressively more domineering in the region, and sought to check their colonization by raiding Roman settlements and army camps. Subsequently the Romans branded these Lusitans (Lusitanians)  barbaric brigands and sought to exterminate them.

Leading up to 146 b.c., Viriato initially lived as a pastoral goat herder, then engaged in Lusitan raids on Roman settlements as a source of wealth.

In 146 b.c. Viriato was elected Chieftain after he lead the survivors of a massacre out of a Roman deathtrap. His ingenious guerrilla tactics and success at taking the battle to the Romans, kept the Romans out of Lusitan tribal lands, curtailed their advances into other parts of the Iberian Peninsula and sparked "rebellions" with other tribes under Roman control.

In 141 b.c., Viriato, allowed a defeated and prostrate Roman army to return to Rome, requesting only that the borders of the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  be respected and that the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  be granted the status of 'amici populi Romani ' - 'friends of the Roman people'. These peace terms were actually ratified by the Roman Senate.

During the next two years the Romans broke this and other treaties they made with the Lusitans (Lusitanians) . In 139 b.c. the Roman general bribed 3 lieutenants of Viriato to kill him, they assassinated Viriato in his sleep.

It was not until 19 b.c. that the Roman Empire including legions under the command of Julius Caesar and Augustus, had waged war on the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  that they were defeated, enslaved, and all of their lands annexed into the Roman Empire. 6

For the next 250 years, history begins to keep a more descriptive record of Roman expansion in Europe. From this history we find many more accounts of the wars in later-day France, Germany, England and the rest of Europe, and the names of other great tribal leaders who fought to remain free against Imperial Rome.     


 Lusitanian Culture and History       

Megalithic Age:

Monuments on Lusitanian tribal lands, (in Portugal and Galiza). 

(click on any image to enlarge, then click the back-button to return to this page)

1.   6 and7 Antas do Barrocal.jpg (11632 bytes)       2.   Cromlech dos Almendras.jpg (37080 bytes)       3.  Cromlech dos Almendras wideangle.jpg (11005 bytes)

4.  dolmen de Arca.jpg (33614 bytes)       5.   menhir and cromelach do Xarez.jpg (34568 bytes)       6.   Orca de Pendhile, north of viseu, 9 km east of castro Daire.jpg (14274 bytes)

1. Antas do Barrocal     2. Cromlech dos Almendras    3. Cromlech dos Almendras (another view)

4. Dolmen de Arca        5. Menhir y Cromelach do Xarez     6. Orca de Pendile


Bronze and Iron Ages:   


Before the Greeks and Romans stumbled over:


"It is believed that the Lusitans (Lusitanians)  had arrived in the Iberian peninsula more recently than their neighbors the Turdetans and the Celtici of Cuneus. 


They probably came about the same time as the Celtiberians in the valley of the Ebro River and the mesetas of the hinterland, sometime before 700 b.c.


One can safely say that they belonged to the great Celtic confederation which invaded the Iberian peninsula about seven centuries before the birth of Christ, and collided with the Gallic peoples and those belonging to the Euskarian and Indo-Scythian races who had occupied the peninsula  for an unknown number of centuries, ever since the first migrations of the Asiatic hordes into the West.


The Lusones, who in the opinion of Strabo, lived near the sources of the Tagus, and who were members of the Celtiberian nation, were probably only an offshoot of the Lusitans (Lusitanians) , who remained on the highlands of the Ibubeda.


Their name could well have been the original name of the Lusitans (Lusitanians) , who, in successive waves of conquest, came down from the sources of the river, where they had first settled, as far as its lower reaches and it's mouth, the broad and deep body of water which flows into the Atlantic Ocean."  7

See Roy Jes's genetic research links found under Viriato's Warriors! near bottom of this page.

Greek and Roman writings:


"All the men dress in black, for the most part in coarse cloaks, in which they sleep, on their beds of litter. But the women always go clad in long mantles and gay colored gowns. 


Instead of coined money the people, at least those who live deep in the interior, employ barter, or else cut off pieces of beaten silver metal and pass them as money. 


They marry in the manner of the Greeks. Their sick they expose upon the streets, in the same way as the Egyptians did in ancient times, for the sake of getting suggestions from those who have experienced the disease.


All the mountaineers lead a simple life, are water-drinkers, sleep on the ground, and let their hair stream down in thick masses after the manner of women, though before going into battle they bind their hair about the forehead. They eat goat meat mostly. They also hold contests, for light-armed and heavy armed soldiers and cavalry, in boxing, in running, in skirmishing, and in fighting by squads. 


And the mountaineers, for two-thirds of the year eat acorns, which they have first dried and crushed, and then ground up and made into a bread that may be stored away for a long time. They also drink beer; but they are scarce of wine, and what wine they made they speedily drink up in merry feastings with their kinfolk; and instead of olive-oil they use butter. Again, they dine sitting down, for they have stationary seats built around the walls of the room, they sit themselves forward according to age and rank. The dinner is passed round and amid their cups they dance to flute and trumpet, dancing in chorus, but also leaping up and crouching low. 



guerreiro do castrejo sculpture.jpg (134114 bytes)  

+2400 year old "Guerreiro do Castrejo", (warrior of the hill fort), National Museum of Archeology, Portugal.



The Lusitans (Lusitanians)  are given to laying ambush, given to spying out, are quick nimble and good at deploying troops. They have a small shield two feet in diameter, concave in front, and suspended from the shoulder by means of thongs, for it has neither arm rings or handles. Besides these shields they have a dirk or butchers' knife. Most of them wear linen cuirasses; a few wear chain-wrought cuirasses and helmets with three crests, but the rest wear helmets made of sinews. The foot-soldiers wear greaves also, and each soldier has several javelins; and some also make use of spears, and the spears have bronze heads. 


The Lusitanians offer sacrifices, and they inspect the vitals, without cutting them out. Besides, they also inspect the veins on the side of the victim; and they divine by the tokens of touch too. They prophesy through means of the vitals of human beings also, prisoners of war, whom they first cover with course clocks, and then, when the victim has been struck beneath the vitals by the diviner, they draw their first auguries from the fall of the victim. And they cut off the right hands of captives and set them up as an offering for their gods." 8


An account of a confrontation with Roman general Fabius Maximus Servilianus and his army of 18,000 troops and 1600 cavalry near Itucca - "Viriato, at the head of 6000 troops, attacked him with loud shouts and barbaric clamor, his men wearing the long hair which in battles they are accustomed to shake in order to terrify their enemies." 9


The modern "Galego-Portugues" language descends from the Latinized Lusitanian tongue.


Larger than life sculptures, carved out of a single piece of granite, the ancient 'guerreiro' sculptures, have been damaged from being purposely tipped over, causing the head and feet to be broken off, done initially by the Romans, but also later by others seeking to destroy veneration of Lusitan culture.  "Restorations" done over the centuries, do not always do justice to the sculptures:



1.     9.jpg (40174 bytes)             2.    basto.jpg (8125 bytes)              3. guerreiro do castro de s. juliao.jpg (23420 bytes)



1. Viana Castelo guerreiro, restoration, addition of head and a pedestal box to support footless legs.


2. Sobre o Concelho guerreiro, 16-17th century restoration, addition of head, military hat and boots, and later-day inscription 'not enough I".


3. Castro de S. Juliao guerreiro.


Map of the Viriato's War


Green = Tribal / Confederation Lands       Red = Occupied by Roman Empire

Blue = Battle Movements                            White Boxes Battlefield Locations

Light Blue = Major Rivers Light Blue = Major Rivers



Viriato's Warriors!


Roy Jes sent in a number of links that address the genetic makeup of the Lusitans (Lusitanians) :*.html*.html



Joao Manuel Mimoso sent in the artwork of Viriato 


Jonnie Maley has offered to edit any Portuguese text that the Babelfish Translator stumbles over.




Over 4,000 links to historical articles, books, documents and photographs!  Scroll to "Web Links" > Europe >type in "Portugal".

A watershed of Portuguese historical, genealogical, culinary and other information.

Did they come to America?  

Standing stones in Portugal:   ( use their "Search" engine,  look for "Portugal" ) Portugal links resource Galiza links resource a good map resource



Credit for this site goes to my mother and father (Betty and John), who encouraged their children to always take pride in themselves and to live with mutual respect for all others, and to my wife Marla, for putting up with my passion.  Thank-you!



1.     Pliny 33, 3, 12, 40; Tert. Pall. 4 mde.; Ambros. Abrah. 1, 9 88. Ancient texts.

2.     Lucil. ap. Non. p. 186, 30; Varr. ib. p. 187, 14. Ancient texts.

3.    Liv. Epit. 52; 54; Vell. 2, 1, 3; 2, 90, 3; Flor. 2, 17 fin.; Cic. Off. 2, 11, 40; Val. Max. 6, 4,2;  Sil. 4, 354; 10, 219. Ancient Texts.

4.    Appian.  Appian's Roman History, Book 6, The Wars in Spain, Chapters 10-12. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press,1932.

5.     Rafael Trevino and Angus McBride. Rome's Enemies, Group 4, Spanish Armies, Great Britain, Reed International Books Ltd., 1986.

6.    Martin Almagro-Gorbea and, Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero. Paleoenthnology of Iberian Peninsula: State of Knowledge and Future Perspectives.

7.  Antonio Atturbius. The Stones Speak

8.  Strabo.  Geography, 3.3.6. ancient text.

9.   Appian.  Appian's Roman History Book 6, The Wars in Spain, Chapter 12, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1932.


Most of the images on this site were collected from the internet, contact me so I can give appropriate credit.


Last Update: July 03, 2008 .