The successes of Metellus, the junction of the hostile forces, the sudden stagnation after the victory, diffused terror among the Sertorians; and, as not unfrequently happened with Spanish armies, in consequence of this turn of things the greater portion of the Sertorian soldiers dispersed. But the despondency passed away as quickly as it had come; the white fawn, which represented in the eyes of the multitude the military plans of the general, was soon more popular than ever; in a short time Sertorius appeared with a new army confronting the Romans in the level country to the south of Saguntum (Murviedro), which firmly adhered to Rome, while the Sertorian privateers impeded the Roman supplies by sea, and scarcity was already making itself felt in the Roman camp. Another battle took place in the plains of the river Turia (Guadalaviar), and the struggle was long undecided. Pompeius with the cavalry was defeated by Sertorius, and his brother-in-law and quaestor, the brave Lucius Memmius, was slain; on the other hand Metellus vanquished Perpenna, and victoriously repelled the attack of the enemy's main army directed against him, receiving himself a wound in the conflict. Once more the Sertorian army dispersed. Valentia, which Gaius Herennius held for Sertorius, was taken and razed to the ground. The Romans, probably for a moment, cherished a hope that they were done with their tough antagonist. The Sertorian army had disappeared; the Roman troops, penetrating far into the interior, besieged the general himself in the fortress Clunia on the upper Douro. But while they vainly invested this rocky stronghold, the contingents of the insurgent communities assembled elsewhere; Sertorius stole out of the fortress and even before the expiry of the year stood once more as general at the head of an army.

Again the Roman generals had to take up their winter quarters with the cheerless prospect of an inevitable renewal of their Sisyphean war-toils. It was not even possible to choose quarters in the region of Valentia, so important on account of the communication with Italy and the east, but fearfully devastated by friend and foe; Pompeius led his troops first into the territory of the Vascones(22) (Biscay) and then spent the winter in the territory of the Vaccaei (about Valladolid), and Metellus even in Gaul.

Indefinite And Perilous Character Of The Sertorian War

For five years the Sertorian war thus continued, and still there seemed no prospect of its termination. The state suffered from it beyond description. The flower of the Italian youth perished amid the exhausting fatigues of these campaigns. The public treasury was not only deprived of the Spanish revenues, but had annually to send to Spain for the pay and maintenance of the Spanish armies very considerable sums, which the government hardly knew how to raise. Spain was devastated and impoverished, and the Roman civilization, which unfolded so fair a promise there, received a severe shock; as was naturally to be expected in the case ofan insurrectionary war waged with so much bitterness, and but too often occasioning the destruction of whole communities. Even the towns which adhered to the dominant party in Rome had countless hardships to endure; those situated on the coast had to be provided with necessaries by the Roman fleet, and the situation of the faithful communities in the interior was almost desperate. Gaul suffered hardly less, partly from the requisitions for contingents of infantry and cavalry, for grain and money, partly from the oppressive burden of the winter-quarters, which rose to an intolerable degree in consequence of the bad harvest of 680; almost all the local treasuries were compelled to betake themselves to the Roman bankers, and to burden themselves with a crushing load of debt. Generals and soldiers carried on the war with reluctance. The generals had encountered an opponent far superior in talent, a tough and protracted resistance, a warfare of very serious perils and of successes difficult to be attained and far from brilliant; it was asserted that Pompeius was scheming to get himself recalled from Spain and entrusted with a more desirable command somewhere else. The soldiers, too, found little satisfaction in a campaign in which not only was there nothing to be got save hard blows and worthless booty, but their very pay was doled out to them with extreme irregularity. Pompeius reported to the senate, at the end of 679, that the pay was two years in arrear, and that the army was threatening to break up. The Roman government might certainly have obviated a considerable portion of these evils, if they could have prevailed on themselves to carry on the Spanish war with less remissness, to say nothing of better will. In the main, however, it was neither their fault nor the fault of their generals that a genius so superior as that of Sertorius was able to carry on this petty warfare year after year, despite of all numerical and military superiority, on ground so thoroughly favourable to insurrectionary and piratical warfare. So little could its end be foreseen, that the Sertorian insurrection seemed rather as if it would become intermingled with other contemporary revolts and thereby add to its dangerous character. Just at that time the Romans were contending on every sea with piratical fleets, in Italy with the revolted slaves, in Macedonia with the tribes on the lower Danube; and in the east Mithradates, partly induced by the successes of the Spanish insurrection, resolved once more to try the fortune of arms. That Sertorius had formed connections with the Italian and Macedonian enemies of Rome, cannot be distinctly affirmed, although he certainly was in constant intercourse with the Marians in Italy. With the pirates, on the other hand, he had previously formed an avowed league, and with the Pontic king-- with whom he had long maintained relations through the medium of the Roman emigrants staying at his court--he now concluded a formal treaty of alliance, in which Sertorius ceded to the king the client-states of Asia Minor, but not the Roman province of Asia, and promised, moreover, to send him an officer qualified to lead his troops, and a number of soldiers, while the king, in turn, bound himself to transmit to Sertorius forty ships and 3000 talents (720,000 pounds).

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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